Friday, December 3

Positive Externality

So you only hear about bad news, right?

I've confessed my traffic sins here and I am not proud of my behavior at times, and I don't mean to share this story to pat myself on the back or to do some shameless self-promotion. But here goes...

Yesterday on my way home I was riding through Denver West, headed northeast toward Applewood, and I was taking the right lane as usual. Denver West is a 30mph, four lane road through an office park. Headed home the ride is downhill and on a road bike I can exceed the speed limit (hypothetically of course). On the Cannonball I am certain I can easily hit 25 mph and approach 30 without breaking a sweat.

Anyway, I was taking the lane as I always do to prevent motorists from breaking the 3 foot rule as they cruise past at 40-50 mph. There is little traffic and it's just safer.

I was taking the lane and a motorist in a minivan, going maybe five miles an hour faster than I was, HONKED at me. Not a toot, but a HONK.

My reactions in the past have been scowling (at the mild end of the spectrum) to energetically flipping the vehicle off while yelling "JACKASS!" (coarse end of the spectrum). My response has been typically related to the degree to which I feel threatened on the road. If four hundred cars have already buzzed me on my 9.3 mile ride in I will probably react with more hostility. The first of the four hundred usually gets a scowl and a shake of the head.

But not yesterday. I was taking the lane when the minivan honked at me and I...

You've got to wonder what people are thinking when they pass a bike while driving their cars. My perception nowadays is skewed because I am a cyclist myself. I imagine there are people who patiently pass, understanding that I am as free to ride my bike on the road as they are. I also know for certain that many people do not understand either my perspective or the reality of the situation, that I am subsidizing their means of transportation while they are honking and cursing at me. I know they don't understand that by hanging it all out in the lane I am actually SAFER than if I were to balance on the white line and let them buzz me with abandon. They don't understand that when they honk, yell, curse and rev their engines that I am certain they SEE me, and that's what matters most, because I maintain faith that 99.9% of motorists will not purposefully murder me with their cars in frustration.

And when the minivan driver honked at me I WAVED AND SMILED into their rearview mirror. It felt really good. My heart didn't race in anger. My breathing was not short and once I realized what I had done I was really happy with myself.

Try it sometime.

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