I just got road-raged on my own suburban street. I was stopped at a red light, doing exactly what the law and safety required me to do. But that simply wasn’t good enough for this particular motorist. He pulled up behind me. Then honked, clearly wanting me to get out of his way. But where could I go?
- Through the red light? No – that’s illegal (and often dangerous).
- Pick up my bike and move to either edge of the lane? No – the lane is too narrow for a car to squeeze by safely. And, come on, just because my vehicle is light enough to pick up and move doesn’t mean I should have to.
- Into the left-turn lane? No – there were already cars waiting there.
So I waited a few more seconds, the light turned green and I started pedaling across the street. The motorist, rather than just make his right turn, felt it was important to yell at me for not getting out of his way (as if I had been selfish), then drop an f-bomb when I reminded him, more or less politely, of my right to be on the road. The whole incident probably lasted 15 seconds.
Motorists often accuse bicyclists of wanting it both ways: Wanting drivers to respect us on the road, while ignoring traffic laws at will. OK, there’s some truth to that.
But motorists often seem to want it both ways too: Wanting bicyclists to follow the law, except when it inconveniences motorists. Then they prefer us to break whatever law is necessary, or put ourselves in danger, or just get the heck out of the way, just so they don’t have to slow down or wait a few seconds.
How about this for a thought: Nobody can have it both ways. If we all keep sending each other mixed messages, then getting to work, school, home, or the store will continue to be a competitive sport. People will continue to kill or be killed (sometimes literally) simply to save a few seconds. Or we, as individuals and as a society, can choose a different way.