Splendid Cycles Big Sale

Middle fingers don’t lead to productive dialogue and other lessons from my road rage interaction

Posted by on April 28th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

new bike lane on Naito

When too close leads to up-close.
(Photo Β© J. Maus)

The other day riding home from work I had an interesting interaction.

I was riding my bike up N. Mississippi Ave. just past Widmer Brewing (map) when I noticed a big car door swing open ahead of me. Without making a sudden move, I positioned myself into the center of the lane to avoid the hazard. A few seconds later I heard the all too familiar roar of a car engine. Soon, just a few inches from my thigh, a car buzzed angrily by. It was obviously done on purpose (trust me, I’ve been riding on city streets long enough to know).

I was operating completely within the law. I was on a small side street were traffic should move slowly. There was no need for this man in the car to pass me like that. I was angry. So, in order to make sure I got the guy’s attention, I looked square into his rear-view mirror and flipped him off.

Now, I realize in hindsight I shouldn’t have done that — but my anger, mixed with wanting to make sure he noticed me, somehow automatically produced a middle finger.

“You wanna flip me off!? You wanna flip me off?! You flip me off, I’ll run you over!!”
— Last words from a guy who equates the action of being flipped off with serious bodily harm caused by plowing a 3,000 pound vehicle into a human body

Suffice it to say my gesture didn’t go over well.

He immediately slammed on his brakes and stopped right in the middle of the road. Before he could get out of his car, I had rolled over to his driver-side window. I was looking forward to talking with him about what had just transpired.

Unfortunately, I think my middle finger dashed any hopes of a productive dialogue.

The man was visibly angry and was trying to unbuckle his seat belt (my bike was right next to his door so he couldn’t swing it open). I was smiling and calm. He yelled, “You were riding in the middle the street!” I replied (with a smile), “Yes I know, did you see that car door I was trying to avoid?” Not sure if he heard me or cared because he then started saying, “You wanna flip me off!? You wanna flip me off?! You flip me off, I’ll run you over!!”

I have no doubt that if I would have matched his level of anger he would have assaulted me right there in the street. But, because I did nothing further to provoke him, he turned away and sped off.

The interaction spurred a lot of thoughts.

What would have been a better way for both of us to respond? Should I notify the police about him almost hitting me and then threatening to run me over?

I got some good advice right away via friends on Facebook and Twitter. One person said, “The peace sign only takes one more finger.” I liked that one.

Others wondered if I’d gotten the license plate number (I didn’t). I think because I flipped the bird and feel like the man’s aggression — while not warranted — was on some level understandable, I was less inclined to want to pursue the matter.

I did however give Officer Robert Pickett, our bicycle issue liaison at the Police Bureau, a phone call. He recommended that in the future, if I feel someone is a “menacing vehicle operator,” I should call 911 and report them. But first, he suggested, “get yourself safe.” It’s also helpful to document or remember the following information:

  • description of the vehicle;
  • license plate number;
  • direction of travel;
  • description of the driver (this is because many times alleged suspects will say, “I’m just borrowing this car, I wasn’t driving it during the incident”).

If I was upset at being buzzed closely and that’s all that happened, Pickett says I could have called it in. He said there’s no guarantee they’d respond to it in force, but it’s worth a try. “It [the police response] depends on a variety of factors… It could come out over the air as a reckless driver and if there happens to be an officer nearby they’ll keep an eye out… But having them run a plate, track them down, and go to their house probably wouldn’t happen.” Given how stretched our police force is, that’s understandable.

Pickett also reminded me — in his reasonable and diplomatic style — that I should think of a way to communicate with other road users that doesn’t escalate emotions so quickly. I agree, but if my goal was to have the guy stop and chat, is there really any other gesture that would cut through the fog as quickly as a middle finger?

I learned a lot in this encounter as it was the most up-close and personal road rage situation I’ve ever been in. I’d love to hear how others respond to being purposely buzzed by another vehicle operator (I’ve almost flipped off other people on bikes that pass close without warning!). For me, I guess I’ve got to re-program my brain and remember that “The peace sign only takes one more finger.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you β€” Jonathan

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Matthew
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Matthew

Nice post. I’m also guilty of road rage towards inconsiderate drivers (it’s one of the many reasons I no longer drive myself), and it’s good to hear about incidents like this which remind me that flipping someone off, far from being a productive solution to really ANY situation, indeed has the potential to make things much worse. Thanks for sharing, sincerely.

