Friday, April 30, 2021

No Fault

 "Hey man, you gotta be careful making that turn, bro."

This was the cautionary message delivered to me by a motorist as we came to a stop light just a few yards from the spot of the aforementioned turn. I had made a right turn on my bicycle from the far right of the street directly into the bike lane on the far right. The clearly marked and designated bike lane on the right. This action still garnered me the attention of a motorist who, I believe, felt that my actions were reckless and somehow life threatening.

Maybe it was my life for which he was expressing concern. Or his own. Or a combination thereof. I could imagine that his shiny red SUV might sustain some mild damage as it made a mess of me on the asphalt. Dead guy on a bike would surely lead to higher insurance premiums at the very least. Operationally it was a nightmare for him, which may have been behind his choice of words. And tone. 

I appreciated the reminder, even though I have been making that right turn for twenty-four years with an abundance of awareness. I am expressly aware of the existence of the bike lane, as that particular street is one of the few stretches of my commute that affords me this comfort. It may be a little redundant to tell me to be careful since my general level of vigilance on my ride to and from work is high. Which doesn't mean that over the course of nearly a quarter century that I might miss something or swing wide when I should have held my line. Especially when bright red SUVs hover around me, just waiting for me to make a mistake. So they can pounce. 

Truly, the message was not the part that gave me pause. It was the means of delivery. The word choice. "Hey man," I can get that. I use that one myself when I feel the need to address other motorists. Which is relatively infrequent. More often than not, I mutter under my breath after the threat has passed having survived yet another brush with bodily harm while biking. The energy it takes to roll down the window and have the interaction must, in his mind, have given him the level of indignation that brought on the introduction, "Hey man."

The admonition about the turn? I can live with that. Even though I know that I made a conscious effort to stay within my legal lane and was aware of the bright red SUV, when we both came to a halt I graciously accepted his feedback. 

But "Bro?" That was, in my mind, unnecessary. It was the extra macho twist that made the whole experience insincere. That made it obvious that what he was really concerned about was having to hose the gore off his grill and the attendant delays associated with running over a bicyclist. Only after the light changed and he sped off did it occur to me to thank him. Or reply that I have been making that same careful trip from school to my home for longer than he has been alive. It was the struggle of keeping all the smart aleck comments to myself that churned my emotions.

That and the gratitude to my bro for reminding me to be careful. 

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