Do you want a confrontation?

Posted by SuperClydesdale on April 30, 2012 under Commentary | 7 Comments to Read

I had a close call with a car this month – one of the closer ones in a while.

It was on an early season metric century – rides I do because they allow me to safely ride roads that I am too wise to ride alone.   The comfort of doing a large organized ride is built on the idea that, with so many bikes on the road, drivers will be aware, and somewhat resigned to the fact that they will need to share the road.

Every now and again, there’s the extremely important individual.  Far too important to wait for an opportunity to safely pass – these people are racing to urgent activities – some people become agitated.  The several seconds that would be required to wait for a safe passing opportunity is far too high a price to pay.  That heart transplant recipient will likely die on the table if the heart surgeon in the Toyota Camry behind you is forced to allow an oncoming car to pass before proceeding to pass you at a safe margin.  They must go on.  Time is valuable.  Lives are at stake.  You shouldn’t be riding a bike on a road anyway – roads are for cars.

My latest brush with disaster came on one of my favorite spring rides, through the California Sierra Nevada foothills outside of a town called Ione.   These are rural roads that loop through the  ridges and valleys, and take you across several dams that hold back large reservoirs.  You pass the back side of Camanche Reservoir, New Hogan Reservoir, and finally, Pardee Reservoir.  Pardee is my favorite, because you ride on narrow, one-lane roads  on top of the dam, and it has a very rustic feel.

There are two dams that you ride over at Pardee, and the second one has a stop light to mediate traffic and prevent cars coming from opposite directions at the same time.

Pardee Dam Road is a typically country road in this area.  Pretty narrow, with a bike lane that is comprised mostly of the white paint stripe on the right side of the road – the “fog line.”  So, there’s the paint stripe, and then 1-3 inches of pavement, then dirt or a gully.   Because of this, we ride single file, and in  particularly narrow parts,  where the generous 3-inch margin slims down to a mere 1 inch, I am dangerously close to the edge.  I’m experienced enough to ride on the paint stripe, and not be nervous.   I want to demonstrate to cars that I am doing my part to be a good partner on the road, and giving them as much of the road as possible.  This is a habit born of many years of riding solo on narrow, winding country roads.   I try not to inflame the locals.

Just as we are approaching the first of the two dams on Pardee, I see in my mirror a car approaching – he’s going pretty slow, probably 25 miles per hour, because he’s just inching past a buddy that I am riding with.  He’s probably 12-20 feet behind me, and I notice that the car is kind of close.  Within a few seconds, the car is beside me.  And, when I say beside, I mean clooooooose.  Probably within an inch or two  of my handlebars.   I was stricken with some serious sphincter pucker at that moment.    I’ve had a lingering phobia of having my handlebars hit by a side mirror, and falling beneath the car and being run over by the rear wheel.   I actually was almost sucked beneath a large delivery truck a few years back.    Similar situation, the damn truck driver was inches away from me, and passed me very slowly.  There was about three feet of clearance under the back end of the truck, and it acted like a vacuum.  That experience occurred as I was riding alongside a cement barrier, so that was truly terrifying.  It was all I could do to control the bike.  The situation this month was less scary, as the car was a Toyota Camry (as it turns out), and there’s probably be only enough room for a body part – like my arm, or my head.      It was also on the open road, so there was no vacuum effect.  But, the guy passed pretty slowly, so he was there for what seemed like several seconds.

Despite that, it was a significantly nervous moment, and I let the guy know it by shouting at him as he passed.   Once he was past, my buddy told me that he was just as close to him as he was to me, and that he had actually hit the car with his hand to try to get him to back off a bit.  But, he kept going and did the same thing to me.

Knowing that it could have ended up with me in the ditch at the side of the road, or – per my nightmare – had some part of my body run over by the Toyota-driving dufus, my blood was boiling.   It is so frustrating to see how people behave when they think that there can be no consequences.  Like people who post comments to news articles on-line, or spew unbelievable  low-life knuckledragging smack while playing Xbox Live (oh, yeah… I’m a Call of Duty FREAK).

The guy went on and disappeared around a bend.   Having done this ride before, I knew that we were coming up to the portions of the road that cross the two dams holding back Pardee Reservoir.  I told my friend that up the road about a half a mile, there was a chance that the guy would have to stop at the red light, where the road chokes down to a single lane.  If there was traffic coming from the other direction, and the light was red, the guy would have no choice but to stop.  We both humped it and it warmed my heart  to see that, as I came around a hill,  Mr. Toyota Camry was idling at the red light.

As I came upon the car, I went out to the driver’s side of the car.

As further proof of his high intelligence, he left his window down about an inch.  So, I did what any rational person would do — I took my bottle full of Cytomax and squirted it into his window and onto the side of the guy’s head.   I then squirted Cytomax all over his car, and went to the passenger’s side of the car.  I beckoned the driver to join me on the side of the road.  “Do you want a confrontation? I shouted?  Come on out!!!  Let’s have a confrontation!”

I must admit that I was proud of the mental clarity that I was able to demonstrate at that moment.  I figured that if he did in fact get out of the car and, I would predict, I kicked the living shit out of him, that I might be at least a little protected legally.   “Your honor, I asked him if he wanted a confrontation, and that if he did, he should get out of the car.  He got out of the car – clearly he wanted a confrontation.  I did what any reasonable person would do, which was to beat the crap out of him.”  I must admit that I cannot see any good fight starting with a statement as clearly dry as “do you want a confrontation?”  You almost never see that in a movie.

