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How Do You Deal With Harassment?

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How Do You Deal With Harassment?

Old 08-01-19, 03:29 PM
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anon06
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How Do You Deal With Harassment?

Hi, everyone. I was wondering how all of you manage to deal with being harassed by motorists (i.e. honked at or shouted at to "use the sidewalk"), for not doing anything illegal, but simply by cycling, legally, on the road (sometimes, cycling in the middle of the lane, for safety reasons, due to potholes and unsafe crack on the far side of the road).

I've contacted the council in my small town, today--where I've been harassed in the same area, by several drivers/passengers the past few months--and the state's cycling advocacy group, which helps educate cycling safety to cyclists and drivers. So far, I haven't received any responses from them, so I'm wondering what all of you cyclists do.

I've cycled for several years, but haven't ever been shouted at or harassed this much. I think it's because I mostly used to cycle on sidewalks in suburban and rural areas, when there was one, so drivers weren't mad at me for doing that. But, after I received a flat tire while cycling on the sidewalk, recently, I stopped always cycling on the sidewalk. So, now, drivers are mad at me.

I'm almost tempted to put a sign on my back, in an attempt to educate drivers and, as a way to possibly stop being harassed (because I have no other way-some drivers have their windows closed and others with their windows down drive off quickly after shouting or honking at me, so I'm unable to explain to them that cycling on the sidewalk is unsafe, with debris that can puncture my tires; that the sidewalk isn't level; that, sometimes, pedestrians use it and it's not fair to take up pedestrians' space), but a part of me is worried that that might just encourage more harassment or cause drivers to get the idea that they could purposely put debris on the sidewalk or road, in order to puncture my tires and try to stop me from cycling.

I'm tired of feeling angry at being harrassed for following the rules of the road; I'm tired of letting the harassment ruin my mood, yet, I don't know how I can encourage myself to feel calm and unaffected when it's a serious matter.

How do all of you manage to stay calm and unaffected, while being harassed, often? I've tried being silent and not saying anything to motorists, but that still caused me to feel angry at being treated like this. I don't have the energy or ability to try shouting myself hoarse at every motorist who harasses me, trying to see if they can hear my explanation, as they're farther down the road.

I don't like feeling bitter about being harassed; I know it negatively affects a person's health.

I don't understand why some drivers are so angry at cyclists, simply for existing, some of whom might not be able to afford a car. I've never harassed anyone in public, whether trying to learn how to drive, while walking, or cycling.

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Old 08-01-19, 04:04 PM
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Where I live and ride motorists are courteous and share the road. I don't know why the cycling environment here is different than other areas. I've given this some thought to this but have no clear conclusion. One possibility is that the local bike club, Narragansett Bay Wheelmen has been around for over 100 years and has been advocating for cyclists for most of that time. The club has a very good relationship with local law enforcement as well as state highway departments in Rhode Island and nearby southern Massachusettt.

Club rides typically draw 70 or 100 riders and when a ride begins at a populous area, the club asks the local police force to be present for traffic control at that start. There are typically three waves, with faster riders going first and slower riders following in two waves. This spreads everyone out so that auto traffic is minimally impeded.

The State of Rhode Island, (and Providence Plantation) to give it it's full name, publishes a map for cyclists, easily available at bike shops for free, showing the best bike routes throughout the state and even showing the hillier routes. All this taken as a whole and over extended periods of time, I believe has the effect of raising awareness of cycling, It is my further opinion that joining a bike club is one of the best ways to promote cycling awareness, especially if the club is actively engaged in the community, as my club is in raising funds for worthy causes.
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Old 08-01-19, 05:56 PM
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I've rarely been harassed, but one thing I do is to have a prepared response that's safe and neutral, that I can execute without having to think about it much. I simply slow down. Very few drivers will slow down to match your speed. If they're ahead of you, then they can yell into the wind all they want. If they slow down too, then they're perceived as the ones who are obstructing traffic -- guess who gets honked at.

