Dear PoPville – Frustrating Biking Experience

“Dear PoPville,

Yesterday morning I was riding my bicycle toward the right side of the right lane headed south bound on 11th Street. This is a two lane road in both directions. I passed a stopped bus which was partially occupying the right lane however I did not have to switch lanes to do so. At the moment I passed I was in the process of positioning the bike to the right of my lane again when a tan Dodge Caravan came from behind me and came to inches of hitting me.—It was similar scenario to the biker who was hit by the pickup truck riding on Rhode Island Ave. except there was no verbal exchange and no actual contact.— I think that the minivan definitely tried to scare and intimidate me for no apparent reason.

I followed the minivan a couple blocks to the intersection of 11th and K St NW and approached the window of the car. The driver rolled down the window in anticipation and asked me if I have a problem in a very confrontational manner. I asked if he did not see me as he came inches to hitting me to which he asked if I was speeding. To me that did not seem like a logical response/question since he came from behind me and was probably speeding himself. I made him aware that I am on a mountain bike with stop lights every block which would make speeding very hard.

I decided to leave since other then to escalating the encounter there was little I could do. As I was leaving the driver had a smirk on his face, as if he was acknowledging an accomplishment.

The thing that bothers me is that we, as bicyclists are vulnerable on the road as it is, and I truly feel that this is clear provocation of a bicyclist for no apparent reason other then hate. Had this driver made contact with me I would have been truly injured and in my opinion it would have been a hate crime. There was no reason for the driver to behave as he did on the road other then the strong dislike of cyclists.

I guess my question to you and the readers would be if there is any good retaliation to this kind of behavior?”

Sometimes even when you are in the right – there are no satisfactory answers. And to a certain degree, I can see this as a somewhat rhetorical question. Nevertheless, while I know some folks will disagree with me, in my opinion there is never “any good retaliation to this kind of behavior”. The best retaliation is to smile and bike on by. Believe me, I respect the desire to want to punch somebody in the face or hit their car or scream but, as trite as it sounds, you gotta be the better person. I don’t believe a confrontation will have any positive outcome.

It is my hope that one day bike lanes will be better respected and cover more of the city. But until that time comes some shitty and unfortunately sometimes dangerous situations are going to arise. And no doubt there are some serious jerks in the world – that is just a reality that I don’t think will ever completely change. No retaliation will change their behavior. If you take the bait of instigators then they win, if you smile and bike on by with your head held high – then you win.

I believe Council Member Tommy Wells recently said that ultimately the culture needs to change to make the harassment of bikers less common (though I believe some legislation is being debated as well). And certainly there are some bike riders who instigate drivers. In fact some cyclists can be down right insufferable. But at the end of the day – we all need to respect each other whether our mode of transport has two wheels or four. It does take time for culture to change so in the meantime I’ll leave you with the words of the great Canadian jurist Barbara Hall:

“Justice does not come from the outside. It comes from inner peace.”

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