I was bicycling to meet my children this past week. They had set off on foot for school and we agreed to meet half-way up the hill. Earlier this year, we agreed that they were responsible enough to walk together. I had planned to ride to the office after catching up with them and walking with them to school.
Emerging from the garage on ebike, I had looked up and down the road for traffic. Our street is a mix of cafes and apartments and is a low traffic area. However, drivers will sometimes travel far greater than 30-40km/hr up our street. I looked again and set off. Suddenly, the driver of a blue Toyota Yaris came flying off Albion Street and onto our street. I heard the car and the honk behind me. And then he came very close and overtook to stop 2 seconds before me at the stop sign. I shouted. “Hey!” And I was incensed. Adrenaline pumping, I shouted, “What. Are. You. Doing!?”
He took off before another few cars came to the intersection. While I was waiting for the traffic to clear, I could see that he was pulling into the garage just a few metres away. I followed him to the building where the garage door was still open. I may have shouted, “You need to go home. You have no idea how to drive.” I couldn’t hear anything in response because he was in the car. But the acoustics of the concrete-clad underground park magnified my shout. After this, I may have also shouted, “I bet you can barely manage to string a sentence together at work today by the way that you drive.” I could hear a faint sound of shouting coming from the car which was not yet parked. I had distracted him from his task.
I had enough time on my e-bike to reach my children who were half-way up the hill. For the sake of getting to work two seconds earlier, the Yaris driver unnecessarily overtook me on a quiet street and nearly hit me. For what purpose? And what might have happened is unthinkable.
Many friends have expressed concern and suggested that I should ride with a helmet-mounted-camera. But I have refused. I have spoken with my husband how riding with a camera can be helpful. Yet, we have both decided against it. We believe that it creates a negative mindset as a bicyclist. We both firmly believe in the goodness of people, within reason, of course.
So, what is the solution? I keep riding. Sometimes I ignore the words or actions of people who are selfish, ignorant or both. I stay alert. Fortunately, we both had to stop. Occasionally, I have thought about carrying raw eggs in a special pouch to throw at careless or aggressive drivers. How many eggs would I throw in a day? Hopefully not many. But again this is a negative mindset.
What other solutions are there? Increasingly, I choose a quieter path with less cars. But this was just outside my front door. Consequently, from time to time, I make my displeasure known. Sometimes, it is as simple as asking drivers, “Why did you pass so close to me? Would you please give me more space? There are more bicyclists around now in the city.” I have received an apology a few times. Mostly though, I have encountered nasty, snarling and brutish. As a general rule I avoid cursing. My comments have ranged from:
“Go back to your hole where you belong.” “Forgotten how to drive properly?” “Driver re-education is in your future.” “You’ve forgotten how to share [the road]. You mother would be ashamed.”
I have also had this exchange. Two tradies in a white panel van told me to get off the road “because it was for cars only.” They had cut me off on College Street not long after its destruction. I asked them, “Don’t you know how to share the road?” Cursing was the response followed by the uncreative, “Get off the road, Chinky Girl.”
Me: “Ten years of bad sex for you.”
Them: “I don’t like chinky p…y.”
Me: “What I have is far better than what you could possibly offer.”
The right turn signal meant that they had to disappear onto Williams Street. Congestion was waiting for them.
For me, the practice of shouting creatively helps. I get rid of the bad feelings that arise after a negative interaction with a driver. It also helps to belong to a supportive community of bicyclists, one of which is my husband.
Happy and Safe Bicycling!