Spring is here, which puts a smile on many of our faces as we can enjoy a bike ride without bundling up in heavy layers. While we may be rolling around with happy thoughts of long rides and short sleeves, unfortunately we there are still angry people out there and they may be in the car next to us. Today I got an email with some scary videos of a commute gone terribly wrong. On March 13 Ben Jones of Madison was riding past Madison East High School on E. Washington on his way to work when a car swerved passed him into the bike lane, forcing him toward the curb. Below is the frightening story of what happened next in Ben’s own words, and caught on video by a Madison Metro Transit bus:
“I caught up to him and informed him that it was a bike lane and said he should be careful. He started swearing at me. I stood my ground, said I was going to call police. He jumped out of the car (with it still in drive). His car started rolling away. He stopped it, grabbed me and threw me to the ground. I landed hard, had road rash, bruises and a torn jacket. A witness bravely tried to block his escape but he narrowly missed her car and drove off. He was later found by police and cited.” –Ben Jones
Thankfully, Ben is OK and the Madison Police apprehended the 19-year-old driver who now faces a Misdemeanor battery charge.
In Milwaukee, a friend of mine told me he shouted at a car in the bike lane as he recently avoided a similar near miss. That driver spun around the tried to drive into him a second time and then hid on a nearby side street.
I’m hard pressed to say what lessons we can learn from these road rage incidents that will keep people on bikes safer on the road. Ben and my friend were both aware of their surroundings and able to swerve to avoid being hit by the cars. So staying vigilant while we ride is lesson number one.
I am hesitant to suggest we completely avoid engaging with people in cars who a driving poorly or dangerously. I generally advise people on bikes not to get into screaming matches or flip off drivers. A long time ago, I realized that if I allow the bad behavior of others in motor vehicles to get me angry, I end up angry on most of my rides. I don’t want to give other people the power to ruin my mood, so I work hard to stay zen about crazy driving I witness on my rides.
I also worry about further enraging someone who is already unhinged and what they might do. So many people are carrying guns these days, illegally and legally. But as my buddy found out, an angry person behind the wheel of a 3,000 pound vehicle already has access to a pretty effective weapon if they want to use it that way.
Yelling to get someone’s attention so they don’t hit you is a whole different thing though. And letting someone know they are driving in a bike lane when you pull up next to them at a red light seems like a reasonable thing to do since so many people were never taught the rules of the road as they relate to driving around people walking and bicycling.
Thankfully, the majority of people we share the road with have no desire to hurt anyone around them.
I guess I’ll leave it at “be careful out there.”