It’s almost a daily occurrence, if you ride residential streets: You’re first at a stop sign, waiting to cross a busier street, when you hear the rumble of an engine behind you. You want to cross, to get away, but once the steady stream of traffic coming from your left clears, another stream starts on the right. You’re trapped. The engine gets louder. There’s a vehicle behind you, and its driver cannot wait to get you out of the way – by force, if necessary. They creep. They rev the engine. They creep some more. The cross-traffic is not letting up. If you’re stuck long enough, the vehicle behind you is so close they’re juuuuuust about bumping your tire.
You think: Where, exactly, do they expect me to go?
Never mind that, if you were in a car, you’d be taking just as long to cross, and you’d be taking up several times as much space, keeping this driver several more precious feet away from the stop sign. You’re obviously playing with a toy on the roads, keeping this upstanding motoring citizen in a socially-acceptable vehicle from reaching their destination as quickly as they would like – and you’re doing it intentionally.
You know that’s false. You know you’re no more of a hindrance to this person on your bike than you would be in your car. You know it’s your right to bike on our streets. You know that drivers do this “creep” to each other, too, but that doesn’t make the behavior any less rude or dangerous. It’s the traffic that’s delaying them, not the cyclist in front of them, but you’re the thing right in front of them, and you’re the target for their ire.
In that particular moment, there’s nothing you can do but ride defensively. In this case, that means:
- Never hug the curb when you come to a stop sign or stoplight. You do NOT want to leave room for a vehicle to sidle up on your left, because if you go straight and they turn right (into you), you’re in serious trouble. Before you get to an intersection, look back to make sure no one is beside you, and then move left, to at least the center of where a car would be. Stop in that position.
- Keep an eye on a creeping motorist behind you. Turn and look at them. Make a mental note of the car’s make, model, license plate number – anything you can get, in case it’s needed later.
- Be assertive, but don’t get hit. If they really won’t quit, bail to your left and let them pass. Don’t do anything to incite an angry person in a vehicle to attack you. If it’s a company-owned vehicle, note the company’s name and any identifying numbers on the vehicle, and contact that company later to report aggressive driving.
Let’s not forget to acknowledge the careful, cautious majority – those drivers who approach a stop slowly, who leave plenty of space behind you, who use their turn signals and wait patiently. Thank you!