Fighting the Good Fight with Minimum Obscenities
A few years ago I was rolling down Detroit Ave. in Lakewood, on my way to the Root Cafe for work, when a loud, boisterous voice from a vehicle approaching me from behind yelled, "Hey, get off the road! You belong on the sidewalk!"
Any of you who are cyclists are familiar with these kinds of shouts, as well as the rage that boils inside of you when you hear it. I thought I was able to control myself as an adult, but before I knew it, I was yelling "F**K YOU", with my middle finger flying high. In Lakewood, the Best Place to Raise Your Kids.
Only seconds later, I recognized both the car and driver, it was my good friend and landlord, Matt Kiley, who was, on a rare occasion, driving his car. It turns out we were headed to the same place, so that embarrassing conversation was about to take place:
Kiley: OH my gosh I'm SO SORRY, I should not have yelled at you while you were riding!
Me: YOU'RE sorry?! I just flipped you off and told you to F-off...and I meant it!
Kiley: Well I deserved it! It's so dangerous to yell at people when they're not expecting it...
Me: And I obviously have a rage problem.
...And so on, and so forth (side note: Kiley is still absolutely one of my greatest friends). But the point is, had this been a "real" situation, of stranger vs. stranger, this story could have turned out quite differently. A yell at a cyclist could trip them up enough to cause an accident, and a cyclist yelling back at a driver could begin a confrontation that could easily turn violent and dangerous for one or both parties.
So what to do? Being heckled while minding your own business on your bike certainly makes you feel like less of a person, it strikes those aggressive chords for a reason--we feel the need to defend ourselves and the things we believe in. Most importantly, "I shouldn't get off the road...I belong in the road". The conclusion I've come to is to try once again to channel my patience and simply ignore the shouts and jeers. The likelihood of "teaching someone a lesson" via shouting on my bike is so small, and not worth the potential danger that may be caused.
In addition to that, I believe this just further highlights the need to support organizations such as Bike Cleveland, and the many bike shops and bike co-ops in Cleveland, who work so hard to educate not only cyclists, but our four-wheeled companions on our rights and responsibilities out on the streets. Let's be smart, do the right thing, and be sure to look out for ourselves as well as each other.