I was riding my Dahon Speed Folding Bicycle to work like I do every day. I don’t take the sidewalks, which are actually much more dangerous for the cyclist, pedestrians, and motorists who watch the road. Plus, the law dictates that I ride on the street. As gas prices rise, American motorists need to become familiar with dealing with cyclists. They also need to lean to love public transportation.
Today, riding to work, was uneventful. I’d passed through the most dangerous part of my journey, where I merge across three lanes and sit in a left turn lane until the light changes. I passed through the light, and this time no cars were behind me. I continued down the road as semi trucks and other large trucks file down the oncoming lane. It’s quite a rush to ride next to the loud, low, tremble of their giant engines and enormous girth. I am well aware that any collision with them (or any other car) would likely end in serious to fatal injury.
HALF A BLOCK before I turn into my place of work, I was frightened by a loud and constant HORN blaring from a car tailgating TEN FEET behind me. This is a terrifying experience for a cyclist. It would be very easy for me to panic and fall in front of her tires. I wave a ‘hold on’ signal to the irate motorist, continue until the parked cars give way, and merge into the should per the norm.
A young platinum blonde in a white BMW shoots me a dirty look, swerves slightly toward me, and guns it, speeding away… and then immediately turning into a parking lot.
I decided to follow her in.
I stayed 20 feet away from her car, on my bicycle, and consciously made an effort not to yell or appear threatening. She saw me and decided to take FOREVER fiddling with her purse, hoping I’d go away. My adrenaline is pumping.
She gathered her strength and got out of her car.
Click below to read the exchange:
“Ma’am, I have every right to be on the road that you do. With fuel prices going up there’s going to be a lot more-”
“Bicycles belong in the bicycle lane.”
“When there is no bicycle lane, I have to-”
“I don’t want to talk about this.” She gets back into her car.
“Ma’am. I’m not going to hurt you. Ma’am, can we please talk about this like adults?” I’m using my authoritative but ultra calm voice.
“If you don’t leave, I’m going to call 911.”
“Ma’am, I’m not going to hurt you. You don’t need to call anyone. Will you please at least crack your window so we can talk?”
“I want you to leave. I’m calling 911.” She mouths through the closed window.
“Ma’am, I can’t hear you. Will you please crack the window?” I back away from her car another ten feet placing another car between us.
She does not respond. She’s talking to someone on the other end of the line, likely someone inside the office and not 911. I push off on my bike and start to leave.
I’m not proud of this last bit, but I’ll be honest in my portrayal of the scene.
“You’re a rich, b*tch!” I yell, now on the other side of a short wall.
It was a parting shot that undermines my dignity, but sure made me feel better. Immature? Yes. I’m not as Zen as I’d like.
She’s not the first and won’t be the last motorist who decides to scare me into submission for daring to take to the streets on a bicycle. I’ve had worse instances as well with people purposely driving very close to me, honking, yelling, and even throwing things at me.
I understand road rage. This is not road rage. This is a complete disrespect for someone else’s life.
When there’s room, I ride on the shoulder. When there is not, I take the lane, a full lane like a motorized vehicle. This is the law. I command the space with authority. It is clear I mean to be in your way. I do NOT want you to ‘scootch’ past me, a couple of feet away from my handle bars. You can pass me in another lane, or wait until I have room to move over and let you by. You don’t like it, lobby for more bike lanes.
Sometimes this means a semi-truck might have to trudge along behind me for a block. Occasionally, I’ll even build up two or three cars for a short time. But I ride at least 15 miles per hour and often I kick it up to 20-25 for a short sprint when I’m holding cars up. It’s not so bad. You can deal. I’ll probably catch you at the stoplight anyway.
Should I have confronted her? A part of me thinks people should know when they’ve done something wrong. Without the confrontation, she might have only felt annoyed at the ‘dumb’ cyclist. Now, she has faced some resistance to her thoughts. I can’t control where she takes them from here.
UU’s, remember your seven principles when driving to work!