Monday, November 7, 2011

Road rage

The other day I was driving (yeah, I know, driving) back to the office after running an errand.  I was approaching a stop sign at a intersection with a one way street and out of nowhere comes a cyclist riding on the sidewalk and through the crosswalk against the direction of traffic.  Now, I wasn't even close to hitting him but he did startle me so I hit the brakes harder than I would have otherwise.  I got a nasty stare and the guy flipped me off.  With jerks like this on the rode, I can understand some of the tension between riders and drivers.  This guy was on the sidewalk (illegal), riding against traffic (stupid) and not wearing a helmet (again, stupid).  Several months back, a woman on a bicycle was hit by a car because she was doing the same thing.  The cops issued her a ticket because she was breaking the law and were justified in doing so.

Now, I'm not going to get on my soap box here because I've done my fair share of stupid things on a bike and gotten honked at or received the "finger" as a result and I felt bad about it because I'd done something wrong.  I almost got hit once because a friend blew through a yellow light and I, trailing behind, attempted to follow and braked at the last minute skidding sideways into traffic.  However, I've also been honked at, yelled at, and flipped off when I was doing nothing wrong at all.

My favorite driver/cyclist experience was when a friend and I where riding on a highway, two abreast but in the shoulder.  As a car approached from behind, I dropped back so we were riding single file.  What we did in no way affected traffic.  However the driver that approached from behind pulled up next to us, slowed down to our speed and began yelling at us repeatedly that we were not to ride two abreast while he swerved erratically into and out of the oncoming lane and held up cars behind him.  He argued with us for awhile until we pointed out that he was going to kill someone if he continued this pointless charade.  He sped off like a mad man.

Another time I was riding a three lane, one way road with no shoulder.  I took the entire lane, which I have a legal right to do in Montana.  A driver pulled up behind me laying on the horn for half a mile rather than passing in one of the two empty lanes next to me.  A coworker of mine saw this all happen and pulled up next to the driver and chewed him out.  He took off in a huffy, flipping us both off.  We had a good laugh about that when we both walked into the office.

Another experience occurred when I was neither on a bike nor in a car.  My bikes (both) were in the shop for repairs so I opted to in-line skate to work.  Since I've been ticketed for skating in the street before (that's a whole different infuriating story), I decided to stick to the sidewalk.  As I approached a blind corner, I slowed to walking speed so I wouldn't clobber some poor, unsuspecting pedestrian.  All of the sudden a cyclist rounds the corner nearly taking me out.  I jumped to the side just as the second cyclist appeared.  Calling on my years of playing street and ice hockey, I braced and took an incredible blow to the thigh and stopped the second cyclist in her tracks.  I even had enough balance to catch her and lower her to the ground.  I said nothing, waiting for some kind of apology or explanation.  They were both visibly angry with me as if I were in the wrong and stormed off as I stood there in awe.  I couldn't believe it.  Nor could I believe how my thigh screamed in a fiery agony as I attempted to climb the first step back at the office. 

My real issue is that people, cyclist and drivers alike, either don't know the traffic laws or, more often than not, choose to ignore them because they are in too much of a hurry or in the case of cyclists, too timid.   There is little respect for cyclists on the road and many drivers do not know the legal rights of cyclist.  Many cyclist do not know the laws themselves and are persuaded to do dangerous things like ride on the sidewalks because they fear the behemoth metal contraptions that occupy the roads.  Bikes and cars could better coexist if there was a general respect and understanding for each other.  Besides most cyclists are drivers too!

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