The other is to keep a bit **** eating grin on my face.
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Old 08-01-19, 06:03 PM
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Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.
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Old 08-01-19, 06:05 PM
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Thanks, for the reply, Berner. Yes, I'm aware that cycling is better is certain states, like where my family used to live, in Colorado (one middle school I attended had a big, bicycle parking area, for students and around 20-30 bikes would be parked, there, daily, similar to Netherlands' schools bike parking areas; but, unfortunately, for some reason, in recent years, my old school removed it). I was a little sad about that because I had a great time, cycling to and from school.

Yes, there are cycling clubs in my state, but I'm a cycle commuter and am not able to keep up with the club riders on my hybrid, as they have faster, more expensive road racing bikes (I secretly tried seeing whether I could keep up with them on roads, a few years ago, when they would occasionally cycle through my neighborhood. I couldn't keep up with them on the hills; their bikes climbed more quickly and easily.

I tried lifting a hand and saying "Hello" to the group cyclists, a few times, when we would pass each other in opposite directions, but they ignored me. So, I didn't feel welcome to join them. I don't know whether it was because they mistook me for a child because a lot of people have thought I look young and mistaken me for a teen, or whether they looked down on me because my bike wasn't as good as theirs.

I don't have a car to travel to different club cycle meets, which are held in different parts of the state; there aren't any in my current neighborhood because it's a very small town.

Oh! More replies, while I was writing this post! I'll get to those, later.

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Old 08-01-19, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.
Over 52 years of cycling and over 35 years of daily commuting... smile and wave is about the best I have come up with too.

I've tried everything from the one finger salute, to offering cards printed with cycling laws to chasing someone down and confronting them. The response is pretty much the same. "The road belongs to cars." That mentality is pervasive throughout the land... and there is little a cyclist is gonna do to break that notion. Even some cops have it...and judges. That attitude, and the threat of the bigger, faster, heavier potential weapon, should a motorist choose to cross that line, have convinced me that smile and wave are about all we can do.

Motorists are convinced they are right, and even to another motorist, people will lie and rationalize their wrong actions.

Get an Airzound, so at least you can wake up one or two of them... but don't bother trying to teach 'em... it's like trying to teach a pig to sing... it ain't gonna happen, and you both get annoyed.

This harassment thing has, over the decades caused me to step away from cycling for a a few months, from time to time... only to return because the pleasure and reward are greater than the anguish. And golly, every now and then, a motorist does smile, does wave, and does exclaim administration for the lifestyle or my road manners. That's about all I can expect.

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Old 08-01-19, 08:04 PM
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Sometimes, I follow CB HI's example and give the motorist an earful. Once a woman in a very unique car tailgated me, honked, passed very close and fast while shouting obscenities. I rode past her walking down her driveway to get her mail about a minute later and gave her an earful that left my throat raw the next day. Since I ride the same road as a commute once a week I've been passed by her twice since then. She now waits behind me patiently and passes me with a lot of room at an appropriate speed, with her windows up and her mouth shut.

Most times a harassing motorist/cyclist interaction is a moment in time with no post-script. The example is unique for me and is something that has really made an impact on my thinking.
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Old 08-01-19, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
I've rarely been harassed, but one thing I do is to have a prepared response that's safe and neutral, that I can execute without having to think about it much. I simply slow down. Very few drivers will slow down to match your speed. If they're ahead of you, then they can yell into the wind all they want. If they slow down too, then they're perceived as the ones who are obstructing traffic -- guess who gets honked at.

The other is to keep a bit **** eating grin on my face.
My response is no response. Just ignore them.
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Old 08-01-19, 08:34 PM
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I've rarely been harassed since I started running a helmet camera, but on the occasion it does happen I try to pretend they don't exist. If that doesn't work, I play dumb to the point where they get frustrated.
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Old 08-02-19, 06:57 AM
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Get a helmet cam. I rarely get harrassed, but when I do I point at my helmet cam and say, "You're on video!". This usually ends things. One time I added, "I have your license number."

