The Chainlink

Another eventful ride home...

Upon my journey, I was riding down the bike lane along backed up traffic, minding all the usual precautions in such a situation. Down the line of cars, a sedan decided to make an abrupt change across the bike lane and into a further parking spot. This action was begun as I was next to the rear wheel of the car, continuing forward along parked cars before the open parking spot, forcing me into a bottleneck with pinning implications. This is when I, in my typical fashion during such situations, gave the side window a firm slap with an open palm. Not a Ulock, not a fist, but an abrupt slap. (also note, I did not slap the car for fun, and I was already along side the car and being bottlenecked as everything happened)

Considering that cars use horns to warn other drivers of causing potential harm, this seems like a sensible method to bring it to the drivers attention that they are doing something wrong. If nothing else, they will stop because they think they have hit something, and caused damage to their own car with no regard to the outside world. Moving on...

After the slap, which stops the car, I manage to sneak through between the front corner and curb. As I look back I see the gentleman getting frustrated and screaming through the windshield.  I decide to stop and speak to the driver, I approach the drivers door, Mindful to keep it from being opened. Transcript as follows:

Driver: You didn't have to hit the window. 

ME: You didn't have to cut me off. 

Driver: I didn't see you. 

Me: Well you should pay more attention. 

Driver: You can't do that. You'll be in trouble, I'm a cop. (proceeds to fumble for and flash his badge)

Me: Well then you should have known better to look before you do something like that.

Driver: Just move along, you'll be in trouble if you do that again.

At this point I continue to ride with the driver assuming little responsibility. Usually it ends up with an apology of "I'm sorry, didn't see you" and me politely reminding the drivers to look out for us bikers. I'm not trying to make a matter out of the gentleman being an officer as we all make mistakes, but of the empty threat of me being "in trouble" next time. 

My question is, what do you propose to do in such a situation to preserve your safety?

I think a firm slap is a safe way to bring warning to the driver of the inherent danger they have caused. I am not trying to cause harm to the car, but prevent it to myself. I do not have the law in front of me, but I would assume striking a vehicle is an illegal activity. But in lieu of a horn, I think it is a passable offense. 

The driver, while maybe right in saying I could "be in trouble",  he didn't look at the other side of the situation and understand why I slapped the car. I suppose I could have stayed and questioned him further as to what I should have done to preserve my safety, but preservation of freedom seemed to take a larger roll.  I'm sure that would have been a most enlightening response. 

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This is what I usually do although I am not sure if it is the right thing for a couple of reasons.  For one thing I am not sure of the legal implications; there is a chance this could be illegal but unless you have intent to cause damage I would guess you can weasel out of that with the claim that you were putting your hand on the car in order to help keep yourself away from it or from falling due to the close quarters/contact.  I also am not sure if it is the right thing because it can often incite a driver to new levels of rage and threatening behavior...

Some months ago a woman in a Mini-Cooper cut into the bike lane to avoid traffic on Halsted and nearly hit me.  I slapped the roof of her car and she proceeded to chase me with her car and act like a nut job.  Some people really get bent about you touching the car.

All that aside I do it whenever somebody encroaches on me in a dangerous manner because of the following logic:

1. I am slapping the car not because I want to be aggressive but because I want to keep myself away from it and aware of it's position.  For just this reason when I slap a window or roof I slap it and keep my hand on it until one of us has stopped moving and danger of making contact has passed.  I also do not slap hard, just hard enough it makes a sound that people will notice.

2. My arm is slightly over 2.5 feet long to the end of my hand; if I can slap a car seated on my bike it is, illegally, within 3 feet of me.  I have on several occasions made that point to a driver who is upset I touched there car or is trying to tell me they are going to call the cops and have me ticketed/arrested/beaten/whatever.  While not a legitimate legal defense (The old 'he hit me first' ploy) it usually makes people think about just how mad they are and you can throw the whole, 'I might get a ticket or charged but you are getting one as well...' thing out there for them as  well.

Same situation happened to me a while back...two blocks later,when I thought the mess was over, a 32 OZ. cup of sprite slammed into my face as he sped past.


I've used the slap as well as the knocking on the window of a moving car when the driver is obviously looking for a parking spot or the next Starbucks, or their turn, etc., but honestly, I think the best solution is applying the brakes and letting these types of drivers pass by. You have a lot more control over avoiding dangerous situations when the threat is in front of you. 

I've done the slap a few times, more often as a ped, but a few times on my bike. I don't think I'm going to do it anymore. I was biking home from work a few weeks ago. There was a car that kept veeering in to a bike lane. It got within less than an arm reach and I did a light open-palmed smack. The car got stopped in traffic at one point and I proceeded in the bike line to a red light that I waited to turn green. I heard a guy yelling. He had gotten out of the car, stomped over to me, got in my face, kept asking me what my problem was with him, etc. He was the passneger. The driver stayed in the car and looked mortified I stayed calm and said I had no problem with her or him, but that the swerving in and out of the bike line was a hazzard. He would not drop it and I think got aggravated becasue I kept calm. Light turns green, I ride away. Drivers yell at him and the driver because they are holding up traffic. I am not a confrontational person. This guy took my action personally and it felt like he would have been itching to fight. I am not up for that at all.

I had another woman in a Hummer once go balistic on me, too, when I was crossing the street as a ped and she made a right turn and got within inches of me. I tapped her trunk and she got out, unleashed her wrath on my, and wanted to throw down.

So, I'm not going to do to do the slap anymore. I don't do it to be aggressive, but some people percive it that way. And, all things considered, I would rather not have any of these people have an excuse to get aggressive with me and take out all of their road rage and other issues on me.

i've used the slap, the bloodcurdling scream, and the occasional thrown water bottle. It gets their attention.  Heat of the moment sort of thing, but it sure beats getting run over.  Too bad if the driver doesn't like it- i don't like getting run over.  i will probably continue to use one or another of these methods as long as i have to deal with urban drivers.

Any ensuing discussion with the driver usually includes an offer by me to trade vehicles for the next few miles...

Biggest problems of course are there are a lot of entitled homicidal nutcase drivers out there as well as drivers with their heads up their arses.

I've withdrawn my comments-- best to stay out of this one.

Also, if it came to that, as long as the slap was applied to the car and not the driver or passenger, i seriously doubt

1)a cop would bother to ticket you (if indeed one bothered to show up) or

2) a judge would convict you.


The arguement is self defense.

I'd only slap the car as a last defense before hitting it.  If I could at all extricate myself from the situation without doing so I'd avoid it at all costs.

Drivers are entitled Mother FR's.  They think they own the road and pissing them off while they sit inside weapons that are more powerful than any handgun is a bad idea.   All it takes is a twitch from their steering wheel and you are road pizza.

Nothing good can come from it and everything bad can happen.   it's a bad idea. 

If I had an electric horn like motor vehicle do, I'd use it; in its absence, nothing is more effective at getting a driver's attention than a slap to the car.

I usually stick to loud, abrasive cursing.  "HEY.  ASSHOLE.  LOOK"  

I have a pretty loud voice so it's usually effective.


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