Since this is my first post here, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Dennis and I live in Chicago.
Even though I'm posting this query as the driver of an auto, I should point out that I've also been a cyclist most of my life -- for a stretch as a commuter (not currently). My post concerns a situation in which I was the object of a cyclist's aggression while driving in traffic.
What bothered me most about this incident was that I came away not understanding exactly what I did to set this guy off. So, I've come to a bicycling forum hoping that you might help me understand the nature of the threat I may have posed to this cyclist based on your own experiences and how I might avoid a situation like this in the future.
This occurred on an four lane urban arterial with a parkway (for those in Chicago, it was on N. Ashland Avenue). This street does not have a designated bicycle lane and there are parked cars along the route.
I was driving in the outer lane. As traffic was heavy, the cyclist was alongside me several times. I'm always nervous about a cyclist having enough room, so if I'm unable to move to the inside lane to give a cyclist the maximum benefit of space, I try to stay as far to the left of the outer traffic lane to allow as much room as possible between my vehicle and the parked cars.
Over several blocks, the cyclist was repeatedly alongside me for a stretch because of traffic speed. Ahead, there was slower traffic because of a merge into the right lane due to road work. I was slowing to allow traffic in the left lane to merge ahead of me.
I should also point out that this portion of Ashland with the parkway has less room to spare for the traffic lanes, especially with the parked cars.
It was about this time when I slowed to allow someone in the left lane in (who hesitated in disbelief that I was actually allowing him into my lane) that the cyclist, who had been behind me by a few car lengths, came up alongside my car and matching my speed, banged the right side of my car with his bicycle lock.
I can't understand what I could have done differently to avoid this, so I'm trying to understand the nature of his anger. The merge forced traffic to move slightly to the right, and I had to follow suit. My awareness was that he was behind me but certainly would have had a clear view of this merge situation and would have adjusted his speed and spacing accordingly. All I can imagine was that he came up into my blind spot and thought I was intentionally trying to keep him from getting around me.
Again, I'm not here to put this guy in a bad light, even though what he did was wrong. But, I'm certainly not wishing to justify his action (which was criminal damage to property). As a cyclist myself, I understand how peeved I can be sometimes with motor vehicle traffic if the motorist is being thoughtless, careless, or intentionally endangering me. But, I'd never take an action like that. On the chance there might be people reading this forum who might have similar inclinations to this guy, please help me learn from this situation and what I possibly might have missed to make sure that he and I were co-existing safely.
I try to practice the Golden Rule behind the wheel because I've been involved in two accidents as a cyclist which were caused by a lack of due care by drivers.
Your thoughts would be appreciated to help me be a better driver and cyclist.