While riding with a couple of friends on a class III bikeway the other day, we had the pleasure of the classic near pass. Everything about the interaction was seemingly stereotypical. A raised and blacked out Toyota Tundra clearly saw us riding and decided to get as close to us as possible while passing.
Fortunately, the group I was riding with all have enough experience to react in the same way. While the driver of the truck signaled for us to “get over,” with both his hands. We all waved and smiled. I began blowing kisses at the entitled driver. This caused the driver of the truck to become more frustrated and he proceeded to give us a rude hand gesture.
In taking the high road, we didn’t lower ourselves to the level of this creep. In the far away past, I would get angry at such driver behavior. It’s easy to do, as they are willing to put your life at risk in order to “teach you a lesson.” It’s as if we as cyclists don’t know the risks we put ourselves in every time we head out on a ride.
It’s the same flawed logic that causes someone to yell at you from the safety of their steel cage to ride on the sidewalk, or to get off the road, or to get a car. I don’t know about you, but I own a car. I pay for gas and insurance and registration the same as any other motorist. For whatever reason, these people think all we do is ride out bike everywhere. Perhaps in a parallel universe where the world is a Dutch cycling utopia, maybe. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a place.
I’ll Take the High Road
The beauty of keeping a cool head is the frustration it causes an offending motorist. It’s a bit of low level schadenfreude, and perhaps a little immature, but it beats the alternative. Should you have the opportunity to approach a raging motorist at a stop light, stay pleasant and ask questions like, “are you done yelling? do you feel better having said those nasty things?” I generally follow up with a statement along the lines of, “I’d like to see my family again if you are done trying to kill me.”
At this point they don’t know how to react. When you stay calm and logical, it becomes difficult to continue to dehumanize a cyclist. This is even more effective when there is a spouse in the vehicle. Sometimes you encounter someone who continues to rage. Perhaps the passenger joins in as well. At this point, I like to bring up the point that to kill a cyclist would mean not only a life on their conscience, but a drawn out legal battle. This generally snaps them back to reality. A bit smug perhaps, but again, it’s better than getting angry.
This advice is of course much easier said than done. Sometimes a close call gets so much adrenaline pumping your fight or flight kicks in. Grace under pressure takes practice. It’s no wonder so many people ride with cameras mounted on their seat posts and handlebars. Drivers aren’t paying attention, and may not even see you as they nearly knock you off the bike at 35mph. Should you find yourself in a close call situation in the near future, see if taking the highroad helps. It might just pop the drivers rage and/or unawareness bubble. It’s too bad so many drivers are either temporarily insane or completely unaware. Stay safe out there, and as always, keep the rubber side down!