A few weekends ago, a friend and I were riding side by side, in an unfamiliar part of town on a wide, freshly paved, and delightfully car free road, casually chatting and taking in the cool fall air. I had even remarked to my friend what a nice choice in routes this was. As we continued our conversation, waiting for a red light, a car pulled up behind us and the driver started leaning on the horn. As the light turned and we started to inch forward and get back into single file, the driver behind us continued honking and revving her engine. She started yelling “get off the road!” and threateningly accelerating the car in fits and starts, and I was getting really nervous when my friend turned around and hucked a paper coffee cup with the last cold mouthfuls of his morning joe, and hit her car square on the hood.
I neither condone nor condemn his action. It’s not something I would’ve done myself, but I also tend to cheer for people who stand up to bullies, even when escalation is less than pragmatic. This driver was a bully, and bullies don’t like it when they’re challenged.
She flipped out. We let her pass at the first safe point, and she sped by, swerving towards us, then slammed on her brakes and pulled over further up the road. As we rode by, she lunged out of the car and tried to tackle my friend. I’ve never seen an overweight middle aged person fly like that – she probably would have taken my friend down if he was moving slower.
With all our mettle to the pedal, we rode away, but the enraged driver got back in her car and started following us again. The chase was on. We zipped up side streets, down alleys, through a backyard and a school yard, just to have her catch up and cut us off at the pass, screaming about who’s going to pay to fix the scratch on her car (um, if a paper cup can scratch the paint on your car, I suspect that would be the responsibility of whoever did the crappy paint job in the first place). It was both horrifying and cartoonishly ridiculous.
We finally ditched her by darting down a sidewalk beside a major road, opposite to traffic flow, more than two kilometers from where this whole episode started. We rode a lot further, far off our initially planned route before finding a quiet spot to stop and calm our shaken nerves and reassure each other that we were no longer being chased by an enraged person in a Pontiac.
Maybe there’s a moral to this story, that assholery begets assholery. We were assholes for not riding single file, she was an asshole for honking and revving, my friend was an asshole for throwing the coffee cup, she was an asshole for trying to attack him then chasing us. It all becomes a contest of who can be the biggest asshole, and could’ve ended with someone getting hurt. I hope she doesn’t take it out on the next cyclist she encounters.
But it’s not black and white for me. I’ve had enough shit thrown at me from cars that I immediately appreciated the irony in the reversal of the classic drink thrown out of car at cyclist scenario (I know, two wrongs don’t make a right). I’m no angel, but I do try to behave myself on the road and extend as much courtesy to drivers as is safely possible. Perhaps she was in a hurry, or was upset that she was running late and perceived us as a further delay, but that doesn’t explain why she went out of her way to try to attack & chase us down. Why do people so easily commit a greater wrong to prove they’re right?
And now that the weather has turned absolutely Hoth-like, forcing me to take lanes more aggressively than ever, I can’t help worrying about the next driver who snaps because they think I don’t belong there.