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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61 Responses to “Shared Commute”

  • I can’t believe how many drivers out there honestly believe that bikes have no right to be on the road and, “the road is for cars.” They have no clue that bikes are considered a vehicle in MA with the same rights and responsibilities of a car and that it’s actually illegal to ride on the sidewalk.

    Then if you have to hop up onto the sidewalk for a minute to avoid being crushed like a pancake between moving/parked cars or the bike lane ends suddenly or it’s actually a multi-use path, there is always some helpful pedestrian there to scream, “YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE SIDEWALK!” A few days ago my gears were slipping and I pulled up onto the sidewalk to fix it and then tested it for a few yards to make sure it was OK so I wouldn’t get killed if I slipped a gear in traffic. Not 5 seconds later, even though the sidewalk was wide and nearly deserted, some guy felt the need to yell at me. I explained to him that I was fixing my bike and he rudely said, “OK, fine.” I hate how people in public places always assume the worst intent and they are so ready to rip you a new one over it, like I’m purposely riding there to be an asshole.

    We really can’t win, everybody hates cyclists.

    Bike safety will never improve until there is more driver education. There needs to be some kind of public awareness campaign to get drivers to understand that bikes have a right to use the roads. Billboards in conspicuous places, perhaps?

    FWIW, it seems like every time I get yelled by a driver it’s a middle aged guy driving a big ass SUV.

    On the other hand, most of the drivers I’ve encountered in Cambridge and Somerville seem pretty courteous. I’ve been biking for years and I can count the times I’ve been harassed on one hand. I’m sure that would be different if i was riding in a more traffic prone area though.

    I know what a pain in the ass sitting in traffic is, I drive a car too, but my philosophy is that I’m not getting anywhere in this town faster than a bike anyways so I might as well chill out.

    • David

      I ride a rather unique type of bicycle called a Velomobile. Actually it’s a tricycle but under Mass Law it falls under the same definition as a bicycle. I’ve been pulled over by 7 different police departments 8 times but never ticketed. They can’t understand why I can maintain the speed that I do with out an engine. The town I live in, I have been told by the police that they know when I am on the road as their phones starts to ring. I’ve even been on the police scanner more times than I can count. This was the first one. “Report of a road hazard. A small, bright yellow, motorized vehicle, no tags, with no lights, moving at a high speed.”

      I don’t know what they mean by no lights as I run enough lights to land on the dark side of the moon along with tail lights, brake lights and turn signals.

      What gets me is when I’m exceeding the speed limit only to be passed and cursed at by a motorist. Or to have a motorist follow me to where ever I’m going, only to try and tell me that I am not allowed on the road. This has happened at least a dozen times in the last couple of years.

      A bunch motor headed busy bodies who don’t know jack about the rules of the road.

    • Marianna

      pics or it didn’t happen!

    • David

      Pics? Of what?

    • Oddly enough, I seemed to get honked at MORE for taking the lane when I’m going the same speed as traffic, even if it’s over the speed limit, which only happens on decent downhills or for short periods in 25mph zones. For some reason people seem more upset by a non-motorized vehicle going fast than by one going slow!

      Velomobiles look pretty cool, I’ve never gotten to see one up close, but the whole concept seems fun.

    • David

      Matt

      What you describe is the “I have to pass” point and shoot mentality of the unwashed motoring masses. It doesn’t matter whether your doing the speed limit of exceeding it, they can’t have you in front of them.
      It’s all to common.

      I find with my Velomobile that the safest place to be is right in the middle of the travel lane. I’ve been pulled over 8 times but never ticketed. There wasn’t anything the cops could do as there wasn’t anything wrong with what I was doing.

      This is one of the most watched Velomobile videos ever made. Check out the max speed on the computer at the end.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmmWUzsnbhk

      The guy in the orange velomobile has ridden his Velo in Paris Brest Paris (1,200 kilometers )three times. Each time he had a 90 hour cut off to finish. In 2003 he rode from Paris to Brest in 27 hours. He then got a full nights sleep and returned to Paris in 26 hours.Total time of 62.5 hours.
      2007 he rode PBP non stop in 55 hours and 5 minutes. 2011 he did it in just under 56 hours.

      I had a friend ride the 2011 PBP on a custom built diamond frame randonneur bike. He rode it in 89 hours and 40 minutes. just 20 minutes shy of the 90 hour cut off.

