I have been fairly fortunate in terms of near-misses with other road-going vehicles, and for the most part, my vigilance has served me well to avoid accidents. Sure, I have been punched in the face by a truck driver for not "riding on the sidewalk" (police was called, and case resolved to my satisfaction), and I had to brake hard many times to avoid cars turning in front of me. However, for the most part, once I speak cordially to the drivers about how to look out for cyclists (when I can), I get on with life. I never really felt the disdain or even hatred of some cyclists for "cagers", and to paraphrase Rodney King, wanted to "all just get along". Today, I think I finally understand where the so-call "radicals" are hailing from.
It started innocently enough, with my ride to the local farmers' market and a stop-over at the local coffee shop. Riding home, a nice late-model Porsche convertible with two gentlemen pulled up alongside me on my left. I noticed they were looking towards the right, probably looking for their destination and instinctively, I had my fingers on my brake levers. Indeed, they proceeded to turn right in front of me. Obviously, I had braked at the first sight of their turn, and I wasn't in any danger of hitting them. However, I had wanted to speak to the driver to express that cyclists can travel at a faster rate than most would think. I also wanted to express that an error on the car driver's part does not typically injure the driver, but may bear severe consequences for the cyclist. The driver was apologetic of his misjudgment, and seemed willing to consider my viewpoint. However, throughout my conversation with the driver, his passenger and a truck driver (who was parked by the side of the road) were yelling rudely at me, stating that I should get lost because the driver said he was sorry.
Now, I wasn't rude or confrontational. My intent was only to offer an alternate viewpoint that many do not seem to realize - if an accident occur, regardless of who is at fault, the cyclist has a lot more to lose than the driver. Therefore, please be considerate and look out for us. I did not understand why the passenger and the truck driver were yelling at me. Did they really think a simple "sorry" can release them from all responsibility? What if I wasn't a seasoned cyclist, and did not brake hard or fast enough to avoid hitting the car? Would a sorry suffice then? Did they think that being covered by insurance and therefore being able to offer monetary compensation can cover for pain, suffering, or even death? Is a few seconds of their time worth so much that they should risk my well-being? How would they feel if I drove a M1 Abrams (or even an old Sherman) tan, paid little attention to them, turned right in front of them, and offered a sorry now and then? What if I had insurance to cover for their "troubles"?
I think this situation was significantly different from the usual hecklers from passing cars, the buzzers who get really close, and the honkers who think the bicycle's place is on the sidewalk. Those people generally revert back to reasonable normal people once they leave the safety of their steel shells. What I was up with are people who behave like asses even without their protective, anonymousing shells.
The more I thought about it, the more I think I understand radicalization. Of course, even before this, I know there are people out there who cannot be educated, do not give a damn, and couldn't be less considerate of others. However, it finally hit me that my personal well-being (as well as those of my loved ones) hinges upon their behavior, and there is nothing I can really do to affect that. I believe that anyone at the receiving end of any interactions with these folks will agree that the world will be better without these sort of behaviors. Yet, seemingly, no one is willing to do anything about it. No one is willing to identify, isolate, educate and punish the doers of these types of behaviors. Everyone is afraid of offending everyone else, and thus no one will benefit except these inconsiderates. As a result, the inconsiderates become even more inconsiderate because there is no adverse consequence. It's a feeling of helplessness, franticness and anger.
Of course, I am not going to turn into a radical, nor will I suddenly support their (to me) radical agendas. However, I believe I understand them more now, and can empathize with their cause.