Sunday, February 19

Advocates? Irrelevant!

Looking at the Bedford Road/183 Junction from the South - My View in the Afternoon.
In the Morning, I'm Headed South Towards the Camera.
And There is Construction so the Freeway Can be Widened for MORE Motorists
I do not claim to be a bicycle advocate. Instead, I ride my bike from point to point. It's why I named this blog what I named it. Mostly, advocates from the one extreme of "The World Would be Paradise if We Only Spent on Bikes" to "This Stuff is the Spawn of Satan" miss the point that NONE of this has the slightest relevance to any cyclist that has determined to ride from one point to another. Instead, we have a continuing series of choices involving things ranging from clothing, to equipment, to route choices and what to do about our fellow road (or other facility) users.

Last week, I encountered a situation I have never encountered before in 50 years of cycling. It is not something I have seen useful advice on from advocates, and I found that even Forester, who DID talk about the situation in his chapter on commuting, fell short of the mark. Perhaps there IS no single right answer.

What did Steve encounter? You might wonder. Well, I encountered harassment in the form of verbal abuse. Twice. In the same week. From the same motorist. On a route I have used over the last four years, on a road I've ridden just about every work day over the last year.

Forester, in "Effective Cycling," advises:
"...give chase to the next traffic stop. Ride up beside the driver's window and say that you have exactly as much right to use the road as he or she has..."

Forester does not advise on what to do if the motorist drives up beside YOU, yells inappropriate remarks, and then promptly drives off so he can enter a freeway on-ramp. Still, his advice is the best I've seen, and he offers some slim comfort, saying:
"...The person who will kill you in front of witnesses is rare..."

Well, so is someone who harasses twice in the same week. So forgive me if I don't do cartwheels of joy.

Forester omits one detail. Unfortunately, abusive motorists tend to behave like ambush predators. They strike quickly and then move away before the "prey" can effectively respond. In neither case was I able to get a license number, nor respond with more than a sentence before the perpetrator sped off. Really, in many ways, it was reminiscent of my three encounters with my "OU Friend" in his red pickup. During the predator's strike, you do not typically have the opportunity to follow Forester's advice. It simply isn't a "teachable moment."

In the first incident, on Tuesday morning, I was honked at about two blocks north of the 183 Freeway while on Bedford Road; a four lane road with a 35MPH speed limit. I waved nicely and the motorist passed. I caught up to the motorist at the red traffic light as he was waiting to turn right onto the freeway service road and the onramp. It was not my intent to converse with him, but he felt it necessary to roll his window down and yell "get off the (inappropriate word)ing road!" Surprised, my training kept me from inappropriate remarks or gestures of my own and I replied "You too, Bud!" Perhaps not inspiring, but at least not too horrid.

It Was Around Here the Driver of the Teal Ford Escort Honked. The Sign is Gone Nowadays
In the second incident, on Friday morning, I was stopped at the very same traffic light as the first incident. Well, after I'd been waiting for the light change more than 20 seconds and a couple of cars had stopped behind me, up rolls the very same guy in his teal Ford Escort station wagon and yells again. I don't recall all the details for an exact quote, but it was basically "...holding up cars you moron!" I yelled back that "There's a freeway over there for you!" For the record, after the light turned green, there was no apparent conflict between me and the motorists who were actually stopped behind me, and they all passed with no fuss or muss.

Now, looking through a wide variety of advocate sites, I see no useful advice. Clearly a three foot passing law, bike lanes or lack of same, or lane position are not relevant to the proper action to stopping the harassment and avoiding escalation of it by this motorist. Even less relevant is the usual pap telling motorists that cyclists have a right to the road and cyclists that they are supposed to obey the law. Well, duh! You think the harasser is going to be reading and heeding such?

Absent a brilliant suggestion from my loyal reader, here's my plan. I plan to take my usual route and time. If the teal driver repeats the pattern (hopefully without further escalation), I will single-mindedly focus on trying to get that license number. Then I will recall exactly what time I left home. If I get the license, I will report the harassment to the Bedford Police, but if not, I'll leave about five minutes early in subsequent days and wait at the corner with my camera at the ready.

In the meantime, Bedford Police Department Numbers that might be relevant in this situation follow, and my loyal reader might well have opinions on which of them I should call, presuming I can get the particulars on this motoring bully in the teal Escort (NOT a white pickup!):
  • Emergency: 911
  • Main Non-Emergency: 817.952.2440
  • Non-Emergency Dispatch: 817.952.2127
  • Administration: 817.952.2402
  • Criminal Investigations: 817.952.2411
  • Community Services: 817.952.2444
  • Traffic: 817.952.2488


Janice in GA said...

Two words:

Helmet cam

Or even an handheld camera, or a cell phone. Take a picture.

Just point at it, then point at him.

Big Oak said...

That just doesn't sound like a good situation. Be safe.

Steve A said...

Janice, helmet cams don't work very good in predawn darkness.

Khal said...

Helmet cam mounted piggyback with an REI helmet mounted LED spotlight? I know that starts to sound like a lot of stuff on a helmet.

I'd suggest something else, but I don't think they are entirely made of carbon fiber. Sounds like you got a bully in the neighborhood. Be safe out there.

John Romeo Alpha said...

Ignore him. Disengage. Evade and escape. Sticks and stones. Etc.

Steve A said...

