This is a rant. California license 4SHZ840, if you ever put your license plate into Google, this is why I was yelling at you.
First off, let’s have a look at a bit of the California Vehicle Code:
Circular Red or Red Arrow
21453. (a) A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown, except as provided in subdivision (b).
(b) Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver, after stopping as required by subdivision (a), facing a steady circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way street. A driver making that turn shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the driver, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle until the driver can proceed with reasonable safety.
(c) A driver facing a steady red arrow signal shall not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow and, unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by another signal, shall stop at a clearly marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication permitting movement is shown.
(d) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in Section 21456, a pedestrian facing a steady circular red or red arrow signal shall not enter the roadway.
Amended Sec. 1, Ch. 14, Stats. 2001. Effective January 1, 2002.
So I was out riding on Saturday morning. Coming home, crossing Lake Avenue on Mendocino Street. I had the green light, and I was coming through the intersection. And suddenly, there was a silver-gray Lexus coming across the intersection, right in front of me. If I was in a car, I’d have honked the horn at her. Being that I was on my bike, and had no horn, I yelled at her. She had her window open, so she heard me and stopped, looking a bit surprised. This sort of thing happens from time to time, and it’s generally not a big deal. She made a mistake on the road. I think it was most likely an honest mistake, and that she meant no harm. It happens to everyone. Nothing bad happened, so it’s all right.
So I kept going. Then she pulls up next to me and starts yelling at me from the moving car:
“I stopped at that light before I turned! I didn’t do anything wrong!”
People make mistakes. It’s just part of being human. We all do it from time to time. In this case, the mistake she made was a pretty minor one. No harm was done, so that should have been the end of it. A truly proper and gracious response on her part would have been to say something like, “Oops. I didn’t see you. Sorry about that.” This is very rare. In fact, in nearly 40 years of riding, I can count the number of times I’ve heard this from a motorist on the fingers of one hand. And still have several fingers left to spare. But that’s all right. It’s all part of the gig when you ride a bike. Still, for her to come after me and start yelling at me about how she didn’t do anything wrong and that, by implication, this is all somehow my fault, well, this crossed the line. This is no longer an honest mistake. This is acting like an asshole.
Now, I’m of the opinion that there are two kinds of people in the world:
- People who make mistakes, but are willing to own up to them;
So I want to convey this to her, but I can’t give the fully-detailed and nuanced response above, since I’ve got to fit it in eight words or less as she’s driving away from me. So the abbreviated version came out like this:
“Through traffic has the right of way, ASSHOLE!”
By this time, she’s passed me, but she slows down, and I can hear her yelling at me more from inside the car. I can’t make it out. But by this time, I’m feeling more than a little threatened. After all, in any physical altercation between our respective vehicles, I’m the one who stands to end up dead.
So she pulls over a little bit ahead of me and stops. I see her starting to get out of the car, still yelling at me. I just ride past, and I say something to the effect that I don’t want to talk to her any more. I also made a point of showing her that I’d taken pictures of her and her car. Then I turned down the first side street. I put on some speed down the hill, and went down lots of little streets, just to lower the chances that I’d encounter her again.
There’s no good way to wrap this up. Yes, I think I lost my cool, and that didn’t help the situation. It’s just that people who won’t admit they made a mistake is a major peeve of mine. So driver, if you ever read this, this is how you managed to take a not-especially-bad situation, and turn it into something truly horrible and disturbing. And I sincerely hope to never, ever see you again on the road.