I was biking to work yesterday morning. I was in the homestretch and feeling fine. The weather was crisp and traffic, light. Heading North on Tennessee, I had crossed Lemon when I spied a woman about to get into her SUV. I slowed as she went to open her door into the lane. I didn’t move left because I heard a car speeding and gaining on me. A glance at the mirror showed the silver sedan gaining quickly.
I expected to feel the breeze as the car passed me. I hoped he’d be three-feet away, but I wasn’t counting on it. Instead I felt him rev his engine close to me and heard him hit his horn. I turned to look at what could be the problem. He was waving at me to get off the road, pointing to the sidewalk.
The woman was now safely in her car and I was 50 feet to the light at Main & Tennessee. I continued to the red light put down my foot, turned and asked “How did honking help?”
A smirk was the only answer I received. For the next two blocks the driver stayed behind me, revving his engine. Moving closer and then away. As I passed Trader’s Alley, he sped up and revved right behind me to turn into the alley.
I thought about letting it go, but I remembered a lesson learned in elementary school – don’t let the bully intimidate you. I circled back. I rode down to the center of the alley and sat 30 feet behind the parked car.
I didn’t ride up to his window and bang on his roof. I stood quietly waiting for the man in a hurry to get out of his car. I didn’t want him to feel threatened. Not the way I’d felt threatened as I lawfully rode my bike to work.
He chose to not get out of his car. I chose not to escalate by riding to his window. I rode away. Not before I snapped a picture of his car so I’d not forget the make and model. Not before I snapped a picture so I’d remember to tell all my cycling friends the make and model of the bully driver in Downtown Lakeland they need to watch more closely.
I know I’m preaching to the choir on this site. You know the laws of the road better than most vehicle drivers. You have to. They’re what keep you safer. (I’d considered writing “safe,” but we know the hazards of the inattentive, poor and bully vehicle operators.)
Do me a favor though. Pass along this post. Send it to other bully drivers you’ve met. Help them learn the proper way to deal with bikes and other vehicles. As the officer in the video below explains to the driver, “This is a lane of traffic and I’m a vehicle. I have the right to this road.”
Ask them to read the information at Florida Bicycle Law
Ask them to take the Yield to Life Driver’s Test
Most of all, invite them to ride their bike to work. Ask them to try it for a week. Maybe they’ll start to understand how different it is to hear that horn outside the car.
A press release from City Hall:
LAKELAND, FL (March 30, 2012) Red Trail Racing of Lakeland will host the Urban Mountain Bike Criterium in downtown Lakeland on Saturday, April 28, 2012 from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. The registration and head table for the event will be in front of City Hall on Lemon Street.
Ray Wells, promoter of the event said, “There is no other mountain bike event like this in the country that we are aware of. In fact, I am not aware of any other urban mountain bike race in the nation.”
The Urban Criterium is a mountain bike race on asphalt and stairs that winds through the Iowa Street Parking garage and along Lemon Street in front of City Hall. Spectators are admitted free and can view the outlined course from designated positions.
The Iowa Avenue Parking Garage will be closed because it is part of the race course. The portion of Iowa Avenue between Lakeland’s City Hall and Lakeland Electric will be closed and a portion of Lemon Street will be closed to through traffic at Massachusetts Avenue.
Back by popular demand is the thrilling Street 2X Speed Trials competition that takes place between each urban mountain bike heat race. Wells said, “The Street 2X is a great spectator event as racers compete on identical courses with various obstacles and ramps in two separate lanes.” The first racer to complete the obstacles and make it to the finish line is the winner. Spectators are rewarded with some amazing acts of balance and lots of big airs as the cyclist launch themselves over the multiple ramps on the 2X course.
Visit www.redtrailracing.com for more information and to register for the Lakeland Urban Mountain Bike Criterium and the Street 2X Speed Trials.