I have lived here in the East Valley for 19 years this month. I moved here from Southern California and, at the time, had a license to race from the United States Cycling Federation. The Foothills was bicycle heaven. Just a little west of the Chandler-Ray loop and it was four-lane roads with no houses and no traffic. We even had some races here and time trials on Pecos Road.
We knew it wouldn’t last of course. We really didn’t think the roads were intended to be the world’s largest bike trail. The houses were going up fast and with them came the traffic and ever since then, there has been an ongoing war of words in this publication between the cyclists and the motorists. Each accuses the other of being inconsiderate, just plain stupid, and, recently, there have been aspersions cast on clothing (as in “your mother dresses you funny”).
My leg shaving days are way behind me, but in each of the four states I have lived and cycled in there has been some level of hostility. I have had objects and obscenities hurled at me, horns blown, gestures made and one time I am pretty sure an intentional effort to run me off the road. I have also filed more than one police report, but for the most part I have learned to appear ignorant of hostile motorists. As a motorist, I have learned to be tolerant. Most cyclists are trying to do something healthy; some are just trying to get to point B. There is very little in my life that is so urgent that I can’t slow down for human powered transport.
And that really is the point. It isn’t about who is entitled to the road (and by the way, most cyclists are also motorists and homeowners and taxpayers). It’s about being members of a community. The apostle Paul was furious that Christians in the Galatian region were imposing conditions. They had grown up in the Jewish tradition and were trying to impose Jewish law on Gentile converts. His tone was biting and sarcastic. He also wrote some of his most audacious comments: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one.” He writes that the key distinctions in his culture must vanish if we are to live in true community.
Later he beseeches, “let us not be conceited, competing with one another.” There is no “us against them.” There is only us, and it doesn’t matter how “right” you are, or think you are. As soon as you entertain the distinction, you have contributed to the breakdown of community. Paul calls upon us to be slaves to each other, which means that we are both master and slave; the only context in which we can truly be free.
So I will continue to watch and slow down for cyclists and pedestrians and runners; I am in an air-conditioned car after all, and it doesn’t really take all that much time. And on my bike, I will be considerate of motorists, and blissfully ignorant of those who despise my Lycra shorts; my blood pressure is high enough as it is. It’s about being part of a community. For there is no longer motorist or cyclist, for all of you are one.
Steve Hammer is the pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.