an uneasy road

Citizen-Times.com (Asheville, NC) has a report today about a shooting incident between a motorist and a cyclist, a cyclist who at the time of the incident was riding with his significant other and a child in a bike seat. The utter absurdity of things like this leave me absolutely speechless. But speechlessness is an inadequate and unsatisfactory response, so that in turn makes me frustrated and angry. Reading the comments posted in response to the article certainly didn’t help.

Yesterday, at the intersection of Siena Heights Drive and North Main/MI-52, while I was waiting to make a left-hand turn, some ignorant, inconsiderate tool in an old, charcoal grey van, called me a “retard” as he passed by me on the right. I hadn’t detained or inconvenienced him in any way whatsoever, yet he felt compelled to deride me for no apparent reason. (To be sure, there were reasons, whether he was aware of them or not, and I’m sure most of my readers could hazard at a guess at what some of them may have been. But none of them were “justifiable” reasons.) What a prig. Unfortunately, appropriate and sometimes even more noble responses to such situations invariably come to my mind only after the fact (a personal trait that I really despise but rarely seem capable of transcending). In the moment, the best I could come up with was to give him the finger, a gesture he promptly returned in kind.

I left agitated, unnerved, embarrassed, chagrined, and deeply disappointed in myself. In my anger, I foolishly risked escalating the situation, and I acted in a manner that, in the long run, will reflect poorly on the cycling community and only further marginalize it. Despite the fact that it was the driver who first acted like an idiot, it will be my actions that are remembered. I can’t even begin to tell you how deeply I hate that. And yet, what probably gets to me most is the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that, no matter the circumstances, “turning the other cheek” is the only suitable first response, while at the same time we persistently pursue a better way with unwavering vigilance, indefatigable advocacy, and unrelenting commitment.

Ride on.

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3 responses to “an uneasy road

  1. You know, sometimes turning the other cheek simply doesn’t work. Sometimes you have to stick up for yourself.

    If you don’t, who will?

    But yeah, I understand how you feel… I was in a similar instance, only the people in the car were shouting obscenities to me as they passed, and I gave them the finger… felt embarrassed afterward, lol.

    Which brings me to another point that I’ve thought a lot about and don’t have an answer to; as cyclists, we are vulnerable on the road. In terms of personal defense/safety, what options do we have since we always travel light? That’s the big thing, traveling light… I know what options I have if I’m driving or walking or doing anything else, but on a bicycle? What sorts of things are there available that we can carry & have quick access to?

    I mean, I hardly think I want to fiddle & fumble with a can of mace while rolling down the road during a sticky situation, do you?

  2. I know how that goes all too well. I’ve been knocked off the road before and had immature punks taunt me and shout obscenities like they’re big and tough. While not a brighter side, I do stick up for myself and dish their crap right back at them. Same Rights Same Road Same Rules. and I refuse to be intimidated. I try not to do something stupid but I keep that mantra in mind from the LMB and I keep on going.

  3. I hear you both. I do think about what I would do and/or use to protect myself or fight back if things came to a head. Frame pumps, u-locks, keys, the bike itself. (Mace or something similar is good, but I never think to carry any. And you would have to keep it ready to hand to make it worthwhile.) And God knows I dole out my fair share of shouts, angry looks, and all the rest. None of this really appeals to me, though, when I’m calm and far enough away from the situation to really think about it. I couldn’t agree more that we need to fight back, to not allow ourselves to be overrun and stepped on, and to exercise our rights. I just don’t want to do it on their terms, much less at their level.

    So, the two things have come to my mind repeatedly as I’ve continued thinking about this are:

    1. Advocate and Champion
    The more riders there are on the road (themselves riding properly, safely, and respectfully), the more people are seeing bicyclists and hearing about cycling (not mention other forms of alternative transportation), the more cities recognize the need for “complete streets” design and bike- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, the better off we’ll all be. Over time, inconsiderate (to put it simply and politely) drivers will no longer be able to irresponsibly while hiding behind an impregnable fortress of ignorance, dominance, or majority rule.

    2. Document
    We need to compile videos, photos, license plate numbers, and descriptions of vehicular offenders, dangerous road and intersections, etc. and publicize it. There’s still something to be said for shame. And we all know that we live in a culture that ascribes tremendous authority to visual and Internet media.