He didn’t seem interested.  I tried again.  I didn’t understand it – certainly, someone as important as he, or as agitated that he must have been to have been forced to share the road with cyclists would liked to have the chance to give me a piece of his mind.  He acted as though I wasn’t there.   It was almost as if he was afraid that without the ability to use his several thousand pound cage of metal and glass, he felt that perhaps his advantage might have been lost — that his chances against a 6’3” 240-pounder looked better from a moving vehicle.   Go figure.

The light turned, he pulled away, and I gave his car one last shot of Cytomax.

I’m hoping that he learned a lesson from this little exchange.  I know I did.  From now on, I’ll ride with a full can of bear spray.  It might not make the car sticky, but it would definitely be an attention getter coming through the side window.

  • wwwmattcom said,

    Wow. I was afraid through the whole story. I would never have the balls to do that. I live in NJ. I get the finger a couple times a year and moms who tell me cycling is suicide as they pass me on a curve. Excuse you mother pay attention to the road or you’ll kill us both. I regularly pull over when I hear traffic and I am approaching blind curves or hills, I bought armadillo tires so I can ride over anything while maintaining speed as far to the right as possible, I bought a cyclocross bike so I can fit 35c tires and continue into gravel grass gutters or over tree branches to offer the driver more road to buy some appreciation for cyclists but all it takes is one hot head on open country road who needs more than his share of the road. I have had oncoming cars swerve into the wrong lane and honk. Needless to say I followed him home and to this day ride by looking for his Jeep Cherokee. Except I would wuss out if I saw him. I fantasize about making him cry with just some verbal abuse but what’s the use. How would a low function human understand complex complete sentences?

    I think the answer is more ‘share the road’ signs, bike lanes and or larger shoulders.

  • wwwmattcom said,

    Wow. I was afraid through the whole story. I would never have the balls to do that. I live in NJ. I get the finger a couple times a year and moms who tell me cycling is suicide as they pass me on a curve. Excuse you mother pay attention to the road or you’ll kill us both. I regularly pull over when I hear traffic and I am approaching blind curves or hills, I bought armadillo tires so I can ride over anything while maintaining speed as far to the right as possible, I bought a cyclocross bike so I can fit 35c tires and continue into gravel grass gutters or over tree branches to offer the driver more road to buy some appreciation for cyclists but all it takes is one hot head on open country road who needs more than his share of the road. I have had oncoming cars swerve into the wrong lane and honk. Needless to say I followed him home and to this day ride by looking for his Jeep Cherokee. Except I would wuss out if I saw him. I fantasize about making him cry with just some verbal abuse but what’s the use. How would a low function human understand complex complete sentences?

    I think the answer is more ‘share the road’ signs, bike lanes and or larger shoulders.

  • mskembo said,

    A ride I do at least twice a week right now is a look around White Rock Lake here in Dallas. It’s 10 miles, and has some smaller climbs (nothing a mountain gorilla like you would blink at). Yesterday during a ride a car gets right behind me and BLASTS his horn. I’ve never flinched so bad in my life, than I did then. I almost ate it, but tried to pull over even more so that he could pass by. Finally he got up to me, and started telling me “the guy behind you is really mad that you haven’t let him pass”. I look over my shoulder and see a guy behind the car yelling and cussing at him. Then the car speeds off, and the cyclist behind him speeds off after him. A female cyclist starts passing me and says, “Some people are just ridiculous.” I don’t know who she was talking about, the driver of the car, the mad cyclist, or me, but I found it funny.

  • mskembo said,

    A ride I do at least twice a week right now is a look around White Rock Lake here in Dallas. It’s 10 miles, and has some smaller climbs (nothing a mountain gorilla like you would blink at). Yesterday during a ride a car gets right behind me and BLASTS his horn. I’ve never flinched so bad in my life, than I did then. I almost ate it, but tried to pull over even more so that he could pass by. Finally he got up to me, and started telling me “the guy behind you is really mad that you haven’t let him pass”. I look over my shoulder and see a guy behind the car yelling and cussing at him. Then the car speeds off, and the cyclist behind him speeds off after him. A female cyclist starts passing me and says, “Some people are just ridiculous.” I don’t know who she was talking about, the driver of the car, the mad cyclist, or me, but I found it funny.

  • hickoxp said,

    I end up playing dodge car going to and from work. Distracted drivers crowding me into the curb causes me to want to “Hulk Smash” the little people in their little cars.

    Hitting me would do me some grievous harm but todays cars would be a total write off.

    Be careful of who to confront, some useless tick will pull a gun on you and end your riding all together.

  • hickoxp said,

    I end up playing dodge car going to and from work. Distracted drivers crowding me into the curb causes me to want to “Hulk Smash” the little people in their little cars.

    Hitting me would do me some grievous harm but todays cars would be a total write off.

    Be careful of who to confront, some useless tick will pull a gun on you and end your riding all together.

  • Toyota Owners » Super Clydesdale said,

    [...] a cyclist, it’s terrifying at times.   I had my own near-death experience with an incompetent cyclist-hating Camry driver last year.  This was before I had really thought through the Toyota thing.   Had I put two-and-two [...]

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