Shared Commute

I’m a creature of habit, I take the same route to work every day along with many others. I recognize many people on my commute. There’s the girl with the gold helmet, her guy friend who wears plaid shirts exclusively. There’s the middle-aged woman with the very large panniers who always dresses for rain. There’s the girl with a straw-basket-bag rigged as a back pack. There’s the girl with the old rust-orange bike who always insists in biking faster than me no matter what. Of course these are all bicyclists.

I’ve always suspected I’m biking alongside the same drivers everyday too. But it’s hard to tell since cars are pretty anonymous looking. Only the unusual cars ones stand out. Or the dangerous ones.

One day last May I was riding home in the rain. Because of the weather, the crazy traffic, the door zone, and the collective mood of the street I didn’t feel comfortable filtering and wanted to stay as visible as possible. Even if it was slower. So I took the lane.

Shared Commute

I ignored it. They always honk. But then:

Shared Commute

I tried to ignore her. Yelling is just honking but with words.

But she was wrong and I couldn’t hold back. I started to give a well-researched explanation about road rules. She rolled up her window fast and…

Shared Commute

…used her car to forcibly pass my in the left half of the lane.

I was pretty shaken. The light changed immediately after and she wove through the dense traffic. I never got a plate and I regretted it. Even if I had, I didn’t know if I could do anything with it since I was not physically injured.

But like me, she apparently is a creature of habit. Because 10 months later…

Shared Commute

…which gives me a small bit of satisfaction. There may not be anything I can do but now I’m even more researched and know that I have a right to file a police report for aggressive driving if something like this happens again.

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  • Kate March 22, 2012   Reply →

    One time a driver in the opposite lane of a five lane road actually pulled over into the center turn lane in order to roll down her window and tell me I should be on the sidewalk.

    • pecosdave May 14, 2013  

      I was pulled over by a cop and told to ride on the sidewalk.

  • Antoine March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I think if she tried to “squeeze” past me like that her wing-mirror could possibly get caught on the sole of my shoe causing it’s removal from the car. I would feel ever so guilty but this is just how accidents happen ;^)

  • Andy in Germany March 22, 2012   Reply →

    Been there. Fortunately there’s a tiny bit more understanding of a cyclist’s rights here, and the law is a bit more on the cyclist’s side in the event of an accident which does make a noticable difference to driver behaviour, but there’s always a few, and it’s often the same drivers.

    (And one drives a car just like the one in your picture, funny that…)

    • Andy March 22, 2012  

      Hey, from another Andy in Germany, with one of those cars and a cyclist. It isn’t the car!

  • John h March 22, 2012   Reply →

    Not to be chauvinistic but, I think its that women drivers feel empowered when they are behind the wheel, women and kids seem to be the ones that most often blow through my flashing red lights when I’m driving the school-bus.

  • David March 22, 2012   Reply →

    Good job. File a complaint. Get it going and write her up.

    Good Luck.

  • Blume March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I recognize many people on my commute.

    I’ve started going to work a bit earlier recently (walking, because it’s only half a mile), and I often see you! (Hope that isn’t creepy feeling for you, that you’re recognized.)

    • bikeyface March 23, 2012  

      Nope, not at all. I’d say to say hi but I’m probably faster on bike. I say ‘probably because’ if it’s before 10am I may be zombie-biking (the very slow biking that happens pre-coffee where every muscle hurts and you can’t remember what it’s like to have energy.) When I zombie-bike I might as well be a pedestrian.

  • Petter March 22, 2012   Reply →

    The gender perspective is interesting. I’ve been in three incidents with cardrivers here in sweden (one was a minor accident the two others just felt dangerous), all of them with male drivers.

    It’s a very good idea to learn your local rules _before_ something happens. Here in Sweden for instance you have a right to see the other persons driving license if you believe he has done something illegal towards you. If he/she refuses you are allowed to try to stop him/her.

  • cycler March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I wonder if the rain brings out the massholes, or if it’s just that everyone else tries not to drive :)

    It’s funny, I had a conversation with some friends at work about the people we see every day, and how we know if we’re running late or early based on the faces we see. Interestingly they noted that they probably see the same cars every day, but they’ve never recognized them, only the people walking or riding.

    I’d say my interactions with bad drivers are pretty split along gender lines, with a slight male bias.
    Glad you’re OK and that you got her plate :)

    • cycler March 22, 2012  

      Oh, and this morning a van pulled up in the left lane and the passenger rolled down her window to ask me a question about my bike. I don’t ever remember seeing her before, but she said “I see you every day- your helmet is so recognizable- I love it”

  • Phil Lindsay March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I carry Mass Bikes Same Roads Same Rights plastic give away piece for just such situations. Typically I give one or two out a month and it would be more if I could get to all the cars that deserve one. Related to the gender question, we find no extraordinary difference in who yells and does bad stuff. That said, typically the most reactionary are woman on cell phones while men in HUGE pick ups come in a close second. “Get on the sidewalk” is what I hear most from men and “F-U” is what I get most from the cell-distracted females.

    • n March 22, 2012  

      having something that explains the law to hand to them instead of talking is a great idea! I want to start doing that too!

  • Ben March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I had this happen to me once where there was a car-width median and the car actually pulled up next to me, in the median, at a light so they wouldn’t have to be behind me, then pushed me into the car to my right (I was in the left lane, legally) as they left. I attempted to file a hit and run report, but the officer spent the entire time lecturing me about being in the left lane and then never even filed the report. Gotta love the Columbus Police Department.

