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Jim Langley



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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  4/1/2004

Sweet Revenge

"Right now a city rider needs to be a road warrior. . .. That's not a bike friendly culture."
--Gary Fisher

During my interview with Jim Langley, our conversation drifted off-topic momentarily to fantasies of revenge.

Not journalistic revenge (although that has no doubt passed through both our minds). No, I'm talking about road revenge. Specifically, retribution against the really bad drivers behind the steering wheels of gas-guzzling four-wheel vehicles.

Particularly the ones who don't -- or won't -- share the road. Even more particularly the ones in big shiny black SUVs who won't share the road.

Jim mentioned something about a way to punish those who insist on driving in the bike lane. I don't remember exactly what his idea was, but I countered with one of my favorite fantasies:
[Begin fantasy]Underneath that white line striping the bike lane lurks a specially designed electric cable capable, at a pre-programmed signal, of delivering a jolt of high-power electricity. The signal gets tripped every time a rubber tire of certain (massive) width and density crosses the white stripe.

Just picture it: Stressed out driver at wheel of monster four-wheeler, yakking on cell phone, paying no attention to surroundings, drifts into the bike lane. And. . .EEE-YAAAAAA-HAAAAA![End fantasy].

"Government must help to eliminate cars so that bicycles can help to eliminate government."
--Dutch advocacy slogan

And why does it always seem to be a black SUV violating my right to the road, anyway? Is there something about the personalities of the people who choose to drive them?

Okay, I admit that it isn't always a black SUV. Sometimes it's a dark brown or dark blue or dark green SUV. But it's almost never a white or gray one.

Another SUV phenomenon I don't quite understand: So many of them are driven by diminutive women, often with tiny tots firmly attached to surrogate seats. These drivers can barely see over the steering wheel, let alone along the sides of their towering vehicles. And those kids are getting subliminal lessons that give me waking nightmares.

And why, oh why, do so many of them insist on driving in the clearly striped and marked bike lane?

Look, folks. If you want to drive in the bike lane, it's OK with me. Really, it is. But you have to let me have 100% of that big fat lane to my left that you refuse to stay in. In other words, we'll just switch. That's fair, isn't it?

And remember, if you cross the line you'll get a shock, so you'd better stay inside that narrow 3- to 6-foot strip!

For some time now I've had the urge to have business cards printed up advertising driving lessons for the hopeless. Just hand them out to drivers who try to cut me off to make a right turn. Or who refuse to move right across the dotted line to make a right turn. Or weave in and out of traffic while I'm attempting a left turn. Etc., etc.

The cards could advertise a driving school with a name like "Liability-Free Driving". "Easy to follow lessons in how to keep the rubber side down while avoiding higher insurance costs and road rage." And offer bargain prices.

And a tag line that reads something like: "Remember, driving lessons are so much cheaper than litigation!"

Speaking of litigation, if you do end up hitting me, Mr. or Ms. Motorist, you'd better have very, very DEEP pockets!

"Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There is something wrong with a society that drives a car to work out in a gym."
--Bill Nye, The Science Guy

One of the most perturbing habits of California motorists is their failure to use turn signals. You know the drill: You stop at a stop sign and so does the car opposite you. Then, just as you get into the edge of the intersection, Opposite Driver hangs a left right across your path without ever having communicated such an intention.

Gosh oh golly, Ms. or Mr. Bum Steer. You spent all that money on that big beautiful SUV/convertible/sports coupe, and you can't even find the turn signal! Or, you've apparently had that old heap for 20 years or so and you STILL can't find the turn signal?

Then there are the ones who can't find the accelerator. Please understand, Mr. or Ms. Bum Steer, that operated properly, your accelerator is a safety device. Instead of inching out into the intersection when you see a bicycle in the opposite lane, I implore you to give it the gun and garrada there!

Your snail-like approach mystifies me; what are you really up to? You must have an accelerator in there somewhere. Please use it so I myself can accelerate and get as far away from you as possible.

And what about the folks who seem to think that the law actually requires them to pass a bicycle. No matter what. Even if it means crossing a double yellow line. Especially if it means crossing the double yellow line at a blind curve. I'm convinced that sooner or later I'll end up being a witness to a head-on collision.

Before you decide to take all this ranting seriously, please understand that this column started out as an April Fool's prank. But yes, its premise does reside in bitter personal experience.

Let me give you just three examples of episodes that struck terror in my heart. And gave me good reason to fantasize sweet revenge.

Holy terror #1:

There was nothing funny about the little darlin' in her brand new SUV who cut a U-turn right in front of our tandem. Bad enough, but we just happened to be barrelling downhill in the opposite lane at about 40 mph. The "experts" will tell you that you can't do a "brodie" on a tandem, but Jim pulled it off!

Since this little incident happened shortly after September 11, 2001, the first epithet that sprang to my mind while hanging on for dear life was, "You *&@$% terrorist!" And you know something? I don't think she ever saw us or heard us screaming at her.

Holy terror #2:

Then there was the hapless soul who chose to dart out of a beach parking area on California State Highway 1. We'd just tipped 55 mph on the tandem's speedometer, thanks to the slight downhill and a following wind. Thankfully, we had enough distance to apply the drum brake.

Holy terror #3:

Most recently I encountered a driver in a white sedan who stopped at the stop sign. Then she looked right at me on my single in the middle of the intersection and just ploughed right on through. She, thankfully, did see me and hear me screaming, enough to apply the brakes as I swerved to avoid a collision. And then she just started up again, drove around me and went on her merry way. Not even a "sorry, didn't see you." Sigh.

Well, at least I'm here in one piece to hack out this nonsense for you to read. I sure hope my luck holds out a lot longer. And yours too. My wish for you: Keep riding but stay alert and stay alive! So you can come up with your own fantasies of sweet revenge.

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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