On a safety bicycle, I was. I identify my conveyance as a safety bicycle, not an ordinary or a velocipede, so future readers will have a clearer mental image of my situation. Did you know you can still buy an ordinary? For instance, see here.
Back to it. Stopped at a red light, on the left side of the lane, waiting to turn left. First in line with a long line of cars waiting to go in both directions. Green light. I wait as approaching cars move through the intersection. Cars headed straight in my lane have room on my right to go straight and do, until another left turner pulls up beside me and lays on the horn and starts with the yelling. Being a dedicated lover and all, I dismount and move my bike behind him so he can go first when the oncoming cars clear. Happier one car back where the air doesn’t stink so bad. Still with the yelling this one. Oncoming cars clear, the guy can turn but he doesn’t. Just sitting and misting the air with meanness and spit. Car behind me and Mr. Holdusup starts with the loud words directed at me. Of course. I am now second in line to turn and somehow I am the problem. “You want that I should evaporate?” is what I should have said. Always the good lines come later.
Pedestrian yells at the two drivers. Tells them to leave me alone. Another driver with bicycle rack hollers to ask if I am ok. Thanks, you two! That makes two with me and two against. Many abstain. They just move along with interacting. I get that. In the end, isn’t that what we want (just to cooperate and move through the streets quietly and safely)?
Second yeller waits on the side of the road after the left turn to talk to me. I’ve always wanted to have a productive conversation with an angry motorist after an incident and I got my chance. We shake hands. We’re both calm and friendly. If only we had folding chairs and beers. He tells me I didn’t signal to turn left. I agree. I thought my lane position at the intersection made it clear I was turning left, but sure, I should signal, often do and didn’t this time. Sorry. End of conversation?
It turns out he wanted me to signal a block earlier, before the intersection of the loud voices, when I moved from the right side of the lane to the left side of the same lane in preparation for the left turn. Interesting. He thinks I am obligated to signal when I shift positions in a single lane. Says he learned that in motorcycle safety class. Signaling never hurts, and can help us all be safer, but there is certainly no obligation nor general expectation that people signal when shifting positions in a single lane. I would signal if I had been on the far right in the gutter and wanted to move left as someone was approaching rapidly from the rear (or more likely I would just wait for the hot shoe to pass, as no one pays attention to signals), but when I moved left this time I was already in the right tire track taking the lane with no one immediately behind me. The original yeller pulled out from a drive behind me at mid-block. With him going slowly and a safe distance behind, I moved from the right tire track to the left as I checked him in my mirror. At no point was it safe for him to pass and he made no effort to do so.
So my new cycling coach was making a pretty subtle safety point (which I knew without his coaching) in a town (like any town) where motorists routinely blast through red light and stop signs, tack ten to fifteen on top of the posted speed limit, spend more miles than not on cell phones and know shit about the laws relating to bicycling on the street. All this and coach pulls me out of the game to talk? I startled no one, endangered no one and impeded the progress of no one. Just turning left to go to the garden for tomatoes.
Hey coach, since we’re here on the sideline and used up a time out, what about Mr. Holdusup, the original yeller, who doesn’t know that pedalers can and should move left to turn left? Based on his misunderstanding of the traffic laws and short temper he endangered me, yelled at me and impeded traffic. Got any hot tips for him? If you really care about my safety, as you claimed you do, follow that guy, get his license plate, pull over and call the police. Let them do the coaching. Let me go the garden before it starts to rain. Hut, hut, HIKE!
In the end, despite our civility and patience with each other, we didn’t learn anything. What a let down. Coach just wanted to blab at me but I’d run all his plays a thousand times. I don’t want a coach and I don’t want to blab at anyone. I just want to ride my bicycle. I am so over conversing with people on the roadway. Seriously. I hereby pledge. Like my mother taught me, I won’t talk to strangers. I have high hopes for this strategy. I will of course keep you posted.
Got to the garden. Picked a big load of roma tomatoes. Thunder issued forth. Pedaled home rapidly. Four blocks from home sky opened wide and made me wet. So glad I spent five minutes on the roadside with my worthless coach.
Better now. Fiery Furnaces on the hifi. Gotta get out of this wet denim.
Thanks for reading.
Yours with mouth firmly shut (on the roadway, that is),