While I may not like it, I've come to accept the unfortunate fact that if I'm gonna commute to work via a bicycle; well, then I'm gonna have to contend with near misses.
I was cruising down the main thoroughfare to my place of employment. I have perfected my route over the years so as to avoid said thoroughfare to the maximum extent practicable. The operative words in that sentence are "maximum extent practicable". Unfortunately, there is no convenient way to get to work without venturing upon this thoroughfare, even if briefly. For me that's about a 1/4 mile section, along which residents parallel park on the street. This leaves 3 lanes for the moving traffic.
I have commuted long enough and read enough blog entries to beware of the dreaded "door zone", that 3 to 4 foot area adjacent to parallel parked cars where, were an occupant to open their door, there would not be sufficient room for cyclist and automobile door to occupy the same space simultaneously. The result, cyclist runs into door at 18 miles an hour and is thrown into traffic where they are summarily run over or the cyclist takes evasive maneuvers and instinctively swerves into traffic where they are summarily run over. As my astute readers can tell, the result of both options is the cyclist is "summarily run over".
To avoid said fate, I avoid door zones at all cost, which means that I ride far enough into the lane to essentially take over that lane and force the following cars to change lanes and go around. I don't see this as being particularly taxing on the drivers in that they have two other lanes to choose from. As minor as this inconvenience is to motorist, I try to minimize it further by watching in my mirror and timing my excursion into the lane so as to avoid hampering automobiles if at all possible.
I approached a parallel parked car and noted in my mirror that I had plenty of time to get by before the approaching automobile passed. I cleared the parallel parked car and respectively moved to the right, OUT of the lane of traffic. Imagine my horror when the automobile approaching behind buzzed by my at 40 mph with only inches to spare between my arm and it's mirror. In order for him to be that close, the driver had to have swerved out of the traffic lane and onto the shoulder of the road I occupied.
This encounter unnerved me more than words can express. I've grown accustomed to be yelled at, honked at, cut off, turned into and the like. All these encounters were largely the result of oblivious drivers who are not programmed to acknowledge my existence. This encounter though was completely different, This driver purposely went out of his way to swerve toward me in a sick, sadistic and reckless gesture that greatly endangered my life.
My dear readers, as you have no doubt surmised by now, I have been guilty in the past of slightly exaggerating the facts for literary effect. Let me assure you that in this encounter, I do not do justice to it's gravity.
I don't know what that reckless driver's motivation was. Whether he was wanting to scare me, was joking around or was angry. Frankly, I don't give a damn. The simple fact is, no matter his reason, he was in no way, shape or form, justified in using his 4000 lb SUV to threaten my well being.
The thing that really pisses me off is since that encounter is that I have found myself, more often than not, venturing on the sidewalk (legal in VA) in that particular section of my commute. I realize that an argument could be made that I am in essence giving that reckless driver exactly what he wants. While I do not fear death in the least, I am in no particular hurry to hasten it approach. I can't control other people's actions, only my own. I wish that automobiles and bikes could coexist amicably. The reality is that we (bikers and drivers alike) have a long ways to go to get to that nirvana. Until then, I'm going to keep riding, even if it means an excursion here and there on the sidewalk. Did I mention how much that pisses me off?
Saturday, June 26, 2010
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