Soda, Screaming and General Hostility


Bike Lane

One Can Only Wish ....


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.

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One Response to Soda, Screaming and General Hostility

  1. cm says:

    The Neanderthal comment made the light bulb come on. I bet this behavior is explained by tribalism. Classic “us” vs “them” behavior that easily escalates just as you’d expect clans to battle over turf. They literally do see the roads as theirs.

    And like any Neanderthal, you don’t expect them to have much awareness of what the law says, nor the imagination to identify with someone from another tribe. It’s only a question of escalation before the weaker individual backs down, and in this case 100% of the time it’s the cyclist. Unless he has a bike equipped with SAMs, or is armed with bear spray. It literally would take a disproportionate response on the part of a biker to get a motorist to back down. And because of the assumption that it’s their turf, a disproportionate response by a biker likely becomes a source for retaliation on future bikers.

    So yeah. It’s absolutely cave man like mentality. Emotional. Irrational. Ignorant. All of those things.

    Civilized humans have developed some mechanisms to moderate emotional overreaction. It’s critical thinking. Knowledge itself can combat this, but driver’s are expected to know very little. If they can breath, aren’t legally blind, can wait for hours in a DMV, and afford the license fee, they can drive. It’s nothing like European motorist standards where they learn to share the road, and driving is a privilege not a right.

    I’ve found even by asking a driver to roll down their window, they are immediately agitated and on the defensive. 9 times out of 10, explaining how a car pulling to the left of a bicyclist to cut in front in order to make a right hand turn in front of the bicyclist is illegal, results in statements like “well you’re a biker!” It’s simple ignorance and inability to identify with the massively one sided consequences bikers have to contend with for a mistake made by either parter. It’s totally disproportionate out of the gate, and there really isn’t much of anything an individual cyclist can do.

    As for running red lights. Yeah you know, I have friends who do this at traffic lights, not just stop signs. It’s illegal, they should get a ticket. I wish they would. It makes all bicylists look like law breakers. In order to share the road, everyone has to integrate. The more bicyclists and cars follow the same rules, and have predictable behaviors, the safer that integration.

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