My daily commute is normally quite uneventful, with the only excitement coming from sights along the way. But today was different, with two close encounters on the way home.
First up was a Buick-driving bozo who leaned on his horn, gave me the finger, yelled something out his window, and zoomed around me a little too close, apparently taking offense at the mere presence of a cyclist on the road. His road. I’d tell you what he yelled, but I couldn’t hear him. When will drivers figure out that cyclists can’t hear them yelling over the gunning engine and blaring horn as they zoom angrily past? Whatever, dude. I’m sure it was a finely-argued point of law. As long as it makes you feel better and you don’t run me over in your blind rage.
Next up was a guy in a delivery van, who leaned out his window at a red light to ask whether I planned to continue to ride in the middle of the lane or would get out of his way and ride up against the curb like cyclists have to. I replied that I’d continue to ride in the middle of the lane because it wasn’t wide enough for both my bike and his van and I wanted to make it clear that he had to move into the next lane to pass safely.
He then went on to make the typical claims: motor vehicles have precedence over bikes, cyclists have to move out of the way, and that his “road taxes” pay for the road. I countered with the usual rebuttals: I can take the lane if it’s unsafe to share it and there is no such thing as a “road tax” that only motorists pay. He was neither happy nor in agreement and finished up with a smirking, “Pisses you off, don’t it?” as the light turned green. It ended, as do most of these encounters, with neither person making a positive impression on the other and two cases of elevated blood pressure.
In fairness, he was semi-polite (if a little loud and completely wrong) and he did swing out into the next lane to pass. That would have been that but for his fatal mistake: he was driving a clearly-marked delivery van from a local retail establishment not more than a five-minute bike ride from my house. It took me all of two seconds to resolve to take my cyclist’s revenge: going to his workplace to continue the conversation.
He and the truck were nowhere to be found when I got there five minutes later, so I asked for the manager instead. I explained my tale of woe, told him how poorly it reflected on his business, and gave him the identifying information I had. He agreed that the driver was wrong and that he’d have a talk with him when he returned to the store. The manager of this store was much more helpful than acting store manager Andy at the place down the street.
I was outside unlocking my bike when I saw the truck pulling up to the back of the building. “We meet again!” I exclaimed gleefully as I pulled up. The driver climbed out of the van and turned into a normal person as he shed two tonnes of metal and glass. Suddenly, he was willing to converse, not just yell. To listen, not just get angry. And we actually had a civil conversation about bikes, roads, the Highway Traffic Act, and “road taxes.” The store manager joined us too, and together we educated the driver on several topics:
- Cyclists are not second-class citizens to drivers.
- Cyclists are allowed to take the entire lane.
- Cyclists are allowed to make left turns from the left turn lane.
- For most traffic purposes, the HTA makes no distinction between “vehicles” and “motor vehicles.”
- His driving a truck that can kill a cyclist with one wrong move means that it’s incumbent on him to drive safely, not on me to get off the road.
- The privilege of using the road doesn’t flow from paying taxes.
- Just because I’m riding a bike right now doesn’t mean that I don’t have a car or pay “road taxes.”
At the end of our 10-minute conversation, the driver seemed genuinely repentant and vowed to treat cyclists with more respect. And that was the best revenge: successfully converting a road-raging truck driver with reason and conversation, rather than merely exchanging shouts and fingers as we passed on the road.
I’ve always wanted to ask road ragers, “Are you an asshole in real life, or just behind the wheel?” Now I know the answer.
But the real kicker of this story: the delivery truck driver is a cyclist who rides to work every day! No kidding. I couldn’t believe it.
Update, July 3: We met again, again.