Pack Mentality

I've been on enough large group rides, to realize that once critical mass is achieved there is a certain pack mentality that often appears.  I'm typically one of the few people who stick out like a sore thumb by actually stopping for lights rather than running them to stay with the group, stopping at stop signs, etc.  Naturally, whether or not this behavior appears depends on the group of people in question.  I've been in the RI area long enough now that I've been able to find a group of people who share similar cycling habits and beliefs; now I can hang out at red lights with others and we "bully" the few spirited riders, tempted to behave poorly, to wait for lights and behave like exemplary cyclists.

This past weekend, I went camping up in MA with my family and witnessed the fact that motorcyclists sometimes suffer from the same pack mentality.  We were driving down a road and after a lane merger ended up stuck in the middle of a pack of motorcycles, probably on the order of 40 to 50.  Things were going along fairly well, I was giving the motorcycles ahead a generous gap and while the riders behind appeared to be really close, I just reminded myself that they probably know their own vehicle and are within a safe distance.  After a while, one rider behind us started revving his engine and pointing over to the side of the road.  I assume he intended for me to pull over so I they could pass me, however, there was no shoulder and I wasn't interested in driving on the grass.  I ignored the repeated attempts to get my attention and just kept humming along.  Eventually the rider must have gotten fed up with me, passed in a no passing zone, and then put on his brakes, forcing me to slam my brakes on so I didn't run him over.  He continued to block my way, while waving his buddies around, so they too could pass in a no passing zone.  What an idiot.  Does he know how lucky he was that I was alert and didn't just run him over?  I still can't believe he did this, what an thoughtless individual.  We later saw this same group of riders blocking an intersection, so the back of the pack could proceed through a red light all together.  By this point, I had had enough and had Karen dial 911.  We later ended up talking to one of the police officers who responded, they sent a motorcycle officer into the pack, but naturally everyone behaved well with the officer there.  I truly hope I never experience this again, I can't imagine what it would have been like had I not been able to stop and ended up killing that rider.

So for all those people on bikes who break the law, trying to save insignificant time off their rides, please stop and think about what you are doing.  It's not just your life you are putting on the line, it's the lives of others around you.  I have to admit, I have a bad taste in my mouth towards motorcycles at this point and I suspect it will be quite a while before I trust a group of any size again.  I can certainly see why cyclists have a bad rap with many drivers, we need to show respect in order to get respect.

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