Old people may say they are scared of bicycles but their actions demonstrate otherwise. In defense of old people I have yet to actually hear a senior citizen say "those bicycles scare me!" It's always some relative of said senior citizen. Some guy (usually 30 something, maybe younger) talking about how Grandma is terrified to walk to the store because those mean bicyclists ride on the sidewalk and they knock Grandma over and break her hip. She's been to the store two times and both hips have been broken. Fucking bicyclists.
I call bullshit.
As a friend of mine who is an Emergency Medicine Doctor kindly told me; "We don't have a bike on person problem. We have a car on bike problem." I pressed him for details but he just looked pained and suggested I be sure to wear my helmet. Also a full suit of armor.
I don't spend a lot of time riding on the sidewalk. The sidewalks have pedestrians and sometimes the pedestrians have strollers. The sidewalks have all these scary little driveway things cutting through them and cars back out suddenly and not unsurprisingly they don't expect a bicyclist to show up behind them at the rate of 18mph. So no sidewalks. Also I'm scared of old people and old people like sidewalks.
This brings me (and hopefully you over an admittedly circuitous route) to Thursday of last week. I was on my way home from work and I had reached downtown Palo Alto where I navigate the Trifecta of traffic lights that are University, Lytton, and umm, that other cross street by Town Hall and the laundromat. I'd cleared the first and was hurtling towards the 2nd, University. The road was clear and I was staring at a green light accompanied by the White Man of Safety. Immediately behind me was a car. Both of us were 100% excited about getting through the intersection of University and Bryant in one piece. When it comes to clearing green lights, bicycles and cars have a ton in common.
The light is almost upon me when it starts to tick down. The Red Hand of Danger blinks menacingly but I know I'm safe. 22mph (not bad for a headwind) and the countdown has just started. 10...9.. A herd of pedestrians looks and says "hey, just a bicyclist" and they head out into the street. They look again and consider the car behind me and they back up, opting to wait for the light to turn in their favor.
Except for one tall old lady with a dandelion head of white fluffy hair. She looks right at me and continues on. She looks again and laughs (laughs!) and speeds up. Now I can't calculate her trajectory. I zig and she zags. The car behind me is too close for me to hit the brakes in the middle of the intersection. I pass Old Lady with an arms length between us as she rushes across the street against the light. She kindof giggles. As I go by I say, "Please. Don't do that."