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« Monday Musings | Main | Charly Gaul: The Angel of the Mountains »

Deadly Weapon

A couple of weeks ago I was out riding with two friends; we were on a two lane country road, traffic was light as it was early Sunday morning.

We were riding single file close to the right hand edge of the road when three vehicles approached from behind; it just so happened that there was an opposing vehicle there at the same time.

The leading car behind us decided to slow and wait for this single car in the opposite lane to pass before swinging wide to overtake us. This was proper behavior, they could have squeezed by without waiting, but this driver decided to take the safer approach.

I was the last in this trio of cyclists, also riding in a safe and courteous manner; I even gave the lead driver behind me a little thank you wave as he went past. The second car did the same, swinging wide to overtake us.

However, the third vehicle was a full size Chevy truck; he just laid on the horn and drove by as fast as he could and as close as he could; he missed us by about a foot. Totally unnecessary as the opposing lane was now clear.

This was intimidation with a deadly weapon, pure and simple; a “How dare you slow me down; I’ll teach you,” attitude.

If I could have spoken with this driver I would have asked, “Where are you going in such a hurry on a Sunday morning that you can’t stand to be delayed for two seconds?” Because I swear this whole maneuver took no longer. I would also have asked him this.

“If you had a loaded gun in your hand and you were mad at someone, would you fire it missing them by twelve inches just to intimidate them?”

I doubt most law abiding citizen would do that, including this driver. But the potential for death or serious injury are the same; I would describe it as ‘Assault with a deadly weapon.’

In fact I would go further and say, given the choice between taking a bullet and taking a hit from a full size Chevy truck, I would rate my chances of survival better if I took the bullet.

What is it about driving a large vehicle that gives one such a sense of entitlement? It seems it is always the driver of a full size truck or SUV that have this attitude; I rarely get the ‘Horn and Buzz’ treatment from anyone in an economy car.

This exact same scenario happened just this week in California; a driver of an SUV threatened a group of cyclists with his vehicle. They were able to take his tag number, flagged down a Sheriff’s Deputy, and reported it; the driver was traced and arrested for... Guess what? Assult with a deadly weapon.

I have to remember that; when I am riding on my own I usually ignore such behavior as it is just my word against another. But in the above instance I was with two friends, I had witnesses. I may be too old to kick ass, at least I can take numbers.



Reader Comments (20)

I moved to Canada from the US several years ago, and am spoiled by the relative politeness of Toronto drivers. I was in Michigan earlier this Spring, riding with a club group, and the maneuver you described was made.....by a local cop in his patrol car. Didn't stop, made the move to intimidate.

There's no better way to express the apalling attitude drivers have toward bicycles than when police do it.

I'm just keeping my smart phone handy. The act of obviously taking a picture seems to defuse most situations. Just doesn't happen to be effective when you can't seem them coming.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBig Mikey

Had a similar experience with a SUV driver speeding along at 50+ in a 30 mph zone. He was passing a car on the right on a four lane road and I was cycling with my young sons in that lane. He wanted more room and we were in his way.

Fortunately my sons jumped the curb seeing/hearing this road bully and got onto the sidewalk in time. I caught up with him at the next stop light and got his license plate #s. Saw a police car, reported it and they found him a few blocks away.

His accepted "excuse"? He claimed he "felt" threatened by my sons and needed to defend his new Lexus SUV. My sons were 10 and 12 years old at the time. He was excused as the officer said it was a "he said/she said" story.

I asked the police officer to have the Chief of police contact me. Never happened. In cycling to school virtually every day I hear stories often from them how cars-SUVs-pickup trucks are used to cut them off.

Yes our roads are often dominated by bullies and the front line of law enforcement needs to start dealing with these dangerous situations. I have my sons stand on street corners with stop lights so they can witness-learn how frequently these irresponsible drivers speed up to blast through red lights.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

That's why they buy the huge trucks - 90 percent of these guys have no formal use for such a monster truck, such as a job that requires it. It's all about male aggression and overcompensation. It's not that he happened to come upon you, most of these guys are essentially out looking for trouble at every point.
I once had a guy do what you describe, then I caught up with him at the next red light. He was built like a jockey. I"m 6'2", 200. I tapped on his window and he opened it a crack. "Was there a point to that?" I said. He closed his window and turned up his monster sound system and looked straight ahead.
As a female friend says, "The bigger the truck, the smaller the penis."

