A few years back, I was on a weekday training ride through the neighborhoods. I was tooling along on the right side of the road, when a minivan overtook me and passed a few feet on my left. Just as the rear of the van passed, my peripheral vision caught the tell-tale signs of brake lights. I instinctively grabbed for the brakes and it was a good thing I did, for the van made an abrupt right hand turn into their driveway.
I yelled out "come on!!", stood up, stomped the pedals and continued on my way. Now the street I was traveling on was a dead end, so after another mile or so, I had to make a U-turn and head back the other way. As I passed the spot, where a few minutes before, I almost got ran over, I heard someone yell at me. It was the offending driver's neighbor, a middle-aged man, who just so happened to be sweeping the sidewalk at the time of the incident and witnessed the whole affair.
Now, I have been riding a long time. I've had people yell at me countless times. Normally, I just shake it off and pedal on. However, this particular day, I was still steaming over the reckless disregard the minivan driver showed for my life and well being. I was in no mood to take being painted as the offending party. I spun the bike around, pulled up to where the black man stood on the sidewalk and stopped.
"What did you say?" I ask him.
He responded, "I just wanted you to know, I don't appreciate you yelling at my neighbor like you did earlier!"
"Did you bother noticing", I spat out, "that your neighbor turned right in front of me and practically ran my a$$ over?"
"Yea, but she had the right of way!" He remarked.
"How the H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS do you figure that?" I, less than coolly, retorted.
"Cause" he calmly explained "she's driving a bigger vehicle!!"
It was at this point in the encounter, when I came to the sad realization, that further debate was completely and utterly useless. This guy wasn't being mean or vindictive. He wasn't trying to pick a fight. He wasn't throwing out ludicrous statements for the purpose of stirring me up. NO!! As ridiculous as it sounds, this guy honestly believed it. The really troubling part of this encounter is that this gentleman is not alone in his convictions, but simply verbalized the sentiments of many.
I was reminded of this incident recently as the blogs have been a buzz about a Facebook cyclist hate fan page and the Doctor in LA being sentenced to 5 years for assaulting cyclists.
As the popularity of cycling grows, so does the conflict between cyclists and drivers. Drivers have grown accustomed to reigning supreme on our streets and have drawn the, unsubstantiated by law, conclusion that the roads are for them and them alone.
What are we as cyclists going to do to shift this paradigm?