Thoughts on Cycling Safety from the Driver’s Seat

Road bikers have to be on alert at all times for idiot drivers, but it’s true that some road bikers, due to vast bad experiences, are on hyper-alert.

Hyper-alert=hyper-defensive=chip on shoulder.

I was driving down a narrow road through my neighborhood today when I met a hyper-defensive road biker who practically flung himself into a ditch trying to get me to slow down my station wagon to a speed he felt acceptable. It is a road that I travel at least once a day. This is the first time I have seen this cyclist. I hug the right shoulder of the road because most of the oncoming traffic uses the middle of the road. I was far enough over as I expected an oncoming car to be in the middle of the lane.

I rounded the first turn when I first saw the cyclist traveling in the opposite direction. He immediately began pumping his arm up and down in what I interpreted as a “slow-down” signal.

Although my 2-year-old was screaming, and my 6-year-old had spent the afternoon in the principal’s office, I was able to maintain my anger. Instead of pulling over to take it out on the overzealous cyclist, I kept a steady speed that allowed me to cruise through corners, without decelerating, and come to a smooth stop at the upcoming sign.

Fortunately I was unable to hear what the cyclist was saying, as I was wearing my iPod to drown out the screams from my child, who was mad because he had thrown his boot across the car—and now wanted it back. The cyclist was exhibiting very similar behavior.

It reminded me of stories I’d heard in which avid cyclists take their anger out on unsuspecting vehicles that come close enough to hear them. A similar story occurred on Ox Creek Road several years back when a couple of cyclists ambushed a woman in her truck, with her small children inside, after they assumed she was coming back to harass them. In actuality, the woman turned around to catch up with her father whom she saw traveling in the opposite direction after stopping at his house.

I looked into my rearview mirror in amazement and saw him zigzagging across the lane into oncoming traffic in his effort to signal to me what a bad person I was. Nothing on my car identified me as a cyclist, which made me wonder what he would have thought or done had I had a bike racks or stickers.

I nearly went back when, after pulling into my driveway, I heard sirens. I was afraid that he might have given himself a stroke or finally ridden into the bushes.

It’s important to drive safely and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists, but as cyclists, let’s carefully choose our battles so as not to embarrass ourselves in a way that causes a loss of respect to the general cycling population.

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