Complaints

Just because you are carfree doesn’t mean that you never have to interact with a car, and somehow everytime I use a car it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This weekend, my mother, H. and I rented a car and drove down to see Dorea in Woods Hole. The trip down started with us getting a parking ticket (and later we realized we had actually gotten two parking tickets). Then we had to endure two hours in the car with H. who really hates her carseat. Luckily we had brought along a portable DVD player to distract her, but I still had to sit in the back with her for half of the trip. (And somehow I think it must be the fault of the car that H. learned to climb out of her crib on this trip as well!)

My second complaint isn’t about being in a car, it’s about car drivers. Now, most of you car drivers out there are willing to share the road with pedestrians and cyclists, but unfortunately it’s not you nice people who shout things out of your car windows at me. Tuesday, I was biking with H., going to Davis square after picking up our CSA share. I was making a left from Willow Ave onto Highland Ave. I often stop the bike and walk across this intersection because it can be difficult to make a left, but this time I pulled up just as the light turned red and decided to go ahead and make the left. I was just about to successfully make the left when a jerk behind us starts honking and screaming at me to get off the road, shouting a variety of obscenities, and calling me a hippy freak or some such nonsense. I wish I could have exchanged some colorful words with him, but all I could do was give him the finger since I was engaged in trying to get myself and my child safely across a lane of traffic.

It’s not the first time I’ve been cursed at by a jerk in a car while with H. When she was a little under a year old, I was walking with H. (she was in an Ergo) somewhere in Somerville, when I started walking across a small cross street. This guy comes peeling around the corner, cutting me off, and then decides to stop his truck and curse me out for not watching where I was going. Now, he had a little bit of a point. I had been walking along singing a little song to myself and not paying quite enough attention to the very real possibility that a driver might come along and take a fast turn in front of me. But he was in the wrong, too, because he shouldn’t have taken the turn nearly that fast, and should have been watching out for pedestrians as well. In any case there was no need to yell “f*ing hippy b*ch” at me (he could tell I was a hippy because of the baby carrier, but I’m not sure how he could tell I was a b*ch).

So, what is it with these drivers that seem to take personal offense at the fact that I’m not driving? Back when I was just myself, I would have stopped to chat, but now I feel obliged to keep it tame and thus I don’t have an outlet for my anger. But maybe that’s for the best, as I can’t imagine that my yelling at drivers is really going to heal the bike/driver divide. So I’ve decided to take each rude driver as a reminder to look at my own biking practices and make sure I’m being as safe (and courteous) as I can be.

About Angela

Angela is an associate professor of mathematics and enjoys writing, reading, and talking to people about her bike. She's the proud mother of two cute kids, H and R.
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5 Responses to Complaints

  1. Ruth says:

    Yeah, I always want to know how they know I’m a b*ch, too. Maybe it’s the t-shirt. “Don’t mess with me man, I’m a mean mother.” (No, I don’t really have one, but I could make one!)

    I so love your blogging style.

  2. Dorea says:

    Ha! Maybe you can get Angela one of those (she would probably actually wear it).

  3. Dorea says:

    Another thing–I used to ride on a very narrow street to commute, and was very conscientious about pulling over periodically to let cars pass. Most often, cars would rush past me annoyed at the slight delay of having to wait behind me until there was a break in parked cars where I could pull over. I really appreciated the drivers who waved a bit of a thank you when I pulled over and waved them through. Most of the drivers in Cambridge are nice, but it really only takes one to ruin your day.

  4. nualle says:

    One of the unexpected effects of carfree commuting I’ve encountered is the physical energy I gain/lose as a result of neighborhood interactions. One encounter like that with a driver and, though I might mash harder and go faster immediately afterwards, I run out of adrenaline in no time and am drained for the rest of the ride. Bleah.

    On the other hand, a good interaction, such as seeing someone’s eyes light up at seeing such an unusual machine roll past (I ride a ‘bent trike with a rainbow whirly flag — very chic among the toddler set), can give me an extra several hundred calories worth of free energy.

    It’s psychosomatic but it works.

  5. Angela V-C says:

    hi nualle! since i ride the xtracycle a lot, I also get comments or looks about my ride, and it really makes me happy too! I used to try to ride as fast as I could to catch up with and pass jerks if I could (thus burning a lot of calories), but I’m more cautious now when I have a toddler on board (sigh). And your bike sounds great!

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