Well if you’ve ridden as much and as often as I have (and even if you haven’t) then you’ve likely gotten yelled at, or honked at, or worse. We’ve all heard those stories about “the worse” and my bet is that some of you may have experienced it. Lucky for me, I haven’t, and of course I hope I never will.
A few years back, though, when I was riding the Mendocino Monster – and a monster it is, a driver intentionally plowed into a small group of cyclists out of frustration and rage (that’s what we were told, anyway). Thankfully, no one died. As I recall, though, at least one rider was taken to the hospital. One of my greatest fears when on the bike, if not the greatest: road rage.
Some Drivers are Just Shitheads
And there’s nothing we can do about that. Unfortunately. They, their friends and their family have to deal with that. I don’t envy any of them. It should be said, too, that some cyclists are also doody-heads (my friend’s son Mikey coined that term).
In any case, there’s not much that can be done for someone who is just an a-hole by nature; just give them a wide berth and figure that karma will take care of business.
Some Drivers Just Don’t Know
They don’t understand why we do what we do. They don’t know what it’s like to push themselves to the limit on a bike (or perhaps on a treadmill, or in a weight-room).
Most importantly, they don’t know the law (i.e. THE VEHICLE CODE). In CA, for example, they don’t know that V.C. section 21200(a) reads (in part): “A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle…”
They don’t appreciate that V.C. section 21760(c) reads: “A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.”
It’s not their fault; they just don’t know.
Some Cyclists Act Like Prima Donnas
We’ve got our carbon fiber, or titanium, or unobtanium bikes. We’re rocking the lycra with the bright, tight jerseys and the high-end shoes that sound like horses hooves when we’re getting that espresso. We’ve got our own lingo. We often ride in groups (well, maybe not so much right now) and don’t follow the “single-file please” best practice. Most times that’s just because we revert, as I tell some of my non-cyclist friends.
Some Cyclists Revert to Childhood
We can’t help but go back to the time when we were five and we could do whatever the hell we wanted on our Sting-rays! Sometimes, though, it’s because we feel or act like we’re privileged. Hey, we drive cars too! We pay our taxes! We’re entitled to the road as much as a car, damnit! While this may be true, when we harrumph about it too much or too loudly, we become the shithead.
What We Can Cyclists Do About It
First and foremost – we can engage, advocate and educate. We also need to listen. One of the first things I did when I wanted to start this little adventure called California Alps Cycling was reach out to one of my neighbors. Nancy Thornburg was a community leader (unfortunately we lost her on December 31st, 2017) and she was known for her outspokenness, but also for her fairness and kindness. When I called her to explain my idea she said something like: “you know we don’t care much for cyclists, right?” I replied that I did know that and it was exactly for this reason that I wanted to talk with her.
She invited me and my wife up to her and her husband Fritzes house, and we got to know each other. I explained why for example we don’t ride close to the fogline all the time and admitted that yes, periodically we were dolts on bikes. I also pointed out that most of us help our communities, do more than ride bikes (i.e. fish, eat at restaurants, shop at the general store, etc.) and that we also drive cars. She and Fritz related to me some of the things we do that pissed them off and I acknowledged she had a point. Several actually. We became friends. I miss her.
What Else Can We Do?
Participate. Without asking for anything in return. Be active in the community, whether that’s picking up litter (as you may know, we “own” a stretch of Hwy. 89 here in Markleeville and we do our Adopt-a-Highway routine several times a year) or clearing rocks from the road.
Empathize. Occasionally I’m a nut. I’m a distracted cyclist. I’m talking to my friend and I’m being an idiot. That guy should have been irritated at me. I would have been too!
Attend local events. Especially those that are not cycling related. It’s a great way to show you care and that you’re not just about the bike. Contribute your opinions, your time and if you can, your money. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Smile and wave more often. It sounds simple but I find most riders don’t do it enough, or at all. I salute the CalTrans drivers whenever they pass. I ALWAYS wave or acknowledge other riders and most of the time I smile and wave at cars (or the drivers thereof). When I don’t it’s because I shouldn’t, or can’t – i.e. a big wind gust; a sharp turn; I’m about to pop an eyeball on that climb.
What Do You Think?
Am I smoking something? Too simplistic? Right on? Have you had any run-ins that ended well because you took the high-road? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with your fellow readers?
I’d love to hear from you. I promise, I’ll listen. Even if you don’t ride a bike!