I often use my time on the bike to clear my head and think, especially when I have a creative project that I’m trying to pull together. I used our beautiful weather today as an opportunity to get out and ride along Loop 360 here in Austin. This is a route I use quite frequently because it has wide shoulders and is easily accessible from my office. There are a couple of tricky spots, as I have mentioned before, but I’ve ridden it enough to be able to navigate these as if they were second nature.
So there I was jamming to my iPod and solving some problems in my head as I rolled up to a light that had just turned red. At this particular intersection, there’s a right turn lane that takes over the whole shoulder. My strategy in these cases is to move over onto the solid white line in between the turn lane and right lane that goes straight. I do this to be courteous to the drivers wishing to turn right without having to wait for me to. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a car in the right lane coming to a very abrupt stop, almost colliding with the car right in front of it. I settle to a complete stop next to the car that was almost rear-ended and the driver of the other car proceeds to move into the right turn lane. He rolls down the his window and begins to shout at me with all sorts of profanity about how I should get out of his way.
I look at him incredulous. I did get out of the way. I don’t think I was obstructing his progress in any way because I was already on the solid white line separating the turn lane from the right lane. I now surmised that he was attempting to turn in front of me, in between the car that he almost hit and me. He continues on his rant. This really amazes me because I’m not a small guy. Would you go off on a person who’s 6’7″ and 260lbs? I politely offered to discuss it with him if he wanted to get out of his car, at which point he took off with his tires screeching.
I started thinking about my encounter and realized that I was making some assumptions about other drivers that might not be valid and could put me in a lot of danger. There are warning signs at various places along Loop 360 indicating that there is bicycle traffic. However, none of the signs clearly indicate what a motorist should do or who has the right-of-way. I still don’t think it excuses the type of behavior this guy exhibited and it certainly shouldn’t justify some of the other drivers who, instead of going around me on the right as I cross one of the exit/entrance ramps, go around me on the left, in some cases almost losing control of their vehicles because they attempt this sudden lane change at close to 65 Mph.
I think what’s needed are some of the same signs on one of my other regular routes where there are clearly marked bike lanes across these entrances/exits as well as sign-age indicating that motorists must yield to bicycles in these lanes. While this won’t curb aggressive behavior, it should at least remove any confusion about what needs to happen in these types of situations.
In the mean time, I will continue to ride avoiding these types of confrontations because I know I’m at a serious disadvantage. I will also not let this type of individual ruin my rides. All in all, I had a good ride and was able to think about my work sufficiently to make me really productive when I got back to the office. I just hope that rude individual doesn’t take his aggression out on some other poor, unsuspecting cyclist.
What do you think?