Sunday afternoon, I went for a spin around White Rock Lake (with a strategically planned stop at the Lakewood Growler). Cranking uphill along Peavy, keeping it close to the curb, approaching the intersection at the north end of the lake where Peavy turns into Mockingbird, I felt a car following too close for comfort. It crowded me for a few hundred feet, then passed me way too closely while honking. Feeling threatened, I shouted, “Go fuck yourself!”
Okay, that was on me. Driving aggressively around cyclists is never forgivable. I shouldn’t have to spell out why. But I guess I shouldn’t have shouted at the driver. Later, when I told this story to my wife, that’s what she said. She’s usually right.
The car — a compact, gray, older vehicle whose make I didn’t get — stopped in the middle of the road, and the driver’s side door opened. This was bad. I wasn’t going to try to ride past whatever was about to step out of the car. Clipped into my pedals, going at a low speed, I’d be an easy target. So I braked, hopped off my bike, and laid it down in a driveway.
That’s when I got a look at the driver. I’m 6 feet tall and weigh 180 pounds. She was shorter than I but probably outweighed me. She was wearing sweat pants and a tank top, and she looked ready to rumble. I mean, anyone who gets out of car in the middle of the road is obviously ready to rumble. As she walked toward me, I took a few steps toward her, not out of aggression but because I realized that I was wearing cycling shoes and standing on concrete, creating a Bambi-on-ice scenario. This lady didn’t need a tactical advantage.
“What did you say to me?!” she yelled, still coming at me in the street.
“Why the hell are you honking at me?!” I yelled back, not answering her question, now standing in some grass to give myself better footing. Keep in mind that I had my helmet on, the dumb wrap-around sunglasses, the Lycra shorts with the padding in the butt. It was the absolute worst outfit for a street fight.
She was closing in. She unballed a fist and pointed to her left. “There’s a sidewalk right there!” she said.
“I’ve got just as much right to the road as you!” I fired back.
At this point, she was about 15 feet from me. I was convinced hands were about to be thrown, and, honestly, I didn’t like my chances. Everything about this woman told me that she could fight — had, perhaps, already been in a fight that day. I had the reach advantage on her, and I boxed in college. But college was a long time ago, and she had crazy on her side.
“Whatcha gonna do about it?!” she shouted.
She was close enough now that I didn’t need to yell. I said, “Lady, why don’t you just get back in your car?” I said it beseechingly. Like: “Lady, please don’t make me lose a fight while wearing Lycra bike shorts.”
“That’s what I thought,” she said.
To my surprise, she turned around and got back in her car. It ended as quickly as it had begun. I picked up my bike and stood in the driveway till I was sure she wasn’t returning to her car for reinforcements. I could hear her say something to a passenger, which worried me briefly, but then she closed the door sped off. I stood there shaking, amped on adrenaline, unsure of what had just gone down — or nearly gone down — on Peavy.
There are two lessons here. One, I need to watch my mouth and my temper. But the other is this: motorists need to know how we cyclists feel. If you talk to 10 riders, nine of them will have a story like mine. Maybe the driver didn’t stop her car in the middle of the road and get out to fight. But too many people in Dallas don’t give riders a wide enough berth — or, worse, they drive aggressively, they threaten, they throw things. And if you feel under attack every time you go for a ride, you’re going to ride more aggressively to protect yourself. It all starts, though, with the person in control of the most metal. That’s the driver. Please, folks, be careful around bicycles.
Oh, also: don’t be crazy.