  • Jessica Mink March 22, 2012   Reply →

    From personal observation (and sort of controlled experiment), I think that men *tend* to be more polite to woman cyclists than they are to male cyclists. Data doesn’t confirm whether the reverse is true. My favorite pulll-over-window-down was when a man in a car on Columbus Ave. in Boston told me that I should have stopped for a pedestrian in the last cross-walk. I hate when holier-than-thou drivers really are! Ever since, I’ve been very careful to stop for pedestrians when they might have the right of way, pulling into the center of the lane so that cars can’t pass me and run down the pedestrians.

    • n March 22, 2012  

      from my experiences of men shouting ” F U bitch” or the like at me from their cars while I am biking, this is not universally the case…. or maybe they say even less polite things to men?

  • Moopheus March 22, 2012   Reply →

    That happens to me too: I see some of the same bikes over and over again. One of my wife’s coworkers rides along the same route in the other direction. Sometimes pedestrians, too. When I was commuting by subway, I’d see the same people going home at the same time. But rarely with cars.

    Annoying woman in a Mini? My first thought was that it was my mother, but she doesn’t commute in Boston.

  • miz_bonnt March 22, 2012   Reply →

    my favorites are the ones who pull up too close so they can shout, “you don’t pay taxes. get out of the road”. eyeroll.

  • Charlie March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I always find it amusing when motorists get mad at you for taking the lane, especially in Boston. Besides the fact that it’s perfectly legal to take the lane, it’s funny that motorists think that you doing so slows them down. Even if they do manage to pass you, you’ll just see them at the next red light anyways. What’s the big rush?!

  • Piother March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I agree, file a report next time something like that happens

  • Marianna March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I guess I’m just lucky commuting to LMA – the gridlock and huge number of bikes have beaten drivers into submission. Though the odd one will do extremely odd things – I usually just assume that they’re suburban people who are driving in to visit someone in a hospital (probably a child) and just don’t know how things work around here. Strangely enough, though, I got my first honk in months today! I was in a left turn lane and the oncoming van stopped at its green, and I didn’t OMG GO IMMEDIATELY because I didn’t want to die when their text message was finished, and HONK! Super dumb

    Also! Glad to hear that I’m not the only one who won’t filter in heavy rain! Makes me feel less crazy waiting in line with the cars while all the bikes whiz by.

    • bikeyface March 22, 2012  

      I commute to the LMA area too and 98% of the time I don’t have problems. When I do it’s usually raining/snowing or right before a holiday of some sort. Also on weekends it’s a bit of a free for all. And I don’t always filter in good weather either, I hate being in blind spots and I’m perfectly happy to take my time at lights. Then I pedal like crazy on green. Going fast is fun.

  • Buttermilque March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I’m so glad it’s not just me! For some reason the only poeple who have ever harassed me have been overweight women (this is not me trying to say I am better then them, I am just stating an observation). So strange.

  • Ann E. March 22, 2012   Reply →

    I’m glad you posted this. It happened to me a few weeks ago, and he nearly ran me off the road in his rage. I was honestly frightened and scared, all shook up. In Chicago it seems to be middle-aged white men in expensive cars, from my experience. I’ve learned to just pull over and wait for the crazies to pass, it isn’t worth risking being hurt. I do wish I had the chance to get that guy’s license plate number, though. I’ll have to remember I can file a report.

  • GRJim March 22, 2012   Reply →

    A woman with a penis is just the worst possible man, no offense to hermaphrodites.

    • Marianna March 22, 2012  

      The preferred term is intersex!

    • GRJim March 22, 2012  

      I will update my PC glossary.

  • Dave March 22, 2012   Reply →

    Heh, in my experience, I find more men going unreasonably fast on small streets (like the one right in front of my apartment), and more women doing crazy things like putting on makeup or reading while driving.

    The worst incident I’ve had so far, though, was a man. He was driving behind me on a small 2-lane road (with no lane markings), honking and yelling at me to get out of the way. He then finally gunned it and passed me, just to stop at a stop light about 10 feet ahead. As he was passing, I gave him a shrug, like “what are you doing?”, but didn’t say anything. After he stopped, he got out of the car, came back, and shouted at me “You got a problem? I can sure give you one!” I simply replied that I was just trying to get home. He got back in the car and sped off when the light turned, then took a left through a red light at the next intersection. Real winner, that guy.

    Thankfully in the last 4 years or so, I’ve only had a few incidents like that.

    I often see a lot of the same people walking, more than people riding bikes. In a sense, I think the same thing tends to happen to me with people on bikes as people in cars – many of them are wearing homogenous “cycling” clothes (neon colors with black), and so they all kind of blend together to me. I sometimes even don’t recognize people I know at first when they’re on a bike because they look nothing like what they look like off the bike. That’s not to knock them, just an observation.

    There was an elderly English couple I used to see a lot on my rides in to work, and sometimes I’d stop and talk with them for a while. Last I’d heard, their dog died, and I haven’t seen them much since then. I often think about them and hope they’re doing alright. There’s this pair of guys I also always see walking and chatting on my way to work, and sometimes on my way home. I also often see one of my neighbors walking her dog in the morning just when I’m leaving home. It’s nice having those sort of routine interactions – it makes it feel a bit more like you inhabit a place, like you’re a part of a group of people.

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