Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The drivers of Mill Valley vis-a-vis cyclists...

From my buddy Troy...


Short story, and I have a genuine question to ask

This morning, a woman (old, crotchety, grumpy, elitist sort) drove up behind me, started honking and yelling while I was commuting to work on shoreline highway just below my house. I was ~18 inches to the RIGHT of the white line, and fully following CA traffic laws "as far right as practicable.. except when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes)." I was not impeding traffic in ANY way. She honks and yells, and I wave at her and yell out, "What? What do you want me to do?" then she speeds off yelling and gesturing. I catch up to her at Tam Junction, and calmly (honestly, I was calm and courteous... no really, I was!) say, "please calm down and be safe, I don't want an accident. Please just be safe, you could kill me." She yells some more to 'move over' to the surprise of other drivers (who saw what happened), and I ride off to let her have a shitty day.

I go to the Mill Valley police website since her license plate was easy (license plate redacted) to remember, and I file a report and a complaint. Apparently the Mill Valley police will send a letter chastizing her, but with no legal implications at all unless several more complaints are lodged.

Now, I know I was legally and morally in the right, but I also know she 1) doesn't recognize that she probably shouldn't be driving if she can't determine that she can easily and safely go by, and 2) probably hates cyclists and will never learn to be polite under any circumstances.

Here's the question: Does my notifying the police and trying to talk to her help us as cyclists?
- The woman doesn't care, will this make her more hostile toward cyclists? Or is there a slim chance she will tone done her aggression?
- The police should know that cyclists matter and have a voice, but in a broad generalization, we're more looked upon as a revenue source for tickets than a valid class of vehicles, and therefore much diminished in clout. Does this annoy cops or help get our message across?
- I tried to be extra polite when I caught her, partly because I knew she'd continue yelling, and mostly because other drivers were watching and would potentially hear what I had to say. Does this help at all (again, I highly doubt it helped the driver see the error, but perhaps her teenage granddaughter in the backseat will talk to her later?) or does it simply make more drivers think 'there goes another asshole cyclist'?

I simply dream for a day when everyone has to ride a bike at least once a month to learn how to be better members of the driving and human community.

Honestly, your input is appreciated. Doesn't need to be a huge group discussion, I just want your feedback and can follow up with anyone who wants the full group input.


Thoughts?

11 comments:

HockeyRocker said...

Make a complaint to your local bicycle coalition that monitors bicycle safety.

DarbyRides™ said...

I think you were right to contact the police. Like they say, if they should get more complaints then they can have something to work with. The letter from them may be enough. They should courtesy copy you on the letter also when they mail it. Your approach was proper as well. It was much more civilized than the times I have chased cars down and kicked off their passenger mirrors or run my cleats up and down their paint-job etc. I realize how stupid that was, and severely over reacted. You did the right thing.

Tom said...

Always file a report. It's evidence and it can be used against the person in the future if something should happen. People like her need to be hauled into the DMV and forced to re-take drivers ed and a driving test.

-p said...

I think you were right to try and talk. Puts a human face on cycling. We are not machines on the side of the road.

murphstahoe said...

Just to be clear this wasn't me, it was Troy Evans, who is less of a hothead than me, to his credit. I'm working on it myself - the problem being that I replace hotheadedness with acerbic irony, often times even more problematic.

Of course, the best response I have ever heard - from The Bike Snob NYC As soon as I took the picture the driver and his passenger emerged from the car and demanded angrily to know what the hell I was doing.

"I'm working on a project," I explained. "I'm taking photos of people who almost kill me."

Troy said...

Thanks to all who've commented so far. I just hope it makes a difference. Like I mentioned I think the biggest help with be from those other drivers who saw me and how I responded.

I usually am quite the hothead, and have chased down numerous cars and taxis with a 500 watt pukefest to give them a verbal lashing (but adrenaline'd up to include a physical one as well). So... if I happen to see a light gold Jaguar with a license plate that matches a certain month, I might revisit the spot later that night and stoop to flattening their tires. Yeah, let it go, I know...

murphstahoe said...

The Yehuda method...

http://www.yehudamoon.com/index.php?date=2008-11-23

bikesgonewild said...

...fritz @ cyclelicious.com linked me to your site...this was my e-mail to fritz after reading your post...

..."without looking to deeply into it, there is a particular woman in the south county (marin) who is known to do that type of completely "over the top" overreaction (warranted redundancy) when she encounters cyclist's & yes, it's very disturbing...like the chap in the blog, your immediate reaction is to check your placement in relationship to the roadway & then you wonder if you're about to get hit or why would someone be reacting that way behind you...yes, i've encountered her & she's been doing it for years...
...people like that ARE scary because of their telegraphed lack of judgment"
...

...prob'ly never gonna stop & i doubt the local police will ever do anything about it...it's almost as if she has a psychotic episode when she encounters a cyclist...

...i've "subtle-d" down myself but part of being on a bike at times means being fired up...hard to stifle one's inherent reactions...
...i have 'flashed' hard on someone, then stopped & apologized for my reaction but tried to get them to understand that their simple lack of attention could have killed me if i wasn't paying double attention...

...we all know it ain't easy out there...

Sara said...

I went all ballistic on a guy who left crossed me. I stopped and yelled like a maniac at the driver. The driver then actually STOPPED HIS CAR, rolled down the window, and apologized.

Then I felt like the idiot.

Sara said...

And this is actually Fritz / Richard commenting using my wife Sara's Google account.

W.Peabody said...

Well, the other day in Monterey I was passed too closely by a guy in a sedan, on a narrow two way street. He stopped at the stop sign, and as a result, I passed him in the line of traffic at the intersection and he was going to pass me again, only the street was even narrower because it had parked cars and I took the lane. He revved his engine and headed toward me very aggressively, I pulled over at the last minute and he nearly sideswiped a car going in the opposite side of the street. Too bad my video camera card was full at the time, and I was 10 yards away from my destination. I yelled a name very loudly at him and he slowed down to look back at me, then went on his way. Some drivers seem to think they can try to intimidate cyclists, or something. I hope he doesn't hit someone else with his impatience, since you can't drive very fast on these streets anyway.
I'm thinking, writing a letter to the editor of the local paper to reiterate the traffic laws concerning cyclists would be in order.