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Road Rage Incident

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  • John A. Ardelli
    Recently, I had a run in with a motorist that passed me within four centimeters of my handlebar. I detailed the incident on my blog here:
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 2, 2006
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      Recently, I had a run in with a motorist that passed me within four
      centimeters of my handlebar. I detailed the incident on my blog here:

      http://pedalingprince.blogspot.com/2006/10/road-rage-incident.html

      Three friends have commented on this to me privately so far. One was
      impressed with what I did, one appreciated what I was trying to do but
      thought what I did was unnecessarily risky, and one thought I was in
      the wrong entirely.

      The positive comment was very short and the middle of the road comment
      was given to me over the phone. However, the negative comment, from
      http://www.frameworkfitness.com owner Bill Goldston, was sent to me by
      E-mail. I got his permission to post his comments here:

      Begin forwarded message:

      > From: Bill Goldston <bill@...>
      > Date: October 31, 2006 9:17:45 AM AST
      > To: "John A. Ardelli" <gelfling@...>
      > Subject: Re: Road Rage Incident
      >
      > On 10/31/06, John A. Ardelli <gelfling@...> wrote:
      >
      >>> I thought you were going to rant about a car driver raging at you. I
      >>> guess I shouldn't be surprised you were the one raging at the car
      >>> driver.
      >>
      >> Huh? It doesn't sound like we're talking about the same article
      >> here. HE was the one raging at ME. I was quite calm during the
      >> whole thing. Yes, I followed him to give him the flier, but I never
      >> shouted at him, cursed at him, gave him the finger or did anything
      >> aggressive. I just tried to get his attention and, failing in that,
      >> calmly put a flier under his wiper and pedaled away.
      >>
      >> That being said, given his mood I might have been better off not
      >> giving him a flier, but in a situation like that, I always feel
      >> compelled to express my rights, risks notwithstanding.
      >
      > No, you were trying to provoke him because he made a mistake and came
      > in too close to you. You tracked him down and tried to confront him.
      > The fact that you remained calm is not the point. He did try to keep
      > away from you, which is the proper response in a road rage incident,
      > but you wouldn't back off. You put him in a position where he had very
      > little control over the situation. He couldn't ignore you because you
      > were knocking on his window. He was trapped in traffic so he couldn't
      > get away. I am not sure, but I think you broke the law, when you put
      > the flier on his windshield. At that point he had no choice but to put
      > himself in danger by removing the flyer as it would obstruct his
      > vision.
      >
      > What if it had been a frail old lady and you had done that. She would
      > have been forced to listen to you because she would probably be afraid
      > about what might happen if she didn't cooperate. The law does not
      > distinguish between men and women, or size and strength. When you are
      > asked to back off, you should back off.
      >
      > I think your actions should be to write a letter to the Dept of Motor
      > Vehicles and make a written complaint against the vehicle owner by
      > quoting the licence plate. If a plate has 3 signed, written complaints
      > against it, the owner will be called in for an interview.
      >
      > By the way, it is not a "right" if it causes any harm to anyone else.
      > You have the right to walk on the sidewalk, but not to block someone's
      > way. You have the right to read a book, but not copy it. You have the
      > right to free speech, but not to incite violence. You have the right
      > to your "space," but you don't have the right to provoke someone when
      > they have asked you to back off.
      >
      > I really think you could have spent the night in jail for that one.
      > The fact that he passed you by only a few centimeters is a driving
      > infraction, and as serious as that is, does not give you the right to
      > any type of revenge.
      >
      > That's my humble opinion.
      >
      > --
      > Bill Goldston
      > FrameWork Cycle & Fitness, Inc.
      > www.frameworkfitness.com

      This is the first time I've ever had such a wide range of opinions over
      one single incident. That's got me curious as to what OTHERS might
      think.

      Please read the article and Bill's comments above and feel free to post
      comments to the blog and/or discuss it here. I'd really like to get
      more input on this.

      I'm also about to write a reply to Bill. I'll Cc: that here as well
      for comment.

