Road riding requires a degree of patience and self-control rarely needed in other facets of life. No matter how careful a cyclist tries to be and how much the law is on his side, there’s just one fact that can’t be overlooked – most drivers don’t want bicycles on the road.
Accommodating and humoring them may seem feasible at the time, but the amount of crap that a cyclist must endure at the hands of ignorant motorists falls beyond the average person’s breaking point.
It’s not uncommon, when riding quietly along the right-hand side of the road, for a car full of teenagers to pull up within inches of a cyclist’s left elbow and shriek directly into the cyclist’s ear – at the top of their lungs – for the sheer thrill of startling the cyclist or distracting him in an attempt to make him crash.
Cursing these hooligans rarely does any good. As soon as they’ve screamed themselves red in the face, the “driver” (and I use that term lightly) hits the gas and speeds away – leaving the cyclist in the dust.
On other occasions, filthy, dilapidated pick-up trucks pull up alongside a bike with some toothless, sawed-off-sleeves, nitwit leaning out the window, with crusted food outlining his crooked mouth. “Hey, idiot,” he barks, regurgitating his words as a nearly incomprehensible guttural utterance, “get on the sidewalk where you belong.”
Looking straight ahead, the cyclist continues to ride as if he doesn’t hear anything.
“Hey, loser,” the ignoramus continues, talking to himself, “why don’t you drive, like a normal person?” He and his equally disheveled pal are greatly amused by his half-witted remark. “Hey a**hole, I’m talkin’ to you.” He waits for a response.
Now the driver chimes in, “Bikes don’t belong on the road.” He accentuates this pearl of wisdom by swerving towards the bike. “Bet he’s pissin’ his pants by now,” he chortles, swerving towards the bike again to impress his friend.
Just when the cyclist, who’s been struggling to keep his cool, thinks that the two uncouth creatures have grown tired of taunting him, he feels cold liquid, and colder shards of ice, hit his face, arm and leg. A moment later, the paper cup that held the liquid hits his chest and falls to the ground, bouncing and tumbling across the road until it comes to rest.
Damn it, he thinks, noticing his arm growing sticky with sweet, dried soda residue, and his new cycling jersey stained with half-drunk cola during its first wearing. He starts charging to catch the truck, which has pulled just ahead of him, when he realizes that these Neanderthals would jump at an opportunity to break every bone in his body. So, he falls back into his normal pace and takes a deep breath to squelch his irrepressible anger.
Not to be outdone, other drivers speed up alongside a cyclist just to tell him about how “all of you cyclists are a menace.” “You run every red light, mow down pedestrians on sidewalks and think you own the road.”
They pause to see who just texted them while they’re driving. When they look up, they continue, “Bikes should be banned from the roads. Roads are meant for cars. If you want to ride, go find a bike path and get out of everyone’s way.” Without missing a beat they pick up their phone and start texting with the phone pressed against the steering wheel, which is held only by two free fingers.
Apparently, texting motorists belong on the road. Unlike cyclists, they are not a menace.
It is nearly impossible not to smack all of the people described above. When are they going to start awarding medals to cyclists who don’t retaliate against rude, aggressive motorists?
One day, I’d like to carry a bottle of warm, well-shaken soda with me to squirt into the open windows of any car that assaults me. I’d like to see the faces of these cretins when they get a taste of their own medicine. Of course, this could get me run off the road – or worse – but it’s so damn frustrating to be the target of all of this hostility with little or no recourse.
For now, I’ll have to stick to cursing under my breath, or telling them to shut the hell up while I turn off onto the nearest side street to escape their rage. Or, better yet, I can rant about it on my blog and ride along in silence, stoically enduring the motorists’ wrath.