This week I had been feeling pretty negative about my bike commute and the CarFree lifestyle. It just seemed that there was a lot dragging me down. There has been the obvious rash of school bus and minivan incidents but it goes beyond that. I had the realization that day light savings is just around the corner so I will be riding in the dark more often, the weather is tickling the hat and glove line but I’ve been yelled at by more drivers than usual lately.
Maybe it’s in my nature but I seem to make bad decisions when drivers push me. For instance, this past Sunday night on my ride home from work at around 1030 I had an exchange with a young man in a Honda Accord. It wasn’t so much an exchange as him hanging out the window to explain to me in no uncertain terms that I should be on the sidewalk. Rather than engage him in a yelling match I chose diplomacy in the form of a universal hand gesture, the meaning of which can not be easily misinterpreted. Yup, I gave him “the finger” and a smile.
I’m well aware how angry that makes drivers who are yelling at you. For some reason, they get really upset that you don’t yell back and get all worked up. So I was not surprised when this young man was now hanging fully halfway out the passenger side window yelling at me(as they drove off at 35 MPH). This would usually be the end of such an exchange but on this night I realized that this vehicle would be pulling up an extremely long red light. They had put some space between us but I knew there was a good chance I would catch them and be sitting 10 inches from this guy at the light.
This is the point when my decision-making becomes questionable because rather than formulate some scheme to avoid that light, pace myself so that the light turns green before I get there, or stop a few cars back, I found myself speeding up and formulating plans for each possible altercation scenario. They all seemed to go along similar lines in which I politely ask him what the traffic laws are in terms of cyclists, cars and sidewalks(being nice seems to make them really mad too!) then explain that I don’t want any trouble just clarification. But my plans all seem to involve this gentleman being forcefully removed from the vehicle via the open window he is yelling out.
Don’t worry, the light turned green just as the young man realized I was going to get to the light and he began to roll up his window(while pretending not to notice me baring down on him), so the whole thing ended.
My question is: Am I the only cyclist who reacts this way? As I’ve discussed on this blog before I don’t condone violence and try to be very nice to everyone, even drivers who strongly disagree with my existence. But it seems that one of my first CarFree lessons, that drivers are like dogs and attack fear but submit to alpha status, continues to hold true.
Regardless, I believe that most of these incidents would be avoided if everyone was aware of the “actual” rules of the road and understand that bikes don’t ride on the sidewalk(among other things).