Commuter Story: Score one for the cyclist!

From the Surly Blog:

I play this little game while riding to and from work where I memorize the license plate of a passing car. When the next car drives by I memorize that one, and so on and so on. If there is an altercation, I’ve trained myself to look at the license plates first. So rather than use my middle finger to tell somebody how I feel, I can find out where they live based on that license plate and send them a letter of gratitude.

Flashback 10 weeks to Valentines Day in February. I’m riding within the law and hugging the curb as much as I safely can, doing about 20mph down the street, when a car lays on their horn for a good 10 seconds. They pass me, I memorize the license plate, approach them at the red light one block down, and stare into her window. No words said, no middle finger needed, I had her plates.

I “obtain” her name and home address…

read the whole thing…

Sign up for our Adventure-Packed Newsletter

Get our latest touring, commuting and family cycling posts and sales delivered to your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

0 thoughts on “Commuter Story: Score one for the cyclist!”

  1. Gavin says:

    Seriously not a good idea.

  2. Spenny says:

    Not a good idea is true, BUT that is hilarious!

  3. thePig says:

    I love it and think it was a great idea. No need to get stressed or irate, it was handled in a professional manner (apart from getting the address illegaly) and sure to have a much more lasting impression on Nancy.

  4. Fritz says:

    “Hi Nancy!” Hoo boy.

    Interesting that you can look people up by their license plate there in MN.

  5. Ghost Rider says:

    Hmm…someone’s on “the take” at the DMV. That sorta information (license info) is, most probably, illegal for us mere mortals to access.

    I love “psyops” like that, though — instilling fear is always more effective than anger!

  6. Very funny. I am not sure if it is wise but funny.

  7. Ghost Rider says:

    Hmm…I seem to stand corrected: mere mortals CAN look up license plate ownership, if they’re willing to pay anywhere between $29.00 and $90.00 through a variety of online “net detectives”. Or if they have a friend at the DMV, it’s probably the cost of a six-pack.

  8. Robert says:

    Very funny. I like wearing my helmet cam. When someone behaves badly then I point at the cam and lo and behold their attitude changes.

  9. Bill says:

    Seriously, this is a fantastic idea!

  10. Gavin says:

    Sure, if you want to get arrested for harassment, and in general are a bit of a psycho.

  11. Bill says:

    Am a bit a psycho. But the way he handled it, doesn’t qualify as harassment. The way he got the info MAY be illegal, but the act is not.

  12. Dwainedibbly says:

    Thing is, even after receiving the letter, she STILL honked at him the next time she saw him.

    I recently bought an ATC-2k helmet cam from Nashbar, on sale and with an add’l discount. For $80, it’s a great deal, even if there are updated models coming out.

  13. bikesgonewild says:

    …i think it’s quite ingenious & i say total props…people feel so insulated & in a separate world in their vehicles (unless they think outside the box, quite literally) & this was an opportunity to somewhat level the playing field…sez “you are not hidden away quite as well as you may assume, just because you’re in a car”

    …the woman’s need to regularly honk & lay on her horn while just being in the vicinity of cyclist’s shows (a) how out of touch she is w/ the reality of being exposed as a pedestrian or a cyclist on the street… (b) how unaware she is of distances & proportions & (c) her general inconsideration…she’s not honking to say “excuse me, i’m passing by & i’m concerned for both our sakes”, she’s saying “get out of my way, i’m more important than you”…an occasional horn “tap” is one thing but she sounds like she’s got an agenda based on ignorance…

  14. Drew says:

    I used to do the license plate memorizing thing too! That was before I realized something… I was memorizing those plates because I expected people to behave poorly around me. Guess what happened as a result? Many of the drivers I came into contact with on my commutes were dangerous and rude. My solution? I re-trained my thinking, and started expecting people to be courteous and cautious around me. I stopped memorizing license plate numbers. The result? I rarely encounter rude motorists anymore! Sorry to get spiritual or existential on you all, but it worked for me… Give it a try!

  15. Drew says:

    I used to memorize license plate numbers too! That was before I discovered something. I figured out that I was expecting people around me to behave poorly… And they overwhelmingly did! I re-trained my thinking to anticipate that the people I encountered on my commutes would be safe and courteous. I don’t have bad experiences on my commutes anymore! Sorry to get existential or spiritual on you all, but try it… It works!

  16. Other Gavin says:

    I think it is all good. The unwise, “not a good Idea” stuff is a bit too paranoid. I like this idea, whether I’d do it myself or not. Nothing that this blogger did was unsafe or illegal. in most states there are legal ways to obtain this information, and is is part of the “public record.” I believe it can often be obtained from the county clerk or assessor. At least in my state you can contact the county with a complaint such as this car is parked in front of my house, has been for days, which of my niegbors belongs to it?.
    All that aside, it is good for a few motorists, particularly the bad apples, to be aware that we do have some recourse and some ability to fight back even though they are bigger and tougher inthier tanks.. This also shows that bicycle commuters tend to be smarter than the average bear.

