From her perspective, it sounds reasonable.
As a driver — the writer’s husband — waits to make a right turn, a cyclist rides up and complains about not having enough room. When the driver reminds the rider that bikes have to stop for red lights too, he goes ballistic.
You have to understand, my husband is a rule-follower to a T. As a coach for many of our children’s sports teams, he’s all about fairness, manuals or rule books and takes things to the letter of the law. Calmly (as our children explained later), Daddy calmly said through the open passenger window, “You have a red light, too, buddy.”
And with that the guy stood up on the pedals of his fancy bike, and in fit of fury went from zero to 60 in a millisecond screaming at my husband, “F*** you, you a**hole.”
That, she suggests, is just how those “fancy bikers” in their “florescent, skin-tight spandex clothes” are — a bunch of belligerent, out-of-control scofflaws who don’t belong on the roads to begin with.
And that’s exactly how many motorists see us.
But looking at it from a more objective perspective, there seems to be another side to the story. Maybe the rider did blow up for no valid reason. More likely, though, the writer’s rule-following husband may have cut the cyclist off in some way, intentionally or otherwise.
Maybe he pulled around the rider and cut across his path to make that right. Or maybe, like so many other self-appointed roadway vigilantes, he tried to enforce his own interpretation of traffic law, deliberately edging over to cut off the rider’s right-of-way.
We’ll never know.
But odds are, there was a reason for the cyclist’s anger, just as there is when other drivers relate stories of cyclists yelling, swearing, spitting, flipping the bird or otherwise displaying seemingly irrational anger for no apparent reason.
There’s always a reason.
Human beings seldom randomly go off on other people for no reason. At least, not the sane ones. And the other kind usually can’t afford a high-end racing bike.
Anger like that usually springs from a fight or flight reaction when a person feels threatened in some way. Like when a multi-ton vehicle cuts off a bicyclist, operated by a driver who may lack sufficient knowledge of the rights of cyclists and how to share to road to know what he did wrong.
Sometimes we can catch up to them at the next light and calmly explain their transgression. And sometimes, the drivers actually listen; more often, the response is a finger or “f*** you” as they speed away.
But more often, that fight or flight response kicks in, and whatever response you might have is not one you’d want to share in public or admit to later. And the driver is likely to respond in kind — sometimes violently.
Lord knows my finger has sometimes flown before I had sufficient self-control to stop it.
That’s not to say that cyclists aren’t sometimes the ones at fault. We’ve all seen riders blow through red lights or stop signs, oblivious to who has the right of way, or dangerously cut across traffic without signaling.
Not that you or I would ever do something like that, of course.
And let’s face it.
There are some real jerks on two wheels, just like there are on four or more. Sometimes, they’re even the same people, as drivers often carry the same dangerous, aggressive attitudes and road tactics with them when they switch to two wheels.
Going back to the writer’s story, though, her bias quickly comes through as she continues her tale.
I am so annoyed with these fancy biker dudes and have swerved around them too many times than I care to count. It’s not our responsibility as vehicle drivers to protect bikers on the road. And they take way too many risks in my book to the point of taunting a driver to get out of their way. When there’s a pack of 30, we are forced to patiently wait to cross intersections or change lanes, and no one can drive on the road….
Why do they insist on exercising in the middle of a public road? When I exercise, I go to the gym or my husband plays tennis on a court, not in the middle of a street expecting everyone to give room and steer clear. It is affected narcissism.
Actually, it’s not narcissism, it’s the law. Cyclists have every right to ride in the road, and drivers are responsible for protecting the safety of cyclists, as well as everyone else they encounter on the streets. Just as we’re responsible for riding our bikes in a safe and legal manner.
It’s the obligation of every driver to learn the law — not just selectively edit the parts that seem to support their position — and give cyclists the space on the road that both the law and common decency dictate. And even if they think a cyclist is breaking the law, it is not a driver’s role to enforce it.
She concludes by relating the story of a friend — a “respectful bicyclist” as she puts it — who was seriously injured in a collision.
But instead of calling for motorists to drive safely and share the road, she blames the victim, urging that cyclists be banned from major roadways.
We all need to do our best to control our tempers, as difficult as that may be under the circumstances. And treat other road users with the same courtesy and respect that we have every right to expect.
But when we’re confronted with anger, we both — drivers and cyclists alike — need to ask ourselves if the response was irrational.
Or if there’s something we might have done to provoke it.
And maybe, just maybe, if we’re the ones who were wrong.
Tuesday marks Colorado’s primary election day, when the voters will decide whether the conspiratorial-minded UN-fearing tinfoil-hat-wearing gubernatorial candidate will get the Nutcase Republican nomination for governor.
It could make for an interesting race — one candidate who clearly supports cycling and one who’s evidently fallen off his mountain bike one time too many.
Photos from Sunday’s Brentwood Grand Prix, won by L.A.’s Rahsaan Bahati. Gary waxes poetic about getting honked at, briefly. The BAC gets a little more feminine. Defending champion Lance Armstrong pulls out of this weekend’s Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Clearly, not everyone likes sharrows. Not everyone likes bikes, either, as a NYC vigilante glues the locks of parked bikes. New York could get a vulnerable user law by the end of the week. An NYC museum looks at bikes as art. Fighting the myth that bike paths bring crime; should be assigned reading for the NIMBYs fighting the Expo bike path through Cheviot Hills. Biking all the way to the bank. The country’s first non-San Diego Gran Fondo rolls through Philadelphia. Houdini: great magician, not so great bike racer. Create a bike helmet design that screams sustainability and win 2,000 Euros from Fiat. Great Britian’s AA — no, not that one — warns about iPod oblivion. How to win your next sprint. Pedal your way through your mid-life crisis.
Finally, a new video from the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and Marin Cyclists Road Club instructs riders to ride to the right; is it just me, or does it seem a little heavy on the “don’t risk offending the hulking, smoke-belching motorized behemoths” attitude?