A new type of confrontation

I rolled out of the apartment and onto Hawthorne, heading downhill towards the Tuesday night training crit that no one takes seriously except everyone.

I was in the right-hand lane as I went through the light. There was a lady in a red hybrid, not a Prius, so don’t go hating on my Prius. She thought to move over into my lane, saw me as she started coming over, and jerked back into her lane.

Then she gunned it (yeah, you can gun a hybrid, B.B. gun anyway), passed me, chopped into my lane, slammed on the brakes, and made a hard right into the Pavilions parking lot. I was pretty pissed almost being mowed down and then re-pissed at having to keep from slamming my face through her rear windshield, so I followed her.

She never noticed me behind her and kept gabbing away, hands free, not only from the phone, but from the steering wheel, too, as she periodically threw up both hands and hollered into her speaker. I followed her past the Pavilions, past the Rite-Aid, past the Starbucks, past the Jamba Juice, down the little driveway, down the ramp, and into the Spectrum parking area. She found a space and whipped in, yakking the whole way.

Her window was halfway down so I pulled up next to her and didn’t start screaming, which is almost a first for me. “Hi,” I said.

She gave me a blank look then remembered who I was. “Hello.” Her face was stiff.

“You almost killed me back there when you swerved in front, cut me off, slammed on the brakes, and turned into the lot while you were talking on the phone.”

“I did?”


“Well,” she said, “you bikers are so hard to see and you are so unpredictable.”

“That’s true, but you saw me when you first tried to change lanes and I was going at the speed of traffic in a straight line.”

“You bikers … ”

“Us bikers are just like you,” I said. “Except in my case; I’m older. And all you have to do is slow down, let me pass by, and then change lanes just like you’d do if you were next to a truck or a bus.”

“But you’re not a truck or a bus.”

“True, but I’m entitled to the protection of the same laws they are.”

She nodded. “Yes, I see that.”

“It might slow you down for a few seconds, but actually it probably won’t.”

She nodded again. “Next time I’ll give you room. I’m really sorry.”

I smiled. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

“Have a nice day,” she said hopefully.

“You, too.”

I rode off thinking that I’m not angry enough anymore. Probably time to quit bike racing.



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45 thoughts on “A new type of confrontation”

  1. I got the same “didn’t see you bullshit” a few days ago after being right hooked by a motorist who made his right turn and chopped me from the left lane–as if that’s the way he always makes his right turns. And I was on my cargo bike with a 10-ft paddleboard wearing my bright yellow paddling suit!

    I also followed him to his parking spot. He was talking on his handheld phone. But we had a nice calm conversation and he said he was “Sorry, sir.” A few years ago I would have been screaming at him, so it looks like we are both learning (but I quit racing two decades ago).

    Lane control will prevent almost all inadvertent mistakes by motorists but is less effective against intentionally stupid behavior like this. But calm conversation after can help.


  2. Yup, she left-turned in front of me with an angry, “you don’t count” look on her face. I locked up both f&r, on a fixed gear, and slithered far enough to not get run over without falling over. I followed. Stood a short distance away, helmet off, when she got out of her car. A burly, well-dressed 35-year old man stood at the entrance to the bank, obviously spoiling for an excuse to run over there and beat me up. I looked him in the eye, non-confrontationally, and he backed off but still stood there.
    Yup, same general BS– “I didn’t think you were going that fast” she lied, in answer to my “You almost got me”. Very embarrassed, “I shouldn’t have to be embarrassed by speaking to this sub-human” attitude. And obviously not dealing very well with life at the moment. She wanted to just walk away but I made eye contact, and kept on talking.
    “I’m a dad” I said. That one got through. She stopped trying to run away, but I was through, might have said something about giving me more room, whatever, and I ended the interview.
    I put my helmet back on, and went to the little concrete apron, waiting on the far right for a couple of oncoming cars to pass on this busy four-lane, traditional Austin biker route and longtime striped/signed bike path. Two or maybe three drivers who were exiting the bank’s parking lot could have hooked it around me and accelerated safely away. None did, and when they passed me once I had entered the bike lane, they gave me lots of room on their way by.
    On the other hand, going to Full Vocal Roar Mode has worked for me just as well, a time or two: “GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS!!!” and the windows went back up, with good advice apparently recognized and acted on appropriately. Kind of a “Don’t Pick On Me” kinda deal there.

    Cue Kenny Rogers– “You gotta know when to hold ’em…”

  3. Ahh SMIDSY (Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You), recently replaced by SMIDGAF (Sorry Mate I Don’t Give A Fuck), it’s a weekly occurence on my commutes and that’s even after extending it by and 7kms of bike path instead of going more direct by the roads.

    I love getting home to see my wife and daughter no matter how hard the motrons try to not let it happen.

  4. Have Man’sLaughter teach you surfing. In fact, I’m due to start getting back in the water. Let’s all go.

      1. I disagree…every time I think youthful, I feel the need to correct every single mistake I made…satisfied with it or not…

    1. You can lead an old horse to the fountain of youth but you can’t force him to believe that such a thing exists?

      1. Just change the words a little bit: You can lead a sinner to the Bible buy you can’t force him to believe it exists?

        No. Because it isn’t true. You have to prove it first.

  5. We’ve all had our share of close calls or accidents. The statistics of car-on-car accidents tell the underlying story: It is going to happen and it is a part the way of the road. The implications for cyclists are greater because we don’t have an energy absorbing cage around us.