But generally it's not a good idea to engage; there's a lot of crazy out there.
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Old 08-02-19, 07:17 AM
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I love it when the passenger yells something behind the anonymity that the door pillar provides. I usually point at my ear and shrug like I didn't hear what they said. If I catch up to them, I ask politely what they yelled as I didn't catch it. That usually doesn't happen as they'll drive through a wall of fire to get away from a cyclist that catches up to them.

It is pretty rare that I ever get harassed though. Most of my riding is on the same routes or on my morning and afternoon commute where I see the same people daily. If the road is clear, I wave them by and I give them a wave or thumbs up if they give me plenty of room.

Now if someone swerves directly at me, throws something at me or puts me in danger, then they will get an earful.
If my visually impaired wife is on the tandem with me and they put us in danger, then things step up a notch. the last time that happened, the driver of the car decided that it was better to run a red light than deal with the PO'd tandem captain directly behind them at a stop light.

Also cameras help. If police ever get involved and a motorist is being a jerk, ask them if they want to see the video. If they think that they've been caught on video, they back down real quick.
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Old 08-02-19, 08:07 AM
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Bad drivers get mad and yell at anybody. They yell at each other and they yell at pedestrians.

Your city council doesn't do anything because they will be targetting their own voters. Eventually, someone will start labelling you as a special-interest group.

If you engage, it'll only be a matter of time when the confrontation will escalate. You know how quickly internet interactions can degenerate. On the road it can get worse. If you have to say something, just tell the harrassers to call the cops.
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Old 08-02-19, 08:21 AM
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About the only real choices are:

1. Choose another route. Which, in a given community bent on harassing behavior, isn't likely to avoid harassing behavior.

2. Ignore it. Which does nothing to fix the problem.

3. "Bite" back. Which is likely to end with you getting smacked ... vehicularly or otherwise. Beyond which some responsibility for escalating things gets dumped on you, if ever it reaches legal levels.

4. Record it. Always. Then, once you've got enough evidence of outright harassment, even assault, put it through the legal system and see what can be done about it. With sufficient evidence, particularly if of the same people time and again, I have a hard time seeing how a county district attorney could fail to ignore it all. You press charges, you've got proof, you hold such people accountable ... in court, if the DA fails in his/her responsibility.

My guess is, long before that, there'll be greater coverage by police in that area, assuming of course that your town has sufficient LE to "expand" such coverage. Or, signage improvements, better putting out there the fact that everyone's entitled to use the roadway if doing so in a safe manner; which includes bicycles. Might well be an existing state statute or city ordinance that penalizes outright failure to yield to slower-moving vehicles or cyclists. (Of course, in the event of impact, the statutes do already "cover" this sort of thing as criminal infractions.)


Wish there were better ways. None are an immediate fix. I'd consider getting with a handful of other cyclists in your area for purposes of attending some City Council meetings where the issue can be discussed. The severe risk of the situations and the harassment/assault can be documented and made "official." At which point, it gets harder for the town to do zilch, given the potential liability once the town's "on notice" that ugly, dangerous, criminal behavior is known of but nothing gets done about it.

That "seat" can get really "hot" for non-acting Council members, in time. And, if it turns out you end up getting nailed on the road after X number of instances of documenting and pleading for something to get done, but where nothing was done, you've got great standing to hold the Council members directly accountable along with the town itself.
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Old 08-02-19, 08:39 AM
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Record and report. Do it every day it happens. Post videos on social media tagging the local enforcement agency and the manufacturer of your camera - this is a huge part of Cycliq's business, their front and rear facing cameras are specifically for "incident protection" - so their audience is quite big and gaining more people all the time. Shaming the local enforcement agencies into doing their job, at least in engaging and educating the motoring public about cyclists, is a start.

Recording these incidents also covers you in the event something more serious happens. Since this is happening to you on a regular basis, it would be smart to ensure you're documenting everything in HD, which should leave no doubt as to what happened.
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Old 08-02-19, 08:47 AM
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Thanks, for the advice, Clyde! Yeah, I was thinking about possibly choosing another route, which I've done, before, a few times (even though it's a lot more out of my way), but that road also has heavy traffic and is more dangerous because it has a steep curve with a blind spot, where drivers coming from behind could possibly hit me in the lane (not expecting me to be there), with many cars using it as a shortcut to get to the main, secondary highway. And, when going up the hill, the Drivers definitely wouldn't be happy with me cycling, there, either.