      Here is one of two videos that I have done.

    • I have a theory that drivers feel they need to overtake cyclists out of some deep-seated feeling that cyclists are eroding rights to road-space that are naturally theirs. I expound said theory in this blogpost, which relates the story of a guy who tried to overtake me when I was taking the lane on a road that I always cover faster than motor vehicles: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/bikes-can-be-hard-to-overtake.html
      Invisible Visible Man
      http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com

    • Ben

      I’ve been riding downhill on a 25-mph residential street, so going around 30 mph myself, and still had drivers curse at me and cut me off going even faster. I think they get a sort of tunnel vision where the only thing they are aware of on the road is the bike. They don’t see their speed, don’t see the vehicle in front of you that they are going to end up tailgating after they pass you, and sometimes don’t even see the oncoming vehicle that they run off the road.

    • David

      Ben. There is a point and shoot mentality among a goodly portion of the unwashed motoring masses and woe are those who presume to get in their way.
      The way people drive, it shows just how little skill or training that they actually have. It’s just way to easy to get a drivers license in this country.

    • Moopheus

      “it’s actually illegal to ride on the sidewalk”

      This is not precisely true. What the law (in MA) says is “(3) bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks outside business districts when necessary in the interest of safety, unless otherwise directed by local ordinance.” Some cities (I know Cambridge and Somerville do this) actually mark the sidewalks where riding is prohibited.

  • traffic cyclist

    wish you could have done this?

  • X

    Please don’t wait until something like this happens again to file a report!

    This certainly seems like aggressive driving to me. File a report now and get it on paper with the police department. It is likely that nothing comes of it right now, but if the same driver is aggressive towards another person, your prior report may help establish a pattern of aggressive driving. If someone gets hurt, it won’t be as easy to claim it was a simple mistake. Having even these relatively minor events documented is important!

  • I nearly got right hooked by a guy in a Jeep Cherokee last week. I had just finished riding with my daughter to her school, and had decided to grab coffee and breakfast at the deli around the corner.
    Lo and behold, Mr. Right-Hook was headed to the same deli! As I got in line, I said “man, you almost hit me back there” and he launched into this loud tirade about how bicyclists don’t belong on the road, etc. It turned into a bit of a scene, but I tried to behave myself.
    Turns out he’s a regular at the same place I often go, although, after I saw him there twice he doesn’t seem to have been back. I didn’t report his license, but I seem to have ruined his breakfast, so… I don’t know what that means in the grand scheme of things.

  • kelley

    it irks me that drivers are long gone before I can come up with a witty retort. Seems like they always come late, but the most recent one that i’m keeping on deck for all the people who tell me to ride on the sidewalk is that it’s a road bike not a sidewalk bike.

    Now if only I could figure out an adequate reply to the ones that tell me i’m looking to get myself killed riding in traffic.

  • Lee Hollenbeck

    I too carry a copy of the mass bike “share the road ” article.

  • Dan

    I have had this happen before, my “retort” was to stick my gum directly on the drivers windshield.

    People don’t need to agree with me, but on some level I feel that drivers should be wary of exactly what a cyclist can do, and get away with and be mindful that many cyclists DONT do exactly that. Maybe that is the problem. when drivers need to start replacing mirrors and windows perhaps they will remember that unless they are ready to commit vehicular assault they are in a hard to deal with scenario.

  • me

    One time I got in confrontation with a driver who was more than excessively honky. It was weird, but the police office explained how I could take him to court and give him a ticket myself. I found a volunteer lawyer to do it for me, and in the end we ended up in mediation and he had to read the relevant portion of the driver’s manual and apologize. There was also some sort of glitch where we were both notified we missed a court date, and for whatever reason, he ignored it, and he lost his license for a month.

    I wouldn’t do it again, but I was really mad.

  • me

    I agree that you should def report things like this as aggressive driving. At very least, the driver will get a phone call or a visit from police to see what the deal was, and maybe they will tell him/her that bikes belong in the road.

  • Steve

    I read this before I left work Thursday and it made for a tense ride home remembering the handful of close calls and unpleasant encounters I’ve had over the years commuting. I’m glad to know you didn’t get hurt or your bicycle damaged.

