When the weather permits, my commute is marginally suburban/rural. While my early morning rides (5 am) are relatively car free, the clutter of traffic – or rather, the miles-long parking lot that passes for a highway as it bridges the more urbanized area where I teach, the rural transect that I commute, and the bedroom community in which I live – can be a capricious hydra of automobile madness even at the best of times … and downright dangerous when you factor in the combination of rush hour with freshly released high school students.
I ride the rural segments at a moderately fast pace – perhaps 18 to 20 mph on average and slow down appreciably when I re-enter the civilized world and encounter lines of obtuse drivers. At such times, it’s important to be aware of everything around me: front, back, and sides; furthermore, bicycle control – especially stopping – becomes especially important. I found the advice of Jan Heine/Bicycle Quarterly to be instructive with regard to body position when braking: butt back, body low, arms forward. I can brake quickly and use my body to moderate the braking simply by shifting forward or backward and using my front brake as primary. This approach allows me to add a significant element of control and provides me with a degree of confidence I might not otherwise have when encountering traffic.
As the weather has turned cold I’ve noticed that drivers are less observant than usual and I’m more than normally vigilant. The temperature took an unexpected – but welcome – turn for the better today and I decided not to waste the opportunity to spend a few enjoyable hours in the saddle. It’s Sunday, and traffic was light and I was unprepared for a young adult in a small SUV to go blasting past me, shaking me in his wake. I shook my head in disbelief: the neighborhood is one populated by lots of small children and was very close to an elementary school. The posted speed limit is 35, but the young man was easily going at least twenty-five miles per hour over that.
It was not, however, so fast that he neglected to see my disapproving head shake and I was alarmed to watch him slam on his brakes, lean out the window, and flip me off.
Really? What’s that all about?
I almost shook my head again before catching myself and thinking better. No telling what he might do if he caught sight of another negative glance! Leaving more rubber on the road than on his tires, he screeched off and zoomed around a corner. Good riddance, and then I thought no more of him.
At least until I turned the corner myself and found the little turd waiting for me on a side street. With a long blare of his horn and loud gunning of his engine, he yelled something at me and then pointedly flew the bird in my direction again.
Merry Christmas to you too, fella.
I simply rode on by; out-of-control testosterone and SUVs aren’t a very good mix, in my opinion.
I’ve felt guilty walking past my Bob Jackson every day, leaning against a wall, waiting for a decent day to come along. When the weather gets crappy, I ride fendered bikes or stay indoors and ride the trainer. But today was nice enough to take my favorite British road bike for a good, long ride and I intended to enjoy the miles. No goofball was going to ruin it for me.
And he didn’t.