Traffic error or judgmental assault?

Humans. I don’t understand them sometimes.

What is with this need some people have to punish others for what they view as transgressions?

Why do some individuals feel the need to go as far as physical assault to make their opinions known?

It’s a sad fact that, as groups, women, gay people, and religious and racial minorities have all suffered in this country at the hands of judgmental assailants. The newspapers are full of stories of such attacks.

Another minority apparently begging for some physical corrective action?

Cyclists.

Some people cannot stand the fact that slower, human-powered transportation might (legally!) require some of the same space typically used by automobiles. Just read the comments on any general news story about cycling and traffic law/infrastructure. It’s not pretty.

I was horrified by the recent comment of a family member, who complained about cyclists “who ride a foot into the lane, when they have plenty of space on the shoulder.” He noted that he likes to buzz the offending cyclists, to teach them a lesson.

My face flushed in anger.

“But there is often debris on the shoulder,” I spluttered. “It may not be safe to ride there.”

I would think, of all people, my relative, who’s an avid motorcycle rider, would understand about needing to avoid road debris, and also how dangerous it is for a large vehicle to pass a smaller one at close proximity and high speed.

Maybe he was kidding, trying to get a rise out of me. God, I hope he was kidding.

But I think maybe he was not, since he continued to disparage cyclists – how they “all” blow stop signs and ride the wrong way down streets and are a general menace on the road.

Yes, there are some cyclists, like some automobile drivers, who do boneheaded things. I wish police officers would pull over more misbehaving cyclists (and misbehaving automobile drivers!) so they can learn a lesson and hopefully change their behavior for the better.

But to potentially inflict grievous bodily harm or death on a cyclist because you don’t think they “deserve” to be on the road? What the heck kind of world do we live in??

This rant is all leading up to a personal experience.

Yesterday, Bugman and I went for our traditional Easter bike ride west on Highway 92, to have a picnic in the park in Lyman. We apparently started out at just the wrong time, as there was heavier traffic than we’d ever seen on that stretch of road – probably people leaving church, headed to brunches or family members’ homes for holiday celebrations.

On Highway 92, there is either a badly cracked/debris-strewn shoulder, or no shoulder. We need to ride out in the lane. Ordinarily, we have no problem. Most people are super courteous. I like to wave at them to say “thank you.”

But yesterday, a few people were careless and/or thought they needed to teach us a lesson.

There was the diesel pickup truck that safely passed us but floored the accelerator at just the right moment to leave us choking in a cloud of black exhaust fumes.

There was the little blue car that decided they could not spare a moment to wait and needed to sneak by us mostly in our lane instead of letting oncoming traffic (a motorcycle and a car) pass.

Then there was the real scare – the reason I am writing this post: a white pickup truck that hardly moved over, that did not seem to slow down, and that blew past us, way too close, way too fast. I was shaking with rage and adrenalin. To me, the message was clear: “GET OFF THE ROAD, CYCLIST! YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!”

“Now,” you say, “maybe it was a simple mistake. Maybe bias against cyclists was not the reason that person risked killing you. Maybe they were distracted. Maybe they didn’t see you.”

I don’t care if they were texting happy Easter greetings to their grandmother or if their vision was clouded by tears because their beloved dog had just died – THEY ARE DRIVING A LARGE AND HEAVY VEHICLE AND HAVE A DUTY TO NOT KILL OTHER PEOPLE WITH IT!

There was no oncoming traffic.

The two vehicles directly following the offending pickup saw us and moved over for us.

It was noonish – no chance for sun in the eyes. Also, in celebration of Easter and spring, I was wearing a brightly-colored floral shirt and rainbow-striped knee socks, definitely a contrast against the still-brown Wyobraska spring landscape.

I can’t help but think that close call was on purpose.

Maybe I have a chip on my shoulder, but when you hear anti-cyclist rhetoric often enough, you come to believe that “driving errors” are sometimes not errors.

I would have called this “driving error” in to the police, but we did not catch the license plate. Given the difficulty law enforcement has in proving that drivers violated the “three feet to pass” law, I doubt that it would have done much good anyway.

I can’t let this incident stop me from cycling. I have a right to be on the road, and I am willing to accept the responsibility to follow the rules of the road.

I can only hope others will accept their own responsibility to obey the rules and keep the roads safe for everyone. For those who don’t, I have this message: Check yourself before you wreck yourself. There’s now one more bike camera out on the road.

2 thoughts on “Traffic error or judgmental assault?

  1. I can share from personal experience about passive aggressive or just aggressive spiteful drivers. Drivers veer toward me as I run, forcing me into the ditch. Cars passing within 8 inches when there is a third lane available to pass.
    A man was killed in Colorado when a driver cut him off during a turn. The driver had been cited before for reckless acts toward bicyclists.
    I can’t understand why people can’t share the road with people who enjoy exercise.

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