Thu, 26 Jun 2003

Two weeks, two incidents

Tomorrow marks my second full week riding to work and back, this year.

As a cyclist, sharing the road with motorists can be challenging and dangerous, especially when sharing it with the ignorant and the hostile. I’m accustomed to the “Get on the sidewalk!” shouts and other, much more threating actions from the latter group. So, I wasn’t surprised the other morning when I pulled up to a stop light to make a right-hand turn and encountered a hostile motorist on my tail.

The first sign was his front bumper 3 inches off my back tire. I pulled forward a few feet, hoping to see a break in the traffic, make my turn, and get out of his sights. He pulled forward to match.

When a break did come, I took it. And he followed. We were on a 4–lane street, and both lanes our direction were open. I stayed well right, waiting for my friend to pass, leaving enough room so that I could move further right if he decided to shave it too close.

He didn’t pass! He stayed right on my tail. I held my line but turned in the saddle to look right at him. Then he did it — the old, “Get your bike up on the sidewalk where you belong!” gesture, finger pointing to the sidewalk, pumping like a bad roadside motel sign.

Assuming he could read lips and internationally recognized sign language, he was not left wondering how I felt about his bicycle traffic enforcement attempt.

I needed to make a left at the end of the block, and with the other lane completely open, I signaled left and made the lane change. If he wasn’t going to pass, I’d use the left lane and part company with him as quickly as possible. As I was preparing to make my left turn, I realized he hadn’t passed me, nor was he on my tail any longer. I turned back to see he had turned right into a business just past the sight of our encounter.

Oh! He wasn’t telling me to get on the sidewalk. He was telling me he needed to turn right, and therefore wasn’t going to pass. He was a bit impatient, perhaps, but not a hostile driver after all.

Damn! I just made an enemy. Not only for me, but perhaps for any other cyclist on the road. I don’t intend to repeat that error.

Incident number 2
Yesterday, I took a route that gets me to the post office on my way to work. Part of the route covers about 1/2 mile on a two lane road that cuts right through a cemetery. It is generally a very nice section to ride. Although the speed limit is 35 MPH, traffic is reasonably light and generally traveling under the posted speed limit. When I make the turn onto this road, I usually catch the car ahead of me at the first 4-way stop where I make a right, so I’m really not impeding traffic at all.

Two cars passed me on that stretch of road, yesterday. The second, a woman that looked to be in her fifties driving a silver Ford Escort, turned to look out the rear window, pointing frantically to the right, and obviously yelling in the confines of her car, “Get off the road!”

I went past her at the 4-way stop, and the car ahead of her, that had also passed me, and the car ahead of it — the one I had followed to start with, all waiting to continue ahead while I made a right.

I passed without comment or gesture. “Lady,” I said to myself, “I know how to ride. You learn how to drive and we’ll be able to get along just fine.”

[/cycling] [link]

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