A few weeks ago, my partner, Don, asked me “why do you drive the way that you drive?” By now you should know that my I am a radio traffic reporter in Chicago. The first thing that most people do when they come into work is check their email, maybe their voicemail. When I come into work each day, I open up a database with a laundry list of congestion, construction, closures, chemical spills, and on probably about 50% of those days, fatal car crashes. Sometimes, they aren’t fatal. People just get tossed around, have some serious injuries, and who knows. Because as soon as police, fire and EMT officials clear the accident off the Stevenson or Kennedy, everybody can start moving again. And then I have to focus on the next crash to tell over a million people about.
Don’s question was in regard to why I just won’t use the parking lane to pass a slow moving vehicle, or how I anticipate the light turning red, so I slow down instead of speeding up. I responded to him by saying, “Because I can only control me. I can control that I’m not texting or that I am not speeding, but I can’t control other people to put their phones down or drive sober.”
This is pretty much the reason that I don’t drive if I don’t have to. I prefer to take the CTA (which I find as my own personal chauffeur), or on a 76°, breezy and sunny day like today, ride my bike 10, or so, miles to work.
I was only two blocks from my home today, when an SUV, without a turn signal, decided to cut across the bike lane to drive in the parking lane. I was right next to him, but he paid no attention to the fact that he was running me off the road, into the curb. But the car in front of him was.
The young man in a sedan in front of this SUV stopped his car, bringing traffic to a hault, to hop out of his car to tell the SUV driver that he almost killed me. The passenger in the SUV thought it would be wise to jump out of his car and start to fight with this man that was looking out for my…well…life.
I stood back as the younger man in the sedan took pictures of the SUV’s license plates, and reported him to authorities. I didn’t know whether to stay, or go, so I just stood about 50 feet away with my bike on the curb, watching.
After the verbal scuffle, the SUV proceeded to drive past me, and stopped. I thought to myself, “cool, he is going to apologize.” Nope. Instead the senior male driving the car, and maybe 50-something male passenger were shouting at me, and throwing their hands in the air. I said back, “why are you yelling at me? What you just did was illegal.” To which the passenger, rolled down his window all the way to tell me, “get a car!”
Get a car? I have a car. What difference would my car make? Would he have used his turn signal to change lanes if I were in my car? Would this driver have used his mirrors before hopping into the parking lane if I were in my car? Or did he just assume that because I was on my bike, that he were better than me because he was in a big SUV with the windows up and AC blowing?
I was, of course (and rightly so) frustrated. I was trying to figure out if he was trying to intimidate me, or prove that he was better because at that one moment in time he was in his car, and I was on my bike. How about just saying, “I’m so sorry! My bad,” and watch where you are going the next time. What even happened to chivalry? Oh wait, the young man in the sedan had it.
As the gentleman sticking up for me drove past, on the phone with authorities, he asked, “are you okay? Do you need help?” I responded, “thank you for sticking up for me.” Another cyclist rode up in amazement that someone had the guts to stand up for the person without 2,000 pounds of metal protecting her.
So I’m sure the license plates of the SUV are posted somewhere on the internet, shaming him for being (I’ll keep it clean) a big ol’ meanie.
I, in turn, got to enjoy this amazing day, feeling blessed that I am physically able to ride a bike 12 miles to work, and not be confined to an automobile. Plus, I burned like 700 calories, so it’s all good.