On getting yelled at by a guy in a pickup

Believe it or not, I don’t get yelled at much. But I did this week. Twice actually if you count “skinner city cyclist’s” comment on the last post.

(I love “skinner.” Usually I completely disagree with most of what he says, but he has a certain charm. And every now and then he keeps me honest. But we’ll get to that in a minute.)

First, my commute to work. I was heading down 13th in the bike lane. I stopped at a red light at Pearl. I will point out that I actually stopped and waited for the light to turn green. So there.

(Yesterday, I watched a guy approach a red light on a bike. Two cyclists were stopped in front of him in the bike lane, waiting for the light. As he neared them, he said, “Oh, come on!” sort of weaved between them and accelerated right through the red light. But I digress.)

The light turned and I continued down 13th. I wanted to turn left on High, which meant merging left across two lanes of traffic to get to the left turn lane. There was a line of traffic in the right lane. But at one point a small gap appeared, I made a signal with my left arm, and veered left into the right lane in front of a black pickup. The left lane was clear, so I just kept going left.

It was like this, more or less:

The guy behind me in the pickup laid on the horn. Since I was now in the left lane, he came by on my right. He rolled down the window, and screamed in what I judged to be an unfriendly manner: “You think you can pull in front of people just because you’re on a bike?! You have to obey the rules!” Or something to that effect.

This is way out of line. I would have cut the guy off if I had been driving a car, too.

But he didn’t have to slam on his brakes or anything. I never felt I put myself in danger of being hit, although I may have mildly impeded him from racing right up to the rear bumper of the car in front of him and then slamming on his brakes.

But this is a problem we face, people. The image that cyclists are arrogant jerks.

Look, I’m willing to say my lane change was maybe “assertive.” But to suggest it had anything to do with my being on a bike is just wrong. If he wanted to call me an arrogant jerk, that’s OK. But it’s not because I’m on a bike.

But this raises a question: If you believe in the urban cycling “movement,” do you bear more responsibility to ride courteously, to conduct yourself in impeccably virutuous ways at all times? You know, in a fruitless effort to improve the image of cyclists in general? I don’t know. Maybe so.

Now to “skinner’s” comment on the post in which I called for EPD Appreciation Day. I forget sometimes, that people take this blog seriously.

But the point he makes that I was condoning or encouraging irresponsible cycling — you know, admiring the guy riding backwards up Willamette Street — is probably a legitimate thing to point out.

One day I scold people for running red lights. Another day I cheer on riding backwards. I could apologize — like Rep. Todd Akin — suggesting I accidentally “used the wrong words in the wrong way.”

But I’m going to escape from this bit of hypocrisy instead just by quoting Walt Whitman:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

26 thoughts on “On getting yelled at by a guy in a pickup

  1. To address your question, yes I think we do have a certain amount of responsibility as urban cyclists to pay more attention to motorists laws. I am not much of a crusader on this issue and I have been yelled at a few times myself. Once I was parked in a red zone underneath a no parking sign. Ha! I sheepishly moved even though there was no one around for blocks. Another time I was in a yellow zone waiting for customers. I ignored this cyclist who berated me for being in the way and told me to get on the sidewalk. I pay city fees and reserve the right to park in a yellow zone when the situation warrants it.

    I do realize that my situation is somewhat different, carrying around passengers and putting them at risk when I do not obey traffic laws. One of my drivers was pulled over for running a red light and given a warning…deservedly so. Wednesday I was giving a tour to a couple from India down the river path. Two cyclists were passing me and a young man decided to pass them. Since my pedicab is over four feet wide, this left little room on the path. A woman coming the other way yelled at the young man telling him to “get the f— out of the way!” Not exactly the best example of our bicycle friendly city.

  2. You signaled your intent to get to the left side of 13th to make the left onto High, sounds llike you did all the right legal things to me. Maybe you distracted the guy in the pickup truck from his game of “Angry Birds”. Bikes have the right to be on the road too. Some folks look for a crosswalk to utilize to get over to the left side through two lanes of traffic.

    1. Oftentimes, I just come to almost a complete stop in the bike lane, waiting for the line of cars to clear, and then merge over. This day I was feeling a little more lively I guess.

    1. I think you’re correct on this, Ted. What’s weird I think is that bikes are even more “otherish” these days than when there were even fewer of them on the streets. Then they were just oddballs, not enough to be terribly concerned about. But now there are enough of us out there to be somehow … I don’t know … “threatening” might be too strong a word.

    1. I saw my favorite Springfield Bike Moment ever a couple days ago – I only wished I’d taken a picture.

      A dad, a mom, a kid on a bike, a kid in a trailer…. what makes it a Springfield Bike Moment? dad was pulling the trailer with a bmx bike. oh yeah.

      There’ll officially be a good enough reason to make the ride own when Planktown Brewing opens up in a couple months…. plus there’ll be another few miles of the Clearwater path, which is really nice, if a little out of the way.

  3. As a general rule, all urban cyclists should ride more assertively. Not rudely, but also not in the meek, hug-the-curb fashion of so many on the streets. And we shouldn’t lose sleep if circumstances dictate that we break a traffic rule.

    1. I totally agree. Cyclists should ride as if they had a right to use public infrastructure — because they do.

      My wife is a rather yielding person, but behind the wheel she’s quite assertive. On a bike she rides as if she has no right to use the road. She thinks I’m a maniac when I claim my cycling right of way in the presence of drivers who might take it from me. There’s something ingrained in our culture that teaches us to be deferential to motor vehicles. It seems to go beyond the mere fact that they are deadly weapons.

