Just as I start to think of myself as a seasoned transportation cyclist, something happens to throw me off my game. Yesterday I had one of the most stressful rides ever. It was a 10 mile route out to the suburbs that passed through several town centers. Despite it being the middle of a work day, traffic was unbelievable and I kept trying to figure out what was going on. Then it hit me (almost literally - as two car doors swung open simultaneously directly in front of me and a pedestrian jumped into my out-of-the-doorzone line of travel at the exact same moment): It's holiday shopping time and people are on their lunch breaks.
Don't get me wrong: I am glad to see so many shoppers patronising establishments in their local town centers instead of going to the mall or shopping online. I've heard campaigns on the radio promoting local holiday shopping, and I am certain that I am seeing more of this trend now than in previous years. The lively community feeling seems to be returning to places where it had been absent for years; it's fantastic. But assuming that most of the holiday shoppers are indeed local (why else would they visit tiny stores selling things like bespoke stationery, knitting yarn, baby clothing, and jewelry crafted by women who teach at the local arts center?) it is ironic that they choose to drive. Parking alone must eat up a good portion of their lunch hour, which probably explains why they run in and out of the shops like mad, swing open their car doors without looking, then shout in irritation at cyclists like me merely for being there and almost getting killed by them. They would probably be happier if they walked, as would the rest of us. I know that some town centers have considered banning parking or car traffic during peak shopping times, but there is resistance from business owners - who believe this will deprive them of customers.
Anyhow, I write this not so much to complain, as to warn those who are new to cycling during the holiday rush: Be careful out there and take alternative routes if possible. After almost getting doored for the nth time, finally switching to a trail for the last portion of my return trip was a welcome relief. Peace and quiet and dirt and gravel and no swinging car doors: I'll have that on the rocks, please. And I'll walk or ride to do my holiday shopping.