That driver basically threatened to murder you, though. I’d report him.

BURR
Guest
BURR

As the PPB liason to the BAC, Officer Pickett should offer to handle these incidents himself as non emergencies.

Just get him the info he needs (plus the date, time, location and incident description), and he can look up the plate number and have a friendly phone conversation with the registered owner of the vehicle.

The last PBB officer that served on the BAC, Carl Rilling, used to assist cyclists this way all the time back in the 90s.

Richard Masoner
Guest

Yep, doubtful the motorist has seen the error of his ways, but I don’t have any good suggestions.

One time after I yelled at a motorist for nearly running me over, he stopped & rolled down his window and I thought “Uh oh, here it comes.” But then the guy took the high road and apologized! I was astounded and a little bit ashamed.

Marty Barfowitz
Guest

I think you’d have been within your rights to fling open this guy’s car door, drag him out of the driver’s seat and beat him about the head and crotch with your Kryptonite lock. At least, that’s how we do it in Brooklyn.

Aaronf
Guest
Aaronf

I think it’s better to shake your fist at people… that’s just four more fingers.

I usually yell “hey!” in an alarmed, surprised type voice when someone buzzes me. Sort of giving them the benefit of the doubt…

I mean, there isn’t much you can do to spark an interaction unless they decide to pull over or hit a stop light. At a stop light you could say “Hey, did you see me back there?”

Josh King
Guest

Jonathan, this is a great post. As a daily bike commuter in Seattle, I understand and struggle with the instinctive reaction to flip someone off when they do something dangerous (or even annoying).

I haven’t found a solution short of self-control – and I’m a long way from arriving THERE. This last winter I used bike mitts instead of gloves, and discover that flipping the bird didn’t work very well (and yes, I tried – more than once). Out of necessity, I resorted to the “ass pat” when someone honked at me for taking the lane. I found it less in-your-face yet oddly more satisfying than the middle finger I couldn’t produce.

aaron
Guest

I’m glad to hear you were not injured..sounds like a very close call!

whether on my bike or in a car…when road rage occurs TOWARDS me, I have found that waving “hi” is the best response. However, it’s hard not to respond with 1 finger too πŸ™‚

Burk
Guest
Burk

I’ve always had good luck with a smile and a wave. A look of recognition on your face helps, if the pissed off driver sees you acting like you know him/her it kind of kicks their brain into the “do I know that person?” mode. “Was that my neighbor? My boss?”

Cyclists pretty much look alike, especially in the rear view mirror.

Then the driver spends the rest of the day trying to figure out who they buzzed.

Hollie Teal
Guest

I was “purposely buzzed” (and honked at) a few weeks ago on my ride to work. I was on a quiet street in an affluent neighborhood, riding safely and legally. It was so egregious that it left me too flabbergasted to gesture, inappropriately or not. This woman’s casual disregard for my life was so staggering that all I could do was burst into tears.

When I got to work, I told my coworkers. They suggested I call the police since I had the driver’s plate number. I did so and was made to feel so terrible by the officer, like I was at fault, that I just gave up. I don’t suggest calling PPD.

Basically, there’s nothing I could do. Nothing any of us can do in that situation. The sad fact is that if a driver of a 3000 lb. car feels I am “in the way” on the road she is entitled to, she will emerge the winner through either the anonymity of being in a car that is able to speed away after threatening me, or by physically harming me. And even though I had her license plate number, it was made clear to me by PPD that it was a “he said/she said” that they were not going to pursue.

I wish I had something more positive to contribute to this discussion, but day after day of it in the supposed bike capitol of the US has left me worn out.

q'Tzal
Guest
q'Tzal

Anybody seen a handlebar mount that will suitably hold one of those disposable underwater cameras?
Just leave it there until you need to document stupdity than SNAP!

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

The half-Italian in me normally raises my entire hand as if to say, “What are you thinking?”

I REALLY snap these days if someone is being ignorant AND talking on the phone. Then I make sure to get their attention, mime the hanging up of a receiver, and yell “GET OFF THE PHONE!”

