Bicyclists and car drivers often shout past each other, but here’s the key fact: every day, about two bicyclists are killed every day by people driving cars.
Cars, buses, taxis and trucks are all lethal threats to riders of bikes. Bicycles (and cyclists) might annoy or slow down people in cars. But I’ve never heard of a cyclist killing someone in a car.
So I’ve never quite understood the anger expressed from drivers towards bicyclists given this startling and bleak asymmetry.
Today, while riding down Market Street, I saw a silver Mercedes sedan sharply accelerate from the middle lane on Market and cut across the bike lane at high speed to make a right on to 10th before the light turned. He nearly took out the cyclist riding in front of me on the bike lane.
The driver was a middle aged man, Blackberry open. The rider in front of of me went up and tapped on the driver’s window. Even though I ride market every day, and see near collisions every day (mostly the fault of speeding, reckless drivers, not cyclists) this particular incident unnerved me. So I followed closely behind, and as the guy rolled down the window I said “Hey buddy, you nearly took out this guy.” Admittedly, I said this in a not-so-friendly tone.
The driver’s response was stunning. Instead of a sheepish “I’m sorry, really apologize” his response was a sarcastic: “Yeah, right.”
I couldn’t help but unload the F-Bomb at that point (the cyclist who was almost hit was much more polite, and he certainly would have handled it more diplomatically). The driver went into a state of rage — so interesting, again, given the asymmetry noted above — and said “You fucker, I’m going to get out of the car and punch you.” And then he hit the gas and made his right turn on to 10th.
He could have killed and injured — indeed, he almost did — that cyclist in front of me this morning. So why he got to angry as to threaten to punch someone in the face, that I just don’t get. After all, it wasn’t his life that was in jeopardy.