The current route I use is more of a straight road, where drivers can more easily see me. It's literally the only main road to get into town (which I also live on), where I need to go.

Police already patrol the main road to pull over speeders, where all these incidences have occurred in the town, but they don't patrol there, often, so when they aren't there, sometimes, drivers take advantage in harassing me.

There is bicycle signage to "share the road," on one main road, but that's in the outskirts of town, where I usually don't need to go (and I don't ride it, often, anymore, due to residents who've repeatedly let their dogs loose (which have barked and chased me), which, unfortunately, is considered to be allowed in the county, as the outskirts don't have a dog leash law). Plus, since there aren't any sidewalks, there, drivers haven't felt the need to honk or shout at me to "use the sidewalk."

I guess I'll have to see whether my old camera might work, as I don't own a newer camera.

Thanks, everyone, for your replies! I really appreciate it, as I still haven't heard from anyone from my local town council, nor from the state cycling group.

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Old 08-02-19, 09:03 AM
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I've found that it's a good idea to avoid the county roads anywhere near the local high school, around the time school lets out. Those hormonal bastages are like prisoners after a jailbreak, and are quick to yell insults, and even toss plastic drink bottles, and they have no concern with giving the cyclist some elbow room. It's best just to not be in the vicitinty around 3:00 p.m.
As mentioned above, the best course of action is to ignore it, or be as nice as possible. Many of us are too old to be street fighting, and we sure don't have the right shoes on for it, LOL!!
Though this will probably offend some snowflakes, on occasion I'll tote my Ga carry permit and a little Airweight 38 pistol. No problem is a jersey pocket. I often ride in secluded, rural areas where witnesses are few and far between, so if a couple uptight hillbillies wanna stop the truck and start something, I'm at a huge disadvantage, and some sort of substantive deterrent could be invaluable (and BTW, I look at a carry piece primarilly as a deterrent, to avoid full-blown violence, rather than a way to facilitate it.)
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Old 08-02-19, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by anon06 View Post
Hi, everyone. I was wondering how all of you manage to deal with being harassed by motorists (i.e. honked at or shouted at to "use the sidewalk"), for not doing anything illegal, but simply by cycling, legally, on the road (sometimes, cycling in the middle of the lane, for safety reasons, due to potholes and unsafe crack on the far side of the road).

I've contacted the council in my small town, today--where I've been harassed in the same area, by several drivers/passengers the past few months--and the state's cycling advocacy group, which helps educate cycling safety to cyclists and drivers. So far, I haven't received any responses from them, so I'm wondering what all of you cyclists do.
Originally Posted by anon06 View Post
Thanks, everyone, for your replies! I really appreciate it, as I still haven't heard from anyone from my local town council, nor from the state cycling group.
What do you expect the city council or state's cycling advocacy group to do about auditory "harassment" that consists of occasional car honks and shouts to get on the sidewalk?
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Old 08-02-19, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
What do you expect the city council or state's cycling advocacy group to do about auditory "harassment" that consists of occasional car honks and shouts to get on the sidewalk?
Oh! That's easy. I noticed that the local town council makes announcements to residents on their Facebook page, from the police department (about all types of safety issues, regarding warnings about a fire in the area, that firefighters are fighting, criminals they're looking for, etc.), to announcements about school events, town parades, etc.

They even just made an announcement that residents should fill out the Department of Transportation's survey, on how residents would like to see the money spent, for road improvements, repaving, bicycle lanes and sidewalks, etc. and list them according to how much money they think each section should get.

It's a shame, but I already know that, sidewalks and cycling lanes are going to not be given priority, due to most residents not being cyclists or pedestrians.

