Just when I thought I’d seen it all, I became a victim of a new cyclist harassment technique. As I was riding down a narrow road, a car followed closely behind me. I could hear it braking and accelerating, yet I wasn’t sure whether it had enough room to pass me.
I would have accommodated the car, but there were potholes everywhere. Riding along the right-hand side of the road was virtually impossible.
Every time I tried to pull right to assist the tailgating car in passing, I encountered a fresh slew of deep holes and ruts. This put me in the middle of the road.
Soon, I realized that it would not be possible to ride on the right-hand side of the road. Swerving to the left to avoid the potholes made me unpredictable. My only option was to take the lane.
As I centered myself in the lane, I felt the heat of disgust from the driver behind me. The speed limit on this road was 25 mph. Naturally, since this is Massachusetts, drivers always feel that they must push the speed limit to at least 35 mph.
This stretch of road was uphill, so I was only going about 15 mph. I tried to accelerate. It wasn’t possible due to all the bumps in the road. I had to continually get out of my saddle to navigate the uneven road without damaging my bike.
My riding was slower than usual; it was just a matter of time before the driver lost his patience and started blasting his horn. He can wait, I thought, knowing I had just as much right to be on the road as he did.
Despite my preparation for loud horn-blowing and cursing, the car and driver remained silent. All I heard was accelerating and slowing.
At one point, I felt the car move to my left and thought it was going to cross the yellow line, into the oncoming lane, to pass me. No such luck. The driver changed his mind and fell back again.
I kept pedaling with full knowledge of my predicament and the amount of time it would take to reach the light where the driver could go around me. There was half a mile left.
Ordinarily, half a mile wouldn’t seem very far. In this situation it seemed like an unattainable distance.
Time dragged on as I broke into a sweat trying to ride as fast as I could. I hate the feeling of holding up traffic, even though traveling more slowly than cars is within my rights.
An oncoming car blew the horn as it passed me. I was not in its path, so it could only have been honking at the car behind me.
He didn’t seem to be that far over, from what I could feel. But he must have been drifting back and forth over the center line, looking for his chance to blow by me.
A straight stretch came up and I tried to pull a little to the right to give him more room. There were no cars coming and plenty of room to pass. He declined.
This guy was either an idiot or a poor driver or both. Since he didn’t take the opportunity to pass, I slowed down a little. I was running out of breath trying to ride so fast on a bumpy, uphill, winding road.
Just as I slowed down, a car behind the car directly behind me blew its horn. Whether that driver could see me or not, I couldn’t tell. The driver might have been blowing his horn at the driver behind me since he didn’t know why he was driving so slowly.
With the horn-blower far away from me, it was safe to ignore him. I was getting closer to the light anyway, so he would get relief soon enough.
The light was in sight. As we approached it, the indecisive car decided to pass me. I expected him to wait until the road widened. But, as was consistent with his poor judgment, he resolved to get away, immediately, from the slower moving bike.
I held my course to avoid being forced into pothole land. I felt the car swing out and to the side. It was much closer than I would have liked. Fortunately, the driver didn’t blast the horn from such a close distance.
About to heave a sigh of relief, I felt something hit my left shoulder. At first I wasn’t sure what it was. It felt lightweight but solid. Had I not been wearing a jacket, it might have stung a bit.
The sound it produced as it hit the ground was unmistakable; it was a coin. A coin, I thought, what is that supposed to mean?
Before I could give it much thought, I felt another small object and then another hit my leg, side and foot. Ping, ping, ping, the small metal discs bounced off of the asphalt one by one.
Although I couldn’t see them, I could hear them rolling across the road. A minute later, the car was ahead of me, speeding off to the red light, where the driver would have to slam on his brakes.
A second car passed me. No other cars were behind me so I sat up and took one hand off of my handlebars to take a rest.
I was puzzled. I’ve had a lot of things thrown at me and spilled on me over the years. Those things were disposable. Empty beer or soda cans, food wrappers, left over food, banana peels. But money? Never.
I wondered whether the driver was trying to send me a message such as “here’s some money to buy a car.” Or maybe he liked my riding style so much that he was moved to throw coins at me as they did in the old days after a sensational theater performance.
Most likely, the car’s occupants didn’t have anything else to throw. I guess when you’re a driver, you’re so used to throwing away money on things like gas, insurance, auto maintenance and all the other expenses related to owning a car, you figure that throwing a few coins out the window is consistent with the concept of car ownership.
Next time I run into an indecisive, impatient driver like this one, I hope he throws $100 bills out the window instead of coins. I would definitely stop to retrieve such a sum of money. In fact, this would be a good way to get slower riders to pull over.
Yes, drivers, throw large sums of money at cyclists and we may just move out of your way — or not.