My friend, Christina called me out in an FB post yesterday:
I get a lot of unsolicited remarks when I ride my bike. Like, a lot. They range from comments along the lines of “you appear to be a female mammal endowed with the apparatus to suckle an infant” to suggestions such as “that isn’t how one signals a left, you ignoramus.” I’ve been struggling for a while with how to respond to these, but today [carfreepvd] turned me on to a lovely blog with the wonderful recommendation that simply being polite and smiling is the way to roll. Thanks, [carfreepvd]! I’m a lot happier about this now. But if I develop a heart problem in twenty years because of unexpressed anger, it’s your fault, okay?
First off, I am not responsible for the possible ill health effects incurred as a direct or indirect result of reading this blog. Please consult your doctor before beginning any blog-reading regimen. Secondly, I can only attempt to relate to the leers and rude, unsolicited comments that are made to the ladies who bike. Most of the bike blogs I read are written by ladies, and it seems to be a topic that comes up every once in a while. Christina was referencing this post on Let’s Go Ride a Bike, and I think that Lovely Bicycle! covered the topic well. Lovely Bike has been biking in Vienna recently, where she feels that she is the recipient of less leering than when she bikes in Boston. My experiences with the European leer are a little different.
I often walk or bike in the company of an exceptionally hot lady and I have noticed that she gets a few stares while she’s on the bike. But nowhere did I see more men stare at Spouse than on the sidewalks of Paris. I attempted to block these Gallic leers using the star-spangled laser beams of my steely-eyed glare. It was futile. The Frenchman enjoys leering, and little can be done to stop him. I can only imagine what would have happened if we had been brave enough to ride the Velib.
I’m glad to hear that Christina is going to try the positivity route. But one does need a little rage relief every once in a while. I recommend yelling at parked cars when you are biking down a traffic-free street (I know those are rare in Christina’s part of the world.) Just yell all of the things you would yell at the Masshole who gave you the helpful tip on proper turn signal procedure. When thinking about the motorists who endanger my life, I prefer the power phrase “ah ya fuckin blind oar ah ya ritahdid!?” Be sure to affect a New England accent of some type – it neutralizes any political correctness issues. Don’t use the adverb “wickid.” It’s considered uncouth.
After experiencing the white-hot, all-purifying fury of righteousness that came from screaming my head off at a driver who honked, passed to close and gestured at me; I felt like an alcoholic who had hit bottom. I’ve admitted that I have a problem, and I’m working to have a more relaxed attitude when motorists are rude to me. Still, I have the occasional relapse.
Friday morning, I was on my regular route, when some dirty hippy on an old Motebecane “shoaled” at the stop light. I said, “Dude, that was totally unnecessary.” But I said it inside my head! Not bad, hey?
I'm the blue line, the hippy is the green line. The thinner, dotted green line represents the hippy's path as he approached the intersection and then executed the shoal manuevre.
We both started up when the light turned green, the hippy and I rolling along at a fairly leisurely pace. He was probably only going 2 MPH slower than I usually go on this stretch of Canal Street. No big deal, I decided to stay at a respectful distance and occasionally roll my eyes in his general direction. There was no need to get in a commuter race. On this stretch of Canal Street, I often glance behind me to see what the cars are up to, but this time I was distracted by the hippy’s insistance on riding in the door zone. I was riding well outside of the door zone, about 1/3 of the way across the right-hand lane (note that there are 3 lanes on this stretch of Canal.
I wasn't following the hippy as close as this illustration would indicate. It would just take me too long to go back and re-edit the dang thing.
Then it happened. A minivan passed me way to close. I stuck out my hand to see exactly how close and I was easily able to touch the side of the car.
Oh snap, it was ON! I checked my six and put the hammer down, blasting the hippy’s dreadlocks with my pressure wave. After the minivan passed, I noticed that he had South Carolina license plates, but a Boston Celtics window decal. I saw the driver stick his left hand out the window, but he used all 5 fingers. Hmmm, that was a little confusing. I’m used to seeing just one finger extended from a vehicle with a Celtics decal. As I passed the speed limit, I resolved that I was not going to be confrontational, just educational. Perhaps as an out of stater, he’s not aware that he is required by Rhode Island law to pass me at a safe distance (hazily defined, as mentioned in a previous post).
The next light was red! “Ha-HA! I shall catch him and properly educate this scofflaw!” I thought to myself. But no, he blew through that light not noticing the “No turn on red” sign (or the traffic). Perhaps he was afraid of my wrath. His casual disregard for the law was no match for the traffic lights of downtown Providence – I caught up to him a couple blocks later. I practiced my speech in my head, steely eyes at the ready. As I approached, his window was rolled down and he hit me with a pre-emptive strike! A strike of contrition!
“I’m really sorry about that, I know I passed you too close, I realized I was doing it too late, are you okay?”
Whoa! What the -?
“I’m okay, you didn’t hit me or anything, you were just a little close.”
“I’m so sorry. I should know better.”
I broke out in a smile.
“No problem, I appreciate you apologizing. Have a good one.”
“All right, you too.”
The earlier hand gesture had apparently been an “apology wave.”
I turned left and headed to my office. He went on his way.
My faith in humanity, and even motorists, was renewed.
Later in the day, I desperately needed some iced coffee. I headed to the nearest coffee joint for some cool, caffeinated refreshment. Although I will take any excuse to go for a ride of any length, for this trip, I decided walk. This required crossing the street at a well-marked crosswalk.
There’s zebra stripes for the crosswalk, pedestrian crossing signs on both sides of the street, even a “Stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” sign! Still, in both directions I was nearly run down by cars who refused to stop for me while I was attempting to cross. I wasn’t standing timidly on the curb, I was in the middle of the road. Both of the offenders had Rhode Island tags. My faith in Rhode Island drivers was returned to its normal state.