Share the Road…You $%&@%!!

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel blows off a little steam.

Normally I’d be grabbing a little post-ride snack right about now, maybe doing a little stretching. But instead I’m venting, taking out my frustrations on the only thing in sight – my computer.

What’s my problem? The idiot in the white car, that’s my problem. Namely, the idiot who felt the need to stay behind me, while I literally hugged the edge of the road climbing a drawbridge, then for some reason chose to pull alongside me and abruptly lay on the horn. Not a toot-toot, mind you, we’re talking a prolonged blare. I knew the car was there, of course, but the unexpectedness — and the sheer loudness — of the horn startled me.

Me, a guy on a bike, with a cement wall to my right, traffic on my left, already battling 25 mph winds, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Apparently the guy in the white car was no rocket scientist, so let me give him a little education. Startling a person on a bike isn’t the smartest move you’ll make in life. When startled, most people react with a jerk. (Yes, that term refers to you as well, but I’m referring to a sudden movement in this context). Maybe you liked how I wobbled, and how I had a brief moment of panic. But what if I had gone down? Trust me, moron, my body and bike are no match for your several thousand pound automobile and the surrounding concrete. Maybe you thought it was funny, or that you were making a point for motorists everywhere. But what you were really doing was endangering someone’s life, a move that would have far-reaching effects for both of us.

More to the point, I was in the right, you (substitute name for your favorite feminine hygiene product here). I was staying as far to the right as possible, riding straight and predictable. You had room to pass me, believe it or not, and even more room if you consider that no cars were in the oncoming lane at the moment. But evidently you were just annoyed that a guy on a bike was apparently holding you up.

Obviously I’m preaching to the choir here, but maybe we need to remind our non-riding friends of the law. I’ve got a few who have actually told me how annoyed they are at us bikers on that very same bridge. They seem to think they are in the right, but that’s not always the case.

Here in Florida, state law says you must ride as far to the right as practicable, not as far to the right as possible. That means I’m perfectly entitled to “maintain no less than 2 feet of clearance from the edge of usable pavement to have room to maneuver around obstructions.” Should you, White Car Person, feel the lane is too narrow for both of us to share safely, you need to realize it is me who is entitled to the lane, not you.

Should you feel the need to pass me, and I perfectly understand if you do, you also need to realize that under Florida law, you’re required to give me three feet of clearance. That means you wait until you have a clear road, then you go out and around me. I’ll double check, but I don’t think blaring your horn is part of the deal. Other states with Three Foot laws are Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Illinois, Tennessee, Minnesota, Utah, Wisconsin, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Louisiana, and Maine. (Sorry all you Texans, apparently you don’t have one…yet.)

Bike Noob note: That’s right, the Texas Legislature passed a three-foot law last summer, but the governor vetoed it.

After our little altercation I did all the wrong things, of course. I called you some very interesting names, then tried to channel Fabian Cancellera so that I could catch you at the next traffic light. That’s not a good idea according to most experts. Had I caught you hopefully I would have calmly explained my side of the situation to help you see things differently, not, shall we say, tooted my own horn.

Of course, I couldn’t ultimately match your speed, and the light wasn’t in my favor. But I did enjoy you checking your rearview mirror when you realized I could actually climb a bridge a little faster than you thought…

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7 thoughts on “Share the Road…You $%&@%!!

  1. Keep the police # in your phone, and practice memorizing plates until you can call the police.

    I haven’t had an encounter like this, but I have been passed way too close for comfort, mostly by jackasses in pickup trucks – but we have no law, so nothing to report.

    Why are so many people antagonized by bicyclists? Thankfully people are mostly pretty good here in Plano, becasue there are always lots of cyclists around.

  2. @justin: it’s hard, because, what can you do, call the cops and say “hey I’m on a bike on road X and a guy just passed me too close for comfort” … cops don’t care, and honestly, they probably don’t even KNOW that there’s a three-foot law. This happened in New Castle and Rye, New Hampshire, last summer. An intoxicated driver came dangerously (not just uncomfortably) close to a group ride, and some people were knocked down. The hammerheads in the group gave chase, cut down a cross-road, and formed a phalanx across the road, stopping the driver. Fisticuffs ensued and when the cops eventually came,

    The local police hadn’t even heard of a three-foot law (which had been passed about eight or nine months before that), and a cyclist was arrested. Of course the Portsmouth Herald‘s coverage was in favor of the driver, and no one seemed to notice that he was intoxicated. For all I know, the cop high-fived the guy and said “Thanks, we’ve been trying to get rid of these spandex faggots all summer.’

    It was around this time that I gave up on group rides. It’s just not safe or fun.

    Anyway, a good way to let people know about the three-foot law is these jerseys and T’s at Unfortunately, the bottom line is that the planet (and particularly the United States) is largely populated by assholes. In general, people are unaware of what is going on outside of their little bubble, and aren’t concerned with anything except themselves.

  3. I call 911 and report the motorist as “driving erratically.” This is the code-word for “probably drunk.” Cops may not give a rat’s ass about motorists threatening cyclists, but they do take drunk driving seriously.

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