Saturday, August 18, 2012

While riding today in Kaysville, UT, on the way back to Layton, where I'm staying for a few weeks for work, I was in the right lane of two going the same direction, four total, when a car got right behind me, slammed on its brakes, tailgated me, and then passed me within inches, even though the other lane in the same direction was completely empty.  Pretty generic story so far, right?

Then he turned, almost immediately after passing me, into the next parking lot.  Despite my dismay that his destination ranked higher in his mind than my life, I realized that I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him about the situation that he had just caused.  Note that I say "conversation," not "confrontation."  I was surprisingly not angry, I suppose because I'm so used to this situation and I wanted to take this opportunity to inform him of what had happened and try to figure out why it happened.

I approached him as he got out of his vehicle and told him that he had passed me extremely closely.  His response was that I needed to use the bike lane.  Then I said, "There was no bike lane there; that was just the road shoulder.  But regardless, you still need to pass me safely, leaving three feet between us."  The rest of the argument is similar and mostly a blur in my memory, but after I decided I'd wasted enough time on this stubborn jackass (of course I did not call him that to his face or even raise my voice), I said, "Please be more careful in the future.  My life's at stake here," which I think is a pretty rational request.  His response? "I will when you use the bike lane."  Apparently he hadn't heard a word I'd said in the last two minutes.  Then I took a picture of his license plate, asked if he knew the Kaysville Police Department's non-emergency number so that I could report a dangerous driver, and left.  Last I heard, the Davis County Sheriff's Office was sending an officer to try to make contact with the driver.  Hopefully he is successful and it scares this driver enough that he doesn't endanger another biker's life as "punishment" for not using the "bike lane."

Note: In Utah, as in Ohio, there is no requirement for bikes to use the bike lane.  They are allowed to use whichever lane is required by the conditions, staying as far right as practicable (which typically IS the bike lane, but not always).  Thus, even if it had been a bike lane instead of a shoulder, I would have been in more danger riding there because he very likely would have hit me as he turned in front of me across my lane and into the parking lot.

Friday, July 13, 2012

On July 4, 2012, I was riding on Wilson Road (4 lanes), less than half a mile from home, minding my own business, when a truck came upon me and honked its horn.  I motioned to the second lane to indicate that I would not be getting out of his way but that he was free to pass me any time he wished.  Then he went around me, ran me off the road with his trailer as he moved back over, brake-checked me, and got on the freeway to speed away.  Not the brightest thing to do in a marked vehicle.  Did I mention it was a tanker truck full of flammable fuel?  Nice, right?

Of course I filed a police report, and then I contacted the company that owned the truck.  They got back to me immediately and informed me that they had investigated, that the driver had been honest and confessed to his actions, and that they were prescribing some corrective actions against the driver.  He was put on unpaid leave for 3 days, and when he returns, he will spend a day in a defensive driving training course, where, among other things, he will learn about road rage and how to prevent it.  The situation on the 4th will also be broken down piece-by-piece so that he can learn from his mistakes and, hopefully, make better decisions next time.

I completely agree with this course of corrective action.  It is much more satisfying to have a small punishment like the short suspension followed by a learning experience than to have him fired or even charged in criminal court.  This day of training which he will attend may well prevent him from doing anything so stupid again, which could potentially take someone's life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Today as I was approaching my last turn on the way home, as I started to move into the turn lane, a car whizzed by me nearly hitting me.  I caught up to it at the next light (shows how much good nearly killing me actually did) and told the driver that she had almost hit me.  I was yelling at first (you would be too if your life had just been threatened), so you know what I expected to hear back.  Instead, the woman calmly told me that she was sorry and that she hadn't known I was going to move as she tried to pass me (never mind the fact that I signaled my turn and that she was left of center since I moved as soon as the left turn lane opened up). Then I told her that there's a yellow line there for a reason and thanked her.  Why can't all motorists be like that?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I was almost home from work tonight on Wilson Road, which is the last road before my apartment complex, when I noticed a truck behind me.  I watched him in my mirror as usual to make sure he moved into the other lane (there are 2 in each direction) and got a little concerned when he didn't since there were no other vehicles on the road besides the two of us.  Two or 3 minutes went by as he approached me and I started to worry and watch him more closely.  Wouldn't he have moved over by know if he had seen me?  Then, finally, a good 2 or 3 truck-lengths behind me, i.e. still plenty of time to move into the other lane and pass me, he starts honking his horn.  "Ah, good," I thought to myself, "he sees me."  The honking, now accompanied by tail-gating since he had caught up with me, continued off and on for the next 2-3 minutes until I reached my turn-off.  Following my usual routine, I gave the "slowing/stopping" hand signal and then the "right turn" hand signal.  This apparently angered his inner child even more than it already was, because he laid on the horn and didn't stop this time.  I continued with my turn and rode into my apartment complex, noting with amusement that the honking didn't stop until a good 10-15 seconds later.  I'm sure the other drivers who hadn't seen me (since he was far past my street by then) were wondering what the heck was wrong with this guy.

This idiot wanted to cause a scene, which he did plenty of, and scare me, which he fortunately did not.  I used to motion toward the other lane in this type of situation, but now I don't even bother with that.  My thinking is that if you're too stupid to figure out how to change lanes, you deserve to wait behind me.  I also realized that, contrary to popular belief, honking from aggressive drivers is not bad at all; it's actually good, because it means they see me.  After that, if any of them did have the audacity to hit me, I'd have a pretty clear case for assault instead of a simple failure to maintain assured clear distance ahead.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I spent Memorial Day weekend in San Francisco, and two things left a lasting impression on my memory.  The first was the number of safe, convenient alternatives to driving.  The biggest difference between San Francisco and Columbus was the state of the sidewalks.  Not only were there sidewalks on every street I used in San Francisco and Berkeley, but they were in good condition, didn't have utility poles in the middle of them, didn't have plants growing out of them, and were extremely wide.  San Francisco also has several different methods of public transit and the metro area has several different bus companies to take you anywhere you need to go in the Bay Area or beyond.  Of course, I also noticed the sheer numbers of bike lanes, the people who rode for transportation rather than athletic training, and the safe way in which bikes and cars shared the road, which leads me to my second point.

The other big thing I noticed on this trip was the respect that all road users showed toward one another.  As a pedestrian, not once did I have to walk around a car that had carelessly stopped in the crosswalk.  I saw no one stop at a stop sign past the painted line on the ground.  Never did I feel as though I had to yield my right-of-way at a stop sign/crosswalk combo to a cyclist for my own safety.  Not once did I see a car cut off a bike; if there wasn't room to pass, the motorist simply waited until there was, a concept that seems to be very difficult for Central Ohioans to grasp.  I only wish I'd had a bike with me while I was there.  I will definitely be going back.