Cager Rager

20 11 2010

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.

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13 responses

22 11 2010
Keith

I would not have played cat and mouse with a Pontiac…

“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.”

22 11 2010
evillerider

When it comes to playing cat & mouse, the mouse doesn’t get to choose when or whether to play.

22 11 2010
Keith

“When it comes to playing cat & mouse, the mouse doesn’t get to choose when or whether to play.”

We are not mice.

22 11 2010
evillerider

Thankfully not.

It was your analogy. 😉

23 11 2010
Amy

I just got in a fight on Facebook with some dumb girl I don’t know who was bragging about having hit a cyclist. It was unclear whether she did it on purpose or is just a bad driver, but she figured the cyclist, who was in a bike lane, deserved to be hit because she was too close to her car. It amazing me how people will encourage and cheer on the physical injury of another person just because they were on a bicycle.

24 11 2010
evillerider

Wow. I’m always amazed at how callous some folks can be towards cyclists, even though I constantly see it. For example, less than 2 weeks ago someone riding a BMX was killed riding across a street in the west end. I got into a couple of online arguments myself with people who thought “he deserved it.” The kicker, though, were the emails that EBC received from people upset about the ghost bike that was put up at the scene, who basically thought that because he was wearing dark clothes, riding in a crosswalk and didn’t have lights, that he deserved what happened to him and did not “deserve” a ghost bike memorial. And this is from people who also claim to be pro-cycling! It’s like this cultural bike hate is so deep that even many cyclists accept it.

25 11 2010
Skyboy242

Oh geez. I can’t believe that happened!

… someone said to me the other day “isn’t it illegal to ride your bike on the roads in the winter time?” She was very very serious.

Also, “cartoonishly ridiculous”– I like it 🙂

25 11 2010
evillerider

A few winters ago, I remember one of the old EBC mechanics telling me about getting stopped while riding down Whyte Ave. by a cop who was also very emphatic that it was against the law to ride in the winter time. Knowing how ridiculous that was, he said “OK, then charge me.” The cop, of course, didn’t charge him because there was no law to charge him with.

So much ridiculousness… 🙂

29 11 2010
Val

Don’t bet on not getting charged (or recieving a citation) in a case like that. I have had an officer make up a law on the spot just to cite me. Yep, watched him write in his own title and section number for a law that no legislature had ever passed. Didn’t stick, but it was an irritating waste of time. I’m just waiting for one of them to actually fill out the paperwork for the “Impeding Traffic” charge. The law does exist, and requires extensive interpretation and judgement to enforce. Could be interesting.

29 11 2010
Zweiradler

Unbelievable. I’m glad nothing happened to you. When I read stories like these, I’m for once happy to live in Germany.

Nico

30 11 2010
PaddyAnne

I always like to ride with my small camera in my pocket. This way, if a car (and driver!) is acting badly, I just take a few snaps – all the while appearing calm – and exagerate getting the license plate in at least one of them. You say nothing to the driver, and they haven’t a clue what you will do with the photos. You could do a variety of things: a) make a copy and give to the police with a small written account of what happened b) take them to a local bike advocacy group and see if they are collecting a bad drivers alert, c) start a blog where you post them and ask for submissions from other cyclists who are also menaced on the roads or d) just delete them when you get home. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, they all feel good to do. But one day, these photos may be important, even to help another cyclist faired far worse than what happened to you and it could help their defence that the driver was somewhat “in a rage” against people on bikes.

1 12 2010
Chrisk

There was nothing asshole-ish about having been stopped two-astride for the red light. In CANBIKE, we teach people to take the lane when stopped at intersections, and then move back to the right when safe after crossing the intersection.

21 12 2010
ridon

people are nuts. i had a lady berate me for having too many packages at the post office. she kept insisting i let her cut in line because she just had one thing. i said no. she continued to huff and puff as i pulled stuff out of my bag. i was done 15 minutes later (she kept coming up to me the entire time). was waiting your turn that bad??

and your crazy driver scenario, she spent all that extra time chasing some cyclists that she felt were “holding her up.” i bet if you guys were in a car making a left turn thus blocking her from going straight, she would’ve blared her horn, too. can’t people wait their turn? don’t people learn this in kindergarten?

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