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Home » Cycling » Motorists Vs. Cyclists – A Noob’s Guide:  How Not to Handle a Felony Assault with a Vehicle… Or, How to Almost get Run Over on a Bike.

Motorists Vs. Cyclists – A Noob’s Guide:  How Not to Handle a Felony Assault with a Vehicle… Or, How to Almost get Run Over on a Bike.


Mike and I were 65 miles into a 69 mile ride.  It was hot but just started raining, so it felt wonderful.  Unfortunately I was on the Venge and Mike was riding his 7 Series Madone – not the rain bikes.  We were on a country road that gets a little more traffic than we like but have ridden it dozens of times in the past (not a highway, standard two-lane road country road).  We were single file, 3″ left of the white line.  Heads down, in the drops, 22 mph, trying to beat a line for home before getting too soaked.  I took the lead with three miles to go and took it up to 24.  A mile into it we heard the car horn…  From about a quarter mile back.  A succession of honks followed by a sustained, loooong lean on the horn.  Mike said, “Oh boy, here we go.”

I gave the motorist the one fingered equivalent of “so sorry we’re in your way” as he drove by.  Apparently the driver didn’t appreciate that because he jammed on his brakes and blocked the entire lane with his truck.  It’s always the trucks…  I passed on his left (into the oncoming lane) and shouted, “What’s your problem, old man.” as I rode by (he was old, late 60’s and rather bulbous).  He yelled something unintelligible, gripped the steering wheel with both hands and gunned the engine, launching the truck at me…  He swerved a couple of feet before running me down and drove off.

I’m lucky I didn’t get squished.

What I should have done as soon as he blocked the road was stop, take out my camera and start taking pictures.  License plate, that guy’s mug, everything…  And let the court system have its way with the old-timer.  In Michigan this is “Felony Assault with a Vehicle” while flipping a grumpy jerk the bird is simply rude.  Especially what he did after I went around him because he’d blocked the road.

This is that 5% rule in effect.  5% is a made up number, but the principle is this:  5% of motorists suck and ruin “it” for all motorists.  Conversely, 5% of cyclists ride stupidly and ruin “it” for the rest of us.  I’d say the percentage of poorly educated cyclists is a bit higher though and, in our neck of the woods, the number of bone-headed motorists is lower.

One important factor that must be accounted for here is that, at least in my case, we’re not talking about highways or busy cities roads…  We’re talking about back-country roads. We have hundreds of miles of back roads so we can avoid busy arterial roads like the plague.  While this shouldn’t matter at all, it goes to show just how wrong that old fart was.

Another interesting point here, suggested by Mrs. Bgddy (and this may be a cause for educating motorsists about bicycles), is that the old fella may have expected that we’d pull of the road simply because the King of the road aproacheth, onto the wet dirt and gravel shoulder, while traveling north of 20 mph on road bikes, when he blared his horn repeatedly.  If you don’t know anything about bikes, pulling off the side of the road in the presence of traffic could seem reasonable.  Now, if you know anything about bikes, at all, you know that this would be only slightly less dangerous than BASE jumping… with a plastic Winnie the Pooh umbrella instead of a parachute.  In other words, bend over and kiss your ass good-bye.

For those who might read this post and not understand why pulling into the shoulder would be so dangerous, hold up your pinky finger.  The surface area of a road bike tire that contacts the ground is about the width of your fingernail.  In short, that doesn’t work on dirt or gravel, and especially not when those two are wet.

Now, fairly stated, that old fart was an angry, ignorant jerk but I reacted poorly.  I should have recorded what happened rather than try to give an ignoramus a lesson.  Had I been thinking, he’d have, at the very minimum, gotten a visit by an officer and caught a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget.  Instead, he’s still out there, even more pissed and God only knows what will happen to the next cyclist who crosses his path – and what if it’s me.  

While I can fairly say that I made a mistake in judgement, the reality is that I am Monday morning quarterbacking the scenario.  I never could have been prepared to handle a situation where the motorist was that completely ignorant of the fact that he was not only entirely in the wrong, but that he’d be so belligerent.  In more than 21,000 miles, I’ve never encountered anything close to that level of animosity – especially when the oncoming lane was wide open for more than a mile.  The truth is, because I wasn’t prepared, I couldn’t get to the wise thing to do in that situation.  In fact, at no time during that altercation did I even think about grabbing the phone out of my back pocket when that is exactly the right thing to do.

