Thursday, September 16, 2010


I can hardly believe it's been eight full days since I last updated this blog! Shame on me. Don't worry, I've still been commuting by bicycle to my job teaching English. I have to tell you about my experience on the way home Monday:
I was pedaling along on that particular stretch of road which I spent tediously describing in my last entry. I was nearing my turn about a half block away. I kept a steady watch on traffic approaching from the rear in my mirror and every vehicle, which weren't all that many, signaled and moved to the left lane well in advance, or stayed in the left lane if they were previously in it. This was a sign of courteous drivers. I took it as courtesy. One such vehicle was like the others: in the left lane with no erratic movement or things to cause me concern. In fact I was leveling off my pedaling in anticipation of this vehicle passing by so that I could then move to the left lane myself for my own left hand turn off that road. That's why I thought it odd the vehicle was going so slowly. I had expected to it to pass by much quicker, similar to almost every other vehicle.
Instead, the vehicle slowed beside me to roughly match my speed. When I looked to the side to see what was the deal, the driver, a scruffy, skinny white guy with glasses and a white tee shirt, was leaning over to speak to me from the lowered passenger side window. His words were muffled from the passing wind and he didn't really yell, but I caught the drift: "You need to get that f***ing bike off the road, they belong on the f**** sidewalk."
Then, as quickly as he had slowed to deliver the message he accelerated away from me. He was the last vehicle I needed to pass to free up both lanes to make my left hand turn. It had all happened so quickly I didn't think to respond in any way. I didn't even look to get his tag number.
I don't know what to think of this incident. In a way it frightened me. I don't know why. I guess I've never liked confrontation. Further, I'm not sure what I would have told him. I don't think he would have been persuaded by my argument that it's state law for bicycles to be treated as vehicles; that we have the same rights to the roadways as a vehicle does. I'm not much for yelling either, not since high school, and I think it would have been much like yelling at a high school age person.
Then, yesterday morning right around seven o'clock I was approached by another motorist. This time it occurred in our downtown, on a four lane again where I was in the right lane, in a twenty mile an hour zone, with very little traffic. Again, the motorist tried to speak with me while we were parallel and moving! this time it was an old female. She wanted to know if I knew there was a bike path the next block over running parallel to the roadway we were on. I said I did and she waved and went on.
I don't know if this was supposed to be antagonistic, but after the other incident I described, I was slightly on edge. She could have been genuinely concerned for my safety and thought that perhaps I didn't know of this safer route to take. Perhaps it was a veiled suggestion that I should not be on the streets at all if there is a bike path made available. The interaction was ambiguous, I'm not sure of her motives for telling me this. She was probably just being friendly and genuinely was trying to help me out, from her perspective.

It's been quite a while since I was harassed on my bicycle. The last time before these two incidents was at nine o'clock at night when I crossed an intersection and a person from a vehicle yelled out "Fag!" That was back when I had not yet decided I was going to take over a lane in the four lane and I was still traveling on the sidewalk. I crossed on the pedestrian walk literally a couple feet from the front of the vehicle.

I know I'm taking my life in my own hands when I take a lane on the four lane. However, I believe it will be to my benefit because I'll be positioned in such a place that drivers will see me. By that I mean I'll be occupying a place in the lane where drivers will be looking (if they look) for other traffic.

Like almost any other incident where a confrontation occurs, it was frustrating and made me wish for an opportunity to really tell the driver off or "show" him. But, I'm glad that opportunity never arose.

I try to just think of the other person. I can never know what kind of a day he'd been having. He could have just learned some of the worst news of his life; me traveling on the bike might have been just the last thing on a long list of things which irritated him. However, that doesn't excuse his rude, threatening behavior. I did feel threatened, though he never did actually threaten me. I don't want to go around threatening drivers because a vehicle will always win in a bicycle/vehicle collision.

Stay safe out there and remain positive. Don't lower yourself to these peoples' level by responding to them with like violence or threats. Or you can go ahead and follow your heart and really tell them off, flip them off, bash their windows when you reach them at the intersection. You decide.

Keep on commuting by bicycle.

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