Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Faulty Columbus Infrastructure Creates Questionable Situation

On the way home today, I stopped at a couple of stores to pick up groceries and dog food. After I was done, I pulled out onto Kelso Road to cross High Street and ride up to my home.

For those of you not familiar with the area, Kelso (going from West to East) across High Street is one of those streets that is about a lane and a half wide, making you wonder whether you're supposed to be lining up two abreast or one abreast. I've always assumed one - since there's no line to delineate separate lanes. Also, the light sensor is smack dab in the middle of the lane. So, I took my spot about 12" from the right side of the sensor, where city engineers have told me is the best place for a bike to try to trip the sensor and force a light change on High Street. It's also a good example of taking the lane - making sure that other cars can't try to pass you and turn right in front of you illegally. Here's a picture:


A car pulls up behind me (as per usual, not close enough that it might trip the sensor itself). After a few seconds, it honks at me. As is my habit, I ignored it. I wait for the light to change (and as usual, it takes a while). The car honks again, more insistently. I glance behind me, throw up my arms in a "What?" gesture. I don't take kindly to being honked at, as I'm sure most cyclists don't. I believe very strongly in following the rules of the road, and also my right to be there.

Finally, the guy pulls up next to me (on my left) and starts yelling at me. Now, I have the headphones for my cell phone on because my wife is 17-days-from-her-due-date pregnant and I want to be able to take the call immediately if she rings me up. I pull one of the ear buds out and say "excuse me?"

The guy yells "you jackass! I'm trying to take my baby to the doctor! Get the hell over!" And while I'm yelling "What do you want me to do about that?" and before I can get out "it can't be too important since you stopped to yell at me instead of just going around me!" he pulls in front of me and turns right on red (after threatening to kick my ass).

Obviously, this is not time to explain to him about how the Columbus infrastructure is inadequate, nor an explanation of the rights of cyclists. And I think I was right to hold my own - if I had been a car, he couldn't have yelled at me. And I daresay he probably wouldn't have thought about honking me because I couldn't have done anything different than I did on my bike.

But I'm curious - how would you have handled this situation? Comments?

9 comments:

  1. I think that you handled the situation as you should have. Hold your ground, and be the informed, level headed one.

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  2. You did exactly as i would have. I wrote a post recently about a situation that was almost exactly the same. You are correct, he wouldnt have honked if you were a car. Idiot motorists are lovely arent they?

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  3. There's not much you can do. I generally move more to the left if it's an intersection I know people turn right at. In those "land and a half" situations, it's legal to pass on the right to make the right turn.

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  4. Right. I'd have been happy to move over, the only problem was that stupid magnetic sensor in the road, and his sitting so far back that he wouldn't have set it off himself. Sigh... another example of autocratic (pun intended) infrastructure.

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  5. I haven't used it yet, but I'm planning to next time say, "It's not my fault you chose to drive a car."

    I'd have done the same as you, but it's not what I would have wanted to do.

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  6. Smudgemo, I love that response. I've thought of that one on my own and have been readying myself to use it... just didn't think it applied at that situation.

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  7. Take his license plate number, call it in to the police on the non-emergency number, and request they talk to the driver and explain how to behave appropriately on the road.

    It's worth a try, anyway...

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  8. Did the light work on your request? In my town, I give it 30 seconds? Fred Oswald has an excellent summary and links on "Making Vehicle Detectors Work" http://www.labreform.org/education/loops.html

    Regarding the "irate motorist" I would wave to acknowledge you hear or are aware of him, after the second or aggressive honking, write the license number, driver description (gender, age, race, etc), note location, day, time, etc. Call the police and get a report number.

    Why not engage or discuss the situation? Not good for either, motor-head is hot, in a hurry and you're agitated, probably adrenaline pumped. I politely but firmly corrected a guy who honked at me, we were civil and he apologized. I slightly regret this face-to-face confirmation every-time I see his sorry mutt face in the supermarket, he always turns away whenever I walk by. Getting the police to write up the motorist is better if the motorist repeat bad behavior, they'll have more complaints.

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  9. My irate motorist wasn't really sticking around any longer than it took to try to make me feel bad, so a discussion was pretty much out of the question (though, despite the fact "he had to take his baby to the doctor," he still DID stop to berate me).

    Regarding the sensor, I hadn't really been there long enough to have it go off before motorhead pulled up behind me. I was following the instructions I was given by the city traffic engineer who responded to my request to have them adjusted to detect bikes, hence my need to sit where I did.

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