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  1. #1
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    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.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by L≈ 10-23-05 at 11:55 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    If the cyclist was behind you when the merge occured, then it looks like you did nothing wrong at that time. If there was not enough room for you to pass the cyclist safely in the right lane, then he/she should have been out far enough to ensure that vehicles didn't try to pass. Did you have at least 3 feet between you and the cyclist when you were sharing the lane before the merge? If I don't have this much, at least, while I'm driving, then I won't attempt to pass. I've actually been flipped off by a cyclist looking back at me because the people behind me were honking when I wouldn't pass him.
    My guess is the cyclist somehow figured you were trying to cut him/her off deliberately.
    Many car drivers don't pay attention to what's coming up in traffic ahead of them, and many cyclists don't either. Then again, there's also those people, using any form of transportation, that are just looking for an excuse to lash out at others.
    Last edited by Dchiefransom; 10-22-05 at 08:54 PM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dchiefransom
    If there was not enough room for you to pass the cyclist safely in the right lane, then he/she should have been out far enough to ensure that vehicles didn't try to pass. Did you have at least 3 feet between you and the cyclist when you were sharing the lane before the merge?
    You've hit upon an important point. For most of the I was near him it seemd to me there was an adequate margin of at least three feet. But, the cyclist was staying close to the parked cars, in another words trying to star as far right as possible. Conditions of traffic may have reduced this margin when I was ahead of him. He forcefully dented the side of my car with his lock coming alongside me from behind.


    My guess is the cyclist somehow figured you were trying to cut him/her off deliberately.
    Many car drivers don't pay attention to what's coming up in traffic ahead of them, and many cyclists don't either. Then again, there's also those people, using any form of transportation, that are just looking for an excuse to lash out at others.
    That's all I can figure. But, at the point of the merge, I had no choice but to stay in the outside lane. Perhaps he was looking for a reason to be honked off because I wasn't trying to endanger him or make things difficult for him.

    But, I'll be more careful next time I'm in a similar situation to allow even more room for the cyclist, even if it means slightly inconveniencing other cars.

    Thanks for your reply.

  4. #4
    commuter all star peregrine's Avatar
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    looks like you didn't do anything wrong... maybe the cyclist should have stayed behind you, occupying the whole lane instead of trying to pass you on the right side... maybe he misjudged the space he needed and thought you were going to run him over. in any case, if he couldn't handle a heavy-traffic road (with a construction on top) and if he was getting nervous that drivers didn't see him, that's no excuse for getting ticked off at you

  5. #5
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    Having a cyclist hug the parked cars that tight would have made me nervous about the cyclist's safety. Although this happens to me where the cyclist doesn't move out away from the cars, I don't pass when it would give me room, but not them.

  6. #6
    Senior Member biodiesel's Avatar
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    As a bike commuter for several years i'm growing into les of a sense of outrage. When somwone cuts me off in a car, i don't hit them with a car club or run into them without going to jail. Why is it when a car hits me, cuts me off or otherwise i can't do the same. I get my moments of outrage and realize the difference of how cars treat us, ie. tend to drive off insead of pulling over like the law states they should etc. I'm also the guy that rode down a SUV in Denver traffic for running through a crowd of people, chased him for blocks... (then got the plate number and I.D.'d the driver but what are you going to do to a SUV from a bike???) (Oh, and it turns out that the SUV was 'jacked so it didn't help, oh well...)
    IF we wan't to be treated as equals it means we have to act like them!
    We need to pretend to stop at empty stop signs (not all cars stop, but they do pretend...) and stop at red lights. We need to lane split as legally as motorcycles or scooters, and when on sidewalks act as responsible pedestrians. We also have to give up banging on roofs or windsheilds. If someone cuts me off, and i smash the roof guess who's committing a minor no point traffic infraction and who's commiting vehicular assault?

  7. #7
    52-week commuter DCCommuter's Avatar
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    First off, biking is much more situational than driving, and even experienced cyclists disagree on things like lane position, so without a lot more detail this is all conjecture:

    Whatever you did probably happened a ways back. Most likely he had to jam on his brakes, and it took him a while to recover and catch up to you. The most frequent annoying behavior of motorists is passing too closely. It sounds likely based on your description, even though you don't think you were. Words like "conditions of traffic may have reduced this margin" set my radar off. Being passed too closely is annoying; when some guy repeatedly passes you too closely, it's easy for the blood to get boiling.

    The lanes on most city streets are not wide enough for a car and a bike to share safely -- federal guidelines say any lane under 12 feet is too narrow to share, and around here 10 is more like the norm. Unless the lane was really wide, you should have been going single file, particularly there were parked cars on the street; you were going very close to the same speed. The cyclist is mainly to blame for letting you squeeze him -- he should have been further from the curb -- but you were also at fault for passing when it was not safe to do so. If you're going the same speed, why did you insist on repeatedly passing? Of course, the cyclist was also repeatedly passing you, so again he is to blame as well.

