Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stressful ride

The story below is what happened to me on the day that two cyclists died in Toronto, both hit by large trucks. It seemed too trivial to post on such a day, so here it is now. Information about the Memorial Rides is available on Martino's site. Sorry I'm unable to post properly right now.

My ride home today started with a driver pulling up behind me at a red light. I was in the middle of the lane. He tailgated me all the way across Highway 7 (it's a big intersection). Then as he squeezed past me on the left, the second I gave him a little bit more of the lane, I waved at him to give me some room.

I've been on such a good streak with so few confrontations with drivers. This is something I should have known from before. The wave of the hand to say back off is something drivers seem to be entirely offended by.

He yelled something behind his closed window and waved his arm at me. At the stop sign less than 1 km later, I pulled up beside his window, which he wound down.

Me: "I just wanted to let you know that it's not very comfortable being tailgated while you're on a bike."

Idiot: "Well it's not very safe riding down the middle of the road."

Me: "That's what the law requires me to do so people pass me only when it's safe."

Idiot: ..... stares blankly

Was he tailgating me for my own good, as if to teach me that it's "not safe" riding down the middle of the lane? That would basically make him psychopathic or very very stupid.

I ride along thinking about how Steve in Halifax gives out his muppet of the day award and thinking that this guy would get the award in my books at least for the week, if not the month. It's not so much what he did, but that he claimed he wanted to teach me about safety.

A little later, I turn down a small street between some condos and a very busy park. I see a car coming at me in the oncoming traffic lane, and a car coming at me in my lane! Have a look at the diagram below. I'm the cyclist with the big head (appropriately!). The car finishes passing, but there's a wide Mercedes SUV behind it that also wants to pass. The woman in the SUV, marked "S" (for SUV or stupid, your choice) in the figure below, isn't even deterred when she sees me coming at her, and another cyclist behind me! I would have been trapped because of the curb, but I got out of the way on a side street. I waved at her in anger, and she waved back at me as if to retaliate, but she had this look like she didn't really know what was going on. She continued to pass the other car and didn't even slow down. I looked back and didn't see her brake lights on as the other cyclist somehow managed to get out of the way.


Darren J 4/26/2006 06:26:00 PM

10 Comments:

And people wonder why cyclists get pissed off.
Glad you're okay. ;-)

May I recommend a quet ride in the countryside
for you. GO train to Oakville. Sixth Line for as long
as you can ride. Sweet country air in your lungs and
peaceful roads.

Ride on.
Glad to hear you're okay Darren!
Your tale reminds me of my scariest moment cycling, a Jeep passing on a two lane highway and coming straight at me. I was caught by surprise and fortunately just far enough to the side. That's the one that sticks with me.
I think its perfect you left the driver speechless. I wish people would learn how to drive better though. And I second Martino's vote for Sixth Line out of Oakville... great ride!
I'm sorry to hear about your problems with the loogans we have here in York Region. I need to cross a couple of big intersections and run into the same problem regularly. Worst part of my commute is the 5 or 600m section around Yonge and #7/407. The long on ramp and off ramp sections are scary as hell, with drivers either trying to race past you to get into the turn lane or drivers racing up beside you in the turn lane. I hate it each and every time that I ride through it. I don't have many other north-south options.

I had a similar incident to the second one you described just yesterday. Along a collector road that I use on my commute (so I can avoid Yonge) a new stop sign was put in. The intersection is a 'Tee' with streets, but there is an entrance to a library on one side, effectively making it a 4-way. I approached the sign, made my stop and went straight through. In the opposite direction, a car made their stop, and an an SUV comes roaring around the stopped car and blows through the stop sign in my lane. I had to take evasive action to my right into the cross street. I guess the SUV driver didn't realize that there was a bona fide stop sign there and they got frustrated with the person who might have looked like they were dropping someone off at the library.

I probably overreacted, but there's nothing quite as frigtening as hearing one of those things rev up the engine and seemingly come right for you.
What a frustrating incident. I've learned to avoid making any gestures at drivers; not even a thank you gesture. People seem to think that you are offending them no matter what you do.
Although not recommended I've been dropping my bike in front of cars when I'm pissed off.

Very few drivers (even cabbies) seem to be willing to drive over a bike. Perhaps they worry it will damage their car.

I did this with a cabby the other day who did a U-turn while talking on his cell (illegal for cabbies) and totally cut me off while riding on the Shuter bike lane. I caught up to him at Shuter and River, dropped my bike in front of his car and went up to his window to have a conversation about driving.

I asked him to roll down his window but his reply was "You will hurt me..." (Must have been that rage in my eyes) I ended up talking to him through the passenger door window. His response - "I saw you..." I guess he thought his convenience (and 2 ton metal vehicle) was more important than my ride home.

When I tell my family these stories they cringe waiting for me to get shot or run over...hopefully not but I'm getting tired of being road floss for cars.

In an effort to be more zen like and live longer I've been trying to avoid this approach unless really challenged.

Mostly I offer to trade places with drivers...I'll get in their car and they can get on my bike...no one is willing.

- Becoming Militant bike guy
These experiences teach a lot but they sure make a beginner scared. Luckily in my neck of the woods here in Spain traffic is much lighter, and my few days on the road while starting to train and learn have been quite positive. Most drivers seem to pass as though I was another car – they put the blinker on and move left or otherwise slow down a bit until they can pass. I haven’t seen much anger yet but I’m sure it’s just a honeymoon period.

Thanks for your good site and helpful tips.

Alberto
Thanks for all the messages. Sorry to hear some of you have had similar experiences. The stupidity is hard to believe sometimes.

I like the country ride idea. I'll see if I can get out there this weekend.
last week's bike commute theme was: "driver's who whip by you only to turn sharply right shortly after passing you forcing your bike into a skid..."

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