      John A. Ardelli
      http://pedalingprince.blogspot.com
    • John A. Ardelli
      ... You may be able to argue that that was how the guy PERCEIVED my actions. That does not mean, however, that that was my actual INTENTION, as you imply.
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 2, 2006
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        On Oct 31, 2006, at 9:17 AM, Bill Goldston wrote:

        > No, you were trying to provoke him because he made a mistake and came
        > in too close to you.

        You may be able to argue that that was how the guy PERCEIVED my
        actions. That does not mean, however, that that was my actual
        INTENTION, as you imply.

        PROVOKING him would have been something like kicking out his tail light
        or smashing off his side mirror. I'll admit, in the past, I have been
        tempted to do things like that in the past. However, I have worked
        hard to remember that most motorists aren't being intentionally
        aggressive. Most simply don't understand the realities of cycling in
        traffic. That realization has blunted my anger during such incidents.
        I have no reason to be angry if the other person is not being
        deliberately malicious.

        In this case, I felt no anger (except perhaps a flash of it when the
        guy actually got out of his car, which was clearly a malicious act).
        My sole purpose was to educate, not take revenge. One might argue my
        method in attempting to educate was a bit gung-ho, but vengeance was
        NOT a motivation. Revenge is useless. All it does it make the other
        party angry.

        No one learns anything from a vengeful act. However, giving the man
        some rational information, which was what I WAS trying to do, gives him
        an opportunity to learn what he did wrong and learn from his mistake.
        So, at least there was a chance (however small) that this guy MIGHT
        have learned something from my flier. If, however, I'd simply done
        something vengeful like damaging his car, there was no chance he'd
        learn ANYTHING.

        > I am not sure, but I think you broke the law, when you put the flier
        > on his windshield. At that point he had no choice but to put himself
        > in danger by removing the flyer as it would obstruct his vision.

        OK, I'd better clarify here: the guy got out of his car BEFORE I put
        the flier on the windshield, not after. I don't know what he did after
        I put the flier under his wiper. I was pedaling away by then.

        > What if it had been a frail old lady and you had done that.

        If it had been, and I noticed that, I probably WOULD have backed down,
        took the license plate and reported the incident to police. Why?
        Well, if she was frail and old and passing that close, chances are she
        was one of those elderly people we hear of in the news so often who
        insists on continuing to drive even though she's no longer capable of
        doing so safely. Better to report the incident and try to get her off
        the road altogether before she hurts herself or others.

        The same thing would apply if, when I approached the car, I smelled
        alcohol. Again, there's no opportunity to educate if the driver is
        drunk. Again, better to let the police handle it.

        However, when we're talking about a sober, capable driver who's fully
        competent and able to understand my message, I'd rather deliver it
        myself rather than involve the police for two reasons:

        1. It demonstrates to the driver that he or she cannot intimidate
        cyclists just because they ARE cyclists. Chances are, the motorist
        will think twice before being aggressive toward a cyclist again.

        2. I believe in treating others the way I'd want to be treated. If I
        inadvertently wrong someone, I'd rather they tell me and try to work it
        out with me face to face before involving police. I only go the police
        if either the person rejects what I'm saying after I've already talked
        to them or if I can't catch them to talk to them in the first place.
        Otherwise, not even trying to talk to the person first and going
        straight to the police is, in my mind, cowardly and disrespectful to
        the person.

        > I think your actions should be to write a letter to the Dept of Motor
        > Vehicles and make a written complaint against the vehicle owner by
        > quoting the licence plate. If a plate has 3 signed, written complaints
        > against it, the owner will be called in for an interview.

        How many cyclists do you know who actually do this? The chances any
        motorist who does things like this will EVER have THREE signed, written
        complaints against him or her are so slim as to make this technique all
        but useless.

        Even if it DOES result in an interview, by the time the interview
        happens, the driver will likely have forgotten the details of the
        incidents that spurred the written complaints in the first place.
        Better to talk to the driver while the memory of the incident is still
        fresh in his/her mind so they can understand clearly what the did and
        why it was a mistake.

        > By the way, it is not a "right" if it causes any harm to anyone else.

        I agree. I caused him no harm. I also did not block his way, did not
        incite violence and did not try to provoke him. He was stopped in
        traffic, as he would have been even if I hadn't been there, and I took
        the opportunity to provide him with some information.

        John A. Ardelli
        http://pedalingprince.blogspot.com
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