Sunday, April 09, 2006

Driver Re-education

Every spring, cyclists around here have to retrain motorists to share the road.

Motorists get used to having things their own way during the winter. Some have simply become careless. Others clearly wish they could keep cycling season from returning. These are the same drivers who crank up the aggression in the fall, as if to hurry cyclists into hibernation when the days grow short. They honk and swerve, yell obscenities and throw things much more at the two ends of the season than in the middle of it.

After a fairly quiet start to riding, my local chain gang has had three ugly incidents in two days. In two of them, motorists made special efforts to interfere with riders who were not even blocking the flow of traffic. In the third, a driver coming the opposite direction on a small rural road made a point to slow down, roll down her window and screech an obscenity at me.

It's enough to make you consider packing heat. But every time I consider that I discard the idea because of the extra weight and the high probability that a conflict resolved that way will create more problems than it solves.

We really have no defense out there except the motorists' own better judgement. Sure, we might win a skirmish or two just by agility and luck, but the cowards in the armored vehicles have the upper hand. So we can be grateful for whatever leftover scrap of humanity makes them hold back, despite the fact that the very sight of us infuriates them.

We all have our triggers. When I drive, tailgaters make me wish I had a bazooka. But regardless of my Second Amendment rights to pack whatever heat I can afford and find ammunition for, if you blow someone away with a bazooka there's bound to be a lot of paperwork. So I just try to go to my happy place and ignore the fact that my whole back window is filled up with someone's grille. At the earliest opportunity, I try to get out of the way and let the human missile charge off to seek its destiny. Yes, I do hope it's a swift and fiery end, but I will not act to make that end come sooner.

Sadly, motorists don't always hold back. Still, we can take comfort in the fact that they treat each other much worse than they treat us. In a car, you're stuck in the middle of that pack of maniacs. On a bike you are generally already somewhat out of the main flow, except when herding traffic for your own safety or keeping up with it to make a legal maneuver. More often than not, the hotheads will make their angry comment or gesture and move on, too important to give you more time than that. Bless their arrogant, black, shriveled little hearts.

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