The day I returned to work after my big backpacking trip in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, I rode my bike. This isn’t unusual. I live close enough to work that I try to ride most days that I go in, making exceptions if I’m feeling ill or if I have to bring something bigger than I can handle on the bike. Or if it’s very cold or very hot.
I bike along roads for the most part. There’s a section of the Greenbelt I can take, but it makes my route longer so I don’t always go that way. On this particular day, I was sticking to the road. There’s really only one place on my route that scares me, where I have to travel through a stoplight controlled intersection at Beacon and Broadway.
The trouble with that intersection is the oncoming left turners. The light is one that does the flashing yellow for left turns, and what can happen is the flashing yellow comes on and the first car in the oncoming left decides they have just enough room to make it before I cross into the intersection. That car isn’t really the problem, the problem is that the car behind that car literally can’t see me.
I’m always afraid when that first left turner goes in front of me that the next car in line will just assume that it’s clear and not look. I keep an eye out for that possibility.
And thus it was on this particular Monday morning. The light turned green while I was still a ways away. The flashing yellow initiated when I was still about half a block away, pedaling like mad. The first left turner hesitated, but then went on through.
I entered the intersection right after that first car left it, and the next left turner was my worst nightmare. They didn’t slow down at all as I kept pedaling. I looked at the driver and saw that they were unaware of me.
If I had had time to think it through, maybe I would have tried to get out of the way somehow, or yelled something pithy, articulate and scathing.
Instead, as the car came within feet of running me right over, I let out a yell. No words, not really a scream, but a loud exclamation, intended to inform the driver that they were about to hit me.
Whether the driver heard me, I don’t know. I had to keep pedaling and only had time to exchange an aghast glance with the next left turner in line, who appeared to empathize with my plight and condemn the other driver’s carelessness. Then I pedaled myself directly onto the sidewalk so I could stop and have a bit of hysterics.
I had some heavy breathing, a few tears, and then pulled myself together and continued on to work. I really wanted to tell someone about it, but the office was empty when I arrived and I didn’t end up telling anyone except my husband, first over chat, and, finally, in person after work. With gestures!
Interestingly enough, that wasn’t my only car/bike encounter that week. On Friday, I was taking the Greenbelt home. After I turned off the Greenbelt onto a street, I witnessed a truck completely ignore the stop sign, coming close to running into me – though it wasn’t quite as close as Monday’s.
But I got to say my piece this time, letting the driver know how beautiful I thought her running of the stop sign was. She stopped her truck just to give me a special message. “F- you,” she said.
I might have said nothing. I might have taken offense. I might have felt hurt by her being so mean when I was pointing out something she’d clearly done wrong.
Instead, I just went with the first response that came into my head. “Oh great! I love being f’d!” I yelled.
Because her truck was stopped, I passed it. After I gave her my words, I heard her truck rev behind me and had a moment to wonder if she’d really escalate this to bodily harm. I rode my bike right up behind a parked car, figuring she wouldn’t risk running into someone else’s car just because of an annoying cyclist. She roared off.
I made it home safely. Here’s hoping that I’ve finished all my car/bike interactions for the rest of the year.