    I think a good calm conversation is the best response because it is more likely to evoke change out of the offending driver and less likely to create or reinforce “those fucking cyclists” type attitudes.

    Given the fact that people have been driving cars for about a hundred years and accidents still happen constantly, I think it is misguided to think a bit of advocacy and awareness is suddenly going to change things. (That’s not to belittle or dismiss all the great efforts and progress that have been made.)

    If you want to not have confrontations with cagers, ride a mountain bike or do a CX race… because being on the road with cagers, by definition, means you’re going to have interactions and some of them are not going to be good.

  6. All sorts of people drive vehicles and are distracted and are in the “SMIDSY” mode….they can be old with bad reactions,, have bad eyesight, be in a hurry, be on the phone, have distractions in the car, be drunk, be thinking about something else…the list is endless. Out where I live, the ‘common’ problem is “SMIDGAF” but I have heard all the excuses, even the gossip mill about how some dead cyclist “was” a pot smoker in high school 20 years ago…..so he got what karma brought him.
    The answer lies somewhere between calm discourse and Spike Bike.

    1. I have to admit that after a SMIDSY/SMIDGAF incident, I find myself having Spike Bike fantasies much more often than mental replays of calm, rational discourse…

  7. Lies and anger make way cooler stories that are true except the parts that aren’t. I say that as I have not reached the maturity to be so civil when I almost die. Even though the story lacks typical wanker tall tales and action, I applaud you for setting a good example to those of us who are still in our angry 40s

    1. And for those of us whose angry 40s have carried over into angry 50s. I wish I could keep that kind of cool when those moments come around.

      1. I’m still angry until I think about my grandson and then I smile and the whole thing collapses.

  8. Here in RVA, a truck driver that struck and killed a cyclist last fall, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter this week. The cyclist was riding in the correct manner but she was doing it at 11 p.m. with no blinkies or reflectors and wearing dark clothing. The driver, who claimed to have seen the cyclist 400-500 feet up the road, chose to “thread the needle” instead of waiting for a safe passing space.

    It’s the first time I can remember a driver being convicted of anything vs a cyclist in, well, ever. Dog knows, it won’t bring that young woman back to life but perhaps drivers will become aware of consequences. His sentencing is in May.

    I hope, someday, to be able to talk to a driver in a calm manner when they’ve just missed me. I think there’s more likelihood if I have to follow them slowly for a few minutes so I can get my heart rate back down.

    1. Likewise up here in Sacramento, a driver who killed a father riding home was convicted of manslaughter. His sentence? 6 mos and three years probation. Kinda made me ill that 6 mos was what a life was worth. He even admitted he was texting! We have a lonnnggggg way to go.

  9. Time to start taking the T Supplements…

    If you’re quick Mr. Dopeypantsjailtime should be able to help you out.

  10. Darn….I thought you were writing a nice post about chewing someone out. Very disappointing. I should have been there with you that way we could have had the cops……….

  11. I don’t often confront people after these incidents any more, but when I do, I use an opening line that I found, a few years back, to be a lot more effective than the usual “hey, you almost hit me”. Most people don’t seem to really care about “you almost hit me”; what I start with now is:

    Just checking: the minimum jail term for vehicular assault in this state is one year. How long will it take you to find a new job when you get out?

  12. Any confrontation is pointless because most drivers that would chop a cyclist (or any other vehicle on the road) doesn’t really care what is legal or courteous. Socal is full of road raging, entitled drivers.
    But, I agree with your tactic. It’s the only confrontation that will have a positive outcome and not keep the adversarial cyclist/motorist relationship going.

  13. Here’s my latest story:
    Cars are crawling along a very popular cycling route in town on a warm day and so I’m riding along with the flow in the bike lane.

    Driver starts drifting into the bike lane. So, I grab a ride on the window pillar. She drifts back to her lane… she drifts back into the bike lane…. No one should be surprised she’s very focused on texting unaware I’m hanging on RIGHT THERE in her passenger window.

    Next stop light I say: “Hey you should probably get your head out of your phone. You could actually hurt someone next time.” She was startled. Usual apologies and “didn’t see me.” I closed with “24 hours from now you will be right back to your old behaviour. Fix it!”

  14. KrakatoaEastofJava

    I had a similar think happen very early one morning. Almost killed. I was determined to follow, and put in a Hurculean effort to see which turns she was making (and keep following). Not long after, I followed her into a gym. It was exactly six am. Time for her appointment with her personal trainer. Running late. I called her out in front of the entire gym, sweat gushing from my pores. She claimed she didn’t see me, which was a bald-faced lie. I pointed out to her that this was impossible, and that she’d used her vehicle as robber would use a gun to make a victim move about. And now, she would spend her hour in front of 100 people who knew that she was a complete cunt.

  15. What a bunch of smooth talkers. I wish I would read this post and comments a few years ago, when I had an encounter with a really aggressive driver. He kept blowing his horn, I guess to get me off the road, to the point that I stopped in the middle of the road, threw my bike on the ground and went to the car to beat the hell out of whoever was the asshole in the car. It turned out it was a little old lady with a 3 year old in the back seat. I just shook my head in disbelief and said to my self something along the lines “unbelievable, what is this kid learning to be” and road off in shame.

    1. Okay, you’re taking me back in time to the old bike toss incident. I will post it tomorrow.

  16. I find that most people that almost kill me in traffic are totally oblivious of that fact.

  17. Well, the great news here is that because you managed to avoid a collision, nobody is compelled to talk about an accident.

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