Cyclostat vs. The Prius

Last night I had an encounter with one of those rude drivers that we all love to hate. The gf and I were biking South on Mass ave, two abreast, in light traffic. We weren’t taking up more than half a lane. If you measured from the parked cars to my left elbow, we took up maybe 4 feet: about the size of a bike lane. So the cars are just passing us on the left without difficulty and at low density. Most people can imagine what happens next – the beep. Not the beep beep of a friendly hello, but an all caps e-mail of GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY. Perplexed, I watched as a Prius passed us at 40ish mph without difficulty. There was no traffic in the left lane. No bottle neck. The Prius was beeping just because…she had to switch lanes? I don’t know.

Then, like page out of my revenge fantasy diary, the light turns red and she’s trapped. I turn to my gf for permission to engage: permission granted. The hunt was on and I knocked on the Prius’ passenger side window.

“Pardon me. I was wondering why you honked at us.”

Her eyes widen and she defensively explains some bullshit that’s muffled through the windows. Whatever; she’s just complaining that we were riding two abreast. I can smell her fear.

“I can’t hear you. Can you roll the window down.” Not that I care what she has to say. Did I just want to take her barrier away?

She becomes more agitated, and makes lane semaphores, in further explanation that I was taking up a whole lane.

“We’re legally allowed to take up a lane. We didn’t do anything wrong.” My gf backs me up by saying “That’s the truth”

She tries to explain something that I can’t hear, so I hit her with the crazy eyes, accompanied with the manic smile. The light turns green and I stay right at her window. Smiling.

She erratically accelerates and take a swooping right down the wrong side of a street. Had there been traffic in the street that she turned down, she would have been in a head-on collision.

Did I just win?

I’m not sure why I did this, or what I hoped to accomplish. My original goal was not to freak this woman out, but rather to hold her accountable and rip off her mask of automotive anonymity. I wasn’t intending on giving her the manic smile, or the crazy eyes, but hey that’s what happened. I’m a weird guy. I didn’t want to be aggressive – I intentionally used overly polite language. In the end, I think that it was the loss of anonymity was truly terrifying to her; it was the equivalent unmasking some internet troll.

If anyone else is hit with a similar situation, I think that we can learn from this. We don’t need to give a middle finger, or call them assholes. I think that all we need to a polite tap on the window and an inquiry into their actions.

7 Responses to “Cyclostat vs. The Prius”

  1. mtalinm
    May 29th, 2010 | 9:46 pm

    I’m glad she didn’t try to run you over. could’ve been that whackjob who wrote the anti-cyclist screed in the Globe a few months back.

    sadly, I find that Pious owners are among the worst drivers…and not only b/c I can’t hear them coming at low speeds.

  2. cyclostat
    May 30th, 2010 | 12:13 am

    Yeah, she could have run me over while taking that right hand turn.

    You’re referring to Maureen Dowd Spencer? I actually had a run in with her on this blog (maybe a year ago). I really need to post something about Prius drivers. They *should* be allied with bikers, right?

  3. highhorse
    June 9th, 2010 | 12:52 pm

    It’s so hard to get confrontations right between cyclists and motorists, because everything is already so friggin’ tense and the air is saturated with defensiveness. And it’s true, you always wonder what the hell you are or aren’t accomplishing. I’ve done some crazy smiles at cars too, I wonder why that’s so tempting??

  4. cyclostat
    June 9th, 2010 | 2:09 pm

    I feel like I start out every confrontation with a polite inquiry and a firm assertion of the rules of the road. But then it always goes wrong.

  5. Frances
    September 21st, 2010 | 10:16 am

    I just found out about your blog from The Humble Cyclist blog. I have been cycling in Boston for decades. Jerky car drivers instill in me fear & road rage. I like to ride at least 5 ft. from parked cars to avoid being door. (3 ft.for the door,1 ft. for my right handle bar and a bit to avoid swerving into traffic when that door opens). Thus I am riding at the edge of the bike lane. Cars pass me within inches & now cyclists are passing me on the right in the vacuum that they perceive. Now if they get doored and fall into my path it increases my risk of falling into traffic. Anyway not only am I a cyclist I am also a Prius owner. I’m sorry that there are jerky Prius owners out there but two of us (my husband and me) always give wide berth or slow down for our fellow cyclists! And we don’t speed up when we see a yellow light! I see cars all the time go through red lights because they try to get through the yellow and don’t quite make it!

  6. AngryMan_99
    July 17th, 2011 | 5:10 pm

    I found you while researching the GMC bike, that I can afford and that you ragged on so thoughtlessly. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to confront any driver that they don’t know because of the uncertainty of whom you may be dealing with. It could turn into a life or death situation. In my city, Detroit, a menacing smile might be reason enough….

  7. cyclostat
    July 18th, 2011 | 2:05 pm

    Hi “angry man 99”,

    I thought I’d take some time to respond to your post. First, don’t buy the GMC denali bicycle. It is not a good bicycle – even for $160. My review was intended (partly) to dissuade potential buyers from buying such a terrible bike. You’re better off fixing up a used bike on craigslist.

    Second. This blog is hosted by Boston Biker, which is primarily concerned with the Boston area. Neither Boston, or Cambridge are near Michigan and my story has nothing to do with your city.

    Third. If you’re ‘researching’ the GMC denali bicycle from walmart, it means you’re not much of a cyclist. I’m sure you think that this is the best bike you can afford, but that’s not true. Those with little money, but experience in cycling can build their own bicycles. However, simply the fact you’re thinking of blowing your hard earned money on a piece of shit bicycle is indicative of your naivete.

    So, please don’t give advice about a form of transportation that you are unfamiliar with.

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