In this post, I described an all-too-frequent close encounter with a car. What I really want in situations like that is the chance to talk — words not weapons. I am continually denied this outlet because the cars, they certainly cannot be bothered to stop. Rather than missiles, my ideal bike accessory would deliver a paralyzing pulse that would force the offending vehicle to pull over and stop at the next safe place allowing me to catch up to them. And then? Then we would have a little chat about safety and respect and bicycle rights.
I did have this opportunity on one occasion (minus the shooting a paralyzing pulse part — that did not happen). I was biking home from work after one of my late evenings (~8pm) at a time of year when it was pretty much dark by that time. Here’s how it went down.
I stop at a stoplight, waiting to turn left onto a busy, multi-lane street. I am the first person waiting to turn in the left turn lane; there is a “straight” lane to my right. As I wait, several cars join the line behind me in the left turn lane and a limo pulls up next to me in the straight lane. The light turns green, and I begin my turn, only to see the limo next to me, the limo in the STRAIGHT lane, also turning left. From the straight lane, the driver turns in front of me, completely cutting me off. After making the turn, we immediately stop next to each other due to another red light. I am, oh, what’s a good adjective? Incensed? Hopping mad? Breathing fire? I am [insert adjective of choice] at this point, trying to communicate through the limo windows. The driver rolls down the passenger side window and says, “Are you trying to say something to me?” I fail to come up with just the right words in the five seconds I have before the light changes and he speeds off.
I continue on my ride, annoyed that I did not get the chance to respond to his snide little question. I’m close to home, having turned onto a smaller side street, when what do I see, but the very limo parked outside a neighborhood pizza place. What are the odds? I pull up to it, and seeing that no one is inside, pull out a paper and pen so I can write down the license plate number and other car information and report it to the limo company. I collect the information I need and prepare to leave, when a man exits the pizza place and approaches the car. I confirm that he is the jerk who almost killed me driver and a conversation ensues.
He defends his illegal left turn from the straight lane, saying that cars were SO backed up behind me in the left turn lane, backed up ALL the way to the interstate exit ramp because of this BICYCLE, and so the logical thing to do was zip up in the straight lane and make the turn from there. Which is complete crap because, um, I had looked behind me while turning, and there were maybe five cars behind me, with over 100 feet of empty street between the last car in the left turn lane and the interstate exit ramp. So clearly he is full of it, but since I am positioned between him and his limo, and thus have his undivided attention, I use the opportunity to inform him that bicycles have the right to operate as motor vehicles, which includes using the turn lanes, and that his behavior, in addition to being illegal, could have killed me and shows a clear lack of respect for bicyclists.
Was this conversation effective? I don’t know, but at least it was a start. At least I did not stay silent.
And now I will perform some deep breathing exercises because reliving it here is causing a distinct spike in blood pressure.