"Ignore him" is probably the best advice of all, at least until I have the bully's license number. Though I have considered "Drive Friendly" as a simple and easy to remember response.

cafiend said...

Motorist who have decided you are an easy mark will not respond to reasonable argument. This guy has problems somewhere else in his life and has picked the dork on the bike as his whipping boy. As much as you want to do something you really can't. I will bet that law enforcement will consider you a whining nuisance until you actually get assaulted. Then I would fear they would simply act as if you had it coming for sticking yourself out there on a bike. The fact that they're legally wrong won't spur them to act correctly. Look what happened to Chipseal. he system went through the motions and even acknowledged his right to ride on the road but it still did not exonerate him or compensate him for time and legal expenses. As JRA said, ignore, disengage, evade and escape. I know I wish I had a gun every time some scummy coward honks, yells, swerves or otherwise bullies me or any other cyclist. Immediately I am glad I DON'T have a gun because that would make things much worse. But the helpless rage is there. I've considered bb guns, paintball weapons and other hopefully non-lethal ways to tag the bully and let him (or her) know they are vulnerable too. But that second wrong will not advance the cause of right.

If you can sprint up fast enough you could try dropping your pants and pressing a ham against the driver's window. The humor cancels out the aggression while the sweaty buttock-print underscores our opinion of aggressive drivers. It's a dicey move, though.

Chuck Davis said...

He seems to know who you are and you don't know who he is

However this may or not play out, he's one (1) up

Here in OK a tag number could ID the guy with some certainty which might suggest the next step

Steve A said...

Chuck, I don't have any evidence that he has the slightest CLUE who I am other than "a guy on MY road on a bike who makes me go crazy." FWIW, I've moved my commute schedule up about five minutes for a week or so, before I see if I can't GET that tag number as you suggest.

In the meantime, I find riding safely and predictably strangely UNCOMFORTING. Since I would prefer not to ride unsafely, making the TIME less predictable seems like a wise interim step to avoid becoming a victim. Once I have his tag numbers, we shall see if cafiend's glum vision is appropriate or not.

I think we shall see the Chipseal analogy is not applicable. Nor do I chose to evade. Instead, I will pick the time - and place.

cafiend said...

Vehicular and modified vehicular cycling techniques counteract disregard from the motoring public. Nothing counteracts direct aggression. The good news is that most bullying drivers stop short of an actual attack. Repeated incidents do amount to psychological warfare. And the stories we share reinforce the impression among non-cyclists and might-be cyclists that the road is a rough place.

The fact that we're out there with no protective shell makes every little incident seem much larger. Who knows what people are saying about us when we're all sealed in cars and can't hear their remarks or clearly see their gestures? On a bike it's just really convenient for a jerk to amuse himself at our expense. It throws a shadow over a nice day to be reminded that some people feel compelled to be that way.

Khal said...

I suspect if this guy is pulled over or chased down, his dick will go back in his pants in a shrunken state. Pardon the analogy. Bullies generally shrink when the cost comes home to roost. Then again, that is my experience confronting bullies. YMMV. Picking the time and place and managing the situation is a good idea.

RANTWICK said...

There is no such thing as a driver who is eager to yell obscenities at you who might learn anything from what you might say back. Ignore.

Cams: even if it doesn't work, a cam (or fake cam) can indeed make a world of difference in behaviour.

Chuck Davis said...

Not to be dismissive of the potential, he doesn't need to know more that what he does

It "might" helpful for you to know should it continue

Invisible Man said...

Steve A,

I blogged about a similar incident, and philosophised about what it is about cyclists that annoys motorists here: . The post seems to have struck a chord with a lot of cyclists.

I got assaulted last June by a bus driver who didn't like my pointing out he was driving badly and, every now and again, I get some pedestrian running out into the road to try to knock me off. Bikes just annoy people, for reasons deep in dark places of their minds. One just has to do one's best to keep calmer and more reasonable than they are.


cafiend said...

@Invisible Man: I wrote a blog a few years ago titled, "Cycling is a Civil Right." It dealt with the same issues about cyclists as a minority group. When did road tax become a de facto toll one pays for the right to move freely in a supposedly free country?

In the US of A, hate speech is still protected by the First Amendment. Ugly as it is, it's still allowed. It reveals a great deal about the speaker's character. It also casts a long shadow as one imagines all the unseen, silent people who might nod in agreement or feel legitimized to act on their own prejudices. Even worse are the ones who come forward to add their voices to the chorus.

Any time the violence of human nature pops out it sends waves of disturbance that refract and reflect, amplified by some influences and canceled by others. When you are the recipient or it is directed at someone you know or a group of which you are a part, the waves are steep and tall. Because the storm is caused by human attitudes, not by impersonal forces of physics, they are all the more disturbing because the attackers had the choice to think a different way.

People annoy each other. Think how many times a day you think to yourself, "there goes a complete idiot." As cyclists we're just sticking out there where we can receive it unfiltered. Many cyclists do behave annoyingly. I'm always tempted to reach my arm out and clothesline a cyclist riding toward me against traffic. Their wrong action is forcing me, a properly flowing cyclist, to find a way past them. As a cyclist they present more of an actual danger to me than they do to a motorist. Sometimes I even try to speak to them. It never works. So I grit my teeth and move on, a little more annoyed than I was before we met.

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