Bike Lane!
0 comment Tuesday, July 8, 2014 |
As an urban cyclist who moves through a world that wasn't made for him, I run into circumstance where people are angry at me. Sometimes it's my fault, sometimes it's their fault, sometimes it's nobody's fault. It can be caused by uncertainty on a driver's part about who has the right of way at an intersection, or by me "being in the way" as a pedal my little heart out down the road at something less than the ten miles per hour over the speed limit that traffic is currently traveling. At any rate, I'm not surprised when people roar past me (only to be stopped at the next intersection, and then have to pass me again) in frustration or zoom by too close when they pass. I got used to it ages ago. But today was the first day where I was actually scared.
As part of my daily commute I have to ride on Hampton Blvd, which is a busy three-lane road that services the largest naval base in the country as well as provides access to Ghent, Norfolk, ODU, and Portsmouth via the Midtown Tunnel. The reason I have to take the busy boulevard is this bridge, which is the only way to get to the base without going waaaay out of my way and taking another heavily trafficked bridge anyway. The two upsides to this are I get some extra exercise by hauling my skinny butt up the rise twice a day and the bridge has a bike lane. In fact the only bike lane I've ever regularly used as Norfolk isn't big on biking.
So even though three lanes of traffic are whizzing by as I huff and puff up the bridge I feel fairly safe. My mind is free to busy itself with talking certain parts of my brain out of sitting back down while also watching for broken glass, rocks, and other debris as the bike lane also serves as the gutter.
Today I neared the top of the "hill" and heard an approaching car, horn a-blarin'. As a mid-sized tan SUV passed me an arm inside the vehicle was violently pointing towards the side of the road. I put my hand up in a "What?!" kind of gesture when the brake lights came on and the car stopped just over the rise. I continued on, and as I came alongside the car the driver sped up to keep pace, window already rolled down and yelled, "Get on the f*cking sidewalk!" Now, one of my many faults is the almost obsessive need to avoid conflict. My mom was a yeller, and I guess I learned at an early age to keep quiet when people are angry. But this was too much. Both of us rolling down the back side of the bridge I pointed straight down and yelled, "Bike lane!"
Mr. Tan Asshole sped off and quickly turned at the next side street. As I came upon the same street I noticed he was in the first driveway he had come too and was hastily executing a three-point turn. "Oh shit," I thought, "this guy is coming to run me over." Suddenly I was thinking of my gal and my unborn kid and what would happen to them if I got squashed. I've been in situations before where I was sure a bad wreck was going to happen but this was the first time I was scared for my family. It only lasted a second, but it was there and it was strong.
Doing that weird not-thinking-thinking that happens in times of crisis I looked around for some kind of safe haven. Up ahead I noticed a cop in a bright reflective vest apparently looking at a tree or a light post or something and writing in a notebook. I figured I could stop near him, maybe even start talking to him, and Mr. T.A. wouldn't try to put me under his wheels.
This plan fell through as I wouldn't have been able to stop and turn in time, so I pedaled on. Eventually I took a street at random, did my own (much more graceful) u-turn, and watched as Mr. T.A. sped past, honking his horn again as he noticed me too late to do anything. I'm not sure what he would have done, but I know he was coming for me and it wasn't to apologize for not realizing I was in a bike lane and swearing at me without just cause. I may have been overreacting and caught up in the moment, but better safe than sorry.
I was watching my back all the way home, and probably will be for the next couple of days. While it's doubtful that he'll try anything, it's still unnerving to know somewhere out there is a person who's angry at you behind the wheel.
But in more upbeat news (as I've noticed both recent entries have been fairly complainy) the weather recently has been gorgeous. This morning in particular, it was like 27 with a slight tailwind and no snow or rain or anything. I actually ate before I got biking and made good time, hit all the lights just right, and had a ton of fun coming to work, as I do almost every day. Even yesterday was good, despite my brief encounter, with lots of sunshine and people all over were on bikes, or walking dogs, or just walking around. Bring on spring!