My morning commute is something over seven miles: one mile in Queens, another mile across the Queensboro bridge on a separate bike and pedestrian path, two-and-a-half miles across Manhattan on 59th St. to the Hudson river, and then another three miles down a bike/pedestrian path along the river. All this takes about 35-40 minutes, sometimes less if I get lucky with those cross-town lights. While the cross-town traffic is certainly the hairiest by most standards, it’s very thick in the morning, and thick traffic means slow traffic, which means, for a biker like me, safer traffic. My least favorite part is the one mile in Queens. The traffic is lighter, so drivers get to play that fun game of getting to the red light as fast as they can, waiting, then getting to the next light as fast as they can.

This morning, as I’m riding on the left side of a one-way two-lane street to the bridge in Queens, I was buzzed unnecessarily close by one of those mini-SUVs. I caught up at the next red light, gave the guy a “what was that about?” look as I passed. He yelled something at me as I went through the intersection (I wasn’t listening – I was paying attention to traffic), and I continued on my way. The light changed, traffic caught up to me, and again, the guy buzzes me, this time faster and closer. What’s the deal? I didn’t kick his door, I didn’t give him the finger, I just gave him a look, not even an aggressive look, just a confused look. Where’s the hostility coming from?

So, at the next intersection (with him stopped at a red light), I skipped the look, breezed past, raised my cadence and left him in the dust as traffic got thicker on approach to the bridge. Once traffic was thick enough, there was little chance of him catching up to me, and once I was on the bridge, there was no chance at all.

This is a good example of why I feel safer biking in city traffic than I do on rural or suburban streets. There are a lot of obstacles and a lot of cars, yes, but this also means that traffic is slower in general, there are more escape routes, more one-way streets, just more options to avoid someone who’s giving you a hard time. That car might be able to go 100 miles an hour, but not here. There’s a reason a 40 minute bike ride takes over an hour by car.

The jerks of the world are inevitable, and since I’m fortunate enough to live in this huge, noisy, dirty metropolis, our contact is short-lived. While it’s fun to entertain fantasies of revenge on the car (and sometimes the driver), I try to remember that the best revenge is getting there first.

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0 thoughts on “Jerk!”

  1. RL Policar says:

    Dang man, I hate pompous drivers. You know what would be funny, if you had your camera and took his picture then post it with a caption “This guy hates bikers.” But then again I’m sure we’d get sued or something…

  2. Nick says:

    I briefly considered getting his plates and calling the cops, but it’s just not worth the trouble. Gautama Buddha would say “just keep riding, dude.” This guy was angry with me by default, which says a lot about his own state of being. No reason to wage war when you can pass in peace.

  3. Randy says:

    With the gas prices being so high, that guy probably just filled up at the gas station and felt like he got raped. Hence the road rage.

  4. Moe says:

    I agree with Randy, he was probably jealous that your bike gets infinite mpg and he’s paying 3 bucks a gallon.

  5. eddy says:

    Isn’t it weird how drivers love to zip up to red lights? I don’t understand the whole “hurry up and stop” thing. And it’s true, riding in New York, you have to keep a Zen-like attitude. In addition to cars, taxis, gypsy cabs, trucks and buses, you have pedestrians (who I find to be the worst of all) to contend with. To be able to navigate all this I find its best to go with the flow and ignore the fury around me. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to do it.

  6. Nick says:

    Yes Eddy, pedestrians are the worst.

    You know, now that I think about it, the closest thing I can think of to compare to rush-hour biking is white water rafting. Does this make sense to anyone else?

  7. eddy says:

    Biking in rush hour is kind of like white water rafting, but with giant boulders that move around, scream at you and give you the finger.

  8. Travis says:

    Thats one thing i love… never hear any unkind words here in Germany, and if they do spit fire at me, in german. But all and all the drivers are very respectfull here in europe.

  9. Nick says:

    Travis, ich beneide Sie darum. Hier ist es offenbar nicht so! Das waere herrlich. Wo in Deutschland sind Sie, darf ich fragen?

  10. Travis says:

    Stuttgart, I am in the Air Force. I commute about 20K to work and back. I am leaving here in about 1 month, and cant wait to get back to the states. There is no place like home. But i will miss germany.

  11. RL Policar says:

    Man, all this German talk…I thought it was spam…

  12. j j says:

    Das ist nicht spam, die ist Musik zu meinen Ohren (Augen). Ich liebe auch Deutschland. My family is mostly German, and most still live in the Stuttgart area. (Esslingen & Echterdingen)

    You are a wise commuter Nick – thanks for sharing good commuting lessons. I think it takes more intelligence to ride a bike safely and properly that it does to sit behind a windshield every day, and you help prove the point.

  13. Travis says:

    Ride though Esslingen the other day. Esslingen has the best bike store arround. Half of the non-bikers i work with live in Echterdingen.

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