Monday, May 10, 2010

Get yourself killed any day of the week, ride a bike

In addition to riding the bus to work I’m also a bike commuter. I fully admit I’m a fair weather bike commuter at best. Basically if it looks like I could wear shorts outside and I don’t have a 9am meeting I’ll often opt for a ride in on a bike. I really enjoy marrying exercise to my commute because of the efficiencies it brings to my day.
I was talking with a coworker the other day about the contrast between riding the bus, running and riding a bike.  The bus is great because I get to check out, do some work and get ready for the day.  Running is fun too because I get to lose myself in my thoughts.  The bike, while fun is the most challenging though as I feel like I constantly have to scan my surroundings for potential death traps.  There are basically a couple varieties of drivers that perplex me the most.  Here is my attempt to apply a taxonomy to the worst drivers I encounter daily.
The passer
You'll find this type of driver all over the country in all types of cars.  For what ever reason this species feels the need to pass a cyclist no matter what speed the cyclist is going.  It's my hunch that they feel responsible for the cyclists safety when the cyclist is in front of them.  Therefore, if they pass the cyclist as fast as they can they no longer have to share responsibility for the cyclist safety.  I actually believe they think they are doing the cyclist a favor.  You can recognize them by the way they slam on the gas as they pass the cyclist then proceed to have to slam on the brakes as to not hit the car in front of them.  I run into about 10-15 of these drivers in a given one way commute.
The aggressive passer
This guy just doesn't like bikes and thinks we are all crazy hippies.  Generally this guy is in a truck or a sports car.  He will pass you with a very loud muffler and then sometimes even cut you off.  You get to enjoy his exhaust.  A rare treat indeed is when the aggressive passer feels the need to yell at you.  The nicest thing I've been yelled at is to stay in my lane.  On other occasions I've been called some nasty names.  I might be taking my life in my own hands but I'll often use hand gestures to communicate to the aggressive passer.  My message is clear just because I have spandex on doesn't mean I couldn't be packing heat.  I've never had anyone actually stop and confront me but if they did I'd wager I'm in better shape.
The way to close to shoulder driver
This one is pretty easy to spot.  It's usually a landscaping truck or a U-Haul.  The driver of which doesn't really understand how wide they are and they really don't care about a cyclists well being.  Contrary to popular belief these guys aren't always passers. In fact in many cases they just ride right next to you but entirely too close.  3 feet please.
Don't you pass me douche bag (DYPMDB)
In recent years this guy has become more prevalent.  His belief is that if he is stopped no cyclist should be allowed to pass him.  You'll seem him at stop signs and stop lights with his car intentionally pulled over as close to the curb as possible.  If provoked they will try to run you off the road.  I find it's best to just let these drivers be.  I suspect they grow up to serial killers and or just very mad at the world.  When I encounter a DYPMDB I just take a deep breath and wait for the light to change. 
There are others but these are the big 4 I see often.  All joking aside, if I were the king of the world I wouldn't give out drivers licenses until applicants had ridden a bike through our city streets during rush hour.  I know commuting by bike changed my driving habits around cyclists.  It's something I intend to instill in my kids.

3 comments:

  1. Nicely identified, John. I've run into all the above. Remind me to tell you a story about road rage on a bike. Oh, and I know of at least one cyclist (daily commuter) who packs a small pistol in his saddle bag. He's had to pull it out at least once.

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  2. Most drivers are courteous, but it is shocking what you can run into right here in Redmond which is a pretty bike friendly community. I've heard some complete horror stories from friends who have encountered trouble in more rural areas.

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