This is an Us vs Them post. It didn't start out that way. It was just a little story I was telling to a co-worker that took an unexpected turn.
I stopped on Wall Street by one of the planters and took off my helmet like I usually do before going into work. I hooked the helmet around the handlebars before I remembered I needed to get some cash from the ATM at the bank nearby. So I hopped back on the bike and pedaled down Wall Street. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a white car coming behind me. I thought, great, another car driving on the "pedestrian mall" section of Wall Street. One of the little things that bugs me, especially in the block signed for transit only. (Don't get me started on the buses that zoom down the street.) Anyhow, I got to the end of the block and swung my leg off the bike to walk it on the sidewalk, when I saw that the white car was a police car. I panicked for a second thinking oh great he can ticket me for riding without a helmet on. But he drove on by, and I chuckled to myself - I guess they have more important things to do.
I relayed this to a buddy at work, a guy who once told me he's inclined not to ride because the city requires a helmet. The first thing he says isn't oh that's funny, but "I saw this bicyclist riding on the sidewalk... in front of some cars in a driveway…. shopping center blah..." I actually didn't hear just what this biker did, because I stopped listening after "I saw this bicyclist and he..".
It just so happened that I'd been waiting for someone to tell me another "I saw a bicyclist do something" story and I had a response. When I first started biking to work, I'd hear a lot of those comments. People would tell me they saw a biker go the wrong way, run a stop sign, etc. I usually didn't have a comeback ready because the comments would come out of the blue. Mainly, I wondered why are you telling me this? I don't go around telling drivers about all the motorists I see running stop signs, rolling through red lights, talking on the cell phone, speeding. If I did, I wouldn't get anything done. But I finally got tired of this, and developed a response - you tell me you saw a biker riding without lights on at night, I tell you I see drivers do that, too. I just hadn't got a chance to use this technique much.
So I just said Oh, I see motorists do crazy stuff all the time. He looked at me and tried to explain further why whatever this biker did was bad, but I didn't care. Poor guy was a victim of my new attitude. He talked to me later, and said, Scott, I'm afraid you got the wrong impression, I'm not against bikers. I brushed it off and tried to make nice.
I'm not really sure why non-bikers feel the need to tell bikers all the bad things they see bikers do. Not like I can do anything about it. But it's always aggravating because they don't also recognize the laws motorists break regularly.
I think what this boils down to is the "other" phenomenon. Things are more noticeable and aggravating when they're done by members of the other tribe.