So, I thought, since I'm unable to, individually, let each driver who shouts and honks at me that I'm not doing anything wrong (and I can't fully explain all the reasons why I'm not riding on the sidewalk to them at that moment) because they either don't have their windows open to be able to hear me saying anything or they drive off so quickly they wouldn't be able to hear more than a couple of words, that it'd probably be more helpful if the town made an announcement and reminder to drivers that cyclists have the right to be on the road (because drivers, here, only seem to listen, care, and respect the words given from people in authority, like the police; that's why, when they police are around the area, driving or ticketing drivers, other drivers suddenly decide to slow down and follow the speed limit, proper safety rules when passing me--they give me more room, the 3ft. rule, passing in the other lane, without honking or shouting about it, all because the police are there and they don't want to be ticketed).

If the police and/or council made an announcement about not harassing cyclists for being on the road, that they're allowed to be there, I think it really might help, at least a little bit, in reducing the amount of drivers who seem to, incorrectly, think it's okay to shout and tell me where they think I should cycle, when they're not even cyclists, themselves, and don't know what's safe or not for cyclists. It'd maybe let the drivers who've harassed me know that the police are aware of it, that they're watching, etc., so it might be a good deterant.

I've lived here for a couple of years and have only now just been experiencing harassment from drivers. I have a suspicion that, because other drivers saw one honk and shout at me, that they thought it was okay to do the same thing. So, it's suddenly becoming more and more of a problem in the area, a domino effect. I have no clue why it's suddenly happening, but I wish it would stop, that drivers would go back to just passing me without honking or shouting at me; I felt happier and safer when they would do that. Allowing it to just continue, without anyone saying or doing anything, I think, will only cause more drivers to think it's an okay thing to do.

Drivers, here, seem to think that, just because I'm a cyclist, that that automatically means that I'm the one who's ignorant about the rules of the road, safety, etc., and that they're the ones who know all of the rules, when they don't.

So, since they feel it's okay to harass a cyclist without educating themselves, they, obviously don't respect me and won't just listen to what I have to say, anyway; it helps if other groups in authority speak up, too, to help get the word out, because drivers who aren't cyclists aren't likely to bother looking up cyclists groups, read about cycling safety rules for drivers, etc.

Announcements regarding road safety and the rules of the road are given all the time in the area, from alcohol use, speeding, etc., that I thought a cycling safety reminder to drivers of the rules would fit right in, perfectly, with all of that, too.

Now, with the state cycling group: their site specifically states that they do advocacy work, too, across the state, as far as helping educate the public, police departments about cycling safety, cyclists' rights to the road, etc. They say others can contact them to arrange one of their volunteers to give a cycling presentation in their area. They write cycling advocacy articles for newspapers, too, have ads on local radio stations, etc.

All I did was ask them if they still do that in the local area, often, like on local T.V. stations, etc. and let them know of the two areas I've been recently harassed very often (which was in the suburbs of the larger city and in the small town where I live).

I thought, perhaps, it might let them know, in case they don't already give cycling rule presentation in these areas or haven't written anything regarding cycle advocacy in the local newspapers, recently, that they might consider these areas in the future, that it's needed (especially because cycling groups do ride on the weekends in the suburban area of the city). They're not that far from the group's downtown location--just in the suburb of the city and the next county over--compared to all of the other, farther areas they've travel to around the state to give presentations.

But, yeah, I don't really expect them to do anything; it was actually my parents' idea to contact someone about the problem

Last edited by anon06; 08-02-19 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 08-02-19, 10:42 AM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
I rode past her walking down her driveway to get her mail about a minute later and gave her an earful that left my throat raw the next day.
That sounds more egregious than a close pass. It's probably a good thing that her significant other wasn't around to witness it.


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Old 08-02-19, 11:28 AM
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I get angry for a bit and then quickly remind myself of the much larger percentage of motorists who safely and quietly interacted with me on my ride.

Ignoring the harassers is the best. They are upset and hoping to get you upset. Don't give them the satisfaction.
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Old 08-02-19, 11:46 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by anon06 View Post
...But, yeah, I don't really expect them to do anything; it was actually my parents' idea to contact someone about the problem
I was trying to add, "...because they got tired of me being angry and venting about it."

