As a rule, I try to avoid confrontations when I ride.
No, really, I do. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that cars are bigger than I am. And they hurt. But sometimes, someone will do something so stupid, so dangerous, that I just can’t help myself.
Like the other day, for instance.
I was making my way back up San Vicente at the end of a hard ride, riding in the bike lane, and just focused on getting up that hill a little faster than I have before. So I wasn’t really paying that much attention to traffic passing by.
Then without warning, a car zoomed past me, two wheels inside the bike lane, missing me by less than two feet — passing so close that the wind from his slipstream nearly knocked me over before he straightened out and returned to his lane. I shouted a few choice epithets, steadied my bike and continued up the hill.
And there, waiting at the next intersection for the light to change, was the very same car, with his right window rolled down.
And I just couldn’t help myself.
So I pull up to his door, and yell through the open window that he should never pass a bike that close. His response? All together now…
Right about then the light turns green, and I zip through the intersection, only to realize that now I have a dangerous — and angry — driver behind me. And that’s never good.
So I pull over to the right, and wait patiently for him to drive pass.
Except he doesn’t.
He sees me waiting on the side of the road and pulls over into the gas station next to me. Out steps a guy who looks like he’s doing an impression of a bad Kevin Costner character — faded T-shirt, baggy cargo shorts hanging down past his knees, and baseball cap turned backwards. And looking for a fight.
He asks what I’m so pissed off about, and I explain that he almost hit me. He responded with all the keen debating tactics of a grade school playground.
Yeah, like out of all the cars that passed me that day, I’m going to single out his and make up a story just to create a confrontation like this. I explain that he had crossed over into the bike lane next to me, passing me by less than a couple feet.
Meanwhile, I’m thinking that maybe I should try to defuse the situation before things get physical. So I pull out my cell phone and snap his picture, as well as another shot of his license plate. As I do, I happen to glance down — and notice that the zipper on his pants is pulled all the way, exposing everything from waist to mid-thigh.
And trust me, there wasn’t much to see.
Right about then, it dawns on me then just why he was so distracted that he didn’t even see me as he drove.
And I thought drivers with cell phones in their hands were a problem.
Newsweek joins the discussion on the conflict between cyclists and drivers in one of America’s best cycling cities. The article also includes a link to a cyclist hanging on for dear life. Missed this one when it came out; the S. F. Examiner cycling writer — they actually have someone to cover biking! — shares my complaint about riding and cell phones. Looks like the CHP is cracking down on BUIs in Tahoe. And the LACBC urges us all to write the mayor to support dedicated funding for cycling in the new Metro tax proposal.
Good use of cell phone. It reminds me of a time when some friends and I were almost run over in a residential area in the Wilshire District while we were legally crossing — we flipped Speed Racer off, and we saw him brake, then back up a block to where we were, then got out of his car, flailing around and hollering. He really wanted to escalate it into a fight until he saw me calmly writing down his license plate number (and reading it aloud so he knew exactly what I was doing). That totally cooled his jets, and he drove away.
And it reminds me of a time Pops and I were driving west on I-70. Just a little west of Glenwood Springs, a blue Caddy was weaving back and forth in front of us. I decided to get ahead of this guy, and as we passed, we saw a middle-aged driver, his shirt undone, gritting his teeth, and gripping the wheel with a white-knuckled grip. Oh, yes, and his trashy girlfriend’s head was bobbing up and down. We burst out laughing and followed next to him for awhile before we pulled ahead. Sometime later, they pass us — and glare at us as they do.
[…] I realized that, justified or not, things like that were counter productive, at best. All my ranting and raving never convinced a single driver that I was right, or they were wrong. Just that I was an obnoxious jerk. So now I try to keep my mouth closed, with hands firmly planted on the handlebars — though sometimes I fail, as this post from last week would suggest. […]