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Right vs. Dead Right

June 3, 2010

I’m the first to admit that I’m a fairly aggressive rider when it comes to being in traffic.  I have a right to be on the road, and the sidewalk is (in my opinion) more dangerous simply because most drivers (me included) don’t stop at the stop sign.

In my time I’ve been run off the road, had cigarettes flicked at me, had coffee thrown on me, been cursed at and harassed, and even had someone try and bluff me off the road by pulling into me.  Of course I’m not innocent in this, as I’ve certainly retaliated as best as one can on a bike.  Yeah, I’ve got one heck of a dirty look.

The thing is though, I’m never going to win in a bike vs. car contest.  I can dart through traffic, push the limits of what I can get away with in a crowded street, and then smile with my minor (and inconsequential) victories.  The thing is though, it could all disappear in a moment.

This is the thought I had a few years ago when I stopped being aggressive, and started riding defensively aggressive.  My eyes never stop moving, my head is constantly turning to find the next threat or obstacle.   Even if I’m on a bike path, I’m looking for strollers, dogs, kids, homeless folks.

This vigilance has kept me alive (I’m sure) past more than one close encounter.  Unfortunately my desire for a zen like ride almost cost me.

See, we have a lot of ‘back’ roads in Alaska.  They aren’t the best maintained, but you can generally count on low traffic volume and fairly smooth riding.  While I don’t wear an iPod or other device, I am certainly known for getting lost in my thoughts and essentially daydreaming while I search for the perfect circle spin.

On the day in question, it was my first long road ride of the season.  The sun was out, the breeze was blowing, and Denali stood proudly in the distance.  I was in my lane, and over on the right, when my reverie was shattered by the roar of a 4×4 pickup as it passed me going well above the speed limit (ok, I don’t know this for sure, but he was really moving).  The driver laid on the horn, I heard some yelling, and a beer bottle flew my way.

I did the only thing I could do, and that was to just put my head down and keep on turning.  I have issues remembering my own phone number, so getting a license plate was out of the question.  Instead I just kept riding and tried to get back into the zone.

I could have caused a scene, or tried to push my way in on another car later – but bike vs. car is always a loser.  It’s the difference between being right, and being dead right.

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