  4. I’m not a fan of following the rules of the road just because they are the law. The laws were written from the perspective of car drivers, and in many cases following the law is more dangerous than breaking it. I’m far more concerned about getting home safely to see my wife and kids than I am about if I did everything right.

    What laws do I break? There are certain spots on my daily commute where the road is simply not safe for cycling (especially on some of the bridges, and in construction zones). In those spots, I unapologetically take the sidewalk. I do immediately return to the road when the conditions are better. I also only come to a complete stop at stop signs and red lights if and only if cross traffic gives me no other choice. Too many people have been jumped in the vicinity of my work, and I’m not going to be the next sitting duck.

  5. Only problem: everyone is starting to quote Whitman. And if everyone contains multitudes, no wonder we have an obesity problem. I do the best I can out there, but worrying about what others think is more work than I have time for. Mainly, because of work. And because, having lived, ridden and observed others long enough, I find I just don’t care what they think–only what they do. By the way, thank you for doing your blog.

  6. I think being courteous and making a good impression is good, but only to a point. When you are on a bike the laws don’t protect you, so they don’t apply to you. If that guy in the pickup had hit and killed you, all he would have had to say is “I didn’t see him” and he wouldn’t have even gotten a ticket. He has a free pass to kill you at any time. That means you are subhuman in the eyes of the law on a bike, and laws only apply to humans. (Remember, it’s a criminal crime to kill a person walking or in a car, but only a civil crime to kill a person on bike. Thanks 1970’s)

    So, yes, stop at red lights because the good outweighs the bad (I do) but don’t think that you HAVE to. Sure, you’d get a ticket if caught, but there are many things that are illegal that shouldn’t be – and many things that are legal that shouldn’t be (like killing people on bikes).

    You need to ride like everyone out there has a free pass to kill you (they do) and if that means ride aggressively to make a left turn in a badly designed intersection do it. It would have been even safer if you’d take the lane a lot earlier, but I’m sure you didn’t out of some sort of respect. If respecting people in cars make them angry anyway, just do what’s safest for you.

      1. Here is some source material


        “In the ’70s, with cycling’s surge in popularity, America’s criminal courts began to be so overwhelmed with cases that, as part of a state-by-state court reform, car-bike collisions were downgraded as criminal matters and turned over to civil courts for the purpose of meting out compensation to victims. Thus, in most states, anything less than cases of wanton disregard for human life, malicious intent or gross misconduct with a motor vehicle will merit little more than a ticket; and sometimes not even a ticket.

        “Until then, motor vehicle offenses were criminal,” explains David Hiller, advocacy director for the Cascade Bicycle Club in Washington State. “Then, in exchange for waiving the right to due process, and to unclog the courts, the trade-off was those cases would be handled in civil court.”

        As civil cases, says Portland, Oregon lawyer Ray Thomas, they do little or nothing to advance real justice. “You could have a carrot for a lawyer,” he says, “and you (the injured) will get the limit [of monetary compensation].”

        “It’s extra work for the police officer to go to court,” says Thomas, who specializes in pedestrian- and bicycle-related cases. “Everyone just says, `Let the insurance companies work it out.’”

        “The lowest of the low” is how bike-vehicle collisions rank in the eyes of police, Thomas says. “They say, `Our job is to get criminals off the streets.’” Period.

  7. Leaving aside the pros and cons of the maneuvers in question, I’m just going to make another plug for 12th Ave (at least the part that’s open during the giant apartment construction) and 15th Ave as bike routes that are preferable to 13th Ave. I am a frequent rider, and I will take the lane with the best of them, but I’d rather avoid the chaotic scene on 13th altogether. All those car/bike merge lanes, traffic lights and pedestrians, busy driveways, and salmon/sidewalk bicyclists make 13th a road to avoid for me. I don’t even like driving my car on it.

    Give me a peaceful de facto neighborhood greenway any day. I take the lane all the way down 12th or 15th; any car going more than a block or two on those streets is just going to have to wait.

    And don’t get me started on 11th Ave…

    1. True. I often do take 15th. And 12th. But I like to mix things up. Some days I’m just in the mood for 13th. I know… that’s kinda weird. Like people who go to a bar just looking for a good rumble.

      1. I find 13th is a much better route than 15th due to the timed traffic lights. I loathe having to stop at *every* intersection on 15th; my knees aren’t that young. Given an appropriate treatment, 15th could be a world class facility. Right now, it’s just plain annoying.

  8. I think riding assertively (not to say aggressively) is ultimately safer than riding meekly. When you are assertive, you leave your fellow travelers in no doubt about your intentions — they don’t have to guess at what you are going to do. It also shows a confidence and (dare I say it) professionalism that should gain you respect as someone who knows what they are doing.

    That said, the presence of people on bikes scares some motorists for a variety of reasons and one of the natural reactions to fear is anger.

  9. I got yelled at by a taxi on Saturday.

    There was that immediate shot of adrenaline and chase instinct…

    Then I remembered that I do not want to chase, because I do not want to catch. (that was a hard lesson to learn)

    Then I realized…. that moron is at work, I can call his boss.

    So I called the phone number… I won’t say what business it was, but I dialed 434-taxi to get ahold of the dispatcher.

    I told him that I appreciated that while he was yelling at me, he passed me safely, and that’s what is most important – but that they should probably suggest that he not yell at potential clients when he’s out on the road. They seemed surprisingly receptive – I sorta figured I’d get snapped at.

    (I once called pedalers express after getting almost hit and then yelled at while walking on campus…they did a less good job of pretending that they cared)

  10. A co-worker of mine got hit on Coburg Rd yesterday – the driver drove off and my friend was left mangled on the side of the road with a broken clavicle. Be careful out there!

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