    And “the girl with a straw-basket-bag rigged as a back pack” may be my coworker. A fellow blogger captured her in this entry over a year ago: http://chiccyclist.blogspot.com/2011/02/helena-handbasket.html
    Same person? I will let her know.

    • bikeyface

      Haha, yes that is her! I’m always behind her (when I’m actually on time.)

    • Steve

      I’ve let her know that she is becoming a local bike blog celebrity, although she did mention that the famous basket bag is beginning to fall apart.
      We may actually have a similar commute for part of the way because sometimes I see my coworker as well heading down Hampshire from Inman on our way over the Longfellow into the Back Bay.
      But I’m not always on time either.

  • Many of our team here ride to work and unfortunately, have had similar experiences. *sigh*

  • VM

    Last fall a guy in a tow-truck blasted his horn at me for a half mile before pulling up beside me and screaming “That is NOT a F***ING motorcycle. Get OFF the f***ing road!” I was all the way to the right, and there was no traffic in the other direction– he could easily have passed me.

    This was before they painted prominent bike lanes on Dot Ave, and started sending bike lane awareness leaflets with the yearly motor vehicle excise tax bills. Is it wrong to fantasize that he had a stroke from rage when he saw those?

    • Ben

      I had a similar situation with a semi on a 4-lane road in a commercial area, not even a high-speed through street. He honked, I motioned to the left lane going in the same direction, he continued to tailgate me for the next 10 minutes. After he ran a red light so that he could continue to tailgate me, he honked again and this time seemed to realize why I pointed to the other lane afterward. And then, believe it or not, he moved back over and made the next right onto a dead-end side street. All that noise pollution, dangerous driving, and anger over about a mile going 25 in a 35 mph zone. Incredible.

  • dr2chase

    Maybe that’s the same woman-in-a-Mini who didn’t stop for me when I was WALKing my bike into a crossWALK. Did she have a tire scuff on her right rear fender?

    Also, regarding sidewalks, as someone else noted, we’re banned in business districts, but not in general. Useful to know, for some overly tight stretches of road.

  • Jon Webb

    I take the lane, too, when I feel it’s necessary, but also expect to get honked at when I do. At least if they honk at me I know they see me.
    That drawing of the aggressive driver is pretty good. I’d expect that plus the license plate would be enough for a police report.

  • I have a section of suburban two-lane road with a wide shoulder, but including a stretch that is in terrible shape with potholes and loose gravel. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t. When I don’t, I need to control the travel lane if there is oncoming traffic. Twice in this situation, the motorist behind me has pulled onto the shoulder and zoomed past me on my right!

    It may have been one of those people with whom I got into a “discussion” at the red light a half mile later, and when we were done “discussing”, as he was rolling up his window, I heard him mutter “Jihadist bastard”! That was so out there it actually made my day!

  • Ethan Fleming

    This comic is a good way to describe why I love my helmet cam

  • Something that I keep coming back on my ride into work in the morning, why did you choose not share the license plate in the comic?

  • Wendy

    Apparently this woman was in DC to lecture the Crown Prince of Denmark as well as some other notable officials.
    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2010/06/danish-crown-prince-in-dc.html

    That is one of the things I like about bicycling, (and I say this with a great dose of facetiousness) it’s a great deal more socially equalizing. No matter who you are, if you’re on a bike, you’re a second class citizen like the rest of us.

  • Rudy Breteler

    My most violent experiences have been with male drivers, and I would say my interactions with negligent or verbally hostile drivers have been about equally split between genders (I am male). I wonder if female bicyclists experience a disproportionate percentage of negative altercations with female drivers because males are generally less inclined to provoke confrontation with women? (Excluding men whose goal is sexual harassment of course). That’s just a theory, and I would be happy if somebody respectfully told me they think it is wrong.

    I hate to say it, because I really wish nobody would feel inclined to wear a helmet camera, but since I have started using a helmet camera, I haven’t had a single interaction like the one you just described. I think drivers see it up there flashing away on top of my helmet and swallow their impulses. Before I wore one, these things happened all the time. I started wearing one after a somewhat similar instance to what you just described, but instead of simply cutting in front of me, the driver intentionally hit me with his car in a fit of road rage, slightly injuring me and totaling my bicycle. Sadly, though I used to make as much fun of people with the helmet cameras as everyone else does, that instance prompted me to join them.

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