I do try to avoid using the middle finger if possible. In certain east coast cities, the middle finger is right up there with burning the flag, spitting on a picture of somebody’s mom, etc. Silly but true.

Jordan
Guest
Jordan

I’ll be honest…I love the finger. Granted, it is not the best solution, but there is something satisfying about expressing your anger to road jerks in such a provoking way.

With that being said: I don’t recommend it.

nuovorecord
Guest
nuovorecord

I’ve gotten pretty zen-like over this whole matter over the years. There are just some people in the world who are a-holes, inattentive, mean, etc.

I can’t control them. I can only control me. I ride with the expectation that I’ll get honked at, buzzed, yelled at – whatever. But the vast majority of the drivers I encounter are courteous, or at the very least, not trying to kill me, even if I’m slowing them down for a block or three.

I take comfort in the fact that more and more people are taking to the streets on their bikes every year. Most people in the city of Portland are in favor of bikes and want safe places to ride. And, more and more drivers are getting used to that fact. It’s only a war if we make it one. Let’s ride as if the battle’s already won.

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

Sometimes I wonder if that all too familar roar of a car engine and the buzzing angrily by – which always sound and feel at the time like intentional threats are just crappy out of control drivers. That’s not to say you misread the situation or even overreacted, but since I can’t know what’s going on in someone else’s mind, I prefer the dopey wave to the unambiguous finger.

But as Matthew @ 1 correctly points out, this guy did threaten to murder you. If nothin else this points out the fallacy of the make-cyclists-have-license-plates-so-we-can-report-them crowd. This guy stopped and threatened to kill you but in the heat of the moment you didn’t get his license number…

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

Whenever I get the chance to speak to a driver who endangered me I tell them β€œthat really scared me!” As opposed to telling them they passed too close & fast this statement is something that cannot be denied. It also moves the dialogue down to a personal level. Frequently it works. (The problem is remembering to be calm.)

Josh
Guest
Josh

Good tips. Had a similar experience a week ago. After exchanging some words the driver also slammed on their brakes and was attempting to get out. Instead of approaching the vehicle I made my way to the sidewalk. I figured being near his van would put me in greater danger if he wanted to do some harm. Somehow he decided not to get out and he went on his way.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Wear mittens.

Brian
Guest
Brian

It’s disturbing that someone willing to endanger a human life because they could not be bothered to wait for 20 seconds can be so offended by getting flipped off. The person was obviously not rational. This is the problem with public streets. You must share them.

I don’t trust the PPB would do anything with a report of this sort. It is my understanding that the won’t even take an accident report unless an ambulance is involved. The are really going to track down a driver who does this sort of thing?? I doubt it.

Steve B
Guest

Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan. I’ve definitely been in this position before, although usually these incidents occur in other cities.

My favorite salute when I’m frustrated with a driver is to blow them kisses. I picked this up in Critical Mass in NYC many years ago. If the driver is still heated after they get their blown kiss, you can rest assured you’ve let go of the negative energy and it’s on them to sit there and be upset. Try variations like “I really care about you and I want to make sure we’re all safe.” or “I love you.” It’s really fun to see the interactions. More than once this sort of thing has turned tense situations into smiles on both ends.

The key thing to remember about road rage is that it is almost always PROJECTION. In this case, for instance, the driver may not have been incensed to the point of violence simply because you were taking the lane, it may just be the latest thing to activate him and send him into a rage. More than likely, like most of us, this guy is carrying around a lot of stuff he hasn’t processed, and he’s projecting it on you. If you can remember this in those situations, it’s a bit easier to handle and not take personally.

That said, there’s no excuse for vehicular violence, I wish we could hold drivers like this accountable. Sadly, this sort of behavior rarely leads to a consequence that would actually impact a person’s right to drive. I’d like to see more dangerous drivers taken off the streets until they get the proper education and therapy necessary to operate a machine that can easily take someone’s life.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Grab him by the collar and punch him in the ear a couple times. He’ll come around.

thefuture
Guest
thefuture

I’ve never experienced that level of rage to the point where I thought they were going to get out and come after me, but in lesser road rage experiences or close calls I like to (making sure i’m in full view of the driver) take out my cell phone and take (or at least pretend to take) a photo of their car and license plate and take a look at my watch to note the time.

