Thursday, January 21, 2010

Road Rage Vol. 1

Getting involved in an altercation with a driver is about the stupidest thing a cyclist can do. I say this from experience of having been extremely stupid at various points in my life. In the heat of the moment, after nearly being decapitated by a driver trying to download the latest app for his or her iPhone, it might seem logical to attack said person with a vocal, or even physical reaction. Unfortunately, humans don't really have the best understanding of what is logical. If we do and I am mistaken, then please explain why we watch reality television.

The simple fact is: Cars win. I know this is true because I've hit one. I went flying over my handlebars...actually cleared the entire width of the car with my body after the collision and ended up with scrapes and bruises all over, a bent front wheel, and a small crowd of strangers asking me if I was OK in a Denver, Colorado U.S. Bank parking lot. ("I'm fine...why do you ask?")

The car had a dent the size of a quarter.

So, when it comes to cars vs. bikes, road rage does not = logical because cars > bikes.

I'd like to share an experience which happened a few months ago regarding an altercation with a driver. The point of this is to demonstrate, through example, how insanely idiotic getting involved in road rage is.

Sometime in November, shortly after Halloween, I was riding my bike home from work on a Friday evening. Courtesy of the recent daylight savings adjustment, it was getting dark in LA around 5pm. I was riding a little after 6pm, so I had my front light on and my rear blinker flashing to make sure I’d be seen. It was my daily commute from the Palisades to West LA, and at this point I was on dimly lit Arizona Avenue in Santa Monica, nearing Centinela Avenue (the dividing point between SM and West LA where Arizona Ave turns into Texas Ave).

I was just east of 26th St when a car behind me started flashing their lights and honking their horn. I had blown a stop sign at the previous, seemingly vacant intersection and, perhaps, this is what enraged the driver. To their defense, I should have stopped. As cyclists, we can’t really expect cars to respect us if we don’t abide by the same rules as them. It is possible, however, that the driver was simply annoyed by my presence. This happens often. Many drivers don’t realize it is actually illegal (and for a good reason – it’s dangerous for both cyclist and pedestrians) for bikes to ride on the sidewalk and become irritated when they see us on the road. The reality is that bikes belong on the road…just like cars.

Anyhow, the car continued honking as it neared me with increasing speed, only to floor its engine as it passed, coming within inches of my bike and nearly running me into a parked car on the side of the road. As they sped off, I heard the distant yells of incomprehensible statements coming from the driver side window of this rusted, fading red, out-dated sports car.

I was furious…and flooded with adrenaline. I can’t think of many instances that enrage me like a car making an aggressive move towards me when I’m on my bicycle. It gets my blood boiling and it feels like a hornet’s nest has just been stirred in my chest. Every neuron in my brain is telling me to wreak as much havoc as possible, but every neuron in my brain is wrong because I’m singeing with adrenaline. The right thing to do here is pause, take some deep breathes and hope I never cross paths with this individual again.

So here’s what I did…

I threw the falcon (my bike) into a downhill gear and barreled up the dark Arizona Avenue in pursuit of the perpetrator. Blowing through stop signs, hands gripped tightly around my handlebars, I caught up to the ageing sports car at a stop sign just before it was turning right onto Centinela Avenue. I darted around to the driver side of the car to confront the driver. My intentions were not violent; I just wanted to ask the driver a few questions in an extremely aggressive manner.

As I rolled up to the driver side window - yelling “Is this fun for you???” - I noticed the driver of the car was…an elderly woman. The realization of my stupidity immediately came over me, and I quickly darted off whispering to myself “dude…you just picked a fight with senior citizen.” Looking behind me as I was speeding off, I scanned the parameters of the "elderly woman provocation scene" to insure that no one had witnessed my harassment.

The moral of the story: Complete shame and humiliation is about the best thing that could have come from my over-reacting and participating in road rage. Grandma could have run me over; Grandma may have not even been a Grandma at all. It could have been some hormonal, jaded teenager intent on proving his manhood by pummeling me into the concrete. Grandma could have been a gang banger, although that’s highly unlikely considering I’m on the fringes of Santa Monica and Brentwood here. Hell…what if I got my ass kicked by someone’s Grandmother?

The bottom line here is that nothing good comes from this, in every conceivable way of twisting it. Road rage is illogical, like most emotion-spurred reactions.

Ok, back to reality television...

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