    None of this in any way condones what the cyclist did next. That was totally out of bounds. Most likely, he was inexperienced and got flustered.

    BTW, you're the third motorist this week who has come here with a question like this. How did you find us?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    I backed out and typed "Bicycle Forums" into my search. This is the first link that came up.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCCommuter
    The most frequent annoying behavior of motorists is passing too closely. It sounds likely based on your description, even though you don't think you were. Words like "conditions of traffic may have reduced this margin" set my radar off. Being passed too closely is annoying; when some guy repeatedly passes you too closely, it's easy for the blood to get boiling.
    That would be my best guess, but at the time it didn't seem so. I'm basing this on what would have seemed right if the tables were turned and it was me on the bike.


    The lanes on most city streets are not wide enough for a car and a bike to share safely -- federal guidelines say any lane under 12 feet is too narrow to share, and around here 10 is more like the norm. Unless the lane was really wide, you should have been going single file, particularly there were parked cars on the street; you were going very close to the same speed. The cyclist is mainly to blame for letting you squeeze him -- he should have been further from the curb -- but you were also at fault for passing when it was not safe to do so. If you're going the same speed, why did you insist on repeatedly passing? Of course, the cyclist was also repeatedly passing you, so again he is to blame as well.
    This gets to the heart of the matter. Should cars avoid passing cyclists who are occupying the same lane at all costs? As a cyclist, I have no problem with a car occupying the lane I'm in as long as there's a safe margin. If I wasn't allowing enough margin as a driver, I'm definitely at fault. Ironically, this situation may be the result of my standard operating procedure as a cyclist, since on many busy city streets I feel I have no choice but to share the lane and be passed by a car in the same lane, if the lane is wide enough to permit this.

    Many Chicago thoroughfares have bike lanes which allow for safer sharing. Ashland does not, but it's four lanes. Consequently, total avoidance of this situation would have been slowing to stay behind the cyclist until I could change to the inside lane. If only cars would do that for me when I'm cycling!


    BTW, you're the third motorist this week who has come here with a question like this. How did you find us?
    I found you doing a Google search.

  10. #10
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by L&AP
    Consequently, total avoidance of this situation would have been slowing to stay behind the cyclist until I could change to the inside lane. If only cars would do that for me when I'm cycling!
    If that is what you would like drivers to do for you when you are cycling, why did you not do it for the cyclist when you were driving in your car?

  11. #11
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    Having nothing to go on other than your post, it sounds to me like it was a narrow lane with very little room for sharing. You weren't the only one causing the cyclist to feel squeezed, but it was his own fault for not taking the lane when he should have.

    He's probably a Noob, too inexperienced to know what his effective lane position should have been.

  12. #12
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Without having a clear view of the incident, it sounds like you kept passing a bicyclist in heavy, slow traffic.

    I can't condone the car damage, he shouldn't have Ulocked your car. unless you intentionally hit him first.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 10-23-05 at 05:42 AM.

  13. #13
    hill hater nova's Avatar
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    Multiple passes probably seemed like you was harrassing the cyclist to the cyclist. Next time hang back if you cant pass and stay passed. Generaly i feel safe with 3 feet of space between me and a passing car. Closer if i know the driver is they and i wave them by. That is as long as they pass me at a fairly slow speed. Ive waved motorists by with as little as 6 or 8 inches of space. Its safe because we are both fully aware of each other and they pass at a slow rate of speed. Not all cyclists will do this and i wont all the time my self. So dont asume just because i do it that every one will or that i will every time.

    Riding skill lvl speed at the time road condition and even plain old mood of the cyclist will all play a part in what we will do when it comes to not being pissed when a car pass closer than 3 or 4 feet.

  14. #14
    lws
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    Quote Originally Posted by L&AP
    Many Chicago thoroughfares have bike lanes which allow for safer sharing.
    How?

  15. #15
    Senior Member filtersweep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nova
    Multiple passes probably seemed like you was harrassing the cyclist to the cyclist.
    No No No NO NO!

    Multiple passes only mean one thing- if the road were that narrow that the driver needed to pass with caution, it means the bike rider was an A$$HAT. It means the bike kept passing the car on the right when he probably shouldn't. The BIKE and not the car should have hung back. I really hate that crap- a narrow road where I need to take care to pass a bike- who in turn blows to the front of the line when the light turns red, forcing me to repass each block. Sorry, but I'll give less and less space as these idiots keep pulling that stunt. They can't have it both ways.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI
    If that is what you would like drivers to do for you when you are cycling, why did you not do it for the cyclist when you were driving in your car?
    Like I said, as a bicyclist I would not expect cars to have to go to that length to provide an adequate safety margin. By framing my statement with "if only" what I meant to convey was that this doesn't reflect the situation all the time in urban traffic.

