I ride on Capitol Hill every day; the drivers are generally polite and accustomed to sharing the roads with bikes. It may be that this general amiability, familiar as it is, is what makes the odd instances of boorish driver behavior harder to tolerate.
While I can understand the occasional driver inadvertence or mistake (“they’re just thinking about Christmas,” as my friend Lisa used to say), something about a driver honking at me makes my blood boil.
I’m not talking about a honk I’ve earned – if I’ve done something stupid or inadvertent (yes, people on bikes transgress as well), I’ll take the honk with equanimity.
But that’s rare. The honks that really get me, that make me want to stop in traffic, roll back to the driver’s window and make sure they understand – in the event they haven’t been told before – what an insufferably moronic tool they are, are the impatient, yippity honks of drivers behind me, aghast that I have TAKEN THE LANE.
As anyone who has spent any time riding in the city knows, it is often safest to take the lane. You’re more visible, you’re out of the “door zone”, and you’re not encouraging drivers to attempt to pass you unsafely. I almost always take the lane when going downhill or riding on narrow residential streets.
This should be no affront to drivers, as it would be if a cyclist were, say, to take the lane riding uphill on Pine. Yet, yet, yet. I’ve been honked at on Aloha when I’ve taken the lane to make a left turn; honked at downtown when I’m riding faster than most traffic but not fast enough for the impatient jerk behind me; and honked at in numerous other places for having the temerity to prioritize my personal safety over the right of a driver to go as fast as they want, unsullied by the vision of driving behind a bike.
But this morning’s honk, the inspiration for writing this screed, was the prizewinner. I thought at first the honk was intended for someone else: I was descending Olive Way, a narrow street, lined with cars and one lane in each direction. It’s also only about four blocks long and ends in a stoplight. Why would anyone honk at a bike under such circumstances, especially one that’s probably exceeding the speed limit? But then a second, more insistent honk followed, from the gasping roach of a car behind me. For some reason, the reptilian brain of the driver was telling him “must . . . beat . . . bike . . . to . . . stoplight.”
With age and judgment I’ve conquered my impulse to throw back a quick Philly salute, content to offer an incredulous look while riding blithely onward. But one thing is sure – your impatient little road raging honk isn’t going to get that bike out of your way.