Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tired of the Drama

I had a two day run of crazy out on the local roads.

I'm not going to go into the blow by blow because anyone who rides knows the score. On Tuesday, I had a driver pull out in front of me without signaling or stopping, cut me off twice, stop short and try to run me down. Did I drop some f-bombs in there ? Yes, I did. In fact, I'm pretty certain the first invective after being cut off the led to the rest of my adventure.

The next night I went on a group ride. At one point, I was leading out two other riders by about 75 yards. We were riding on a quiet side road, and they were side by side. Should they probably have been single file ? Yes, sure.

The driver of the SUV who laid on the horn for about five seconds first slowed down ominously and then revved his engine and took a run at the other two cyclists. I didn't have to look. I know that sound.

Then he made a run at me. I did one of those head leans to get a visual, not turning my head because I tend to drift left when I do that. He buzzed me, nice and tight, rear view about 6 inches from my head as he went by, the dull heat of the vehicle oppressive on a muggy night.

I was pissed, and his window was open. What, even if he had any beef at all (which he'd forfeited by using his SUV as a weapon), had I done, except be out on the road ?

I let loose a real tirade and I followed him. At one point he considered stopping, but as Steve Surprise said, when he heard me use the phrase 'vehicular assault' he decided to just keep going.

Margit and I had an unhappy discussion afterwards because we have a difference of opinion on the matter. She thinks no matter what happens, you should just let it go. I appreciate that point of view. I agree that there are a lot of crazy people out there. As Coach Troy says in the Gates Pass ride 'it's just the nature of the beast' that some motorists are not going to give cyclists room or right of way and 'you just have to deal with it.'

At the same time, there's just something fundamentally wrong about letting people walk (or drive) all over you all the time. We have some great routes down here on the shoreline, but we really have some crappy drivers too, and on roads that are tight, winding, with poor sight lines and low speed limits.

Unquestionably, we have to do our part. The person riding in the road next to Steve the other night should have moved right as soon as they realised there was a car back. It's definitely up to cyclists to keep up good relations. But the five second horn blast and using his car to 'buzz' three cyclists is inexcusable, dangerous, and it's also illegal. And letting people cut you off with no response, which is certainly my number one issue with motorists- just yield the right of way to me when I have it- please! Don't cut me off turning onto a road I'm riding down in a straight line. Letting that go- if that doesn't tell that motorist that yes, that's the thing to do, what does it do ?

Nevertheless, I'm sick of all the drama out there. I don't want to be yelling and screaming at people and I certainly don't want a side view mirror in the side of the head.

I just want to ride.

Maybe I'll try it Margit's way...


Don Gustavson said...

alan- as a regular bike commuter i've had similiar situations, where i see-saw with cars at traffic lights, they'll zoom by me & yell f*g or beep at me or something, i'll re-pass them at a light and usually say something "friendly" even though they'll essentially be in the position to get another "shot at the title" when they come to pass me again. Its happened twice in the last couple months, and when i know theyre coming up on me I grab my water bottle and hold it ominously in my left hand, ready to unload into their passenger window if they come by me too close again. It worked asa preventative measure both times, i dont think anyone wants to get a lap- or face-full of whatever from a cyclists bottle (its always water with me, but they dont know that.)

alan said...

You're a braver man than I am. I'm always afraid they'll swerve if I spray them.

There's just a lot of hostility and mistrust between the two groups. I don't get why some drivers, though, have so much anger. Not too many cyclists hit a car and put the driver in hospital, you know ?

I think they are just angry period, and sometimes you're in the wrong place. I mean, at worst, bad cycling behaviour usually just slows a motorist down...

MandyB said...

Great post, Alan - For sure, I struggle with the same. I think part of me is like Margit, but the other 1/2 is like you. Although I'm more likely to be upset if I see someone swerving at my boyfriend - which someone did while descending at about 50 mph down rte 45 into Cornwall.

The thing that stinks about always riding the same roads is that you've got to let it go - people recognize you and know you in the community. Last thing I want is for someone to take me out, but if they do come too close, rather than give them the finger, I blow a big kiss. Helps me to neutralize things a bit. The last time I did it, when I got to the stop light, the driver apologized for not giving me more space...

I say, keep on keepin' on! But I DO like Don's water-bottle squirt technique, I use that with chasing dogs!