Before I started commuting by bike in 2010, I’d heard stories about the abuse that can be dumped on cyclists. I’d seen the rants on cycling forums, talked with folks who had horror stories of interactions with motorists, heck, I’d even seen some of it firsthand. But I doubt that there was anything that could have prepared me for the realtime, in-the-moment attitudes of automobile drivers towards me on my bike.
I offer to you, in response to those attitudes, the Five Reasons You Might Meet My Middle Finger While I’m Biking.
Reason #5 – Trash Talkin’
I’m lucky in my daily commute that I’m unable to wear my hearing aids while biking. It probably reduces the number of times I give the finger significantly, but nevertheless, I have folk who are determined to make sure I hear them yell at me out their window as they drive by. I’ve been screamed at (no intelligible words, just screaming), and been told:
- I’m fat
- My mama _______________
- Get on the sidewalk
- Get the fuck out of the street
- Get a car
and my personal favorite:
- “Get your fat, cracker ass out of the street, motherfucker!”
Friends, believe me: If you scream at me out your window in frustration or exasperation, I’m going to be sure to give you one more thing to be frustrated about. That’s right: The Finger™.
Reason #4 – The Side Door Smackdown
Cruising down the street, paying attention to my surroundings, other vehicles, the pavement, loose animals, broken glass, stop signs, stop lights, pedestrians, road conditions – it’s all a part of commuting to work and using my bike to run errands and get around town. One thing I’m not always able to do, however, is keep track of who’s behind me and what they’re going to do.
I’m glad that this has only happened to me once, but coming up on a street to the right of me in a quiet, residential section of Pensacola several months ago, I had a car make a hard right turn directly in front of me into the side street. I slammed on my brakes quick as I could, but still hit their back door and went flying off my bike into the street, yelling at the top of my lungs (and scared to death).
Their reaction? Didn’t even slow down. Kept right on going.
Now, I’d hit their car (tactile). I yelled at the top of my lungs (auditory). I flew off my bike (visual). And they didn’t see, hear, or feel that? Yah, right. A dude in an SUV traveling the other side of the road, music blaring with his windows up heard me and made a u-turn to make sure I was alright.
And I was alright. You know why? Because I’d unleashed The Finger™ on that jackass who doored me.
Reason #3 – The Buzz
I wish I didn’t have so many incidents involving The Buzz to share, but I do. There are several variations to The Buzz that all involve cars getting too close to me while I’m on my bike, so allow me to explain:
- The Texting / Makeup / Sandwich Buzz – this buzz happens when folks aren’t paying attention to the road while I’m biking in their immediate vicinity. I can usually tell these folks by the sudden jerk / swerve after they hear me yell at them. They don’t do it on purpose, but it doesn’t make it less dangerous.
- The “You’re Going Too Slow, I’ve Got Places To Be” Buzz – This is self-explanatory. I’m in your way. I’m slowing you down. You’re going to get by me at any cost, even if that cost is my life.
- The Old People Buzz – I love old people. Seriously. But I’m never quite as spooked while being buzzed when it’s by an old person who doesn’t seem to know where they are. Many old folks are spared The Finger™ simply because they wouldn’t know what it meant, even if they did see it.
- The “I’m Bigger Than You” Buzz (sometimes known as the “I’m Compensating For Something” Buzz) – These folks truly scare me. My best (worst?) story – picture this: Sunday morning. Pensacola, FL. 90% of the populace is in church. 9 of the remaining 10% are at home in bed. Roads are dead. I’m heading South on N. Davis Hwy – 2 lanes S, 2 lanes N, and a turning lane in the middle. Dude in a big-ass truck gets less than 6″ from my shoulder while I’m in the far right-hand lane. As I look at him incredulously, I watch as his head spins to see how I react in his rearview mirror. Well, I’m not going to disappoint him – I give him The Finger™! What does he do? He SLAMS ON HIS BRAKES in the MIDDLE OF THE DEAD FIVE-LANE ROAD, rolls down his window and screams at me all manner of profanities about what he’s gonna do to me. I think to myself, “Goodness, this person perhaps does not know what the middle finger means. I suppose I shall have to explain it to him verbally.” and proceed to give him The Finger™ again along with the verbal explanation. The good thing about these jackasses is that when confronted by someone who isn’t afraid of them and their oversized vehicle / undersized penis, they usually drive off in a huff (as was the case here).
- The School Bus Buzz – School busses are the worst offenders in my area. It’s like a double-whammy if it’s a full bus, too – first you’re spooked by the front tire that’s as big as you are 6″ from your left hand, then you get all the students hanging out the window yelling at you while you’re trying to recover from the first scare. And don’t bother trying to retaliate against bus drivers: they deal with worse shit all day long than some pissant cyclist upset that you got too close to him.
Reason #2 – Dodging Projectiles
I’ve had stuff thrown at me out car windows, even over the tops of cars by the driver. The worst thing was a full, 42oz fountain drink lobbed at me by two dumbasses in a quiet residential neighborhood while I had a full backpack on. It was like slo-mo – they weren’t going 20mph, but they overshot me with the drink and missed. What was the purpose of that? They didn’t even speed away, but kept right on going, even as I talked about their mothers’ sexual preferences. But I honestly just don’t get it. Oh, but you know by now what they got, right?
The Finger™, indeed.
Reason #1 – The Laying On of Horns (or, Can We Unseat Him)
I recently wrote about a specific incident involving the Laying On of Horns and how I was able to confront the driver (and actually made a positive difference as a result). Most confrontations like this aren’t resolved as easily, however.
The horn-blowing individuals out there seem to have varying reasons for their hornyness. I’ve broken them down as best I can into the following categories:
- HA-ha!! Let’s See If We Can Scare Him Off His Bike!! – Pure, unadulterated stupid. The worst incident of this was when two rednecks in a pickup pulled next to me and blew an airhorn out their window (the kind in a can) at me.
- I Don’t Know The Laws Regarding Cars And Cyclists – These folks think I’m supposed to be On The Sidewalk Where I Belong. My favorite incident of this was when I caught up to the driver 2 miles later after she blared her horn at me on a narrow, twisty, hilly, no-shoulder section of my commute. She’d gotten stuck at 2 lights and I caught her at the 2nd one. The Finger™ wasn’t even necessary here, as the look on my face as I said loudly, “I bet you weren’t expecting THIS, were you?” while she pretended not to notice, was enough.
- C’mon, Already! Can’t You Go Faster Than That?? Another self-explanatory one.
I understand the frustration the motorists feel being “stuck” behind me in traffic sometimes. I’m sympathetic to their plight, and I don’t always flash The Finger™ at offending drivers. I don’t think it helps anything except my own psyche (perhaps I’m overcompensating for something by doing it?), but I’ve been surprised at the frequency of the offenses over the last 2 years.
It’d be nice if The Finger™ came with instructions on why their offending behavior was misplaced / misguided. I need a sign saying, “Text ‘Finger’ to 40404 to see why you received The Finger™ from me.”
Of course, they’d text while driving, then I’d get buzzed, leading to…