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Bzzzzzzz, pffff, pffff, thump, thump. Is this working? Can you hear me in the back row? (Pause.) All right, would everyone please sit down?

As bicycling loyalists, we've gathered this evening as a show of solidarity. With the glorious Missoula summer ahead of us, the time for bicycling is now! I know you're distraught about motorists constantly ignoring you and. ... Here's a tissue, ma'am.

Sir, please sit down. (Pause.) I empathize with the fact an SUV pulled out in front of you last week. (Pause.) Listen mister, taking your shirt off and beating your chest isn't going to solve anything. If everyone would remain calm and stop throwing empty chain-lube bottles. . . .

Okay, we all know bicycling is a fantastic way to save on fuel, maintenance, and insurance. Plus, as the gentleman in the back just yelled, we all could benefit from burning a few calories. ... No, ma'am. I'm not calling you fat.

Question from lady in the pink dress. (Pause.) I believe you're mistaken. Carrying a loaded sidearm to fend off motorists isn't a good cycling strategy. More cyclists will increase awareness and being observant, defensive riders while remembering a few common-sense rules will keep everyone safe.

First, always obey the traffic laws including signaling and stopping at stop signs and lights. Accidents often occur when cyclists' actions are unpredictable.

Secondly, riding on the wrong side of the road to improve safety is a falsehood. Doing so confuses motorists, as they can't rely on where a cyclist might be. It effectively reduces reaction time by making the closing speed much faster.

Ma'am, would you please give me back the microphone? (Pause.) No, I don't need you to calculate the reaction time for a cyclist going the wrong way. I'm sure it isn't much. Remember to use a side-view mirror on your helmet or handlebars to observe the traffic behind you.

The third safety reminder is to stay off sidewalks. Pedestrians are fragile things; let's remember to steer clear of their pathways. Also, exiting a sidewalk on a speeding bike isn't something a motorist typically expects.

Yes, guy sitting on that lady's lap. (Pause.) Thanks, I did forget about stop, look, and listen. Many bicycle fatalities come from riders entering traffic without paying attention. In the technological age, gadget distractions are plentiful for both motorists and cyclists. When riding, please avoid headphones and cell phones. Hearing is one of the best alarms you have.

Gentleman gesticulating in the third row. (Pause.) Oh, I get it. While hand gestures like that can make a point, they also affect control of the bicycle. Motorists do make mistakes but let's not generate hard feelings by assuming, and gesturing, for the worst.

Would someone please open the back doors? It's getting really stuffy up here. (Pause.) Thanks. We've all had a close call with a vehicle resulting a "fight or flight" verbal outburst. (Pause.) OK, there's another fine example from the shirtless guy. Let's all learn to curb our tongues if only to exhibit how cyclists are in-control, courteous people.

Hey, would the owner of the kid throwing M&Ms off the balcony get him to stop? (Pause.) Of course, there is a generous helping of drivers who honor everyone's right to be on the road - even bicyclists. They let us go first at four-way stops, give us a wide berth while passing, slow down when approaching us on a dirt road, and wave at us in a gesture of friendship. These are the enlightened ones. May their numbers multiply and the IRS look favorably upon them.

That's all I have. Thanks for coming. Ride often and ride safely. Would somebody please find that guy his shirt?

Joe Barnhart writes from Dillon. Send comments to lifestooserious@gmail.com.

 

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