Passive aggressive? Sure, but i’d like to think it puts the fear in them somehow and maybe they’d think twice about doing it again.

Matt W
Guest
Matt W

I get buzzed a lot on Broadway, btw 24th and Williams, that usually piss me off… BUT, I ride this route 4 days a week and cannot give onto drivers’ taunts.
My usual standby is the peace sign, yes, but I am guilty of having given
the “bird” to the worst drivers (turning in front of you at the last minute without a signal, while on a cell phone, etc).
Hopefully, the driver thought about the whole interaction later (after his blood pressure went down) and maybe, just maybe, regretted his action as much as you did yours.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Hate to say it but where I come from blowing a kiss is the same as flipping the bird.

JakeM
Guest

I’ve had several similar confrontations. One in particular happened shortly after Tracy Sparling was killed. A driver accelerated her car toward me, and probably would’ve hit me had I not moved. I did everything as the officer above suggested, and I was treated with complete disrespect and dismissed as overreacting.

It’s not understandable to me that they wouldn’t do anything because resources are stretched. I’m with others who say, calling the police is pointless. History has taught us nothing happens to drivers who kill cyclists, why would it be different if I survived?

Stigx
Guest
Stigx

Some thoughts:

-The peace sign is a good idea, but still carries some risk.

-If you make a hand gesture of any kind, it may not be seen clearly and misinterpreted by the driver.

-Admitting that you ‘gestured with your hand’ could be used against you in court.

-When your life is put at risk, your body gets an adrenaline rush and survival mode kicks in. It’s very hard to keep the birdie in check.

-Responding at all to the driver, in any way, may justify in their mind further action against you.

-I’d recommend keeping a poker face and just continue riding, avoiding any confrontation. Better to have the best chance of getting home safely to your family than taking any risk to educate a motorist who clearly doesn’t give a damn.

kgb
Guest
kgb

I use a thumbs down.

Julie
Guest

Hi Johnathon
Thank you for a very thought provoking post. I wrote about a very similar experience I had (http://ow.ly/1EqWj) and one of the lessons I learned is that it’s easy for the cyclist who is a lot more vulnerable to overlook the possibility that drivers sometimes react angrily out of fear. Not to excuse the buzzing or any other inappropriate response, but I think for me it’s good to remember that I, as a cyclist, can provoke fear in drivers because of my behavior.

Rich
Guest

I use the “L” for loser with a straight face. Usually results in a “wha?” type of look from the piece of ****.

chad
Guest
chad

three weeks ago I was pushed, yes literally pushed off a bicycle blvd by a guy in a minivan less than a block from my house.

I got his plate #, I called 911 and heard nothing more.

The next day I spent close to three hours on the phone with different parts of the PPD trying to find out if anything had been done (all the while being made to feel like I was the one doing something wrong).

After talking to the fifth person, a dispatcher, I was told nothing was done. I then responded with “so it’s legal to push a bike off the road with a car?”. He then told me a police officer would come and talk with me.

The officer was nice enough, but it made it pretty obvious that this was not that important, and that he MIGHT speak with the guy. I then asked him “well, then what”, to which he responded “just forget about it”.

Gotta love it!

GLV
Guest
GLV

This is why I think everyone should both drive and ride. When you have both perspectives you’re a lot less to fly off the handle, regardless of the situation.

Dominic
Guest
Dominic

I always like to holler “Jesus loves you”. I have noticed a strong relation between Christians and road-ragers. πŸ™‚

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Blow kisses and wink!

KJ
Guest
KJ

Not that I don’t succumb to the bird myself sometimes, or yelling an obscenity…

I generally try to make eye contact with people driving who have purposely done something aggressive towards me or who have made some driving error and give them the stink eye and exaggeratedly shake my head no. Basicly trying to visually say “I am dissapointed in you, you should be ashamed.” And keep on going my way.
I find even eye contact alone, when it can be had can have a desired affect.

I figure if they are trying to get a reaction out of me they won’t get what they want. I treat them like the kids at work who are misbehaving. I figure disappointment and shaming are better at curbing behavior than anger or chest beating.

