It seems a bit self-focused to talk about anti-bicycle road rage when Congress has shut down the federal government, but maybe our elected officials could do with some “share the road” reminders. We are all in this together, and we all need to get where we are going safely and legally, be it on a street or on Capital Hill. Stop often to remember that you are not the only person in the world, and everyone is equally important.
I know I have been fortunate with my Team in Training Sea Gull Century training – the weather has been excellent for the most part, almost every Saturday ride has been on quiet rural roads, and other things I don’t want to jinx by mentioning. So it should not have come as a surprise, after 750 miles in the last four months, that we should, at last, experience some nasty road rage. You know, the kind where you honestly fear for your physical safety.
Last Saturday’s ride was a fairly gentle 43 miles, and a small group of us rolled along, laughing at how leisurely we were being – farmer’s market? Yep, nice-looking pottery. Stop to take a picture? Sure why not? Yeah, clearly everyone is ready for this to be over. Around mile 40, we got our wake-up call, and it sobered us up in a hurry.
I was in front, so I didn’t see what started the problems, but my teammate behind me filled me in afterwards. We were cycling on a stretch of road with no shoulder, with a curve ahead, and double yellow lines, so cars were backed up behind the four of us in our group. Finally space to pull ahead, and as the cars did so, they not only didn’t give us any space (3 feet? ha, maybe a foot?), but I could hear the word “asshole” coming out of one passenger window as the car zoomed past. Suddenly, a big matte red pickup zooms in front of me, slammed on the brakes, and the driver flung himself out of the cab and came running at me/us, hurling curse words. I had no idea what was going on, and being confused, just kept riding past him. Although I guessed he wasn’t yelling at me, I still tensed up and was braced for a physical blow. Then a bit later, he pulled up to us again, slowly pacing us while yelling at my teammate who was now in front of me. My teammate kept repeating, “You need to share the road, sir.” Finally we turned off onto another road and the pickup driver was gone.
Once we all regrouped where we felt safe, my teammate admitted that after three cars buzzed us, when this red pickup driver gunned the engine and moved towards him, he flipped off the driver. Not his better idea, he admitted, so he tried to diffuse the situation while standing his ground by reminding the driver to share the road. I wish I’d been able to pull my phone out and take a picture but honestly, I was more concerned about being prepared to be attacked in some way to even worry about a license plate.
We were all fine, just a bit shaken up, and finished the ride in silence. I thought about how spoiled I am, with my short bike ride to work on fairly safe roads in bike lanes, and how few problems we’d had all summer. I wish I could have reported the driver, but then again, I didn’t want to do it in front of him either – who knows how he would have reacted to that? And it made me think evil, unfair thoughts about rural people.
I know every cyclist is on the receiving end of road rage at some point, so there is nothing about this event that makes me special in any way. I also know that there is so much written about “why don’t cars behave better?” and “why don’t cyclist obey the rules?” and on and on and on, so I hate to rehash it all again. I guess in light of today’s government shutdown, I am just sad that it is so difficult for people to accept differences, and be tolerant of other ideas, beliefs, cultures, traditions, and hobbies. Instead of forcing everyone to think the same way, why is it so hard to just acknowledge the difference, then move on? Are you really threatened by what I’m doing, or is what I’m doing trigger some sort of guilt you can’t identify, so you react by lashing out?
At least on Sunday I had a very Zen late morning cozied up to some furry friends and The Mechanic – dog-sitting in DC has never been more welcome. Many thanks to our friends for letting us relax with their mini therapists and enjoy some peace and quiet in their backyard! Now, if only I can channel that peace for the rest of the week!
To all of those jobless because of the bickering in government, my profound sympathies and support. Having been unemployed several times in my life, I know how scary and stressful it is. I wish you all the best and hope for a speedy yet reasonable resolution.