I took my first longer ride of the summer today. I pedaled to Troy and back, with a stop in downtown Troy for an espresso and ice water. The first 18 miles went beautifully, but I encountered too many little problems in the last two miles as I pedaled through Albany toward home. Let me say at the outset that I have thought and still think Albany is a great place to pedal. Most people in cars are polite and safe. This post is just another example of a tendency to make news of the bad rather than the good. Sad, but let’s get to it!
First I pedaled up a very steep back street to get to the main drag. No fewer than four cars gave me a close pass, but they were all going slow and it didn’t really bother me.
Next on the main drag I was close passed twice at higher rates of speed. First car I let go, but the second stopped at a light so I pulled up to ask that they leave more room next time they pass. Never a good idea, but I sometimes forget this as the bad driving behaviors pile up. The driver apologized and I thanked him and we went our ways.
Then I let a few cars and a bus pass, and followed the bus for five or so blocks and as many red lights. That same bus close passed me later in the ride, but I had a couple of intervening incidents. First, a pedaler who was riding on the sidewalk in my direction pulled out in front of me as the light turned green (I was in the street). At the next light he wanted to know if I was loving biking today as much as he was. I asked him to not pull in front of me again and to ride more safely in the future. He asked if I was serious and I responded “deadly.” He put back in his earbuds and pedaled to the next red, cut across the intersection and pedaled on the opposite sidewalk. As I pedaled by he exclaimed “faster, faster, old man!”
I was then close passed again and I again asked the driver to please leave more room when passing cyclists. He said “too bad, and next time I will hit you.” We were in front of a police station, so I asked an officer who was getting in his car to talk to the fellow, and provided his license plate number and make and model of car. He said he would put the info on the radio. I believe he did.
What was up with me? I have seen the pattern so many times before. Most of my journey is wonderful and then it gets sketchy near the end. My better judgment sometimes goes out the window and I start having conversations with the people in cars. As I have said so many times before, it usually does more harm than good and always puts me in more danger than if I would have just let it go.
Maybe my nonverbal and unconscious communications with people in cars change as the slights pile up. I might be sending angry or aggressive messages without meaning to do so. I think I will try pulling over and taking a moment the first and maybe every time I am passed too closely. I suppose this may add some time to my rides, but I am pretty gentle with my calendar. What is another 20 minutes outside on a nice day?
It was a small victory for me that I didn’t once get angry, utter a curse or let a bird fly. I guess I just felt like preaching. Problem was, the folks to whom I was preaching didn’t request a sermon. I try so hard to remember that close passes are scary but, unless I get hit, that is all that they are. I need to let them go and pedal on my merry way.
I will say I have been really enjoying the reactions I get when I pull closer to the right when it is safe and wave vehicles by. I need to do more of this. Better for me, the vehicles and all my fellow pedalers. There are times to take the lane and times to give it up.
At home I put the Atlantis on the stand to tighten a few bolts to try to remedy a mysterious creak and I moved the seat forward. I enjoyed seeing Frida resting happily while I downed a tall glass of ice water. Glad to say the creaks are remedied and my riding position is improved.
I pledge (yet again) to limit communications with motorists to making eye contact, providing turn signals and waving them by when it is safe for them and me for them to pass. Let’s see how long I can keep my pledge this time.