Right on, ride on

Ceci n'est pas une vélo

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Posted by @teeheehee on October 24th, 2009

Honestly today’s blog post is more to get me to write something because I know I have been lazy. Nothing particularly new happened, this is one of those oft-told stories of harrowing experience, conversation with a motorist, and acclaim from a nearby witness.

For starters, it was a rainy morning. Often this means I wear extra-vibrant clothes to make myself more easily visible to the armored ones I share the road with, but today I sufficed with a light-reflective courier bag and one reflective ankle-cuff. These, combined with my lights, make me relatively conspicuous.

Except if you drive a blue Honda minivan. But, we’ll get back to that after some more build-up….

This morning I went on an errand to the local RCN building (in Arlington) to drop off a couple of cable converters. It was a light rain, and the temperature wasn’t horrible, so I was mostly enjoying the ride except for the occasional red light when I would stop and my glasses would fog up. Note to self: start wearing contact lenses again until the warmer months return.

I was all done with this chore and beginning to switch to the next one (gathering my costume apparel) when I headed back towards Cambridge and Boston via Mass. Ave. For those not familiar with the area of Mass. Ave. in Arlington and Medford: it’s quite wide, but typically problematic with cracks and wrinkles all over. No problems here, though, vehicles were quite respectful this morning.

After I passed the turn towards Alewife the road feature I call the bike share “line” appeared. Cambridge has done some funky things with Mass. Ave., it seems they couldn’t quite figure out what to do to help cyclists – there’s sections with bike lanes, sharrows, and a line with intermittent bike stencils, depending on what area you’re in. The line is my least favorite, even though the area with the sharrows is practically impossible to ride within as it has quite poor road conditions.

Bike lane

Bike lane



Bike stencil

Bike stencil

So, it was a short time after passing the turn-off towards Alewife that I was buzzed by her. Blue Honda minivan. One occupant: driver. I quickly read the license plate and committed it to short-term memory, but before long I had quite forgotten it. (Well, it was short term memory. *shrug*)

Then the usual Mass. Ave. thing happened: I caught up within the next light or two, and passed her. This is not unusual, I stop at all the red lights but being a bike with some marked space on the road I stop right up at the light. Other areas where it’s too sketchy to do this safely I’ll hang back behind the last car in line I come up to and take the lane until the light goes “green”. But, good ol’ Mass. Ave. lets me creep up to the front almost every time.

When I caught up to her I leered over and kind of gave her “the look” as I passed her, then proceeded to wait dutifully at the light. Light went green, traffic went into motion, all the vehicles passed me with at least two feet distance (not the legal amount, but whatever,) until blue minivan comes zooming past within a few inches. Again.

Well, it was still Mass. Ave. and there were plenty of lights ahead. I caught up to her just before Harvard Square at the bus stop. I stopped, waved, and she rolled down her automatic window.

“Hi,” I said. “I just wanted to let you know that you passed me, twice, with very little space between us. Just inches.”

Now, most conversations I’ve had with drivers in similar circumstances would usually cause me to prepare for the usual response in the next moment: my life being threatened. But, it was not so! I may have found one of the nicest, albeit somewhat daft, motorist of the day! “I’d really appreciate if you’d give a little more room.” She nodded and her eyes told a whole story of unexpected shock. She said not a word.

Maybe she didn’t know that what she was doing was endangering me. She had had a couple of feet of space between her left side and the normal lane lines, but hugged the right anyways despite my presence there.

At that moment the light we were at turned green and I cut the one-sided conversation short. I said my piece, she seemed to take it in. I looked to the right at the bus stop and see a dude in bright yellow, bike balanced in one hand, giving the thumbs-up with the other, and he gave a smiling nod which I gladly returned.

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