Aggressivly reacting to agression or stupidity/inattention(and there by starting a conflict) and then trying to confront them is basicaly pointless. They have already closed thier mind to whatever you have to say. The window for a dialogue has been closed.

If you end up speaking to someone, being cool, calm and collected may get you heard. Berating them and lecturing them and beating on their car will get you nothing but someone who now hates cyclists even more than they may already have.
You just make yourself into a crazed violent irrational cyclist. And no better than the crazed irrational violent person driving.

I have never been verbally threatened, I have had verbal interactions a few times and they have not escalated.(Including a Trimet driver who I then reported and got a excellent response and follow up from Trimet) And I have never had anyone say they will run me down, get off the road etc.
Could be luck, could be not having the desired or expected response. But *I* feel better if I can keep my blood pressure down.

tony
Guest
tony

I had a completely insane encounter with a person driving a company van a few weeks ago on SE 41st and SE Salmon. The driver was trying to insist that I pass him so that I “don’t hit [his] van.” He was completely crazy and eventually drove off but not before screaming a racial epithet at me (one that very obviously does not even apply). It was bizarre.

Sadly, even though I am normally very observant, I didn’t take my eyes off this guy for a second and failed to note the license # or even the company the van was for (I think it had blue and red lettering on a white van and it may have been a heating/cooling type of business).

In this situation I didn’t flip him off or swear at him, he was just real mad at cyclists for some reason (I blame the Oregonian). Josh (#16) this isn’t the kind of van you had an encounter with, was it?

steve
Guest
steve

It totally stinks when this happens. It would be great if:
The PPB did follow up with drivers such as this.
Stronger Laws were in place to hold drivers accountable for vehicular menacing and vehicular homicide

I had a much worse situation that left me practically powerless and afraid to ride public streets for months.

I was riding on the streets of Anchorage, which have no bike lanes and a culture were some are totally with it and others are scary people. I was in a left hand turn lane behind a truck, waiting for the green arrow. The driver waited until just the arrow turned yellow, spun there tires out, began turning left, went up on opposite curb, tires still spinning, turned directly towards me, fish-tailing back and forth, and skidded towards me. At which time, I cut directly across the road to the opposite curb, way to scared to look carefully. While I did this the driver was heading straight for me, fish tailed back out and turned down the opposite lane, 3-5 feet away from where I was standing.

I share this story for a few reasons.
– 1 it scared the crap out of me and I always try not to escalate a situation (despite having no interaction with this driver other than being in the road). If they want to, they will win
– 2 The police wouldn’t do a thing
– 3 We have a long way to go

fredlf
Guest
fredlf

Similar things have happened to me a large number of times, especially in areas with fewer bikes (e.g. Durham, North Carolina).
It’s taken a while, but I was eventually able to channel the many years I spent many years working in retail, and train myself to smile and wave with the biggest, phoniest smile I can muster. I call it “smiling on the outside.” Usually, this disarms people enough so that I can say, “sorry I was in your way briefly, but I had to avoid x so I didn’t get seriously injured.” I try to say this with a smile even if I am completely in the right and was nearly killed. Again. I don’t always succeed. But I do believe it’s a “teachable moment” and that you catch more flies with sugar than with s*%t.

That is, I honestly think that most drivers are simply unaware of the hazards that cyclists face on the side of the road, and so they assume you are making a “statement” by not sharing. This, of course, is exacerbated by cyclists who like to make a statement by resolutely not sharing.

Of course, smiling on the outside doesn’t always work. Some people are just out of control. Lately I’ve been working on training myself to whip out the cell phone and at least pretend to take a picture. My theory is that it will make people worry about consequences (posting to the internet, sending to police, etc.), and so they won’t go any further. But I’ve yet to need to put it to the test. Which is a good thing.

Bottom line, for me, is to try to treat it like a dog fight. The worst thing you can do for everyone involved is to escalate it with a lot excitement and yelling.

BURR
Guest
BURR

It’s actually quite amazing what a friendly, non-treatening follow-up phone call from a knowledgeable police officer can do to help educate these people about cyclists rights and motorists responsibilities to other road users. It’s a much better attitude changing motivator than arguing in the street with these jackasses.

