Lately, as we've seen more and more people on the streets biking, we've also seen more and more reports of motorist/cyclist altercations. Now I'm not talking just in Columbus, but nationwide. Bike commuting here is still beneath the radar to an extent that it doesn't happen as much (though it certainly DOES happen). But here are some examples:
Biking in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Truck driver flicks cigarette ash at cyclist and tries to bump him off the road.
BikePortland.org: SUV driver was frustrated that cyclist wouldn't share the road, whatever that means.
Just yesterday, I was talking to a recreational cyclist and I asked her why she doesn't bike to work if she loves it so much (as she'd JUST finished saying how much she loves her bike). She responded with safety concerns, including reports she'd heard of an individual attacking lone women on bikes on the Olentangy River Trail.
And back in early July, I got this email from a reader:
I referred the reader to Steven Magas of Cincinnati, who I've conversed with off and on about some issues regarding bike law.Hello-I saw your biking blog and thought I'd shoot you an e-mail.Some guy with major road rage here in Columbus, confronted my boyfriend and I today, then purposely ran my boyfriend over with his SUV and asked him if he wanted more.My boyfriend is okay and the guy was charged with assault with a vehicle, but with your knowledge of riding in Columbus, do you know of any lawyer which might be local and passionate about the rights of bikers??Thanks.
But the main issue I want to bring up here is how the heck do we, as cyclists, defend ourselves against attackers, either car-borne or on foot?
Now, a quick aside: let me explain to you my personal views on self-defense: views that the law may or may not have in common. If someone attacks me, or I feel that I'm in danger, then I have the right to take whatever action is necessary to get myself out of danger and to make sure that particular danger won't affect me again. For example: if you break into my house, and I can manage it, you'll be knocked unconscious or have a limb broken at least - to end the danger to me and my family.
Back to the topic at hand: I've heard a couple of interesting ideas that I'm not sure how I feel about. Well, that's not entirely true. One of my readers has told me about how he carries a pretty serious knife and will use it to slash the tires of vehicles who try to rough him up. And if a cyclist gets to the point where he feels threatened enough to do this, then I'm personally all for it. It's not like he's slashing the driver himself and taking off, he's taking away the driver's ability to do him harm. Tires can be replaced, people can't.
Now here's a second point of view, that I'm not sure I share at all. This was proposed by CycleDog down in Oklahoma a few months ago: cyclists should carry firearms. You have to think that a motorist bearing down on you and seeing a holster on you is going to think twice about bothering you. And it's absolutely true that guns can be a deterrent.
But do we want to risk turning our streets into armed battlegrounds? Because you can be sure that some redneck in a pickup is going to want to drive you off the road sometime, and when you draw on him he's going to draw right back.
Plus, do you want the possible danger of the gun going off after a fall, or what have you?
Now here's another idea: keeping your u-lock within reach of your riding position. If you have a serious u-lock, you know how heavy they can be. Grabbing that thing by the u-shaped portion and swinging it, you would most certainly be a deterrent. And this might be the best way possible to ward off anyone attacking you while riding - just reach down, grab the u-lock, and swing away.
It's an absolute shame that this topic has to be discussed, but the increase in the number of cyclists on our road-rage infested streets is going to result in more road rage before it results in less, and I think it behooves us to be prepared.
So... what are your thoughts here? Any ideas for personal defense on a bike?