The Chainlink

Hello. You, male biker on a road bike with Brooks saddle and pannier, and I got into an argument this morning. I want to explain my behavior and apologize. I did hear your bell behind me. I also just had passed a car leaving a parking space. I didn’t know what your bell indicated. I ring my bell for lots of reasons: to give a “heads up” to pedestrians; to alert a driver with a car door open; and to bring a smile to a child’s face. Even though I had ear buds in - awaiting a call from a surgeon - I heard your bell. I just didn’t know what it meant. When you passed, I was surprised and - likely curtly - asked for an “on your left”. You stated that you rang your bell and that was enough. I was taken aback - first by fear of hitting another biker and secondly by your angry response. I also noted your anger with my ear buds - likely not directed just at me. 

The stop sign approached. I know that I didn’t have the right of way, but I made a judgment call. Stop at a stop sign where an angry male was awaiting me or go through the stop out of turn. I went. I was shaking from our exchange at Lake. You approached me again, yelling at my biking. I turned onto Washington and did what I always do - follow traffic laws the rest of the way. 

I am am fully accountable for my choices and behavior. I’m sorry that I yelled cursory language at you as you biked off down Clinton. I also am sorry to the drivers of cars and others. I am embarrassed. I value everyone’s lives and safety. I violated my own values. It’s hard to sit with. 

But I ask you to consider this: As a woman biker in Chicago - 25 years and counting - I am used to being harassed by male pedestrians, drivers and bikers alike. I arrive to work scared about once every three weeks and it has nothing to do with my biking. I call my husband crying, and he listens. I take a few days off, walking to work, and then try again. 

Im not saying that you were going to harm me. It’s just scary out there, and I wanted to offer another perspective. 

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Sorry you had this experience. As a woman, I understand. Yelling at you is not ok. Your choice to go through the stop sign without stopping to avoid conflict is understandable. As cyclists, we all make our own judgement calls and we all have times where things feel heated and swear words fly. 

I've been riding every workday and most weekends and there are times I get upset as well. I use my bell so that it keeps me from shouting or using a tone I'd rather not use. I then ride with plenty of room for error (never right next to the person I am passing). This keeps me in a better mood about my ride. I've also changed my route to a less stressful one. I do at times verbalize my annoyance about something pretty much under my breath (I moved to a less verbal city, a lot less swearing here). 

I encourage you to hang in there and keep trying. Most days I feel the joy of riding my bike. I hope that is the case for you. If it isn't is there a better route for you? Is there a way you can distance yourself from some of the nonsense around you while staying aware and safe in your bike commute? Now that I've been biking commuting for 7 years I'm more at peace with it but everyone is different. 

I wear 1 bud in my right ear to listen to music and keep my left ear free for traffic and street sounds.

I'm trying to piece together this order of events. It sounds like you were on Clinton ("[he] biked off down Clinton") and you turned onto Washington. The initial encounter happened near Lake ("our exchange at Lake"). So you were going south?

You say you avoided him at a stop sign after this first encounter, but there are no stop signs between Lake/Washington on Clinton or any N/S street from Michigan to 90/94.

Could you elaborate further?

Thank you for sharing this aLex.  Cycling in this city is often stressful and I have to admit I have reacted to high stress moments in ways that I am not proud of at times.  

i think your story illustrates how nothing is accomplished, typically, by engaging in confrontation.  Your acts to the angry cyclist and his actions toward you did nothing to help either one of you.  Certainly, we have to let others know when we are passing, and be alert to when we are being notified when being passed.  Also, we should show some understanding when others don't get it right sometimes.  

Like many others I get frustrated and steamed at people who are inconsiderate of other road users (cyclist, cars or peds).  Showing understanding toward them simply feels wrong, like I am tolerating bad behavior.  But there are three reasons to give them the benefit of the doubt and be nice:

1. In the heat of the moment, I cannot really tell if someone is generally inconsiderate, or if they just had a momentary lapse. 

2. even if they are inconsiderate, there is no gain in scolding them.  

3.  They might be crazy and escalate.

So, i make an effort to restrain my impulse to react badly to perceived disrespect on the road.



You were basically a victim of road rage aLex, and it's sort of big of you to respond to that with an apology. 

Sure, people make mistakes or have their actions or road maneuvers misperceived, whether on their bike or driving.  That's you, that's me, that's everybody.  Sometimes, we get away with an "ooops, my bad no harm intended" sort of smile and a wave, and other times, we get people making multiple efforts to do the road rage retaliation thing.  The latter is not acceptable, whether on a car or on a bike.    In a car we can lock the door and head down another street pretty easily... on a bike we're pretty wide open, so glad you got out of it all unscathed. 

Hopefully he reads your note, reflects on his own actions, resolves not to do that, and perhaps apologizes. 

Thank you for sharing all of this too.  It reminds us all to be careful, and likewise to be courteous to our fellow travelers.  

So few of us own up to  the moments when  in hindsight we think we could  have done better.  We all like to  look good. Alex,  kudos to you for publicly posting acknowledging  you may have done better. It  is  unclear to me exactly what  happened and frankly,  it doesn't matter.  A bell is just  a bell but then  again there are ways to ring it. I single ring? A series of  rings until the other person complies with the  ringers' desire? Who knows.  You  point out an important piece  of  information the rest  of the world needs to  know and that is your vulnerability as a female rider. As a male rider I need to cut you some  slack, use awareness and  sensitivity on  the road, and  I hope my brethren  do the  same. 

As regards the earbuds,  I understand why you  were wearing  them  awaiting  a  doctor's call. I suppose most people  on  this forum have  a problem  with  people  wearing earbuds and  you  may not  have been seen for the  experienced,  conscientious rider that you are but as a bud wearing dilettante who doesn't really know  what  is going on. In  conjunction with the  reaction  to the bell I wonder if you were not seen as you  but seen as somebody else.  We all make snap judgments about others  both  on  the road and  in  our lives. This is  a  lesson for us all in  the  peril  of relying on  such  judgments.

This,  of course,  is no excuse for the escalation but perhaps explains why the two of you were reacting  to  different stimuli but fortunately both rode away.. I  hope  he has the same introspection that you do.


You "curtly" asked for an "on your left" and he responded "angrily" that he rang his bell. What's the difference between curtly and angrily? I'd say perception, he may have perceived your "curt" "on your left" as an "angry" "on your left" and responded in a like manner.

He rang a bell and you heard it, which should make you aware that there's a bike in the vicinity, the same as an "on your left".

And then instead of just waiting back as to avoid further confrontation she shoals him at the next intersection.

This shoaling nonsense is utterly silly. There is no deli counter ticket issued at stops in which cyclists are expected to proceed in a first-come, first-served manner. Furthermore, "Tooscrapps", your need to be judgemental here is in no way empathetic or constructive.

She admonished him and was surprised that she got a taste of her own medicine. Then she admittedly ran a stop sign, but more likely a stop light, because "an angry male was awaiting (her)" instead of just hanging back and waiting for him to go.

I think many people would be pissed if they got told off about their etiquette by someone who cannot follow the rules themselves.

Perhaps OP needs to clarify the chain of events better, because to me, some key details are not adding up.



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