It’s really too bad that Officer Pickett isn’t assigned to assist cyclists in this manner.

soundguysean
Guest
soundguysean

I have found when encountering rude drivers that a thumbs down and the parental “I am not mad just disappointed” slow head shake goes along way. This coming from an ex bouncer who weighs 250 and is 6 foot. Pick your battles and…Bad drivers have right of way!

matthew vilhauer
Guest
matthew vilhauer

i thought giving someone the finger meant “you’re number 1”. oops…. my bad.

John
Guest
John

Interesting exchanges. I am a Vietnam era veteran and am an every day bike riding commuter. I’ve experienced close calls and a couple of crashes in Portland: 1) cab door opened in my path, 2) forced to and over the curb because of no right turn signal from a car and 3) had to lay down my bike on an icy patch because a car failed to yield – all over the last 30 years of biking in PDX. That said I biked from Ha Noi to Sai Gon in 1994 – 1200 miles and no crashes! Funny that, eh?

One thing I have observed, is that too many Americans do have an over-blown sense of entitlement (be you a driver or a biker). So keep yourself safe, report as best you can incidents and breathe deep. If you can when you are on a bike, speak to the offending driver. Let them know you were there and it WAS close. Best deal is to ride pro-actively – takes two to tango.

Be safe my roadies! – John

Joe
Guest
Joe

This Story reminds me of when I lived in San Jose Ca. Road Rage Day!

one day riding home from work, a driver
pulled up to me started yelling that i didnt yeild for a stop sign, and buzzed me, after flipped him off. * huge mistake * he tried many times to put me in the curb and break checked me many times all in bike lane, i know he would have hurt me if i did’nt act fast. This all happen for about a mile. soon he sped off i then again thought things were ok, but he drove up the road and pulled over and waited for me. so was thinking oh man he’s going to tackle me?
what the heck, so i picked up lotta speed and shot across traffic to avoid this wacko, but had to come back since cars were coming, long story short he jumped at me along with me power sliding to avoid killing him if i hit him.

wild story i know, but ive been on the roads for many years, and some don’t care!

peace sign or just letting go helps get away from the rage. glad your ok but this
brings many feeling back to me. I got a lic number cops ran it but they couldn’t
find the car or driver. many have told me
if you want to live stay out of my way.

be safe all,
Joe
Wilsonville remote Island πŸ™‚

are
Guest

get the plate and report it. that doctor in california was busted only because he had done the same thing previously and it had been reported. that said, i have never had any follow up from portland police, and i have taken to calling these people in as possible drunks.

if you are able to have a civil interaction with the motorist, great, teachable moment, etc. but it is hard to remain calm when your life is threatened.

plus one to comment 17, incidentally. in winter i often wear the lobster claw mitten, so in effect i am giving the vulcan salute . . .

hank2125
Guest
hank2125

I would flip the dude off and pull over to the curb, if someone wants to take a shot at me after almost running me over it’s up to them, I wouldn’t bother with the portland police, they are useless unless it comes to beating up or killing the helpless.

Peter Smith
Guest
Peter Smith

when i’m in the mood to defend myself, i try to catch up to them, roll up to their driver-side window, and start talking to them — sometimes angrily. i’ll ask them accusatory questions like ‘why did you honk at me?’ and ‘do you feel you have the right to terrorize me?’ and all that stuff — never answer anything they say, just vent at them.

but in the case of getting buzzed like you did — whew — it’d probably have been escalation city for me. i don’t do the middle finger thing — i think it’s just dorky — i want them to fear my wrath, and it seems they do. i love the uncertainty they experience. they know they’ve done wrong, and it may be time to pay the piper. they start looking in their rearview to see if that guy they just terrorized is trying to catch up — you can see all the thoughts racing through their head — they start to get jittery — they’re changing lanes — trying to get through reds, yellows, etc.

and then, finally — boom — they get stuck at a light. so they take a deep breath and wait — now they’re thinking, “wtf is about to happen to me now that i’ve gone and terrorized an innocent person?”