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChucker

A minority of motorists -- a large minority, in my experience -- simply don't care if they kill or maim a cyclist. And in most places in the States, at most times, they can do so with complete impunity. They know this. Now you do, too,

As for taking numbers... Well, you can, I suppose. But I'll be very surprised if you can get the police to show any interest. Until you're a corpse, that is. Then -- maybe -- they'll charge the motorist who killed you with "unsafe lane change" or something of the sort. If he can be identified, that is. And if it's not too much trouble.

But it probably will be. Face facts. Cyclists are at the bottom of the transportation food chain in the States. And you know what happens to organisms at the bottom of a food chain. Sooner or later, they get gobbled up. Get used to it.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEd Sailland

What the truck driver did was illegal. Here's the statute:

Section 56-5-3445. It is unlawful to harass, taunt, or maliciously throw an object at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle. A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than two hundred fifty dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.

You may want to take down the tag next time and all who were there can report it.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterspokejunky

Sorry, yeah, if I would've read the last paragraph.

Yours Truly,
Captain Obvious

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterspokejunky

I have trouble with the concept that threatening some one with a car has to be witnessed by an officer where if i threaten someone with a weapon they will go and charge them. Both are assault and should be punished as such. I'm glad teh CA driver spouted off to the cops. That is not a very smart person even given his road behavior.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

I've also noticed that owners of larger vehicles, usually overly large pickup trucks, tend to be the individuals who drive too close or yell things at me while I am on the road cycling or running.

I wonder if that's just confirmation bias on my part. Does anyone know if there are any sort of studies of driver behavior correlated to type of vehicle? It would be interesting to be able to try to see if this is a real phenomenon or just a product of cognitive biases.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercdesign_proponentsists

Be careful about grouping people and "hating" on them based on their vehicle. I am a cyclist and a driver. My motor vehicle is a full-size pickup. It is good at taking bikes, wheels, and coolers to the races. People who misbehave on our roads are individuals. Not all drivers in trucks and SUVs are aggressive and malicious. Not all cyclists are responsible and safe.

As a cyclist, I have been in threatening situations with vehicles of all shapes and sizes, including (but not limited to): economy cars, small trucks, big trucks, work trucks/vans, dump trucks, big-rigs, SUVs of all sizes, sedans, scooters, motorcycles, four-wheel drive off-roaders, sports cars, school buses, and police cruisers (sheriff, actually). Over tens of thousands of miles riding my bike, there really hasn't been a trend as to what vehicle type is most commonly owned by the aggressors...as far as I can tell anyway.

I can tell you that my behavior pertaining to lane positioning does have an effect on driver behavior. Riding in a straight, predictable path in the right half of the lane seems to have the safest results. If I ride too close to the road's edge, I get buzzed. If I ride too close to the center line or lane divider, more people honk or yell at me. I always try to dissipate angry drivers with a wave and a smile. It works more than it doesn't

And, according to my measuring tape, selling my Miata to buy my truck did not decrease the size of my penis.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBo

"What is it about driving a large vehicle that gives one such a sense of entitlement?"

It's any vehicle, and it's lack of accountability. The odds of you catching up with them are small, and they know it (or they're not even considering it at the time), and even if you record the vehicle details, they still have plausible deniability.

"A minority of motorists -- a large minority, in my experience -- simply don't care if they kill or maim a cyclist. And in most places in the States, at most times, they can do so with complete impunity. They know this. Now you do, too"

I would have to agree, and I'm not talking about just the US. Sad but true.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlemmiwinks

Out here in CT, I've observed the same behaviour - I've commented to my wife on several occasions that it's the pickup truck drivers who do this most often.

Another bad group: parents on their way to pick kids up from school. They're always in a hurry and they drive like idiots. Of course, it's still a small minority of the total number of drivers, but I'm always cognizant of the fact that it just takes one of these people to send me to hospital........or a coffin.

