This morning, I went down to the waterfront so that I could check out the first cruise ship of the season.
It was cool and I enjoyed it.
After getting a few shots, I hopped on my Vino and headed north on Alaskan Way. As I was riding in the right lane, a Volvo Station Wagon to my left suddenly switched lanes directly into me. I had to swerve and then grab both brakes hard to keep from crashing. Part of avoiding the accident was awareness, and part of it was luck. 90% of the time, today’s situation would have ended with a cycle crash.
When it was safe to do so, I laid on the horn to let the driver know what he had done. Like the majority of drivers who pull one of these nimrod moves, he didn’t seem to particularly care. “I am driver. Get out of my way. If an opening exists, my car goes there.”
Now, in my opinion, incidents such as these are not “accidents”. They are attempted homicide.
Negligence is the same as willfulness, and for those of you who don’t agree, I guarantee that you would agree if we were talking about your family’s airplane pilot or bus driver. If the pilot crashed the aircraft and killed your family, or the driver ran the bus off the road and killed your family because he “wasn’t paying attention”, you would all call for his criminal prosecution for homicide, as well you should.
Paying attention is not an option while behind the wheel, and if you fail to do so, then you are willfully and criminally endangering the lives of others.
At the next stoplight, I pulled up behind the driver, and for some reason, I pulled out my camera and took a picture of his car. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I thought I might file a police report. I knew the cops wouldn’t care, but at the very least, if this guy got in an accident in the future, there would be some record that he had a pattern of hideous driving.
Apparently, he saw me taking the picture.
When the man stopped at the next light to take a left, I changed lanes to pass him on the right. I wasn’t going very fast, maybe 5-10Mph at this point because I was going to take a right on red. Just as I was passing his car, the man opened his door, leapt out, and began yelling at me. Something to the effect of “I’m going to take YOUR picture!” He had something in his hand, and it looked like either a cellphone or a camera.
I wasn’t sure what to do.
As I kept going forward, I heard the man shout to the top of his voice “yeah, that’s what I thought!”
The man was a black guy, very short hair, mid 20’s, maybe 5’11″ in height, and thin. When I looked in my side mirror at the intersection, I saw him still making animated gestures at me. The gentleman clearly wanted to speak with me.
I U-turned my scooter on the spot, and began rolling back down the hill toward him.
Do you know what he did next?
When he saw what I was doing, he jumped back into his car as fast as he could, closed the door, and looked away.
I stopped next to his car, and yelled several times very firmly “I’m going to let you take my picture! Pull over and get out! Pull over and get out!” I motioned to his car, and motioned to a gap near the sidewalk where he could pull over.
He wanted nothing to do with it.
All of that trouble, all that commotion, all that chest beating and wang swinging and acting up for the benefit of the other drivers … and all of a sudden he got shy?
While stating to the man that I was ready to take his testimony of the incident, he completely refused to make eye contact with me. He would not look anywhere near my direction. When the light turned green, he kept looked straight ahead, and made a left through the light as quickly as he could, disappearing past Olympic Sculpture Park.
Now, deep-down, I kind of figured that he would do this. I do not know a confident man who would almost hit someone and not apologize. The only people I know who would almost hit someone, refuse to take responsibility, and blame the victim, are gutless cowards.
Unfortunately, this description fits far too many suburban drivers when they come to the inner-city. I remember back in my bike messenger days, the most outwardly bad and hostile drivers on the streets had Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Connecticut plates. With the exception of cab drivers, most fellow residents understood the paradigm and even erred on the side of courtesy. The suburban folks … well … they may as well have been on another planet. These people resented anything on the road that didn’t look like the vehicles that were parked back home in the cul-de-sac.
As far as they were concerned, streets were for cars, and if you even thought about trying to get cute by taking something with fewer than 4 wheels onto the asphalt, then you got what you got.
Many of these same cars left the city limits with a fresh dent on their hood from my U-lock, and a few even left with windows that no longer protected them from the elements. I’m not proud of it, but I was young, territorial, and I didn’t take kindly to attempted murder from outsiders in my own neighborhood. Not one of these folks ever wanted to speak outside of their car, though. Not once. Oh, they yelled and screamed and flipped me off and gyrated … just like this man did today … but they didn’t want to shed their armor.
Based on years and years of experience, I have noticed that a large portion of the population feels very courageous when they are protected by thousands of pounds of steel. It’s a very similar phenomenon to carrying a gun. I’ve seen it time and time again. I personally know some very polite, somewhat timid people who get belligerent and make all kinds of rude hand gestures when they are behind the wheel of their car. These are the same people who smash their door locks into the “locked” position at the first sign of neighborhood graffiti.
When I was riding back to this guy, it was not my intention to harm him. I was honestly going to let him get his photograph, and then I was going to have him wait while I summoned the police with my cellphone. I felt that his behavior and lack of driving skill posed a clear and present danger to other drivers, and I wanted to file a report.
Moments before, it appeared as though he would welcome such a summit, but his change was dramatic.
In any event, if you see this car out on the streets, be careful. He’s got a 2,000lb tank, and trust me, he’s not afraid to use it.
The next time he decides to leave Bothell and drive like crap through Belltown, however, he may want to have the good sense to stay inside of said tank.