September 14, 2005

Wrong of Way

by peterb

It's part of my philosophy on this site to avoid the use of profanity. I'm making an exception today, as I relate an absolutely true verbal exchange I had driving in to work today.

Driving through Schenley Park, I passed a guy on a bicycle. This isn't unusual. It turns out that in my country, people sometimes ride bikes, and often they ride them in parks. The guy was riding in the right hand lane, with traffic, fairly close to the curb. Just as I get past him, I hear a blaaaaaaaaaaarn of a loud horn. I look around to see if I've killed someone, and behind me is a huge Expedition-sized SUV. He's honking at the biker. There is a completely empty lane to the SUV driver's left. I keep an eye on my rear-view mirror to watch the situation develop.

Sure enough, SUV Guy decides that Bike Guy has somehow offended him by existing. He gets in front of the biker, and proceeds to start weaving slowly in front of him, blocking his attempts to pass, sticking his hand out the window when Bike Guy gets close, yelling at him, and generally acting like a jerk.

This starts making me mad: the SUV Guy isn't just putting himself and Bike Guy in danger, he's putting the rest of us on the road at risk as well. I get up to the traffic light, which is red, and I can't take it anymore. I put on my hazards, get out of the car, and shout at the top of my lungs at SUV guy, who is about 50 feet away:

"Hey, asshole in the SUV — knock it off before I call the cops."

SUV guy looks up, surprised. He speeds up a little and pulls up next to me. Convinced that I just don't understand the situation, SUV guy decides to explain why he's acting like an asshole:

"He coulda killed someone! He's in the road!"

I gaped at him for a few seconds, before calmly explaining shouting at the top of my lungs:

"He's allowed to be in the road, you schmuck."

SUV guy drove away, yelling a parting shot straight out of Junior High School:

"Screw you, faggot!"

The biker glided past, gave me a nod, and went on his way. I got back in my car just as the light turned green.

Now, typically when you hear a story like this, it's from the perspective of a bike rider. Co-author psu is an avid rider, for example, and I'm sure he has many similar stories to tell. The wrinkle, in this case, is, well, I don't really like bike riding. I find it irritating and boring. I view wanting to ride a bike without an engine as a character flaw, akin to preferring white wine to red, or only wanting to eat at chain restaurants, or enjoying large weddings. In a world where according to a simple "us vs. them" philosophy I should have sided with the SUV guy, I did the right thing and stood up. For great justice!

So, bicyclists: you owe me one. The next time you see one of your compatriots run a red light, or nearly mow down a pedestrian, or thuggishly swing a bike lock at someone who they believe has committed some completely imaginary slight, call him on it. Don't let him get away with it just because he's a fellow bike rider. Stand up for what's right.

Call him an asshole. Do it for me.

Posted by peterb at September 14, 2005 09:45 AM | Bookmark This

Remarkable how much different the situation in the Netherlands apperently is. But then of course, the bicycle is probably the second means of transportation, next to the car.

We do however have quite a lot of cycling paths as well...

Posted by Frenzie at September 15, 2005 06:09 AM

I bike a lot around the hood, but for the most part in Chicago I find the bikers are really the ones at fault.

Prime examples-

I pass a biker without incident in my car. Pull up to a four way stop. Stop completely. Begin to make right turn when I see in my rear view mirror that said biker had no intention at all of stopping, even though I had a clear right of way. Slammed on my brakes to avoid critically injuring him (he also wasn't wearing a helmet). Yeah, bikes have a right to be on the road. They still have to follow the rules of the road. That guy waved angrily for me to turn. I considered decking him.

Similar story - making a proper left at a three way stoplight, biker blows right through the red light. I think he was wearing a helmet, but since I nearly kissed him with my fender, he probably could have kissed his legs goodbye.

Usually it's pretty harmonious. I mean yeah, sometimes you get stuck behind a biker simply because of space and that's annoying ... but that's certainly no reason to get angry.

Posted by Josh at September 15, 2005 09:10 AM

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a pretty well-considered driver's code for cyclist

I wonder how much it would cost to mail it to all driver's licence holders.

Posted by Stewart Clamen at September 15, 2005 10:14 AM

This is the most incisive and amusing article I've seen here yet.

Posted by Adam at September 15, 2005 06:17 PM

Over here in New Zealand i don't think cyclists get too much of a hard time.

I admit that when i was younger i used to either ride through red lights etc or go on the footpath to avoid them, but lately (last couple of years) i've been obeying all laws as though i were in a car (including keeping left and keep looking behind).

Sort of ironic that i now get annoyed(ish) when i'm on a bike and someone else on one just rides right through the lights or whatever like the rules don't apply for them. :|

Anywho, good on you for sticking up to the person on the bike. :)

Posted by Andrew at September 20, 2005 05:09 AM

Right on!

So, lots of asshat cyclists around where I live, cycle and drive. Riding the wrong way on the road (this is a big one), doing stupid suicidal things at intersections, running traffic lights and stop signs, you name it, they do it.

Being that the wrong-way cyclists pose more danger to other cyclists than they do to anyone else but themselves, I do my best to correct this behavior when I see it. Problem is, when I'm in a car, it's difficult for cyclists to hear what I'm yelling, and they probably chalk it up as "she wants us off the road! How dare she!"

And when I'm on a bike, I'm often too out of breath to do a proper job of yelling. The offending wrong-way nitwits are either too far away on the other side of the road to hear me, or, if they're on the same side of the road as I am, we pass each other too quickly for them to hear me.

I do my best, but I don't think that yelling at individual offenders is the way to fix a widespread edumacational problem. Blah.

Posted by Elizabeth at September 20, 2005 09:07 PM

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