Friday, March 19, 2010

An open letter to the guy whose car I spit on earlier this week

I realize you think I’m the biggest jerk in the world. And while it’s possible that you’re right, please also consider that riding a bike down Foothill Blvd is a scary and sometimes life-threatening experience.

Consider this:

  • There is no bike lane
  • There is no shoulder
  • The only place to ride is in the vehicle lane
  • Douchebags like Tony Kornheiser encourage drivers to run cyclists off the road, so that possibility is always in the back of my mind
  • I move about 20-25 mph on a bike
  • Motor vehicle traffic is moving at about 30 mph
  • That speed differential is just enough to annoy most drivers such that they won’t wait for me

Which is apparently what was going through your mind, because I was trying to take the right lane all to myself when you pulled in next to me. In my lane. And then you started moving to the right. And I had no place to go but the gutter.

When you finally got around me, your rear bumper was about 18 inches from my front wheel. You may have thought that was plenty of room, but please consider that you were wrapped with two tons of steel, while I was wrapped in a layer of fabric thinner than my underwear. We might therefore have understandably had a difference of opinion regarding what constitutes a safe distance.

I will also concede that my anger at you was likely fueled by the driver of the utility truck in Emigration Canyon who—even though there was no oncoming traffic, no blind corner, I was safely in the bike lane, and he could have given me at least three feet as he passed—buzzed me as close to my left shoulder as he could without being charged with at least attempted vehicular manslaughter. I was still fuming over this when we met.

Here’s the thing, though. The fact that I caught up with you enough to successfully spit on your car indicates that just pulling into the lane behind me rather than forcing me to share it with you would not have delayed you meaningfully, if at all. I understand you’re angry with me. Justifiably. But it would never have happened had you been a bit more patient.

When you chased me down and nearly ran me off the road a second time, I was not surprised. When you yelled at me and called me all sorts of embarrassing names, I didn’t yell back. I just tried to explain why I was upset. I could understand why you were. The difference, however, is that I was upset for having been scared for my life, while you were upset about having to do 15 seconds worth of cleaning.

I’m embarrassed that it came to that. My actions were unjustified. I’m embarrassed for my teammate that was riding with me. He shouldn’t have been subjected to such a scene. I apologize, and I regret that the situation even happened. Especially, I regret that as I spat upon your driver’s side window, the window happened to be open.


  1. That last sentence is one of the most awesome zings I have ever read.

    Well played, sir.

  2. Not sure what to say.

    I hear in some countries drivers are very courteous toward cyclists. Certainly that's not the case here, the home of the automobile culture. Could it change? Probably not in my life time, but maybe. Hence, confrontations will happen.

  3. i'm pretty sure i would have said some pretty mean things to the driver. well, to BOTH drivers.

    i'm pretty good at riding with no hands, so i could have used both hands to express my displeasure for an extended period.

    what i couldn't do would be to spit at the driver. not because i wouldn't want to or don't think he deserves it.

    but because i'm perhaps the worst spitter in the world, and would just as likely hit YOU or myself with the spit.

    which wouldn't be what i was going for.

  4. Much as I thought "Yeah!" when I read the last sentence, I feel I have to throw out the old reminder: car vs. bike, car always wins.

    I actually think about 99.9% of drivers are great around bikes. The problem is that there are so many cars that 0.1% of cars is still a lot of cars.

    Oh, and I too am a lousy spitter, and am therefore similarly awed by your spitting acumen.

  5. The last sentence is hilarious! And I am a lousy spitter too - it would have only hit me in my face.

    Of course, this is a battle you can never win. That jerk will only continue his behavior and never understand from a cyclist's view.

    In Colorado, they passed a law last year requiring cars stay at least 3 feet from cyclists. I wish they would require those violators to ride everyday for one week on busy roads with no bike lane or shoulder - maybe those drivers will then gain some perspective.

  6. Sometime when we go on a ride I will have to tell you about my ride with my brother that ended in a rock being thrown at a car and police involvement. You would be proud of him.

    Just be careful out there. I do believe you gotta take a stand at times even if it may make them dislike you even more, if that is possible.

  7. I believe we have a 3 foot rule here too.

    I once witnessed a cyclist take off his shoes stand in front of a car at a light. He proceeded to not so politely ask the driver to get out so he could kick his arse. Probably one of the coolest and dumbest things I have ever seen.

    I too cannot spit so I use hand gestures.

  8. I second Fatty's remark. Very clever. Made me say, "OH!" then I read it to the Spouse.

  9. Last year some really fat f&^% cut me off in his red expedition then slammed on his brakes to "teach me a lesson" when I pulled up next to him he started screaming about how bikes want equal rights and yada yada.
    I didn't say a word just hawked a giant loogie and spit it in through the passenger window.
    Now should I feel bad that it hit his wife in the face, Or Is it partly her fault for not kicking her husband in the balls when he pulls that kind of shit?

  10. Pat: let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  11. Okay, here is my story. We were heading up Millcreek Canyon and someone in a car threw a penny at my brother and hit him. My brother was pissed so he picked up a rock and we proceeded up the canyon, which as you know is a dead-end. After a while the car comes back down and my brother moves into the middle of the road to get the car to stop. Instead of stopping they swerve around him and almost kill me standing on the side of the road and my brother throws the rock at their car and makes a nice dent. We keep riding up the canyon and eventually they catch up with us. Angry words were exchanged, they act like they want to fight, they threaten to call the cops and we say go ahead.

    They leave and as we make it to the bottom of the canyon there are the police waiting with the boys. The police were pretty cool about the whole thing and were actually harder on the idiots in the car for throwing something from a moving vehicle at a cyclist. My brother didn't want to press charges and I guess they didn't either and nothing more comes of it.

  12. I spent all winter in backcountry during the most active avalanche seaon on record. With the time change, I commuted by bike to/from work Wednesday in traffic. It was the first time I've felt in real danger all winter. Kind of ironic that most people I know think I'm crazy to BC ski, but think commuting by bike is cool.

  13. Grasshopper, I cousel practicing your license plate memorizing skills. The last line WAS good, however!

  14. Rabid: in light of your post today, I have to ask what kind of "Oh" you said to the Spouse?

  15. "Oh" is the letter and theme of today so it was said often and in many contexts. Tomorrow we'll graduate to "N".

  16. Our alphabet goes backwards. Evidently.

  17. Holy sh----t. Many years ago, I was out riding, small town, little traffic, fair pace - car speeding up behind me decides he is going fast enough to pass me and turn right into his driveway, which he did. What would have happened if I hadn't had the wherewithal to turn right along with him and end up beside him in his driveway? I was shaking, didn't say anything - rode off without a word. I know it would be different today. I would be part of his car.

  18. YES!!! That last sentence was icing on the cake! I throw water bottles.