I don't normally like to post about bad biking experiences, because in general I love biking, and the bad moments are overwhelming outweighed by the good ones.
However, tonight's commute left me shaking and wanting to cry after some guy tried to run me off the road and called me a F'ning- B- because I dared to ride far enough in the lane that he had to wait to pass me. Panting from the effort of trying to go "traffic speed" I gasped a few weak things about door zone, and legal vehicle blah blah, wheeze, but it obviously made no impression.
This is what I would say if I weren't alone on my bike on a cold night being honked and and yelled at by angry drivers.
Dear Angry Driver
My name is C__,
I have a dog, and a boyfriend, and a Mom, a Dad and a Brother who I love and who love me.
I like to cook and read and listen to music and lie in bed on a lazy Sunday drinking coffee and reading the paper. I like my job, although not so much on Monday mornings.
I might not be so different from you, or your sister or your mom.
You were angry because I was riding out in the "Middle of the Road". You wanted me to ride over to the side so that you could get where you were going (in this case the red light) a little faster.
You might not know why a biker might ride so far into the middle of the road, so let me try to explain. Unfortunately this street is lined with parked cars, and people aren't very careful about opening them and might hit me, possibly throwing me under your wheels. So I ride about a foot inside the fog line so that I'm out of their range. Most of the time drivers scootch out into the other lane about 2 feet in order to give me plenty of space. Tonight, for whatever reason (the phase of the moon?) several people in a row buzzed me way too close, because they were too lazy to wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic to give me even that much space.
Now maybe I'm crazy, but I don't like a 2 ton mass passing by so close I can touch it at speeds of 35 MPH. (or about 15 MPH faster than I'm going and 5mph over the speed limit).
This particular road we're on is a two lane, quasi-residential street that has been pressed into service as an E-W Arterial. Per Massachussets General Code Chapter 89, Section Two "If it is not possible to overtake a bicycle or other vehicle at a safe distance in the same lane, the overtaking vehicle shall use all or part of an adjacent lane if it is safe to do so or wait for a safe opportunity to overtake. " ) Because people weren't doing that, I moved out into the middle of the lane (actually about 1/3 in) in order to make it clear to drivers that it is not safe to pass me in the same lane, and that they need to cross the centerline, and pass me safely.
This angered you because you had to take your foot off the accelerator, and maybe even had to hit the brake. The thing that you might not know about this particular street, is that the lights are timed at almost exactly the speed of a bicyclist (about 18- 20Mph). I almost never have to wait for a light once I get synched up, and if you pass me, you're almost certainly going to be waiting at the next red light until I catch up with you.
Unlike most bikers, I choose not to pass you while you are stopped, I wait my turn at the light, or even in backed up traffic. All I ask in return is that people pass me carefully- if they have to wait a bit to do so safely, I don't want them to have to do it again and again along the same stretch of road. I drive sometimes too, and I know how aggravating that can be.
Believe me, I wholeheartedly wish that there was a bike lane or a cycle track, or something that defined safely separated spaces for both of us on this (and every other) road. It would let me ride a little slower on my way home, relaxed because no one was honking and gunning their engine right behind me. It would let you get to the red light a little quicker. We'd both probably be happier. Unfortunately there's not enough space in this old town's old streets for that.
So for now, I hope you'll consider why I might be riding the way I am before you fly into a rage.
I hope you'll consider sharing the road, even if that means that you might have to wait for 90 seconds to pass, or might get to the light a little slower.
And please, think of your sister or mother or coworker before you call a human being who just happens to be on the same streets names and yell at her for slowing you down.