But, yeah, I don't really expect the town or cycling advocacy group to do anything; that's why I, normally, don't bother contacting anyone because I always think that others won't do anything or care.

Trying to do something by contacting the town and a state cycling advocacy group, feels a bit better than just fuming about it at home all the time, feeling helpless. If nothing happens, fine; that's typical and expected. If something does, great.

But I really hope that the situation doesn't become worse, with a driver(s) becoming so angry from assuming that I'm doing something wrong and illegal when I'm not, that they might purposely decide to hit me or graze me with their vehicle, pull out a weapon, etc. There is a problem, here, with drivers drinking and driving; there are always broken beer bottles and cans that are thrown along the side of the road.

(I've heard of other cyclists in rural areas around the country being hit by others drivers, purposely, because the driver didn't like that the cyclist was cycling on the road; the driver pulling out their weapon at the cyclist, etc.)

Even though most drivers might be okay and safe, all it takes is one drunk or angry driver to do something in "road rage," purposely, that injures or kills a cyclist. I already got bitten for the first time in my life by a stranger's loose dog (whose owner thought that their dog wouldn't ever bit anyone), here, after so many years of being chased by dozens of dogs and not being bitten, and with being mostly harassed in this town while cycling, and watching drivers speed, not signal, honk in anger at other drivers, residents being arrested for drugs, etc., it just kind of feels as though more dangerous things can and do happen here, especially for such a small town with a low population. It's not an area with highly educated people.

Now that I think about it, there is one other route that goes into town; I've been on it, once before and it was very busy on the weekend, but I think there might be slightly a little less traffic than on the route I normally use, and therfore, possibly, less harassment, there. I think I'll try that route, instead, and see.

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Old 08-02-19, 12:45 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by anon06 View Post


Yes, there are cycling clubs in my state, but I'm a cycle commuter and am not able to keep up with the club riders on my hybrid, as they have faster, more expensive road racing bikes (I secretly tried seeing whether I could keep up with them on roads, a few years ago, when they would occasionally cycle through my neighborhood. I couldn't keep up with them on the hills; their bikes climbed more quickly and easily.
I'm an old man of 80 y.o. and I can't keep up with the fast group either. In our club, the different groups ride different distances as for example, 70 miles, 50 miles or 35 miles. Everyone starts out at the same time within 5 minutes but ride different distances. I'm usually at a mid or the low distance. This results in everyone finishing at about the same time within 15 to 30 minutes. This scheme works in our club and our area which has a myriad of small country roads to map out rides of various lengths for riders to finish near the same time. After a ride, one volunteer member will host a social period with club provided snacks, cold water or other refreshments. I think of this period as a tailgate party minus the beer. Even without the beer, social interaction is thus promoted. Some of the fast riders show up in team kits so obviously race together but I don't detect elitism. If you decide to give a club ride a go, no law says you must ride the complete course.
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Old 08-02-19, 01:05 PM
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I'm just posting this anecdotally, not as an endorsement or anything, but years ago I was reading a similar thread on another bike forum, and a guy said he was having serious problems with some jerk in a car. So at some point he caught up with the guy at an intersection, and as he was slowly riding by, he hammer-fisted the guys windshield, and busted it ! He said that there are two 'sweet spots', or weak points on a windshield, (at the 1/3 points) where a hard blow can break the window.
I've never tested this myself, but I did commit it to memory !
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Old 08-02-19, 03:32 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by BobbyG View Post
Get a helmet cam. I rarely get harrassed, but when I do I point at my helmet cam and say, "You're on video!". This usually ends things. One time I added, "I have your license number."

But generally it's not a good idea to engage; there's a lot of crazy out there.
Hope you don't run into some miscreant that decides to collect and destroy the evidence.
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Old 08-02-19, 03:40 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by bobwysiwyg View Post
My response is no response. Just ignore them.
That's where I'm at. I try not to show that I'm pissed - I fail sometimes, but that's what I strive for.
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