Thursday, September 20, 2007

Getting Buzzed


I did a stupid thing yesterday afternoon. Much of my riding around Prince William County is on the bike paths which follow the new roads in the county, particularly on Rte 234. But I need to take local roads to get there and Waterway Drive through Montclair is one of them.

Waterway is four lanes, two in each direction, nice grassy median strip with trees and with curbs -- no shoulders. There is no place to move except in the gutter. On my way down Waterway towards the stop sign at Avon/Northgate, I was doing 34 mph, just one mph short of the speed limit. Still, some cars insist on flying by so we know they're speeding.

Just before the road leveled out I was buzzed by an black SUV who got dangerously close. I didn't respond with profanity or gestures. I just kept going. But as I approached the four way stop sign, both our through lanes were backed up seven to eight cars. I quickly came upon the line of cars and was able to move past them on the right to get up to the stop sign. Here the road does open a bit so there is a quasi-shoulder.

I had slowed and as I approached the front of the line was the SUV. He saw me coming and swerved sharply to the right. Slow speed mind you, as everyone was queuing for the stop sign. But he tried to go all the way to the right and cut me off. I did put out my hand and slap his vehicle. But then, here was the stupid part, I passed one more car then turned around.

Something said not to take this anymore. Clearly without thinking I went back and pulled in front of his vehicle, basically daring him to run me over. Standing off my bike in front of the driver's side headlight, I said to him, and his three passengers, "Play nice out here. You have a nice car and future ahead of you (he was probably in his late teens or early twenties and probably showing off for his friends) but if you kill one bicyclist you can be charged with manslaughter, lose everything you have, and spend a few years in jail. Just play nice."

In retrospect, it was stupid because he could have gunned it and run me down. Except there was a car in front of us. I sort of felt protected because of the number of cars around. But then came the surprise. He didn't say a word. I don't know if anything sunk in or not and will never know. But it was 70 degrees and many drivers had their windows down. The people in the car beside him cheered me. "Alright! You tell him!" And the car behind his were cheering too.

For a brief moment, people were glad to see a bicyclist stand up to an idiotic driver. I went through the intersection before him then wondered what would happen when in the next 200 yards when he got his chance to pass me for a final time. I didn't give him that chance. I turned into the next driveway simply to let him pass without confrontation before resuming my ride.

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