    I don't think total avoidance is necessary, but nice when possible. I'll happily share the lane with a car as long as as the driver is paying attention to where I am. I thought I was aware of this cyclist's position in traffic and at the point he struck my car I had no where else I could go because of the merge.
    Last edited by L≈ 10-23-05 at 10:10 AM.

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    Originally Posted by L&AP: Many Chicago thoroughfares have bike lanes which allow for safer sharing.

    Quote Originally Posted by lws
    How?
    Point well taken.

    As a cyclist, I'm glad to see bike lanes, but I routinely observe cars totally disregarding them. I suppose at least the lane may remind attentive and courteous motorists (yes, they do exist) to be alert for cyclists sharing their route in that designated area.

  18. #18
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    The cyclist, riding very close to parked cars, shows his lack of experience and perhaps the fact that he was already afraid.

    There's one thing, that based on your description and my experience, seems likely. You see, there are these people who treat white dotted, or solid yellow, even yellow dotted lines like a concrete wall. Even when they're passing me on a 10 foot wide road, with no traffic approaching, dragging their camper with a dually. It seems that they put a tire on the line, close their eyes, and shoot the gap. Whatever the gap is or is not, whatever the width of the road, whatever the width of their vehicle. Why they don't hang a tire over the line when it's safe to do so, I will never know.

    There's another camp, by the way, that will give me 10 ft of room even it means going halfway in to the oncoming traffic lane while traffic is approaching. I'm thankful for the space, but would rather they give it to me when there's no oncoming traffic! I fear that one of these is going to get hit head-on and I'll be there in the middle of the wreckage.

    Somewhere, there is a middle ground.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by L&AP
    ... If I wasn't allowing enough margin as a driver, I'm definitely at fault. ...
    If you're telling the whole story, at WORST, you're "guilty" of a no points traffic infraction. The @$$hole cyclist is guilty of a crime.

    From what you say, he's part of the problem, you're part of the solution.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by nova
    Multiple passes probably seemed like you was harrassing the cyclist to the cyclist. Next time hang back if you cant pass and stay passed. Generaly i feel safe with 3 feet of space between me and a passing car. Closer if i know the driver is they and i wave them by. That is as long as they pass me at a fairly slow speed. Ive waved motorists by with as little as 6 or 8 inches of space. Its safe because we are both fully aware of each other and they pass at a slow rate of speed. Not all cyclists will do this and i wont all the time my self. So dont asume just because i do it that every one will or that i will every time.

    Riding skill lvl speed at the time road condition and even plain old mood of the cyclist will all play a part in what we will do when it comes to not being pissed when a car pass closer than 3 or 4 feet.
    For those who commute on bicycle in rush hour traffic (I no longer do that), multiple passes are often unavoidable. If you disagree with that, you've never been on a heavily-travelled arterial in Chicago during rush hours.

    But someone mentioned it earlier, a crucial factor is awareness on the part of the motorist. The times when I've taken a spill because of a car, it was clearly because the driver wasn't aware of my position and/or wasn't paying attention. So, I feel bad if my vigilance behind the wheel wasn't adequate for the cyclist who lashed out at me.

    BTW, when I filed a report with the police so I can get the damage taken care of by my insurance, I was astonished at what the officer taking my report said, but I fear it's all too representative of how most motorists would react to an encounter like mine.

    He asked if I pursued the cyclist. I said no, I pulled over some distance ahead, got out of my car and surveyed the damage. I remained outside my car hoping the cyclist would pass so I could offer an "I'm sorry but why did you have to do that?" The cop said she would have followed the cyclist in her personal vehicle. But, I believe that would have increased the chances of the situation escalating. Not to mention the intimidation factor of the car.

    Cop-think I'm supposing was, the cyclist committed a crime, you had every right to pursue him in your car. I'll take my lumps and avoid something like that myself.
    Last edited by L≈ 10-23-05 at 10:11 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by budster
    If you're telling the whole story, at WORST, you're "guilty" of a no points traffic infraction. The @$$hole cyclist is guilty of a crime.

    From what you say, he's part of the problem, you're part of the solution.
    Well, being a cyclist myself, it pained me that I had let down my guard and came too close and/or posed a threat to another cyclist's safety.

    While I'd never excuse his retaliatory behavior, I must have done something to have caused him to be that angry. So, by talking to people on this forum, it will help me understand what he might have been thinking and how to avoid a situation like this in the future.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by L&AP
    While I'd never excuse his retaliatory behavior, I must have done something to have caused him to be that angry. So, by talking to people on this forum, it will help me understand what he might have been thinking and how to avoid a situation like this in the future.
    To avoid situations like this is not always possible. There will always be jerks. For instance this very situation, where the cyclist didn't have the brains to take the lane and avoid multiple passes on the right of and being passed by the same vehicles repeatedly when everyone is moving at the same average speed.

