It’s part of my philosophy on this site to avoid the use of profanity. I’m making an exception today, as I relate an absolutely true verbal exchange I had driving in to work today.
Driving through Schenley Park, I passed a guy on a bicycle. This isn’t unusual. It turns out that in my country, people sometimes ride bikes, and often they ride them in parks. The guy was riding in the right hand lane, with traffic, fairly close to the curb. Just as I get past him, I hear a blaaaaaaaaaaarn of a loud horn. I look around to see if I’ve killed someone, and behind me is a huge Expedition-sized SUV. He’s honking at the biker. There is a completely empty lane to the SUV driver’s left. I keep an eye on my rear-view mirror to watch the situation develop.
Sure enough, SUV Guy decides that Bike Guy has somehow offended him by existing. He gets in front of the biker, and proceeds to start weaving slowly in front of him, blocking his attempts to pass, sticking his hand out the window when Bike Guy gets close, yelling at him, and generally acting like a jerk.
This starts making me mad: the SUV Guy isn’t just putting himself and Bike Guy in danger, he’s putting the rest of us on the road at risk as well. I get up to the traffic light, which is red, and I can’t take it anymore. I put on my hazards, get out of the car, and shout at the top of my lungs at SUV guy, who is about 50 feet away:
“Hey, asshole in the SUV — knock it off before I call the cops.”
SUV guy looks up, surprised. He speeds up a little and pulls up next to me. Convinced that I just don’t understand the situation, SUV guy decides to explain why he’s acting like an asshole:
“He coulda killed someone! He’s in the road!“
I gaped at him for a few seconds, before
calmly explaining shouting at the top of my lungs:
“He’s allowed to be in the road, you schmuck.”
SUV guy drove away, yelling a parting shot straight out of Junior High School:
“Screw you, faggot!”
The biker glided past, gave me a nod, and went on his way. I got back in my car just as the light turned green.
Now, typically when you hear a story like this, it’s from the perspective of a bike rider. Co-author psu is an avid rider, for example, and I’m sure he has many similar stories to tell. The wrinkle, in this case, is, well, I don’t really like bike riding. I find it irritating and boring. I view wanting to ride a bike without an engine as a character flaw, akin to preferring white wine to red, or only wanting to eat at chain restaurants, or enjoying large weddings. In a world where according to a simple “us vs. them” philosophy I should have sided with the SUV guy, I did the right thing and stood up. For great justice!
So, bicyclists: you owe me one. The next time you see one of your compatriots run a red light, or nearly mow down a pedestrian, or thuggishly swing a bike lock at someone who they believe has committed some completely imaginary slight, call him on it. Don’t let him get away with it just because he’s a fellow bike rider. Stand up for what’s right.
Call him an asshole. Do it for me.