talk about turning the tables on a power trip — wow. great feeling. just summon up all the collective terror you’ve experienced at the hands of terrorist drivers and go forth and prosper. πŸ™‚

in this case, assuming i was going to defend myself, i’d have rolled up to his window with the “Do you have a problem?” bar-fight-machismo line, and then taken it from there (it’s almost always men).

i’m trying to not do that these days, but i’ve only ever had one driver get out of his car — i give him credit for that — most are too cowardly, and after i had my turn at intimidating him for a change (“You’re not so tough, now, are you?!”), we parted ways — no physical exchanges. i like to think he’ll never bother a biker ever again, but i don’t know. i know i sure felt better for having stood up for myself and the community.

i don’t bring any of the machismo thing when confronting women/elderly/etc. mostly because i don’t think my ego could recover from getting knocked out by a senior citizen. ;-D

i’ve realized i can’t educate the world by myself — i just have to wait for infrastructure changes to go through. so, just knowing that most drivers are ignorant of existing laws definitely helps control my anger — but in the case of a close buzzing like that — yeah, that pretty much requires a response.

some guy honked at me the other day on a residential street in emeryville/oakland — i was in the middle of this close-to-zero-traffic road, just avoiding a parked-car door zone, and he layed on the horn. i stayed in the middle of the road and turned around over my left shoulder with the left palm up and the ‘what?’ coming out of my mouth, and he echoed the sentiment with a ‘wtf are you doing?’ gesture. i moved aside, let him go by, caught up to him a few blocks later only because i decided to pursue him casually for a few blocks to make him sweat, and then i just rolled right by.

Quentin
Guest
Quentin

What would a New Yorker do? When some asshole intentionally endangers your life you shouldn’t feel an ounce of guilt or remorse for giving them the finger. They deserve it and on some level deep down inside they know it.
As far as your hand gesture being used against you in court, the person who escalates the situation by getting out of his car is going to have some serious explaining to do.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

You should have done the world a favor and shot him in the face.

david....no! the other one
Guest
david....no! the other one

So Jonathan, reading these posts there are a wide variety of responses. Take your pick, and the number one response is highly used, to what end. I try to be positive, I wave my hand and SHOUT, with a big smile on my face HAVE A NICE DAY! because its obvious they are NOT. Most humans will either respond with the shock that you are not going to be goaded into a like exchange and may change their attitude, or still be mad that you did not respond in kind.
I know its simplistic, but be the change you want to see. Others can only see the change in US! Its the choice only you can make.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“Aggressivly reacting to agression or stupidity/inattention(and there by starting a conflict) and then trying to confront them is basicaly pointless.”

Inattentive and road ragey drivers threaten lives. Confronting them is absolutely not pointless! I’ve confronted several dozen car/truck drivers and at least half of them apologized.

Its amazing that this is the first time something like this has happed to Jonathan. For someone who takes the lane frequently I heartily recommend dinotte tail lights:

http://www.dinottelighting.com/photographyl.htm

Drivers keep their distance. *smirk*

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

I won’t share my road rage story with you verbatim and it turned ugly, authorities were involved, and fines/damages were paid. I’ll spare you the details and just say this:

It is never, ever, EVER worth getting into a physical confrontation with anyone, regardless of who was right or who was wrong.

I felt threatened and reacted (it seemed at the time) accordingly. I’ll put it to you this way: Marty @ #4 and Jeff @ #20 are pretty freakin’ close.

I am a humbler human being after my incident and hope I can help others by promoting peaceful confrontation (what is that, like the paradox “military intelligence” LOL) through my story of rash judgment.

Great story, Jonathan, and thanks for sharing. Goes to show us all that we’re simply human after all and capable of making the wrong decision in the heat of the battle from time to time.

Jerry
Guest
Jerry

I usually go with the blowing kisses and winking response. I think most of the road ragers I encounter are more afraid of homosexuals than anything else. If they think that buzzing a cyclist could be misconstrued as a gay flirting thing, they get scared. Maybe they’ll stop because it is not manly?
Of course the more common danger is the inattentive driver who doesn’t see you or your gesture. Then if the opportunity arises I will use the concerned grandmotherly approach and make sure they are OK because something terrible must be taking there attention off the road because they clearly did not see me. Do you need some help Sonny? Can I call someone for you?
I guess they are both passive aggressive, but neither is potentially lethal.