A Road Rage of My Own

I should just change this blog to rile to rile (or just rile) because there has been little “haha” laterly. This will change. However, we are going to have a little more rile today. Here’s my story of losing my mind with road rage today.

My wife rides her bicycle everyday to work because she enjoys the ride, gets great exercise. I go along for the ride for the same reasons. Having traveled the US, I can safely say that our ride is the most beautiful in the country. We cut through Balboa Park to enjoy the mix of natural beauty, architecture, and the skyline from the bridge on El Prado.

It was on this bridge on April 16, 2009 at 8:30 AM where we had the encounter with the angry old man. I was riding and talking to my wife when suddenly a mini-van came out of nowhere from behind it. It started honking and came close to hitting us. I lost it.

Ignoring protests from my much more intelligent wife, I went after him. I know it is petty, but I don’t like someone to threaten the lives of wife and myself. Also, my wife has a speedometer. We were riding at 15 MPH which is the speed limit on that road. He had to be speeding to even catch up with us let alone pass us. So he broke more than a few laws.

When I caught up with him, he tried to speed away. I was shouting obscenities at him like, “Come back here, you asshole. And come on tough guy.” I’m not proud of that. Like I said, I was really angry. Finally, I caught up with him at the stop light. I was able to get next to his window where I informed him of the two laws he broke.

He parked along Sixth St. Then he reached into his side holster, and I was sure he was going to brandish a gun.

“Great,” I thought. “He’s going to shoot me. My wife will be so pissed.”

“Send a car,” he said into his cell phone.

I was perfectly OK to waste his time waiting for the police because I was in the right.

He got out of the car and started to go off on me. “You run stop signs. You have no right to be in that lane. That’s for cars to get through. You can’t block the lane.”

(He’s wrong. Bicycles don’t block lanes, they ride in them. Under California law, they are vehicles just like automobiles and have all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of other vehicles.)

He continued, “You want to ride your bike into my truck and fuck with me? Come on fuck with me.”

I thought that this was really funny. He almost killed us, but now he’s an innocent guy being bullied in his giant vehicle by a tiny bicycle. I still chuckle when I think of this as it’s so wrong on so many levels. Yes, automobile drivers get run down daily while driving by tiny bicycles. The death rate is, um, zero per year.

I told him that I wasn’t there to “fuck with him, but to inform him.”

He looked shocked. “Inform me? What are you going to inform me about?”

I said, “I all ready told you. I am now respectfully listening to your position.”

He looked even more astounded. It was like he was realizing that I was a human being for the first time. I know his feeling. When driving it’s easy to see humans as impediments and not as people with flesh and feelings. I started to feel compassion for this man.

I realized that although I had all ready told him he was speeding, he had not heard me. He only saw me as a crazy person. This is understandable because I was very angry. I was yelling. How could he hear me otherwise? He was in a sealed off car, and he was trying to speed away. I realized that he hadn’t planned on a discussion. He thought he could harass me, threaten me, and not deal with me again. I believe that the nature of driving encourages bad behavior in people who would not think of acting out while walking around.

I repeated what laws he broke. I explained that my wife had a speedometer and that we were riding at 15 MPH. I informed him that the speed limit is 15 MPH and that he had broken the law by passing us.

Suddenly he didn’t want to talk anymore. He had to run. He wasn’t even going to wait around for the police he pretended to call. He ran back to his truck, jumped in, and sped off.

I wanted to tell this story because I realized that there are many misconceptions about bicycles. I would like to debunk them.

1.Bicycles “block the road”.

Actually, by law, bicycles are traffic like the rest of vehicles. When cars have to slow down at a light or to park, people don’t get into a fit. Likewise, if there is a slow moving vehicle, you need to slow down to a safe speed.

Unless they have a death wish, bicyclists do not try to impede traffic. If they are risking their lives in the middle of the street, they are there for a good reason. Perhaps they are turning. They probably know what they are doing, and they should be given space and accounted for.

2.El Prado is through traffic only. Bicycles are not even supposed to be on the road.

Although it’s possible to drive through Balboa Park, legally, by going on El Prado, the route is a bit convoluted. There are frequent, mandatory stops. Pedestrians will walk into the street without looking. For this reason, the speed limit is 15 MPH even though it does look at if that tiny stretch of road, across the bridge is designed for much faster traffic. This is a untrue. You will stop in about 10 seconds after accelerating. Sometimes pedestrians will walking into the road without looking. For these reasons, it’s best to stick with the legal speed limit.

3.Bicycles are law breaking loons who ought to be taught a lesson by nearly killing them and honking at them. After this, they will gain a clear grasp of the law, and never break a traffic law again.

Bicyclists don’t break traffic laws anymore than automobile drivers. Do you honestly know anyone who drives the speed limit all the time? If you do any amount of driving, you will realize that you must drive a safe speed for road conditions. Usually this is within the speed limit, but not always. Even though you may not be caught, you have just broken the law and became a criminal.

For similar reasons, bicycles might roll through a stop sign if conditions are safe because it takes a lot of effort to go back up to full speed. This practice is legal in some states and will soon be legal everywhere. For a bicyclists to break a traffic law is to assume a lot of personal risk, and this is not advised.

However, even if a bicyclist is in the wrong, is it OK to almost kill someone? Everyone makes mistakes and should be corrected. The proper way to communicate is not violence, and it is not to blow your horn. A honking horn carries no information and escalates any situation.

If you would like to discuss traffic laws and reform a bicycles. Pull up next to them and calmly offer to sit down and share a cup of coffee. Nearly everyone responds well to kindness. Over the cup of coffee, you can share you gripes, concerns, and express what the bicyclist did wrong and how you’d like them to change. You will get more results with this method.

If you try to kill them you might succeed and now you are a killer. If you fail, you’ll look like a petulant and cowardly asshole especially if you get stuck at a light and the bicyclist catches up with you. This happens far more often than drivers believe.

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