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYohann

I agree with Yohann , I live here in CT also. Some roads here are absolutley deadly at "soccer mom hour", 2;30 PM. Drivers here are ridiclulously spoiled. They will try to pass you on winding narrow roads, which means they might hit an oncoming cyclist head-on, or take out another SUV with a family inside,.

Many times I will just pull over and let a group of cars pass if It's apparent I will be slowing down the traffic flow. It's harder to do this with a group, however.

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

Here in Georgia, HB180, the "Three Foot Safe Passing" law, goes into effect today, July 1st. Ga is now one of 23 States to enact similar "safe passing" legislation. At least it's a start!

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterskippysnemesis

I often wish the horn would sound inside the passenger compartment as well as outdoors.

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Knoblauch

The Three-Foot law needs to be added to the Share the Road signs.

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim Joe Comstock

Dear Dave,

Another post that expresses exactly what I think. While many drivers are courteous during my commutes, and will wait for me to pass an obstacle on the right side of the road, it is those few that cannot wait the 2 to 5 seconds that make me lose my faith in our society. I know it sounds dramatic, but I cannot understand how someone cannot wait the 2 to 5 seconds for us to clear an obstacle to pass us. I tried a new strategy which has abated, though not eliminated, these impatient drivers. I ride to work in normal clothes, even if I must change again. I think the association of normal clothes helps these impatient drivers see me as a father, a son, etc. I know it should not come down to this, but I would rather ride in regular clothes for my commute than be hit by an impatient driver.

I see a lot of money devoted to anti-smoking campaigns in my my area of the northeast. Why can't we have similar advertising for cyclists? Show the effects of an impatient driver hitting a cyclist...show the injuries of cyclists caused by impatient drivers. Demonstrate that each mile we ride, take one less car off the road using less gas, improving health for an overtaxed medical system, taking up one less parking spot.


July 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Hi Dave,

Get a electric horn attached to your bike.
I ride in Bangkok with electric horn and 4 A batteries attached to my bike.
I honked not only to stop the car from cutting into my lane,but also
those behind me coming too close.
Sometimes I pressed continuously, so far it worked; the car swinging wide to overtake me. :D

Get one, Dave. For your safety sake. And the rear view mirror,too.

July 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBkk

Bkk, a horn might work in a civilized society, like Thailand or Japan (where I live). Did not find it much use in my native Canada.

July 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMr.S.

@ skippysnemesis - "3 foot law" I'd rather empty my bladder in a pair of expensive riding shorts. At least I'd have a "true" warm feeling. I say this because this is an unenforceable law. Hence, when you have LEO buzz you at 40-45 mph @ 2 feet, you'd probably do the same.

We have a "3 foot law" in Florida. Yipee! Yes, it's not perfect, it IS a start.

@ Jay - I ride a mountain bike with slicks for my commuter. I also ride in plain clothes. Doesn't really help much for me.

July 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRodney

Way back in high school,... in the 80's I was an avid cyclist. I too wanted to be a frame builder but my parents would have it. They wanted me to work a dead end job for the rest of my life... Much as they do now for that matter. Anyway, back to my story... I have had the same bike since 1986. A 1983 Colnago Super with columbus SL tubing. A nice bike still in mint conditon. All parts that spin were campy back then but now the hubs are jap hubs... forte I think...

Over my many years on the road, I've encountered people of all types. Back in high school, I was about 5'11" and about a buck twenty. Now, I'm 6'4" and about 250. A little on the heavy side but I wear it well. It used to be that people would try to intimidate me on the road too. I was lucky. Only got side swiped once on my way to school riding my old schwinn le tour and the guy actually stopped and waited for the cops to arrive. A friend of mine got rear ended by a car which potato chipped his whole bike wheels, frame and all! He spent about a year in traction and is now a doctor. Go figure...

It really makes me sick to my stomach the lengths that people will go to in their cars to intimidate or mess with bikers. I'd like to hope that people are for the most part good, but what could have messed up their day so much that they'd resort to assault with a deadly weapon. I wonder if that even occurs to many people.

Keep the rubber down to the ground! Nice frames too man!

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBranden deBuhr

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