The Ideal Cyclist always wears a helmet. He wears it when he's riding, when he's thinking about riding, and up to 10 minutes after he has finished riding. He wears a safety vest, safety goggles and cut things with safety scissors. She rarely cuts things, as it might prove unsafe.
The Ideal Cyclist follows all traffic laws. He even follows rules that are not traffic laws but should be. The Ideal Cyclist rides as far to the right as possible. Sometimes he even rides farther to the right than is even possible. He stretches the bounds of possibility when it comes to right riding. The Ideal Cyclist stops at all traffic lights and all stop signs. She stops at all lights period, red or otherwise. You can render the Ideal Cyclist immobile with a flashlight. An octagon of any sort is paralytic. The Ideal Cyclist drops one foot to the ground and maybe a second. The Ideal Cyclist considers hurling herself to the ground at each stop light to kiss the turf, like an arriving Pope. The Ideal Cyclist yields. He yields to cars and pedestrians and buses and trains and baby ducklings. He yields to yield signs.
The Ideal Cyclist only rides in bike lanes. On streets where there are no bike lanes, the ideal cyclist does not ride for fear of offending. He walks his bike along the sidewalk. If someone else is on the sidewalk, the Ideal Cyclist will lift his bicycle above his head and pretend to be an inoffensive street tree. She heeds all passers-by. The Ideal Cyclist will sometimes drive his bicycle to a street where there are bike lanes to begin his trip and ask a friend to pick him up where the lanes end. She shares the road by vacating it. When the Ideal Cyclist chances upon something or someone blocking the bike lane, the Ideal Cyclist will stop and wait for the object or person to clear. The Ideal Cyclist is patient. He has been known to upwards of days for the removal of a traffic cone.
When the Ideal Cyclist reaches a four-way stop near the same time as drivers, she stops, looks, waves the others through and hails a cab.
The Ideal Cyclist will nod patiently and agree with friends and acquaintances who tell stories about the horribleness of non-ideal cyclists. He accepts the sins of the bike world as his own. The Ideal Cyclist is the one with the bad name, to whom it was given by the actions of others. She has endless empathy for the scores of people "almost hit" and beseeches the forgiveness from those who were startled in their cars that time "that guy came out of nowhere." The Ideal Cyclist always comes out of somewhere. He gives ample warning. He uses a bell, but he does not ring it in a way that could be interpreted as scolding or even suggestive of imploring action. He rings gently and the ding is sonorous and soothing. When he calls out "on your left" he does it in the romance language of your choosing because the Ideal Cyclist appreciates your desire for mellifluousness. He then declines to pass because there isn't enough room. That could cause a gentle wisp of wind and it could muss one's hair or perhaps wrinkle a shirt or maybe just make one's skin feel the breeze and no one asked for that.
The Ideal Cyclist does not ask for more bike lanes. In fact, he wants fewer. He wants to only ride on trails- ideally, trails that go nowhere- because the Ideal Cyclist is a recreationalist. Though he rides for sport and pleasure, he does not ride in a group. Ever. He rides single-file, alone and hunches over his bike to form the smallest profile possible, like an animal hiding from a predator. If there are other users on the trail, the Ideal Cyclist goes home.
The Ideal Cyclist seeks penance in advance for the confusion he causes. Perhaps he volunteers his time to change the oil of poor drivers. He might pay other people's speeding tickets anonymously. The Ideal Cyclist knows that her appearance in the world is an unexpected shock. Seeing a cyclist on the road is a close encounter of the third kind. The Truth is Out There.
The Ideal Cyclist never asks for anything better. She opposes bike sharing. The Ideal Cyclist is an avid bicyclist who used to bike, but doesn't anymore. The Ideal Cyclist is too concerned about the safety of others to ever cycle near them. She cycles alone at home, preferably in the dark so the neighbors do not see her secret shame.
The Ideal Cyclist knows that she is a leech on society. She knows that she is using precious road space for her own selfish desires. She knows that she is getting away with not paying her fair share. The Ideal Cyclist registers his bike with the DMV. He encourages others to do the same. Even little kids.
The Ideal Cyclist recognizes that there's no such thing as false equivalency. Her rights and responsibilities are the same as everyone else's. Maybe even more same. The Ideal Cyclist doesn't even know what hypocrisy is. The Ideal Cyclist knows that cars are subjects and not objects. He never suspects criminality because accidents happen. They're unavoidable. It's not blaming the victim if it's a victim's fault and the victim should have known how dangerous it was before he did the thing that he did. After all, if the thing he did wasn't dangerous, how did he become the victim in the first place?
The Ideal Cyclist tries to blend in with normal society, but he cannot. The Ideal Cyclist sees things from others' perspectives, but never suggests that he has his own. The Ideal Cyclist does not wish to disturb the natural order of built things, nor does he question it. The Ideal Cyclist's priority if the priority of others. The Ideal Cyclist never mentions that other might enjoy cycling. She will not speak to cycling's potential appeal. She is no evangelist.
The Ideal Cyclist doesn't even ride a bike.
UPDATE: A modified (read: better) version of this piece has been posted on Greater Greater Washington, where it is capable of drawing the ire of a much larger audience.