Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dear, Sir

Dear Mr. Bianchi,

Today I encountered you under, what was for myself, a very odd circumstance. I was in my car, driving to the tire shop. This in its self was odd as I rarely drive and take absolutely no responsibility for the maintenance of my car (I leave it to my husband who insists that I keep the silly thing despite the fact that the only thing I do with it is get parking tickets). You were on your terribly shiny and aggressively Celeste coloured road bike, which looked a lot like this-

Omar's Bike Looks So Good At My Feet

You were so confident in your all navy blue wool, vintage inspired riding kit. Your helmet was so snug over you curly dark hair. Your IPod earbuds and wrap arounds fit so perfectly into the ensemble. The only thing amiss in your profile was the 15 pound bicycle chain you were carrying, although you do get points for wearing it stylishly around your terribly athletic waist.

I first saw you as you were approaching the red light that was shining for you. It was a very convenient red light for me, as it allowed my light to be green thus enabling my entrance into the intersection to make my left turn. Imagine my surprise when, after making sure that the oncoming car, who also had a green light, was far enough away to allow my turn there you were! You and your brifters and your Chris King bottom bracket* and your coordinated SPD's, right there where I was supposed to be turning. I stopped, I looked at you as you continued to drift in front of me, I put up my hands in the international sign for "Dude! What the f*ck? Really?" Your response? "You have your signal on, there is room for both of us!". As the reality of how much room I had to make my turn was certainly a point of debate (I hold that when someone on a bicycle is in a particular space that it is not wise to try to insert my car into said particular space), it was of equal interest that the, formerly, oncoming car was now waiting his turn to enter the intersection and had the same hands up communication that I had employed.

There is an argument that could be made that I could display "Righteous Indignation" at this point, but honestly, you Sir, were just to damn funny. Your bewilderment that I might find it unacceptable to run you over while you stormed my position was very amusing. While I may find the entrance into an utterly unoccupied intersection by a cyclist at a red light acceptable, it seems to me that doing so when the intersection is occupied by a moving car weighing 2701 pounds is a Darwinian Act.

And thus we come to the next odd part of this encounter. When I was finally able to clear the intersection, not because you had stopped but because you had drifted far enough along to allow me movement, I was pleasantly surprised to see you in my rear view mirror. You were standing in your saddle, pumping those legs for all it was worth to catch up to me. I lowered my window in heightened expectation of what you may have to say to me when you would inevitably catch me at the next intersection. You did not disappoint, not in the least. You removed your ear buds, which was a polite thing to do but would have held more power had you removed your mirrored sunglasses, too, and proceeded to tell me about all the room you had back there, enough room for us to share. Sure, you admit, you ran the light, but.... You assured me you were not trying to be confrontational, that you only wished to inform me. My response?

"You f*cked up, dude. Eat it and learn. Have a good ride!" It was hard to get the words out, as intelligent and considered as they were. I was just laughing too hard, and no, I was not laughing with you. My passenger, a fellow cyclist, sat in her seat saying "What the hell was that? Did he think he was right? Was he actually trying to explain that away?"

Mr. Bianchi, should you read this, please understand that I have no ill will toward you. You seemed a perfectly decent person and I am sure your mother raised you well. It is simply this, Sir- crap like that is what makes people in cars angry at people on bicycles. It is behavior that you have complete control of and is not caused by poor infrastructure or a lack of awareness by the driving public. Entering intersections with moving cars in them when it is not your turn is stupid, dangerous and just really bad manners.

If you do choose to take this action again, please don't try to explain it away. It makes us all look silly, selfish and self absorbed. Just apologize and keep moving keeping in mind that the pissed off driver you leave behind you will most likely take out their frustration on the next cyclist they see.

Have a great ride, Mr. Bianchi!

*OK, I have one of those, too so I will give you a slide on that one.


  1. The worst part is that Mr Bianchi probably posted on his blog about his confrontation with the clueless 'Cager' I bet in his version he somehow prevailed with damage to your car and a triumphant parting clever phrase.

  2. Oh man, I know that feeling!
    I drive about once a week, either a zipcar or the Scientist's car, and I often find myself judging cyclists for bad behavior, and more than anything wanting to explain to them; Hey, I'm a cyclist with real bonafides, despite being in a car at this moment, and I still think you're doing the wrong thing!
    In the northeast, it's particularly bad this time of year because all the newbies/ fair weather cyclists are out.
    I find myself (either on a bike or in a car) shaking my head, and hoping that the driver behind me isn't so incensed by a bad biker that he takes it out on me.

  3. A genius write-up of the whole situation, very amusing, thanks. "Eat it and learn", really good, I must remember that.

  4. I was once riding, I'm not sure of your rules there, but we can legally ride two abreast and one person can legally overtake, so this means up to three people are in a row for a very brief period of time.

    Now, I had a police member also on a bike yell at me from behind saying "passing" as in, he wanted to overtake them, and me, despite the fact I was already overtaking. I had nowhere to go so I kept on trying to overtake, he then told me how I showed poor ettiquette because I didn't move over.

    It was intestering, disappointing and stupid readlly.

  5. Whether I'm on the bike or on foot, I find myself biting my tongue to avoid yelling "YOU ARE MAKING US ALL LOOK BAD!!!" at some of the other cyclists* around here.

    And I'm about thisclose to starting to give unsolicited advice to the other riders near me. Like the gal I saw on my commute in this morning, to whom I really wanted to say "Excuse me, but you would be MUCH SAFER if you would just TAKE THE LANE and stay there instead of riding in the gutter and veering in and out of traffic!"

    *Ordinarily I'd refer to them as "my fellow cyclists", but... argh.

  6. "Darwinian" sums it up, Ade. Running red lights is bad enough, but doing so at the risk of a collision with a car (and then trying to justify your blatant traffic violation to the driver!) is suicidal. 

    I drive as little as possible, and I am always surprised by the self-righteousness of scofflaw cyclists who put me in the position of taking emergency maneuvers to avoid hitting them. It happens far too often. I always think "Dude, don't you know I'm one of you?"  and "How can you expect me to take your well-being seriously if you clearly don't?!?"

    I stop at red lights and stop signs, on two wheels or four. When coming to a four-way stop at the same time as a car (on a perpendicular trajectory), I usually smile at the driver, and motion them to go first. 

    We live, and travel, in a multi-modal world, and we're all just trying to get from A to B. Mr. Bianchi is Darwinian. 

    So am I. 

  7. cycler- Do you find you are more forgiving of fellow cyclists when you are on your bike vs. when you are driving. I think it is the same for me, each way, but I can not be sure.

    alisdair- I think there is money to be made in creating programs that can be used to train police departments in how to deal more effectively with bicycle riders, including ensuring they understand the law and their place in it.

    lex- My tongue is frequently soar from being bit so often to keep myself quiet. Otherwise, there would be a lot of telling off with little positive outcome.

    CI- while you may be Darwinian, it is more in the contribution to the species that brings us forward than as the branches of our species that are self limiting and thus, obsolete : )

  8. Great post, Adrienne. And so well written! I imagine that the situation might be a touch different in Borneo, where fewer road rules are in place. If you need evidence, you could see some of these equatorial bicyclists in action on my blog....of course! :) Ben