If you’re a cyclist or triathlete, you undoubtedly know the feeling; a driver decides he’s not going to give you any part of the lane, and buzzes right by you, inches from your bike. This has happened to me before as well, but never like last night. The car not only came about 3 inches from my body going WAY too fast, but the driver laid on the horn as he was directly next to me. I was so startled, I almost rode off the road. This happened on a nice road with wide lanes, and no traffic in either direction for quite a while. I was lucky that I didn’t lose further control of the bike. I was riding about 6 inches from the white line and with a small shoulder and deep ditches alongside the road I could have been in real trouble.
Now I’m not an angry guy by any means, but I didn’t respond well to this drivers reckless disregard for my safety. It was 22 miles into my first 30 mile ride in about 2 months, and I was feeling it pretty good, so that may have contributed to my reaction. As he drove away, I gave him the international hand signal for “have a nice day” (I flipped him the bird). So of course, the driver slammed on his brakes, turned around in a driveway and pulled into the oncoming lane while rolling down his window and stopping his car clearly to wait for me. I was still riding forward and coming up a small hill so I wasn’t going fast. I didn’t want to stop my workout, and I knew I hadn’t been in the wrong when the driver buzzed me, but I probably should have kept my thoughts on his attitude to myself seeing as he clearly had no concern for my well being, and there are more guns than people in this rural part of NC. As I rode slowly by his stopped car, I said “What is your problem? You could have killed me!” He responded “Move over, Fat goddamn faggot! Get off the road!” I just shook my head and said “you broke the law, not me” and kept suffering up the hill.
Climbing the hill I figured he’d had his say and I had mine, and it was done, but nope, not for him, he preceded to pass me yet again as I crested the hill, and came just as close to hitting me, though this time with no horn. I didn’t expect it, but at least without the horn I didn’t lose control of the bike this time. I kept my finger gestures to myself and let him speed off thinking “who knows what he’d do next if I responded in kind to his douchebaggery”. With fading light and rattled nerves, I didn’t quite finish the 30, but I got 27.5 done. I had just recovered from being a bit lost riding new roads a couple miles before the jerk decided to give me a good scare, and had to change my route home. I had the legs to do all 30, but not the nerve, riding on the busiest local street at dusk.
What really bothered me wasn’t that he called me fat. I am fat, and I am sure seeing someone my size on a road bike in spandex was a prime target for someone like the driver in question. What bothered me was his use of the term “faggot” when he looked up and down at me as I rode by his car. With homophobia rampant in these parts (nearly 75% of the county voted for the constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage), and me in purple and pink shorts and a tri top that had most of the rest of the colors of the rainbow in it, I can imagine he saw exactly what he said: some fat faggot who was taking up part of his precious roadway. I’m not the least bit offended at being called something Im not (gay); as a kid I was often teased by being called “Ben Gay” (after the famous muscle rub) to the point where that type of mockery doesn’t bother me at all anymore. But the fact that he chose that particular word said a lot about him as a person, and why I made sure to keep any further thoughts to myself.
It seems daily these days we read about cyclists are hit by cars, and I know a few folks in this area recently have been. I was lucky my situation wasn’t worse, that I didn’t lose control of the bike and that the driver decided not to pursue his issues with my being on the road further. But it had an effect on my ride (I would have normally done that last 2 1/2 miles, even if I didn’t have much left in the tank), and it’s left me thinking about avoiding some roads I previously had ridden without incident.