Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Negligent behaviour with hard objects

You'd think that throughout our lives, we'd learn that smaller things generally always cringe in terror when threatened by larger things. And, smaller things tend to be smarter than larger things, and usually employ an even bigger thing than the thing threatening him or her. And as there is always something bigger than you, you should leave the smaller thing alone, and the bigger thing will also leave you alone.

Some of us empathize with smaller things and learn that being mean is just not a great thing to be.

So, just as when I'm riding on a recreational path, I yield to children and pedestrians, because they are going to be seriously hurt if I get into an accident with them. I'm also aware that every kid learns from the behaviour of adults, all adults, and I want them to have a positive view of cycling. I also don't want to be the cause of their parents screaming bloody murder, in full view of other people with kids. That's just not nice and ruins the whole day for everyone. Days are always longer when you get in a confrontation.

And what do you look like in the end? An ass? No, you look like a cyclist. And so forms the general opinion that cyclists are not good to share a path with.

If I want to get somewhere, I use the same rule as I do when I'm driving. I pick up the pace when I can safely see that I'm all alone. I slow down and take care when I come up to a pack of people, take the time to see what is happening and estimate how long it will be before I can safely get through. I usually have to take an extra deep breath to keep my cool because sometimes, it can be extremely irritating. But because I know I've been in the same situation as the person in front of me, or someday will be, I can only conclude that they appreciate the extra patience I'm trying to extend.

When the opposite happens to you, it's very difficult to resist being aggressive back. Yesterday, I was turning right onto Colonel By Drive when a woman in a Volvo took it upon herself to scream and veer her car into me. Since I had enough room, I just kept going and ignored her. I had the right to pass on her on right, that was enough for me. I could have stopped and tried to negotiate an educational lesson, but since people don't really buy into shit unless they're paying for it, I couldn't find a reason to stop.

Also, I didn't have a video camera. Evidence is very important to cyclists. While yes, it sucks that there's this imbalance of blame (For those who don't know, the anecdotal evidence heavily suggests that the law is on the driver's side - that cyclists are usually in the wrong, and that drivers can get away with murder by saying "but I didn't see her/him officer"). Maybe I'll get one of those helmet mounted video cameras. It's a bit ridiculous to suggest, but it's a lot safer than stopping, pulling out my cell, and hope that the woman keeps screaming on camera.

In any case, pushing on. I'm the smaller thing, and want to employ a bigger thing (the legal system) to stop a driver who is raging in my direction. So I keep a few things in mind.

1) Use your voice, loudly. Call attention to anyone and everyone and say something to the effect of "You are threatening me with your vehicle - Stop it! Everyone here is watching you rage! You have no right to threaten me - you are being negligent and aggressive with your vehicle!" and yell this as authoritatively as possible. This helps to diffuse the situation by pulling attention to the driver and making them realize that you know what to do and that you are in control - and they are not.

2) If you have the time, pull out your cellphone. But don't film the event, call 911 and narrate everything that is happening if you can. In this day and age of video and photographs in court being thrown out due to poor quality, the 911 recording is the best evidence you have, especially if you drop your phone in the process. Leave videotaping to witnesses.

3) If the driver gets out, defend yourself as you would against a rabid dog. Get off your bike, pick it up and keep it between you and your attacker. Do this before any punches are thrown and yell, "Don't come near me, Stop! The longer you can resist a person's attack, the more time you have to a) get more witnesses, and b) avoid a fight that you will most likely lose and c) have a hard object in your hands to protect yourself with - your bike, while your attacker has left his - his car.

P.S. This is the best case scenario. Having this opportunity is a bit like surviving a cougar attack - if you see it before it gets you, they screwed up. They were supposed to get you from behind, before you were aware. In this situation, there is not much you can do. Again, a pencil cam under your saddle will help you after the fact, but other than an extremely bright taillight and headlight that says, "you can't miss seeing me, nobody can, so if you hit me, I can prove you did it deliberately", you can only pray.

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