Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Best Defense

is a good offense. Sorry to borrow a football adage (which I think applies more to the real football -- soccer) but it seemed fitting.

My request of you, my fellow cyclists: Everytime a driver does something shitty to you -- confront them. I don't mean middle finger waving, etc. (That has its place, though.) This might sound way more "in your face" than is necessary. But all you need to do is question your fellow humans' actions.

Case in point: I was riding home tonight and a driver on a residential side road took the whole lane and did not slow down -- barreling toward me at 30mph. One detail to note is that fresh snow had narrowed the safe path on the road. His sideview mirror came within 6" of my handlebar. I looked back and noticed he was taking a right and surmised he would most likely be pulling over at the next block, since it was a residential. I looped around and sure enough was right -- he had just pulled into the curb and was walking toward an apartment building (his V-8 idling, by the way). I stoppped him with an "Excuse me, sir." He turned and looked at me. "You almost hit me a block back on 39th Street. You should slow down and give room for cyclists on narrow roads." This guy was big, about my height and 250 if not more. I expected him to yell something at me and I was prepared to yell back. But I hadn't yelled at him, just spoken to him. Instead he replied, in a shaky, defensive voice, "I didn't think I was THAT close to you." "Dude, your sideview mirror almost hit my handlebars," I replied. "Well, I didn't notice. I'm sorry," he said. "I'd appreciate it if you show more consideration next time," was my retort. "Well ... I'm sorry and I will," he blurted out apologetically. "All right. Thanks and have a nice day," I told him in the most authentic tone possible. He actually told me, "You, too," as I wheeled around to ride the final three blocks to home.

So, here's the deal, people -- call folks out. It's very un-Midwestern, I know, but I am not from the Midwest. Hit the brakes, turn around, loop the block, tail people. If you can catch up with them, confront them and TALK to them (don't yell, don't curse, don't swing). Tell them what they did wrong and why. You have a bike. If it turns sour, you can always ride away. But if you don't call them on their stupid shit, they may never know why it was stupid. In this case, I had a very valuable revelation reaffirming many other observations -- many drivers just don't see/recognize cyclists. In that case you are doing them (and your fellow pedalers) a favor by drawing their attention to the fact that they need to open their eyes wider while driving.

I have tested this tactic many times in the past couple months and it works. The key is to not attack, but confront. Know the law -- the legal passing distance is three feet. You have the same rights as a car and they wouldn't buzz a car that close, they'd pull over and wait. Be authoritative, but maintain level-headedness. Educate without berating. The primary goal is to SPEAK UP. Be heard. Hell yeah!


Snakebite said...

"but I am not from the Midwest."


Good advice. It is pretty easy to tell which car addicts are trying to do you harm (or seem to threaten to) and those who are not. Education is key.

bikingbrady said...'s usually easy to see who is out to be a jerk and those who may not have noticed you (or barely noticed you). It's tough to hold your calm when your adrenaline gets pumping though. I admire your ability to keep the calm!

Anonymous said...

Ready for a story you've probably heard(i tend to repeat myself at timeS)? Twas riding up Chi in front of Pepitos. A delivery truck was double parked half way up the hill there and as I readied myself to pass said truck I looked back to make certain all was good to go. Barreling toward me was a Dodge Magnum(purple driven by a woman, not that there's anything wrong with that). I had to duck back behind the truck and wait for "bitch"(the name I have given her, not her real name) to pass instead of run me over. I yelled at the top of my growling voice, and I quote "ASSHOLE!!!", afterall she'd have hit me for sure. Golden moment as she and her passenger had to wait for a school bus to turn left at the top of the hill when I had caught up. "Bitch" rolled down her passenger window and yelled at me, "ONLY MEN ARE ASSHOLES, ASSHOLE". 2 shay I thought to myself and chuckled the whole way to "q"werk... I think the point I'm trying to make is that it didn't do me much good to shout obscenities at "bitch"... I've since then learned to control my quick temper human fireball tendancies, possibly due to a job change. Or not... later y'all! JBles...

Andy said...

Really? Are you fucking SERIOUS? Peacefully confront these jumpin' jackelopes? You're bluffing, man. Let me tell you a story:

I was riding down xerxes, approaching 70th st, when a car blew by me and the driver extended his middle finger and yelled: "get on the sidewalk". Well, I'd had enough. I hammered up to him at the next stoplight, and just as he was about to turn right, I saddled up next to the driver's side and leapt off my bike, Bruce Willis style, busted through the driver's side glass, and grabbed that fucker around the throat. He lost control of the car and slammed into the traffic light pole. Since my body is made out of Terminator-era titanium composites, I shook it off and ripped his driver's-side car door off. Then I pulled that hapless fucker out of his car and bit the fingers of his right hand off. After I threw him into the street and urinated on his face, I took the car keys out of the ignition and, mounting my bicycle, threw them in someone's gutter several blocks away.

Then I called an ambulance for that shitbag.

But next time I'll handle it the way you suggest.
Because peace is the only way, lover.

Rick Logue said...

Here is the account of a event that happened to me. I was going to just leave a letter on the windshield, but ended up talking with him.

Andy said...

Good one, Rick. Way to go.

Just for the record, my comment above was intended to be cathartic. Really the only way to deal with these issues is calmly and with a sense of purpose. Congrats, all of you.

Now, back to the mayhem.