The reason for this post, and its length and descriptiveness, is to let you, my fellow cyclists, know that crazy things can happen out there – no matter how correctly you’re following the law.  Be prepared, go for the phone first and record everything you can, photo or video.  Kicking someone’s ass, while viscerally more rewarding when it comes to a jerk like that, won’t do what is necessary to help your brothers and sisters on two wheels down the road.  The only thing that will help everyone is for that person to be set straight by the law.

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29 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on choose happiness and commented:
    I have been riding for a few a few years now, but I still have a lot to learn. I live in Los Angeles where the car is king. I have a healthy respect for physics. This article that I’m re-posting was food for thought. Since I take lots of pictures anyway, it was a healthy reminder to safe out there and observant of what’s going on around me. Joe.

  2. Paul says:

    sound sound advice Jim. It’s a measure of the person to control themselves in these circumstances – every time I go out I think I want to be coming home, not someone else to give dreadful news to my sweetheart. Getting angry only increases the chances it will not be me..

    • bgddyjim says:

      Thanks Paul, I think we had a little lost in translation there, but I get exactly what you were working at. Getting angry is not the way to diffuse a volatile situation.

  3. Dan In Iowa says:

    I think we’ve ALL been there……reaction instead of response. I used to carry a canned air horn and would use that. I’ve had more fun stories with that than poor, but it worked about as effectively as the finger. I have made it look like I was taking a picture when someone passed me in a less than safe manner and it got me flipped off. Oh well. We win some, lose some, and some are rained out!

  4. Dudders says:

    I cycle every day across central london to work and this sounds oh too familiar. London is SO compact with lots of cars. The “5%” rule is SO true! I’m often having heated debates with some aunts/cousins who have unfortunately have been in contact with the 5% of bad cyclists and now I have a feeling has made them naturally aggressive towards cyclists. I truly believe that behaviour breeds behaviour – if there’s an aggressive best thing is to do what you’ve said – keep calm, ignore and note down their number plate. It’s also lack of education too or understanding of the other parties. I often have to explain about “pot holes” to my motorists friends. Some are so bad in London, that it’s more dangerous to cycle over them because I’ll end up falling off due to it’s depth. So when I do swerve (I try to go the side of the pavement) motorists don’t understand why you are doing that. Everyone just needs a little more patience and understanding.

  5. Sandra says:

    Glad you’re okay. But more importantly, how’s the Venge? 😉

  6. Sandra says:

    (great timing for my post about accidents yesterday, eh . . . )

  7. Totally scary encounter on a very quiet back road, just cycling along too, no response from me. So, you do get ’em. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your cool though.

  8. Kecia says:

    All the more reason I want to get a GoPro and have it mounted to my helmet…I’ve encountered a few incidences where that would have come in handy!!

    • bgddyjim says:

      No chance I’m mounting one of those ridiculous things on my helmet. One bad incident in 20,000 isn’t enough of a reason to go that far… Simply pulling out my camera would have a greater effect anyway. People will understand what was up as soon as they see that come out.

  9. EpicGran says:

    A bit random but have had my share of run ins with motorists here in Africa and forgive me for generalising but it is often the “bulbous” types who want to run one off the road. My last run in was a large man dressed only in boxers who purposefully shaved by me as closely as possible. Takes all sorts I suppose! Maybe the larger and less fit just dislike those of us trying to get less large and fit??

  10. Paige says:

    You can’t reason with unreasonable people.
    I learned that as a teacher trying to talk to about 5% of the parents I’ve had to deal with in the past. It really applies to so many situations in life. Glad you’re ok!

  11. The law in Illinois is that motorists must give a cyclist a minimum of three feet when passing.

    I started commuting by bicycle in the Chicago suburbs more than twenty years ago. My first year or two had a lot of confrontations with motorists, a great deal of that due to my own ignorance of sharing the road, as well as motorists plain not being used to dealing with bicycles on the road. Confrontations reduced dramatically as I learned my lessons and the number of cyclists increased… and people learned about some guy named Lance Armstrong (how many times have you had someone yell :HEY LANCE: out of their car window at you?).

    Even with my experience, the salute sometimes flies. But I usually enjoy the ride a whole lot more if I manage to stifle my reaction to a rude motorist.

  12. Sue Slaght says:

    Solid advice Jim. What is it with people and their trucks. You may find it interesting that in our European travels on bikes we have never had an issue. But get on the back country North American road and those 5% would rather run you over. I don’t get it.

  13. MJ Ray says:

    Glad you’re OK and an incident like that (but in my case, the road had a kerb which prevented pulling off) is why I carry a camera. If only local police would take reports more seriously, we could get this 5% stopped from motoring before they hurt someone else.

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