Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My First Near-VH Experience

The stoplight turned green. I biked upright through the first intersection and sat down to go through the second. The second one is always dangerous; it slopes down fast in the middle of the merging other highway. It was fine; no cars were running the red light on my right.

This part of my commute is the most stressful. I'm only on University Boulevard for a minute, but I have to get over to the left lane to make a left onto the Northwest Branch of Sligo Creek Trail. I'm going fast downhill in the middle of the right lane, the cars around me are going fast, and I don't have a bike mirror so I have to turn my head to see what's in the left lane.

I was going downhill. A car passed me on my left. I shifted my head slightly left and catch a white SUV close behind me. I figured the driver was irritated and trying to pass me.

The white SUV came really close behind me. I heard his engine boost. He came up close on my left, straddling the left and right lanes, to say sarcastically "Plenty of space on the side of the-"

"FUCK YOU" I shouted at him. "GET the FUCK out of my way! I am SUPPOSED to BE HERE."

Driver, scowling, sped up and ceased being a threat. I signaled and went into the left lane. I looked ahead at the upcoming turn, noted the traffic coming--

White SUV was in front of me. Braking. Stopping.

I grabbed my brakes. I darted my eyes to the other lane; cars whizzing by. I thought, I'm going to hit him and fall off my bike into traffic and die.


White SUV lurched forward. I screamed "YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT."

I signaled again and went into the turning lane, where the median had given way. But the white SUV had pulled over on the right shoulder. The driver, white, grizzled facial hair, red in the face, orangy-salmony polo shirt, tan cargo shorts perhaps, was standing out of his SUV, looking at me, and saying "Let's talk."

Talk? To my would-be killer? Talk? With his fists?

No, I shake my head once, and scream, "YOU TRIED TO KILL ME. I'M TURNING LEFT. YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT." I turned left, saying again "YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT."

I was shaking and crying and ready to throw up for the next mile.


I am a safe cyclist. I'm not a pussy, though. I ride in the road. I follow the laws, which say that cars and bikes use the road the same ways. The laws also say that bikes are encouraged (not mandated) to use the right side of the road only if (a) there's room/the road is wider than 9 feet/there's a good shoulder or bike lane, (b) there is no danger on the right, e.g., parked cars that may open doors into the cyclist's path, and (c) the cyclist is not planning on making a left turn.

The driver probably did not intend to place me in mortal danger. He perhaps did not expect that I would have difficulty stopping myself when he braked three feet ahead of me. Maybe he thought I could go around, and then we could "talk."

If you're going to talk to cyclists, don't do it on a hill, on a busy road, at 30 mph, or at close range. And don't be sarcastic about it. And don't brake in front of them, giving them a heart attack or death outright. And don't expect them to talk it over calmly after your attempted vehicular homicide (VH).


Missy said...

Scary, Drej. I wonder if John decided to bicycle to work vs motorcycle to work, if I would be more worried or less...

Kat said...

Oh my God, that's horrifying. I've started riding my bike in the city and I'm terrified of having an experience like this. Glad you made it through safely!

aak said...

Thanks for your support, Missy and Kat.

I don't know which is more dangerous, to tell you the truth, motorcycle or bicycle. Both are vulnerable to others' stupidity, and both can have grievous user-error, albeit in different ways.

Don't give up on city-riding, though! Just tonight, a few hours after this experience, I rode down Georgia all the way to Mass Ave. I had a stupid woman honk at me while I was biking upright, and I flipped out at her. She took the time to lean over as she passed and tell me "This is a 'car lane,' not a bike lane." Oh well. Some people are committed to being stupid.

Hatandcoat said...

That guy is clearly worthless. On the bright side: you've had more near death experiences than most of us. My take: Biking = Life Experience.

Seriously, though, you get his license plate? It's hunting season.