Friday, June 11, 2010

Sweet and sour

What is it with Jerk Season????

Today, while I was performing the intricate choreography of one way streets required to get from Point A to Point B around Harvard Square, I had my own run-in with jerkiness.  I was on a two-lane one way approaching a light at one of those intersections that has a hard left, bear left, straight, and right turn.

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I needed to bear left, so I signaled to move out of the bike lane into rightmost lane.  There was one car far behind me, and the light was just turning red, so I took the lane thinking this would be simple and obvious to all involved.  But the far away car?  Suddenly was bearing down behind me, accelerating toward a red light (with a very clearly marked 'no turn on red' sign), and honking insistently.  It honestly seemed like he started going faster as soon as he saw there was a bike in the lane.

When he came to a stop behind me, I heard the driver shout something about, "use the friggin' bike lane, lady."  I kind of awkwardly half-turned over my shoulder and called back (not as calmly as I might have hoped) that, "I'm turning left-- this is what I'm supposed to do!"  There was some more unintelligible shouting, when the couple in the car stopped in the other lane starting yelling, too, and I thought, "Oh great, more?"

But no!  The Nice Couple were shouting, so that everyone could hear, "We're with you on the bicycle!  You're doing the right thing!"  As I was thanking them, Aggro Driver screamed again about "you have your own lane, dumbass!", and the Nice Couple kindly shot back, "She's supposed to be in the lane to turn left!"

Aggro Driver gave a few, now slightly halfhearted grumble-shouts; the light turned green; and A.D. had to wait approximately 2 seconds for me to push off toward the left before he made his (very fast) right turn.

I've read so much recently about the abuse taken by law-abiding cyclists, so it's clearly widespread and not specific to me.  But.  I can't help but wonder: while I do stand behind my fashion choices and my right to wear whatever the hell I want to, today I happened to be wearing a big, ribboned headband and pink Mary Janes, a combination that doesn't exactly scream "Formidable Adult Adversary;" and I was riding a loop frame bicycle with colorful, flowery bags in my rear baskets.  Now in all likelihood, Mr. Aggro would have acted exactly the same way if I were a man riding a road bike... but I sometimes can't help but feel that when I look more superficially "feminine," male drivers in particular might feel more able or more entitled to act out their aggressions toward me.  Certainly, I would appear to be in less of a position to object than, say, a giant muscle-y man who might threaten physical violence in response to verbal abuse.  I suppose this just may be an added layer of ickiness on the already uneven power relationship between those on bicycles and those safely ensconced inside two-ton steel boxes.

They should watch out, though-- carrying Frida up and down the porch steps is starting to give me really big guns.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure it's possible that in some cases the person on the bike makes a difference in how the person in the car treats them, just depending on the person. I'm sure some guys get off on berating women in many kinds of situations, and I'm sure some people would be just as rude to any person they came across who they perceived as being "in their way".

I do also think the simple fact of you being exposed gives some people a feeling of freedom to attack (either physically or verbally) that they wouldn't feel when faced with another person in a car.

Amy said...

Good for that couple in the car! Aggro Driver probably drove like a Jack*** the rest of the day, in an attempt to prove his manhood to himself or something, since another driver had to put him in his place. I've yet to have a driver yell something at me from a stop. It's usually the passing comment, which I can NEVER hear. It all just gets lost in the wind. :) I sometimes make up nice things that I can imagine they were shouting.

margonaute said...

I know it's pointless and am trying to forget it, but I keep getting all burned up about the fact that we were both heading toward a RED LIGHT. That it ultimately slowed him down *not at all* to have to be behind a bicycle on his way to a RED LIGHT, which lasted a good 60+ additional seconds once he "finally" was able to reach it. Grrrr!!! Too bad I don't have a 24-hour gym. I feel like this would be good fuel for some time on the treadmill!

margonaute said...

portlandize: I do feel like there are definite parallels between the vulnerability of being exposed on a bicycle in a car-dominated world and the everyday condition of being female in a male-dominated world----- but that's a whole other story!

Herzog said...

Wow. The friendly couple rules. Wish something like that would happen to me when I get bullied.

margonaute said...

Herzog: That is also a possible flip-side to looking "girly"-- sometimes people will treat you extra nicely. Because you're cute! And girly! Aww! In this case, though, Nice Couple were just a pair of cool folks who, I've no doubt, would have come to the defense of any cyclist.

Yoel said...

I think the kind of jerk who'd yell at a cyclist is also more likely to yell at a woman because it's easier to get away with. I've never been yelled at in Boston but in Ithaca somebody honked and yelled at me as they passed, and I caught up to him at the next light and offered to fight him. Not that I could have kicked his ass or anything, but I was filled with righteous anger and definitely would have tried. A woman is just less likely to do that and they know it.

margonaute said...


cycler said...

I live about 2 blocks from that intersection and I have to go through it every morning as the first part of my ride to work. It's not a fun way to start the day. I almost always turn left onto Trowbridge, so I get in the left lane, and most days I don't have any issues. I take the lane pretty far back from the intersection, because there are often busses on the RH side, and people swerving around them are pretty gnarly.

I'm glad to hear that the couple in the other car stuck up for you, and I would concentrate on the positives of that part of the situation.
People talk a lot about blowing lights so that you're not in front of a moving wave. This is one of the times I think hard about it-It's hard to know there's an aggressive angry driver right behind you, but I also never want to give them the satisfaction of saying "cyclists never obey the lights".
I personally think that there's less macho posturing directed at women biking in girly clothes, but a masshole is going to be a dickhead no matter what, I'm only sorry he directed it at you.

margonaute said...

cycler: Ew. I guess the benefit, though, is that means you get to live in a cute neighborhood by the river? You're right; I got really lucky with the Nice Couple being there, and for their being so up on their vehicular cycling protocols. I had a Zipcar in South Boston today and ended up at a light behind a mom + dad + kid in a trailer, all happily riding in the rain. I wanted to honk my horn to show my support but realized it would probably be misinterpreted. Was really wishing I had a car bell! :)

Dottie said...

Big guns!

Although the situation was crappy, it's nice that the other driver stood up for you. I sometimes wonder the same about the gender/feminine issue. I think that dressing feminine makes some jerks more comfortable with intimidating us, but also must make some drivers less likely to yell at us. I mean, you've gotta be a pretty big jerk to yell at a woman on a bike wearing pink maryjanes. ;) He's clearly compensating for something.

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