From time to time it seems that some asshat just needs to remind me that my life ain't worth shit to him.
Picture this: A nice mid-summer's morning. July. Temps in the 50s. Lightly cloudy. A bit damp on the roads due to some overnight precip. The streets are lightly trafficed - it's ten to six in the morning. Down town. I roll north/north west on H and as I come to 4th ave I have the light. I see, to my left a white SUV speeding east/north east on 4th, not showing any sign of slowing for the light until the last moment.
I continue across the intersection with the light. I am in the roadway. Taking the lane. I note that the crosswalk signal is flashing with 9 seconds left, which tells me that the green light at 3rd will hold just long enough for me to make it through. I hear the growl of a big engine behind me as I get close to the light, but don't think too much of it. Yeah, it's being revved, but that doesn't mean anything necessarily.
I start making my way down Christensen, through the light at 3rd with 2 seconds left on the crossing signal when, as I get to just behind Snowgoose, I hear the revving of an engine and see in my periphery a white hood coming up fast and close on my left. The same SUV from 4th and H? Maybe. The fact of the matter is the driver is gunning his engine and, as soon as his mirror passes me he starts moving to his right - into my path of travel.
Normally I am pretty forgiving if someone passes me closely. I know how hard it can be to judge just how far away something is from the right side of the vehicle. I get that. In this case, though, there are other things that instantly made me doubt this was a case of a driver just not being aware. First, the revving engine. This was gunning, like showing off. This was someone racing. Second, the vehicle was going well over the speed limit which is…I don't know what the speed limit is on that stretch of road. I was doing 20 according to my GPS at the time. Third, the driver, as soon as his mirror passed me, started cutting over into my path. The SUV in question wasn't a nice compact little Jeep Liberty or something. This was a Ford Excursion. A white Ford Excursion. The damned thing is nearly a mile long. There is no way that the driver thought he had cleared me before he started cutting back over. Couple that with how close he was to begin with, the revved engine and the fact that it seems fairly likely this was the same SUV from 4th and H, the one that didn't show any sign of wanting to stop at the light, and it leads me to feel that this was intentional.
I've found that the more close one comes to being killed by a driver, the less rational the response to the situation. Once I got myself out of the path of these crushing wheels on this white Ford Excursion I reacted with a less than helpful or appropriate raising of the middle finger and shouted "Fuck you asshole!"
Not cool. I get it. Not the way to deal with the situation. The driver shouted back "Get off the road" as well as a bunch of other things I missed as he first slowed and then sped away. When He slowed I pulled over to the side of the road, pulled out my phone and debated calling the police. After a half a moment, I decided that it wasn't worth the effort. I've called the police about assaults in progress I've witnessed and not had them show up for half an hour or more. They might take my statement, but what of it?
So I noted the dude's license plate number. Not sure why. I can't really find out who he is by that number. Maybe I thought I would file a report after the fact just to have it on record. Maybe I thought that I'd run into the asshat again and, before bashing his mirror off with my U-lock would check to make sure it was the same asshat.
Don't know. I've got his number, though.
What is so shocking to me about this encounter is how rare it is for me on my commute. My route is generally removed from the roads and most times I ride at non-peak traffic times. I can imagine how those who are forced to ride more roadway than I and who ride during the more peak hours would quickly tire of the daily fight to arrive alive. Hell, if I had to deal with situations like today even twice a week I'd probably quickly give up the bike commuting thing as a lost cause.
And my reaction to the situation? That could've gotten me killed as well. When the driver slowed and rolled down his passenger window is when it flashed through my mind that if I go up there to engage, I could very well get shot in the face. This is Alaska. There are a lot of people packing here. And they tend to like to use those guns. Something I need to keep in mind before flying the bird or calling some random stranger who just tried to kill me an asshole. If he tried to kill me with his vehicle why wouldn't he pull a gun?
I can hear the conversation he's having with his coworkers right now about the pussy biker who flipped him off then didn't have the balls to come up to the window when he slowed down. "Little bitch didn't even have the balls to back it up. I tell ya, those fuckin' bikers just piss me off. Thinking they own the roads and shit."
It's hard to not get worked up by situations like this. It's hard to keep cool and smile and wave. Maybe the kill them with kindness route isn't the route to go. Maybe the militant cyclists have it right. Maybe I should engage. Maybe I should bash mirrors and purposefully obstruct traffic? Maybe I should have called the police or followed the asshat to his place of work. Or maybe I will do a bit of sleuthing this afternoon and if I find his vehicle… well who knows?
No, I won't do anything like that. Instead, I'll be more vigilant about riding within the boundaries of the law and when I see asshat again, I'll smile and wave and be prepared to have him try to run me off the road again and be faster on the draw with the phone to call the authorities. After all, if the incidents don't get reported, there's no issue in the eyes of the law, right?
Maybe some cap-head nails in my pocket as well. You know, just because.