Friday, May 15, 2009

You Don't Know His Story

It was Bike 2 Work Week. Despite this salient and relatively unknown fact, I was honked at twice for biking in a traffic lane during my commute this week.

In one, I was commuting south on Albert St. (Regina, SK) on my bicycle after work. I only have to go on Albert for a short segment, but it's to go over a bridge. It's a narrow two lanes going south and no shoulder.
As an individual trying to be as safe as possible, I wear a helmet and a bright, reflective vest. I also bike right in the traffic lane. It's the safest thing I can do, and the law. When a vehicle comes up on me, I'm pretty sure the message is that I'm owning the lane, that they're not going to "squeeze" by me and that I'm predictable. I'm going to follow vehicle traffic laws. That's just the way I like it.

On this day, however, I was startled by a red SUV that drove by me really tight and honked for a full second as they pulled level with me. Ironically, they had a bike rack on the back of their vehicle. It scared me and immediately flooded me with adrenaline. For starters, it was loud. It was also close and the driver was clearly being aggressive.

While I've reminded myself a hundred times that there's no rational reason to engage in a debate with drivers, my first, instinctual reaction was to fight back. I want to yell, "it's my lane!" or "it's the law!." Perhaps a little more appropriate for the venue, I could have shown how long my middle finger was. I'm an even-keeled, objective guy, but this was one of those interesting sensations where the space between stimulus and response was nearly non-existent. To my credit, I stayed cool. I envy the cyclist that can smile and wave at that point. The driver kept going (his point, apparently, had been made). It took me 15 seconds to right-size my thoughts and be more objective about the situation.
That's a good recovery, I think. While 15 seconds is still too long, it's not the same as steaming about it for the entire bike ride, or going home and being short with my wife and kids. I was able to fairly effectively roll with someone else's bad day and not let it affect mine. I'm writing about it to tell you what cooled me off after 15 seconds. I said "You don't know his story."

I don't know if he was rushing because he's just found out water is leaking into his basement, or that his long-lost father said he'd be at the mall cell-phone kiosk at exactly 5:38, or if a cyclist once stole his grandmother's purse. Perhaps he didn't mean to honk. His hand slipped at a very inopportune time, or his poodle chose that time to put its paws on the steering wheel. Sure, I can assume he's an a**hole, but that's the thing that will ruin MY day. No thanks.
The image above is pulled from the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario. A very good site for appropriate cycling techniques.

1 comment:

emmaline said...

My favourite gesture (to use in the 15 seconds before I become rationale again) is the thumbs up. I claim it allows me to take the high road while also indicating to the moronic driver and everyone else observing that he is, in fact, a moron.

It doesn't work so well when I'm biking though, I'm usually too upset when stuff like that happens to risk taking a hand off the handlebars!

Enjoying the posts, keep 'em coming!