  23. #23
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by filtersweep
    No No No NO NO!

    Multiple passes only mean one thing- if the road were that narrow that the driver needed to pass with caution, it means the bike rider was an A$$HAT. It means the bike kept passing the car on the right when he probably shouldn't. The BIKE and not the car should have hung back. I really hate that crap- a narrow road where I need to take care to pass a bike- who in turn blows to the front of the line when the light turns red, forcing me to repass each block. Sorry, but I'll give less and less space as these idiots keep pulling that stunt. They can't have it both ways.

    Really tend to agree here... especially if there were multiple incidents of the bike passing on the right.

    If a cyclist passes on the the right, it should be because there is a reasonable feeling the the motor traffic is not going to continue to flow smoothly, and the cyclist is simply taking advantage of their narrow profile to move on out.

    If, on the other hand, there is a constant back and forth situation, then both for smooth flow of traffic AND to stay out of that door zone, AND to indicate their position in traffic, the cyclist should have ridden in the lane with a postition away from the far right side... behind one of the motor vehicles and acted just like another driver in traffic... moving and flowing with traffic.

    The only caveat to this is that sometimes the motorist following the cyclist then gets all bent out of shape as "gee, that's just a bicycle" and tries to pass and then honks, revs engine etc. (this is where the motorists also have to co-operate... dammit!)

    It sounds as if the speed and flow were such that the cyclist should have simply held their ground in traffic and moved with the flow of cars, and should NOT have been on the right (near the parked cars, which can be dangerous). At the same time the motorist in the original post should not have passed the cyclist multiple times... and the cyclist could have prevented this by simply riding out into the lane instead of hugging the far right edge.

    Now this begs the question... would the original poster have been OK with the cyclist riding just in front of his auto... or would he have become a "reving/honker?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    ... At the same time the motorist in the original post should not have passed the cyclist multiple times... and the cyclist could have prevented this by simply riding out into the lane instead of hugging the far right edge.
    There are times when multiple passes are unavoidable whether or not the cyclist "takes the lane." What about times when the average speed of the cyclist is above that of vehicular traffic -- especially when the cyclist is going considerably faster than cars??? Why as a cyclist wouldn't I want to proceed around slowed traffic on their right if it's safe to do so? I've ridden this way for years, staying in that middle position between moving traffic and parked vehicles. I watch ahead for traffic that might reduce that margin and obviously for a car door swinging open suddenly.

    For whatever reason, on one of these passes this guy thought I was intentionally crowding him or disregarding him, which I wasn't. At least, not intentionally.

    Now this begs the question... would the original poster have been OK with the cyclist riding just in front of his auto... or would he have become a "reving/honker?"
    Not if he had taken the lane. It was his choice to stay to the right. Again, what would I want a car to do for me? If I'm taking the lane, don't crowd me and pass safely. If I'm faster than you on my bicycle I'll continue around slowed traffic on the right.

    The reason he and I passed each other multiple times was because of traffic speed. So, I disagree with anyone he says either he or I were in the wrong for passing, unless doing so was unsafe.

    In the cyclist's case, what do you want him/her to do? Go up on the sidewalk? Stay in the lane at the speed of vehicular traffic even if there's room to go around? And in the driver's case a go-around is okay as long as you're leaving an adequate margin.

    Maybe as a cyclist I tolerate a narrower margin in a situation like the one I encountered.

  25. #25
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    Some cyclists don't use common sense in traffic.

    They try to squeeze through traffic and get themselves in trouble....plus this particular buffoon feels he should use his U-lock a little too hastily. U-lock swinging is for dealing with hostiles...not venting anger. Voices can be raised enough to get the point across (hey!!! watch it buddy!!!).

    Pretty much the cyclist needs to realize that sometimes, brakes are a good thing. In heavily congested traffic, it's always best to err on caution, and if you do get risky, and something stupid nearly happens, to jsut accept it, since the risk was accepted by the rider whe attempting to navigate in tight spaces.

    In slow speed congested traffic, I DO take the lane...anyone who has a problem with it bite me, since I'm not slowing things down much if at all....in most congestion situations, I'm actually just as fast as traffic...so why not take the lane?

    On your side, from what you are saying,you were merely doing what you should in traffic. There's no rule saying you can't let somebody into the lane...actually I find that rather polite, as I know how bad it sucks trying to merge into a lane to make that turn.
    -------- __@
    ----- _`\<,_
    ---- (*)/ (*)
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    Ring Ring, Ring Ring, the bell went Ring Ring Ring.

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