No, I won’t back down

So let’s go back to Bicyling’s article about conflict resolution that I mentioned the other day.

I understand the point. Really, I do. It’s dangerous enough out there without getting into arguments with angry drivers — let alone running the risk of letting those arguments escalate into violence.

But something about the article just rubbed me the wrong way. And the more I thought about it, the more it bugged me.

Let’s start with the obvious.

I don’t know about you, but of all the altercations I’ve had, or seen other bikers have, with angry drivers, very few involved an opportunity to talk it out. Most occurred while both the car and the bike were moving; usually as the driver was following behind screaming and honking his horn. Or sometimes, as he threw something out an open window, or opened a door while passing, or zipped by so close it forced the rider — i.e., me — off the road.

Not much opportunity for a real conversation there. Usually, the rider doesn’t have time to do much more than thrust out a finger or yell a choice epithet or two as the driver rides off into the sunset.

But let’s say, this one time, Mr. or Ms. Angry Driver — no relation to Minnie, who evidently sings, as well — pulls up next to you at the red light, foaming at the mouth about how you got in his or her way, and you shouldn’t be in the roadway, and bicycles belong on the sidewalk anyway.

Not that I’ve ever heard that one before, or anything.

Now, you know he’s wrong. I know he’s wrong. And yes, even Bicycling knows he’s wrong, and suggests that you point it out. But they suggest doing it in a tone that seems so submissive and subservient, it’s a wonder they don’t recommend that you lay on your back and let the driver rub your belly.

And I’m just not going to do that.

Sure, I try to be as calm and respectful as the situation allows. And if the driver is willing to listen, I’m more than happy to explain why I rode where I did, and the way I did. Then, if he’s still listening — which experience tells me is highly unlikely — I’ll explain that it was not only legal, but also the safest thing to do under the circumstances.

I do try to avoid confrontations, and not just because they can ruin my day, and the driver’s day, and that of anyone who happens to be in earshot. But also because angry drivers are likely to take it out on the next rider they encounter. And with today’s blame bikers first mentality, we’re not likely to win any friends by arguing — even it we are right.

But the bottom line is, we have every right to be on the road, and drivers have every obligation to share it — even if they don’t have to like it.

So even though I’ve never been a big Tom Petty fan, I’m going to stand my ground.

And I won’t back down.


According to the Times, it’s time to ride your bike — and they list the rides to prove it. Bicycling has details on recent recalls for Look KEO and Cervelo carbon fork owners. Even in Mississippi, more people are commuting by bike. Finally, welcome to yet another member of the local biking and blogging community.


  1. disgruntled says:

    Most of the time the driver is long gone before I can even articulate a response in my head. Which is probably fortunate. My wierdest car-on-bike experience was when I was overtaken by a Ford Fiesta (very compact car) full of four big lads who started pelting me with uncooked brussels sprouts. This in the middle of nowhere. My response was to accelerate – I really wanted to catch that car and when I did I would … (bear in mind here that I’m a 120lb girl with arms like cooked spaghetti). Luckily for me, even a laden Ford fiesta is faster than me on a bike.

    Uncooked brussels sprouts hurt though…

  2. bikinginla says:

    Could be worse, I suppose. Had they pelted you with cooked brussels sprouts, the smell alone would have been painful. I guess that’s the difference the U.S. and the U.K. Here they usually throw half-full super-sized sodas from the last fast food place they visited. I guess the U.K. is just more health and/or environmentally conscious.

    Or maybe you were attacked by vegans.

  3. disgruntled says:

    That was the first and last time I ever had foodstuffs (assuming you count sprouts) thrown at me from a car (on my bike, anyway – I did get pelted with a slice of pizza in Sidcup once, but I was on foot). The half-full soda thing sounds much more annoying. Here it would more likely be a lighted cigarette, and then only because they have not noticed the cyclist…

  4. timur says:

    thanks so much for the nod, and i’ll look forward to reading more in the future.

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