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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A driver ought to be grateful if a cyclist rapping on their car prevents them from injuring someone and getting into a heapload of trouble.  I had a guy on Elston between Diversey & Logan a few years back start to drift into the bike lane, totally oblivious to the fact he was about to crush me & my daughter in the seat into the parked car next to me.  You better believe I slapped his car the second he brushed into my handlebar, but to hell with the window - go right for the roof.  It makes a ton more noise, it's the equivalent of having someone putting a giant pot on your head and ringing it like a bell.  If a car gets so close to you that you can reach them they're too close in the first place, I'd love to have my 15 minutes in court explaining to a judge why I did it, I'll take that opportunity 7 days a week and twice on Sunday. 

Lately I just try and keep my Airzound filled before leaving. Otherwise I ride defensively and avoid any kind of PSA activity or touching cars to a minimum. This, after a douche bag in a truck pulled a gun on me.

You know.  I just thank God and my lucky stars that my 'homicidal rages back AT GETTING HIT by drivers while legally in a lane (not a bike lane before Mayor Daley's & ATA neeCBF's advocacy efforts)
kept me from the dreaded trading tickets and costly court time...


mike w. said:

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.

A badge flash if real (remember in Chi Town there are plenty of pretend cobs, plus real egomaniac ones), he/she also has a real loaded gun.  End the discussion, take his/her plate #s and avoid that vehicle/driver like the plague.  I can be a jerk in the heat of traffic too.

Barry Niel Stuart said:

There are too many drivers that cop an attitude of either they or their car being king and all lesser beings (pedestrians and bicyclists) are to bow down to them.  Even the current Queen of England doesn't require more than a subtle bow.  Heck, the last time there was a king over this area was 236 years ago , when on July 4, 1776 we announced our intention to throw His Majesty's troops out on their royal bums.  I guess we gave them the bum's rush.

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