  17. Jacques says:

    Gezz, you must ride where there is maybe a car every hour. Try that in a real city like Chicago.

    All of this “I’m going to do this or that to get even” mentality is pretty funny. People in cars for the most part are in a world of their own. No-one on a bicycle is going to change that. Get to stupid and they will use their car against you. You may have been right, but hit is hit.

    Instead of the I’ll get you back mentality try this.

    Act like you belong on the street.

    Own your lane, ride in the middle of it if you must to be safe.

    Move over and let them by when you can do so safely.

    BE SEEN !

    Yea I know the lights weigh sooo much, and the safety vest just doesn’t look cool. Flashing lights ( if they are legal in your area ) are a huge help. The reflective vest will also “catch” their eye.

    I commute 22 miles each way to work. There aren’t any “bike paths” so all of my commute is in the street. I get honked at once in awhile. I get curbed ( cars pulling all the way to the curb at red lights) once in awhile. BIG DEAL. Their Karma doesn’t and won’t become mine.

  18. ragged claws says:

    Count me in with Jacgues above, if I were to spend my days making home visits to leave creepy letters to people who honked their horn at me on my commute I would have to quit my day job. Hell, if she is honking the horn, then she sees you. Relax. It’s the ones that don’t see that you need to worry about. Even more troubling than the amount of energy that was put into illegally obtaining the woman’s name and address though (yikes) is the implied physical threat that your letter must have held for her–a threat that you acknowledge when you point out her terror when she saw you: “All she could do was grip her steering wheel, look straight ahead, and figure out how she was going to get the poop off her panty hose once she got to work.”


  19. tad says:

    I also agree with Jacques. Maybe it’s because I ride in the suburbs but I’d like to think that most motorists are courteous to me in large part because I aim to be completely obvious. For example, I use a rear facing led blinky almost every ride (even in bright daylight), and I engage my super bright front blinky when I approach busy intersections. I suppose they think something like “they make lights for bikes? hmm… he must be allowed on the road.”

    But anyway, this Nancy chaser guy has balls of steel. It makes for a great anecdote but I’m not sure if scaring her did the trick. The letter didn’t even ask her to be more courteous next time. I think most motorists will respond nicely once they see you are in a fact a real human with a face, feelings, and a family. That means asking her nicely not to blast her horn.

    On the other hand, you could fight fire with fire. Buy an air horn, install it on your bike, wait for Nancy to pull up to a stoplight, then let loose the power. I’m kidding of course.

  20. Patrick says:

    Drew, props to you for your change in attitude on rides. I agree, if you put the vibe out there, people will naturally attract towards negative or positive vibes. Choose one!

    It was still a great story about the cadillac. How many times in your life could something happen like that? Pretty cool.

  21. Blue says:

    I appreciate everyone sharing their views on dealing with traffic.

    However, I find comments that the biker was “harassing” the driver to be without any merit.

    On the other hand, as some have pointed out, his educational letter didn’t change her attitude toward cyclists. Which is very valid point.

    I think it should be noted that “road rage” also happens all the time between cars.

    There are plenty of drivers out there that think the whole world should somehow get out of their way automatically.

    So I think an interesting question to discuss would be, “If you only had road rage folks honking at cyclists, how much less would we get harassed?”

  22. rick says:

    Drew # 13 you are absolutely correct. What you focus on expands.

  23. JiMCi says:

    Memorizing plate numbers, digging (legally???) for addresses, sending anonymous little notes? Come’on, life’s so short, is this really worth your time? Forget about them as soon as they disappear from your sight and enjoy the bike ride!

  24. rick says:

    Oops Drew from response 14 and 15 rather.

  25. Surly Bee-anchi Lady says:

    I like the send-a-letter idea. Where I live the home address info is public information. And I believe it was helpful to mail a copy of the rules of the road. It it makes one feel more empowered to spend time and energy following up, go for it.

    I don’t have the interest or inclination to get involved in attempting to correcting someone, but I certainly support someone who does. For my own blood pressure’s sake, it is better for me to overlook and forgive but I certainly support anyone who wants to take a more activist stance.

  26. wtf says:

    WTF sort of douchy move is that? Some old lady honks at you and you overreact and stalk her? Come on man, this is why people think people who ride bikes are weird. You sir are an idiot.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


40% Off Croozer Trailers while supplies last Buy Now

Scroll to Top