This is an email that I sent to Louise. She had passed me in her car and unnecessarily honked at me while I rode home alone, in my legal part of the roadway, after a bike ride with some friends. To her surprise, I followed her to her house and stopped her in her driveway. The 20 minute conversation was surprisingly friendly. I thought it would be fun to share this with you all.
I want to say, “Thanks” for the civilized and pleasant chat that we had Saturday morning. I think it was good for both of us to be reminded that we share the roadways, and to that end, I think that it is helpful to adopt an attitude of respectful consideration of each other’s presence on the road.
Bicyclists are an increasing percentage of road users each year in the U.S, and this is only going to continue – look at Europe, for example, where bikes are used by all segments of the population for commuting, shopping and recreation. This is due in Europe, at least in part, to economic pressures related to the cost of transportion, and the U.S. is experiencing the same pressures. For this same reason, in many parts of Europe, bike trips are more numerous than trips taken in motor vehicles. Since you are in the travel business, I bet you have seen this with your own eyes. We car drivers – I am one, too - are simply going to have to coexist with bicycles in the city the same way my family respectfully accommodated tractors in the farm country where I grew up.
Since you expressed interest in bicycling for enjoyment, I could not more highly recommend visiting the Pony Shop www.ponyshop.com in Evanston, on Chicago south of Dempster Street. At the shop you will find attitude-free professionals who are equally happy to sell you a starter bike suitable for trails and trips to the store, or high-end racing machines like mine. Lou, the owner, is a personal friend, but the entire staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Good luck!
I would be happy to help you regarding bicycles or fun places to ride safely. Feel free to drop me a note anytime.
That is really great that you actually had a nice conversation with someone who many cyclists would have been a little less congenial with after being honked at. Also great that you encouraged her to ride a bike and gave her a few tips and a nice place to check out bicycles. My only worry is that, being a woman, I probably would have felt a bit threatened that a cyclist followed me to my home and confronted me. Of course, I wouldn't have honked at you either. :) Keep up the great advocacy!
All good points, Melanie.
Yes exactly! Well done! Thanks for the inspiration and sharing the story!
What was Louise's reasoning behind the horn-blowing?
James, she was afraid of a collision. So, her honk was a warning to me to do my part to avoid an accident. Several interesting things came out - one was that she had the impression that I was riding in the "middle of the road." Of course, I was over as far as I could ride safely, so only 1-2 feet from the curb. So, there was a big difference between her fearful perception of my riding and my actual riding.
So basically she was beeping at you to "get out of her way" -or at least to not move any more into her way.
That's pretty much what I figured, and usually assume when people honk the horn at me.
I agree. But the take away was not that she was motivated by agression (Get out of my way), but by concern (One of us is going to do something to cause a dangerous situation).
I'm not so sure -if she was truly concerned she would have slowed down and waited until there was a safe place to pass with enough clearance that such a "warning" was unnecessary. Failing to do so and instead being impatient and wanting to jam through an area that the driver knew better wasn't safe is "aggressive" in my book.
Maybe I'm just arguing semantics.
Oh, there was Plenty of room to pass. What annoyed me in the first place was that this was truly not a difficult situation. It was in Glencoe on Green Bay Road going south. No traffic at all, perfect weather, three wide lanes to choose from. She passed easily in the next lane over. Total no-brainer. So, I followed her through town to see if I could figure out what her problem was. Turns out she is just a nervous driver.
Now, most folks aren't like this. Most drivers honk, like you suggest, due to impatience, or worse, imo.
Sometimes the mental effort to plan and execute a safe lane-change to go around a slower road user ahead is too much for people, and they find themselves incensed or at least inconvenienced by being forced to do so by circumstances such as this.
People are in control of a magic box on wheels that pretty much obeys their every command with only a small effort of moving one's hands or feet mere inches and exerting a few easy pounds of force on the controls. But even this seems to be too much for some people and they would rather a human-powered vehicle in their way perform a much more difficult and energy-intensive feat to move out of said way -or better yet never have been in their way in the first place. This is called a perceved entitlement to the roadway over other users.
In other words, people can be incredibly lazy and selfish on the roads.
Tough to tell the intention of a honk. From the thread of the story it may indeed be she was just a bit spooked and a little concerned. As cyclists, we too honk. We use our voices and our bells to let people know where we are. Sound can be a good thing if used wisely. The little tap on the horn lets us know where the car is. The protracted few measures of sound make us want to raise and arm, a hand and perhaps a particular finger. Kudos to Steve for surpressing the initial urge to argue and then engaging in an eye opening conversation. The chase probably gave him a few moments to think and reflect which may have helped in this regard.