A few notes for car drivers from a bicyclist

I love cars. I love driving. I even love some of my fellow drivers when I’m driving. When I’m on my bike, however, I get the feeling that many drivers don’t care if I live to see the next stop sign, and that a small, but significant, group is trying to ensure that I don’t make it past the next cross street.

Most drivers, however, are simply unaware that I’m in the same zip code with them. For example, the woman who almost kept me from experiencing puberty–who would have, had I not performed a full back flip off of my bike–who ended up wrapping my Peugeot 10-speed around her front left wheel and dragging it 30 feet into the street, leaving my fork looking like this:

Mom kept that as a souvenir. Hey, a safety tip for you kids out there–when you call home, the first words out of your mouth always are, “I’m OK . . .”

Although the woman who did that was rolling through a stop sign when she hit me, and she hit me with her front left corner, so I had been directly in front of her, she claimed that she wasn’t at fault. The insurance agent took her out to the scene to take her statement. They got out of his car and he asked her, “Where was he when you hit him?” She said, “Oh, I never saw him.” To which he said, “Please get back in my car, we’re done here.”

Turns out that if you don’t see someone who you run over, you were looking the wrong way.

So, to people like that driver, and all you other drivers all across the land, a few notes from me about your driving. And yes, I mean you.

  • Left turns from the left lane. Right turns from the right lane. How hard is this?
  • Also, right turn signal if you’re turning right. Left signal if you’re turning left.
  • Also, use your goddamn turn signals. How many times do I have to say this?
  • Bicyclists have a legal right to be on the road. And while it’s not a legal right of mine to run the sharp end of my bike tool down the side of your Mercedes, I’m pretty sure that I’m justified in doing it after you cut me off pulling into Starbucks, because you felt that your latte was worth breaking both my legs for.
  • You’re lucky that my brakes work so well.
  • Dog may be your copilot, clever linguist, but he could do his job just as well from the back seat, where he doesn’t block your view or your access to the steering wheel and doesn’t slobber on your glasses or stick his tail up your nose. And when you crash–and I mean “when”–he won’t be your copilot anymore, clever linguist, he’ll be your Airedale bag. Ka-yuck.
  • If I’m yelling at you, just remember–I don’t use polysyllabic curse words on the good drivers.
  • When you gun your engine and race around me, I’m not impressed. I’m on a mountain bike, lugging 10 pounds of work clothing, food, water, and bike gear. Uphill. You’re in a car. You’d better be able to get your hot rod Mazda 323 around me, Andretti. I don’t think the woman jogger was too impressed either, we’re both still hacking on your exhaust.
  • You’re lucky that I’m as good at handling my bike as you are bad at handling your car.
  • We’re at a red light. You in your ten-year-old hunter green Elantra, me on my bike. You’re snarfing the last gasp of smoke and ash out of a roach that I just saw you dig out of your overfilled ashtray; I’m sipping cool water out of a bottle. Sure, you’ll beat me off the line and up the hill, but I think that I’ll still come out ahead.
  • My life is more important than your phone call.
  • Again with the gunning the engine and outracing me–if you’re doing that, you’re cutting me off. I assume that you’re doing that because you’re in a hurry, but trust me when I say that if you so much as brush against a hair of mine, for the rest of your life you’ll wish that you had waited that extra half second.
  • Unless you’re in a skid, your windshield faces the general direction that your car is traveling in. If you’re not looking through it, you’re eventually going to hit someone you don’t see. Trust me. I’ve been hit this way more than once.
  • Also, if you’re slouched down so low that you can’t see over your dash, why don’t you just wear a blindfold while you drive? (And by the way, when you’re reclined like that and you crash into something that you don’t see coming, like an office building, you’ll submarine under your steering wheel so hard that you’ll find out just what it would feel like to be dropped onto your engine block from ten stories up. After that, driving around with your ankles in your armpits, you’ll look real cool.)
  • Don’t think that I can’t catch you at the next red light. Or that I won’t.
  • Also, did you forget that you have license plates on both ends of your car, and that I can dial 911 while pedaling?
  • Also, when you’re turning right, look right. It’s the direction that you’re headed. Looking left and turning right is what almost ended my life after only 14 or so years, and nearly ended Mama’s life last weekend. And to the guy who did that to Mama–if I ever see you again, you’ll be spitting out chain links and pulling spokes from under your fingernails for a week.
  • And you SUV drivers–you’re not Roger Miller. Stop acting like you are.
  • One last note: You don’t look cool when you don’t use your turn signals, you look like someone who bought his driver’s license at the drive-thru liquor store window along with a carton of Marlboro Lights and a suitcase of PBR. None of us are psychics out here, so if you want to burn and drink your way into an early grave, that’s fine, but don’t send me early to my grave just because you don’t want to drop ash on your knee. Use your goddamn turn signals.

When I ride my bike, I always remember what Mom always said: having the right of way doesn’t matter when you end up in the hospital. From your perspective as a driver, please remember that being too busy with important distractions to drive attentively doesn’t matter when you end up in jail for vehicular manslaughter.

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  • Feeling a little strongly about this?

    I hope that bike commuting isn’t so stressful that it overrides the benefits for you. Or that it drives you (ha!) to moving to the Netherlands or somewhere more bike-friendly.

  • …ah, that was entertaining.

    Moms hold on to the darndest things, don’t they???

    Making a mental note: LP—think of Papa & Mama the next time you see Bikers. (which, around here, is usually only on the weekends when/if I go to the donut shop)

  • Henitsirk: I’m sure that people who work in asylums end up feeling as strongly as I do, being confronted on a daily basis with repetitive insane behaviors. Also, while a driver only ends up with a scratch on their bumper, I end up with broken bones, or dead. So, yeah, I end up feeling strongly about it.

    LP: Thanks for thinking of us, if it makes you drive any more safely around bikers. And if you’re going to the donut shop, I’m pretty sure you’re going to see some bikers. Donuts to bikers are what flowers are to bees. Mmm. Donuts.

  • He’ll just move back to Palo Alto which is where the fun fork came from in the first place. As a Mom, I always worry when the first words are “I’m OK.” Of course I am the one who called from Sequoia Hospital to say that the car had a flat and the Girl Scouts would be a little late coming back from a trip. It was the first phone we could find off 280. That was years before cell phones were called car phones.

    When I ride with my son, I tell him that cars are not looking for a boy on a bike, so he had better look for cars, since he is the one who is going to be hurt. I tell him the same thing when he is walking in the school parking lot too. Crazy parents should not be give car keys.