[891호 14면, 발행일 : 2019년 6월 12일(수)]
I’ve lived in Korea for 13 years. I’ve been biking here for nearly as long. So, over the course of many hours on the road and many miles under my tires, I’ve come to recognize a few distinct types of people, situations, and dangers you might run into out there.
1. Road Hogs & Obstacles As pedestrians, they walk along the centerline of the dual – lane bicycle/ pedestrian river path. In groups, they take up the full width of the path, or walk on both sides of the path, at the same speed, without passing the other group. Pedestrians with dependents – small children or pets – have less control over their trajectory than you have over… As drivers, they zip past you at high speed only to slow down at the following corner to turn – or park (without a signal) and cut you off. Best to make clear your intentions on the bike with a loud bell or loud yell, decrease speed, and be ready to weave in and out of pedestrians, or hit the brakes for terrible drivers at the last possible moment.
2. Oblivious Meanderers These people keep their eyes everywhere but on the road. As pedestrians, they either look at everything at once or nothing. Either they are enwrapped in conversation with a friend, or interacting with a pet or someone else. Sometimes, they lose themselves in the scenery. Other times, they drop their eyes to the ground and never look up. “Phone zombies” are their close cousins, but more dangerous. With eyes glued to an LED screen, they aren’t even consciously aware that their feet are moving. After the 14th bell “ding!” and a whoosh~ of wind as you pass them on the opposite side, they jump in alarm -as if they hadn’t noticed you coming in the distance for the past 500 meters. Oblivious drivers are similar. Either they’re lost and looking for their destination, or “baby drivers” afraid of their own shadow. Best to approach either pedestrian or car with caution. They aren’t even conscious of their own actions, so you have to be.
3. Fakes On the road, you’re sure to also encounter “fake bikes.” These are electric bikes and gasoline powered scooters that can zip along at speeds exceeding 30 kph while their riders sit smugly. For the most part, they’re not problematic, just annoying. When they zip past you at high speeds, with the rider’s eyes fixated on the horizon, you may wonder if they are not perpetual motion machines – rarely slowing. That is, until the driver lets off the gas after triumphantly passing a sweating cyclist and blocks your forward momentum. “Ding” your bell a couple of times to remind him that he needs to keep moving or get out of the way. The same scenario also often happens with cars on a road with multiple speed bumps. You really have two choices in this situation: move over, let them pass, and stay stuck behind them for the entire stretch of road, or kick it up into high gear and take to the center of the road to prevent them passing. If the road is short, and your speed is great, the driver won’t even notice he’s stuck behind a bike because he’ll be focused on the speed bumps.
4. “Best” Drivers Finally, there’s the people like us (yes, you too). We are the kings of the road, the “best” drivers. If they had crowns for the tops of our helmets like they do for taxis, ours would be the biggest. We fly down the roads like a bird on the wing, rarely stopping, hardly slowing. Hand signals are for babies. We ding the bell at anything that moves and swerve around obstacles, eyes fixated on the prize, the goal, our destination. Throw caution to the wind, you only live once! And this is only the third new bike you’ve had to buy this year. If only people weren’t so crazy on the road…