Bike To Work Week: An Old 10-Speed’s Perpective

Forgive me if this is a bit off topic, but I don’t have time to start a blog dedicated to completely to my commuting experiences. I cannot say this will be the last time I do this, but it won’t happen often.

In observation of Bike Month, Bike To Work Week, Bike To Work Day, The Postage Increase and My Birthday, I have been riding to work all week. I do commute by bike regularly, but resort to driving in cases of foul weather. This week, however, I completely committed to it — rain or shine, wake late or not.

I have a fairly nice commute of 12.5 miles with a mix of rural suburbs, light slow traffic, heavy fast traffic, heavy slow traffic, good shoulders, no shoulders, and one section of sidewalk(only to avoid the worst of the heavy fast traffic). For being a quasi-holiday, there was not much celebrating going on. I only saw four other bike commuters all week, one of which I see all the time. I am a little disappointed in the turnout.

The week was — for the most part — pleasantly uneventful, that is, until Wednesday. I had just left my house four minutes earlier and just ridden through the parking lot of a nearby shopping center, made a right turn onto a nearly empty road and proceeded to the first stoplight where I sat observing the rushing traffic and waiting for the light to change. Suddenly, I heard a man yelling at me from the right turn lane, “HEY F****T, IF YOU’RE GOING TO F*****G BE ON THE ROAD, AT LEAST F*****G OBEY THE LAWS! F*****G F****T!” Completely caught off guard, I could only muster out a feeble, “OOOOKAY!” and then gestured a thumbs up as he sped away. I have no idea what inspired this guy’s unsolicited advice, but I did spend the rest of my ride replaying the event in my head trying to think of all the witty responses I could have used. What is really odd is the complete randomness of the event — I had done nothing to provoke him; he wasn’t even in sight when I pull on to the road. Oh well, I am sure he didn’t even heed his own advice while on his own commute.

I pride myself in being an alert and apparent cyclist. I observe all traffic signals, I always signal when turning or changing lanes and I yield to on-coming traffic, so I expect the same courtesy and respect from motorists — which brings us to Thursday’s episode. It was the last 2.5 miles of my commute and I prepared to make a right turn onto a quiet side road. As I approached, I entered the turn lane, sat up in my saddle and began signaling with my arm and pointing the direction of my intent to make it clear to cars behind and cars in the on-coming left turn lane. All this was pointless, because the gentleman in the left on-coming turn lane decided to completely disregard my presence as well as my right-of-way and made his left hand turn directly in front of me. I continued into the turn and nearly t-boned him. Infuriated, I rode up beside him yelling and flailing about making my disgust as apparent as possible; the whole time — from entering the turn to me riding along side him screaming — he never once acknowledged my existence. Are you kidding me!

The road which we had both turned has a 25 mph speed limit and is heavy patrolled, so I knew if I rode my typical pace that I would see him at the light two miles away. I spent those 2 miles fuming and preparing for our potential showdown. Indeed, I caught him waiting at the light and approach his vehicle and signaled to him to lower his window. Upon lowering his window, he stared at me blankly as if I was not even there — much like the bone headed move which inspired my current disgust. I then proceeded with my boiling outburst, “EXCUSE ME SIR, DID YOU REALLY NOT SEE ME BACK THERE OR IS YOUR HEAD FURTHER UP YOUR A** THAN IT APPEARS!?” The gentleman’s expression never wavered as he responded in a Ben Stein look and tone, “Tell your mother hello for me.” Little does he know that my mother would certainly have confronted him as well, but I am sure she would have had a much more refined approach than I.

So all this got me thinking, should I give motorists a piece of my mind every time they disregard me, and should motorist voice their disgust with my perceived lack of traffic law compliance or mere presence? I would have to say, my outburst on Thursday was over the line, but I am sure the unwarranted verbal attack I endured Wednesday helped to inspire the episode.

With all that is going on in the U.S. — high gas prices, a need for responsible energy usage and so on — should not a bike commuter’s presence on the road be applauded and respected not cursed or ignored. We don’t need any special treatment or recognition, just give us shoulder to ride on.

  • Veloben


    Between the nicer weather, the increase in gas costs and a major reconstruction project on the Edens I am seeing an increase in both bike commuters and auto traffic on my ride to work.

    So far my interactions with drivers have been, as usual, pretty non-confrontational. It’s been about a year since the last driver passed too close (clearly DUI when I caught him at the light). So I guess I’m lucky and ride in an area with a long history of utility riders out in all seasons and weather.

    My experience is a second contact with an aggressive driver is never worth the trouble. You can not change them, they will not admit to any error and likely are already experienced in blowing off others with dismissive comments.

    Your guy is a jerk and he is stuck being a jerk for the rest of his life. You come out better not being like him. One ride partner just waves and smiles at pissy drivers, which tends to keep him clam and keep the drivers moving. They get to stay huffy, he gets to ride.

    The site is still great. Keep up the good work.


  • The Ten-Speed Dreamer

    Thanks for the input Ben. It’s funny because the area I live in(Deer Park) is very popular for cycling, but it is mostly weekend group rides. Not alot of utility riders.

    I certainly don’t make a habit of confronting drivers; I think in a way I was just looking for some “payback” for having to put up with Wednesday’s episode. It is good to let stuff roll off your back, and I do find I enjoy the ride much more when I just go with the flow.
    Thanks for visiting and I promise less talking more 10-speeds!:)

  • dayid

    The last confrontation I had was when a pickup decided to pull over and tell me about how I’m going to get killed if I am riding on the road, and that that’s why they invented sidewalks. I explained to him the legality of me riding on a sidewalk while he proceeded to yell about how I’m going to get killed. I asked him if he was threatening me and if he was the one who was going to kill me.

    …the discussion went a little further, me somewhat laughing and my riding buddies just onlooking.

    A simple knife through the front tire left his 4,000+lb death machine out of commission as we rode off.

    I don’t take death threats nicely when people do them just walking on the street, and I see no reason why someone hankering a vehicle over 20 times my size/weight threatening me should be taken any more lightly.

    Obviously, most situations don’t elevate to this, but after being a motorcycle and bicycle rider for a few years, it seems to be a reoccurring theme in the city. :/

    BTW, yes, I phoned the cops afterwards and reported the incident of assault with his vehicle and the threats. I wonder if when they went to check it out he was still there changing his tire.

  • The Ten-Speed Dreamer