This Old Man Cray Cray

Last Friday I posted about how I’ll be riding my bike more because, when it comes right down to it, cycling is often a more relaxing way to commute than driving. Earlier in the morning I had driven to the lake, swam 1.7 miles (about 3,000 yards, or 2,700 meters), and tried to take it easy on the bike into the office. I had a nice tailwind that moved me right along before it turned into light rain for the last 10 minutes.

After putting in a full day at work, I headed home, telling myself that I wasn’t going to work too hard or add too much distance. An hour should do it. An hour of relaxed cycling on a beautiful afternoon. The first 59 minutes of that ride were great, and then it got weird.

Some background: There are some things you should know about me. (1) I’m pretty laid back when I’m riding, and I like to follow the rules, but I don’t take shit when I’m within my rights. (2) I have a very loud yell when I need it. (3) While I usually reserve the yelling for people who aren’t paying attention and are about to hit me, I will occasionally chastise bad driving behavior. (4) My biggest pet peeve when I’m riding is drivers who pass me and then immediately turn right. Someone hit me this way when I was a teenager. (5) It’s illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to turn directly after passing, and it’s not a legal defense for a driver to say that he or she didn’t see the rider.

With that set up, back to our story.

I’m literally one minute from my car at the lake when I sense a car behind me. We’re at the crest of a very steep uphill on a narrow road without lane markings. I’m going 10-15 mph, but in 10 seconds I’ll be going 35 mph. At the bottom of the hill there’s a dangerous intersection, and I frankly don’t want to deal with being behind a car going into that intersection, so I’m in the middle of where my lane would be if it were marked.

The driver has personal issues, so he decides to pass me on this blind uphill, gets just past me, and puts on his right turn signal.

So I shout, “HEY, C’MON!”

And he hits the brakes and comes to a screeching stop. I’m getting ready to go past him—like I said, it’s a fast downhill—but I’m cautious, which is good because he just about doors me.

I stop, and this old man is immediately in my face, raving and cursing.

“WAS THERE SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO FUCKING SAY TO ME?”

I’m calm, but I’m thinking, “This old man be cray!” He had already done three dangerous things, and now he’s raving. Who knows what he’s going to do next. I couldn’t see myself making any headway in a reasonable conversation, and I could honestly imagine him trying to take a swing at me. So I start to clip back into my pedals preparing to leave. I simply say, “What you did was illegal and dangerous.”

“THAT’S BULLSHIT! AND YOU CAN’T RIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. THAT’S ILLEGAL!”

Like I said, the sputtering old man cray-cray, so I just said at a normal voice, “That’s not true,” and I take off. And he pulls into his driveway, which is 20 yards after where he passed me.

As I was pulling up to my car in the parking lot I was still thinking about what had just happened. Mostly I was bemused by how ridiculous that old man was. I’ve had altercations with drivers who didn’t like cyclists in the past, but this was the most ludicrously venomous one of all. And I was also feeling just a little proud of how I handled the situation. A couple of years ago I was occasionally chasing down drivers who acted dangerously. Now I’m trying to stay Zen about the whole thing.

I’m going to call that ride a success.

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5 Responses to This Old Man Cray Cray

  1. Caroline says:

    Wow, I don’t know how I would respond to this. Good for you for staying cool. And not crashing or dying, obviously.

  2. StephenS says:

    For your own safety, you have to remain calm in those situations. Though if it were me, it would be really difficult. Glad everything is okay, but watch out for that car from now on.

  3. Nancy Patrick says:

    I am glad it turned out the way it did and that you exercised caution in preventing being “doored” by this guy and carefully removing yourself from a possible escalating situation. I am glad that you are now trying to stay ZEN rather than chasing down drivers who acted dangerously, which can have some possible damaging results to your person.

  4. Glenn Edgar says:

    I ride a motorcycle regularly, so can identify with your frustrations. I also love riding my bicycle. Great exercise, and it’s not boring like “riding” at the gym. They do have some big difference safer wise. I’m curious: Are you allowed (legally) to take up a lane like a car, or are you supposed to keep right?

    Ironically, for the same reason it sounds like you did what you did, on a motorcycle it’s VERY dangerous NOT to centrally occupy a lane near intersections. I’m stopped at a red light, ready to turn left, so I’m in the far left side of my land. A car turning right on the red, crept by me, and proceeded to turn right. What was the problem? He ran over my toes!! Luckily, just barely, and they weren’t injured. I actually considered it my fault. If I want my “personal safety space” to be as big as a car, I make sure to occupy lanes like a car. Specifically, stay enough in the center of the lane so some car doesn’t share it with you. LOL

    On a bicycle, I would obviously imagine that NOT being able to do this is one of the hazards. Also, I minimize risk by riding like I’m invisible, and if traffic isn’t heavy, I ride faster than the average follow speed. Having cars zooming by is a danger of bicycles. This keeps you away from the cars. Away from blind spots, and v from goofy things they might do. A pack of cars vanishing in your rest view mirror won’t hurt you!

    This is one reason why motorcycles are SO much safer than bicycles! LOL JUST KIDDING! :-)

  5. Jeff Mather says:

    Glenn, thanks for your perspective as a (bi/motor)cyclist.

    What’s legal varies by where you are. In Massachusetts, the law lets cyclists occupy the full lane if there’s no shoulder. When there is a shoulder the law states (I believe) that bicycles need to be as far right as it’s safe to be. So if the shoulder is not safe, you can ride in the traffic lane. In Mass, I tend to stay about 18-24″ inches to the *left* of the white line unless there is a really good shoulder. It slows people down, and it makes it easy for me to miss potholes and such. Of course, if I’m going at or near the speed limit, I occupy the full lane. (It happens!)

    Stay safe out there.

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