Mission accomplished. I'm in the turn lane, looking at a steady green where a green arrow used to reside. Lots of oncoming traffic going straight, couple of cars stacked up to go left coming from the other direction. There are gaps, but none of them are big enough for me to make without forcing the oncoming cars to slow. That's OK. Another light cycle and another green arrow is 45 seconds away, max.
Too long a wait for the driver behind me. A yell, a curse, the revving of an engine and a bottom-of-a-puddle mud brown Explorer with Florida plates whips behind and around to my left. Way too close for comfort. The oncoming car has to slam his brakes so this joker can make it through. After he passes, the steady green is still, miraculously, there, with no oncoming cars. I go. I can see Mud Puddle headed up the hill. Angry, I feel like I'm going to pull the cranks right off the frame as I sprint to catch them. My heart pounds hard at the top of the hill, where they go around a corner and out of sight. Almost had'em. Another Explorer, same color is waiting at the red light ahead, but with a Vermont plate, no Florida. I wish I had a helmet cam, something.
What would I have done anyway? Confronted the driver? I've done that before. It wasn't as satisfying as I thought it would be. Except for the driver's breathless, fish-mouthed utterance: "You followed me? You followed me?"
Curse words abound in my head, the reasonable voice starting to take over as my legs spin down. Just as well I can't find them.. What if the driver was nuts, had a gun, wanted to fight? What if I lost focus on something else happening on the road and got hit? I have a wife, a son, people on the other end of that commute who want to see me at the end of the day, people I want to spend my life with.
There's copper in my mouth, a need to spit, over and over again, get the poison out. Burning legs and shaking hands. There's a nice breeze behind me now, a wide shoulder. Then I'm home, safe.
What is it I want the driver to hear, to know? These things:
- I'm just another human being trying to get to and from work in one piece every day.
- The road system is imperfect. It is not set up so we all make each and every green light we can see. It is not set up so we can drive it at the maximum speed all of the time. Slowing down for vehicles that need time to negotiate turning movements, including bicycles, is part of the deal.
- I'm not trying to get in your way. If I'm in your way by virtue of my lane positioning, it's because it is the safest place for me to be, not because I'm trying to be in your way.
- Just treat me like a slow-moving car, and we'll be fine. Don't use the fact that you're in a steel cage and I am not to bully me off the road, or to try.
- If it isn't safe to pass me, just wait until it is, just like you'd do with any other vehicle on the road.