I was commuting to work on my fixed gear this morning enjoying a massive tailwind (albeit contemplating the ride home after work) when I approached one of the diciest parts of my commute- a stretch of shoulderless, narrow parkway posted at 25mph with horrible pavement and a tall curb (for the locals, it is the stretch of Minnehaha Parkway between Lake Nokomis and Hiawatha). Anyway, it was about 6:20am- and I can normally make it all the way to the river with maybe a handful of cars passing me- so this is not a high traffic time of day. I wouldn't even consider using this stretch of road during rush hour, since there is no room for a bike to pass a stopped car on the right, and cars back up for blocks during the evening- but this was early morning with light traffic.
Anyway, I heard a car approaching me from behind, and notice a car driving toward me from the opposite direction. The car behind me wasn't slowing down, from the sound of his tires. I gave the glance over the shoulder to let him know I know he is there. I was soft pedalling at about 20 mph with a mighty wind at my back. The car behind me still wasn't slowing, and while I normally ride about where the right wheel of a car would be, self-preservation took over and I rode a bit closer to the curb- just as the black Ford passed me within a foot of me- probably close to 40mph (where it is posted at 25). It was clear he didn't swerve or anything, but he made no effort to slow or move left to pass. Actually, he couldn't move left at this point anyway, since there was the car coming from the opposite direction. It was a rare instant where the only traffic on the road converged at once.
As is one of my compulsive traits, I memorized his plates and vehicle description- something I often do to pass the time when I ride. I contemplated chasing him to catch him at the light, but I saw him turn right at the next intersection, which was maybe only two blocks away from where I was passed. I was annoyed, but not irate. Everything was fine- but it was a situation where there simply was no room for error. It was the principle of the matter that annoyed me.
Imagine my shock when I saw the guy getting out of his car at the bakery on the corner. I did I complete double-take at the mustashioed middle-aged red-headed guy... and I found myself yelling a profanity-free admonition suggesting that he learn how to drive and that he might want to give me a bit more room on the parkway next time. There were several people walking their dogs at the intersection, probably wondering what that was all about. I thought I handled the situation as well as could be expected- especially considering that I had enough tools in my bag to dismantle his parked car.
Anyway, after thinking more about this encounter, I was left with the uncomfortable feeling questioning how deliberate his actions were. I'd almost rather experience the an unmistakeably nasty encounter than the vague, passive-aggressive, is it/isn't it varitey. On the other hand, he didn't need to swerve toward me because the road was already so narrow- he was already about as close as possible when he passed.