Sunday, September 25, 2011

Road Rage

Such danger! Such an absurd misadventure!

It’s the only way I can characterize it.

Same bike – but another ride another time
I was about 25 minutes into a two hour bike ride (estimated distance: 30 miles) when I approached a red light at an intersection. I would be turning right, from due west to due north.

As I neared my turn, I noticed a black Chevrolet Silverado 4x4 stopped in the turn lane, about to make a right of its own – same direction as me, that is. (A Silverado is basically a pickup truck on steroids.) I went to the right, around the Silverado, on the road’s shoulder.

Just as I passed the Silverado, the light changed from red to green. I proceeded past the truck and made my turn.


Except that the Silverado’s driver took exception to what I had done. I guess I should have signaled a right turn, but I wanted both hands on the handlebars. Technically, I may have been in the wrong.

Almost immediately, the Silverado caught up to me on the north-bound road. He rolled down the passenger side window and said, “You didn’t signal. I had to wait to see what you were going to do,” or something like that. At this point, he was very calm.

I basically waved him off. It did not seem like a very big deal to me. Plus, I don’t care for lectures from motorists wanting to correct the error of my ways.

So I ignored him and pulled ahead. He caught up to me again, maintaining the same speed as me. He said something else – to tell you the truth, I don’t remember what. But I’ll admit that he was still – I think – rather calm.

I waved him off again, and pulled ahead. (That’s how slow he was going, and on a main thoroughfare!)

He caught up to me again. Now, though, he was furious. In the few seconds between our exchanges he had popped a cigarette into his mouth, and it bounced jauntily as he screamed, “Pull over right now!

If I wouldn’t stop before, I wasn’t about to stop now – not for some furious stranger who might have a gun in his glove compartment.

Now he sped ahead of me – but only a few hundred yards. He pulled over to the side of the road, and I figured he was about to get out of his truck and accost me. But he didn’t. I passed him by. He sped past me again and pulled over again. I passed him again.

Somewhere along in here another cyclist caught up to me and asked, “What’s up with him?

This cyclist appeared to be one of the many professionals you see in these-here parts. He was dressed in tight fitting, logo-festooned lycra road gear, and had shaved legs. He also had an Australian accent, so I'm going to assume he was Cadel Evans.

“Apparently he didn’t like a turn I made a little ways back,” I told him.

“He seems really pissed.”

“Yes, he does. In fact, you might want to drop back a little, so he doesn’t think we’re together.” Better if just one of us got shot; then there would be a witness.

Confrontations between cyclists and motorists are not uncommon where I live, and Cadel must have taken me seriously, because he did indeed drop back.

I passed the Silverado man again, and he sped ahead again, and then pulled over again – this time a little further down the road than before.

Cadel caught back up to me. “I’ll say this, I said to him. This guy is persistent.”

“Did you get his license plate number?”

“No – but I suppose I should.” And when I passed the motorist again, I took a good look at his plate and committed it to memory. I also took note it was a Chevy Silverado with a Hefty toolbox fitted across the back of its flatbed.

By this time I definitely felt the guy was stalking me, or trying to intimidate me. “I’ve got a cell, if you want to call the police,” Cadel offered. But I had my cell, too. I didn’t know any police phone numbers offhand, and 911 seemed a little extreme – though it wouldn’t be if I got shot, or beaten up, or run off the road.

After a few more miles we reached Jay Road. Cadel made a left turn and cycled off into Neverland. I stayed on my planned route, which continued north for another mile or so. This stretch of road was rather remote. There are wide open spaces on one side, and not much traffic – no witnesses, I thought, with growing concern.

Our little cat-and-mouse game continued. The Silverado sped ahead, waited until I caught up and passed, then sped by me again.

Finally I was nearing Lookout Road. I planned to turn left there, proceed for a mile or so to 63rd, then head north over the Diagonal Highway into the Badlands north of Niwot (as described in Dead Frog). To my great relief, the Silverado, still stalking me after what by now was four or five miles, turned right on Lookout.

But I noticed he had pulled over along Lookout – still watching me, no doubt. I made my planned left turn. I looked back, and sure enough, he had turned around and was trailing me again.

Right about then a cop car drove by me in the opposite direction. And several things happened simultaneously: I thought about flagging him down,  and he executed a U-turn, turned on his lights, and gave a short blast of his siren.

Only then did it occur to me that the Silverado had called the cops, as I had thought of doing.

I pulled over. The cop pulled over just behind me. The black Silverado pulled over just behind the cop, who, I should note, was not a city cop but a Sheriff’s Deputy. A jurisdictional distinction.

The Deputy got out of his car and approached me. “I’m glad to see you,” I said.

“You know why I pulled you over?”

I did, and told him so. I admitted that apparently, I had not properly signaled a turn some miles back but hadn’t wanted to listen to the safety tips of some self-righteous idiot – who from my perspective had been stalking me ever since.

The cop said that the guy reported I had shouted Fuck you! at him. I said no, I had not used that most evil and monstrous of words.

Then the cop talked to the motorist. I sat there on my bike, well out of earshot.

The cop returned after a few minutes. “He really wants me to ticket you,” he said, and my heart sank. “But when I explained to him he’d have to show up in court, he changed his mind.”

And so he let me off with a warning. I said thanks, adding that I was prepared to apologize, if that's what it took – but by then, the Silverado had driven off.

I still had many miles before me, but not much heart for the ride. The guy in the Silverado may not have had me ticketed, but he had ruined my ride, though he didn't know that.

Then I decided that he could only ruin my ride if I allowed it. So I kept going, completing the whole thirty miles as originally planned.

I imagine the Silverado driver in a bar somewhere that night, telling his drinking buddies about some asshole cyclist who cut him off, screamed Fuck You! – but got a surprise when a cop showed up. Maybe he'd even embellish a little, saying I'd gotten an expensive traffic ticket I wouldn't soon forget.

I feel lucky having gotten away without a ticket and without a beating, even if the guy was apparently not stalking me, after all. I really don't think I did anything wrong, and even if I did, the guy completely over-reacted.

Although I have had this nagging doubt: is it possible I let fly with the F-bomb? Sometimes that word slips out a little too easily...

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