I swear that rain makes drivers more stupid. Maybe they get delayed in traffic and feel like they need to hurry up more in order to get somewhere on time. There was an epic storm that moved NNE up the East Coast today, which means that it’s been raining continuously for about 24 hours now. It was not a fun day to ride a bike. Every once in a while, I wish that my commute was a little longer so I could enjoy my ride for more than 10 minutes – today I was very glad that it was just a mile and a half. The rains were pretty heavy for my evening commute and my shoes and socks were completely soaked by the time I got home.
In general, I’ve been pretty happy with Rhode Island drivers. The roads here are often narrow, and the vast majority of drivers give me plenty of room when they pass me. Today, however, I had four close calls. On my way down the hill, a car didn’t see me as he pulled out of an apartment building parking lot. I’m not sure how he didn’t see me – on rainy days I wear the brightest day-glo rain jacket on the planet. I swerved around his front end and he stopped short enough to miss me. As I passed him I let loose with a string of obscenities the likes of which I haven’t heard out of mouth in quite a while. I don’t have a horn on my bike, so I’ve got to do something, right?
On Exchange Terrace, right after crossing Memorial Blvd., a white van decided to shave 3 seconds off of his commute and passed me within a foot. If I can reach out and thump the side of your van, you’re too close. My thumping caused him to pause for a second, but he quickly moved on. After a couple of near-misses like this, I was wired with adrenaline for the next 30 minutes or so.
For my ride home, I figured I’d adopt the “claim the lane” strategy of biking in traffic. This is one of the “vehicular cycling” methods that some people swear by. Basically, you ride in the middle of the lane (or the right-hand wheel rut) and give cars no choice other than to go all the way into the other lane in order to pass you. This works best when there are two lanes of traffic and the cars can go into that other lane in order to pass you. On North Main, I took the right lane and I claimed it. A car behind me started honking. I gave a half turn to make sure nothing had fallen off my bike and all seemed to be intact. More honking. I continued with my claimed lane. There was another lane that was perfectly good for passing. More honking. I continued on and kept a look out back and to the left to prepare myself for when they passed me. When someone honks at me, and is finally able to pass me, I can expect them to express their anger by passing me too close. In this case, the honking driver moved all the way to the other lane as he passed me and then moved back to my lane. I was boiling a little by this point and considering catching up to the driver at the red light and letting him know that I had a right to the lane and that his honking just served to piss me off. If you think getting honked at while driving is annoying, imagine getting honked at while biking (it’s louder – and the vehicle expressing its outrage could easily kill you). And oh yeah, it was raining which is not pleasant for biking. As my blood got to about 190 degrees, a bus passed within 2 feet of me. A white van passing too close is one thing, but when a bus passes too close…. grrrr. I tried to remember the bus number and I even whipped out the iPhone to take a picture but this is all I got:
I was hoping to pull something like what one of the Bike Providence bloggers did when he was almost run down by a city service vehicle (check his post, it’s kinda neat), but in my rage, I couldn’t remember the bus number. 0504 maybe? Hmmm.
There have been periods in my life as a cyclist where I would ride with a great big anti-car chip on my shoulder, ready for the slightest injustice. Unexpectedly, since getting rid of my car, I feel like that chip has withered away and I’m willing to give most drivers the benefit of the doubt. Today, the chip came back in full force and I was ready to destroy a mirror or two. I felt like treating myself to some Indian take-out, and on the way home from NJS, with rainwater pooling in my shoes another car gave me three little honks. Oddly enough they were going in the other direction so I couldn’t figure out why until I saw the empty bike rack on the back and realized that they were honking their encouragement. Or at least, that’s what I’d like to think they were doing. I’m not in the mood for any more anti-car rage right now. I need to get to bed so I can ride in tomorrow morning.