It all started when I took a left off of Belmont Street onto a driveway to the left (west) of Sofra Cafe on Sunday morning. I used this driveway to get on the sidewalk, the same part of the sidewalk that cars use when using that driveway. Once on the sidewalk I immediately dismounted. At that very instant, three women looked back, horrified that I was approaching them on a bike but then relieved when they realized I was no longer riding and was no longer on my bike. Hey, I was on a sidewalk so I wouldn't be riding, right? That's the rule as far as I know. And I had to get it on the sidewalk for a safe and secure place to lock my bike. I used the driveway as any other vehicle would.
I said hello while in line and the three of them, one from out of town, noted that all bike riders behave erratically and don't follow traffic regulations. My rule is that I follow them, which unfortunately surprised them. My key learning: we have, apparently, a bad reputation.
In some ways this doesn't surprise me. I am acquainted with a number of careful and law abiding cyclists. But I also see some bad behavior on the part of cyclists. For instance, last Thursday while waiting for a light on Somerville Avenue in Somerville, MA, four cyclists ran the red light without pause. A driver, with her young daughter in the back seat, gave me a thumbs up, presumably because I waited with her and the rest of traffic for the light to turn. In my world view I don't need a thumbs up for following rules that apply to me. But because the other 80% of the cyclists who passed that intersection didn't follow the rules, I was perceived as different because I followed the rules and was worthy of praise. That is a sad place for all of us to be.