Keith Berner, who writes a blog called Left-Hand View that is part of the Post's local blog network, was recently involved in a confrontation with a cyclist. Right off the bat, he's kind of offtrack when he entitles the post "Bike assaults car". Now, I'd pay good money to see something like that (you know PETA would shut it down) but I'm pretty sure that's impossible. But it gives a good idea of how he sees things.
I was driving along River Road this evening when I rolled to a stop at an intersection where a bicycle was waiting for the light to change. I was in the middle of my lane – the rightmost through lane — and the bicycle was partway into the lane. There was plenty of room to its right, in an unoccupied right-turn-only lane.
Here again, he sees "a bicycle" and what was to "its" right. Was this bicycle lying in the street? And he seems miffed that the cyclists was not in the right-turn only lane, even though the cyclist wasn't turning right and so it would be illegal to be in that lane.
The bicyclist started pounding on my window and screaming that I had come closer to him than permitted by law. I was taken aback by his fury, but didn’t engage. Nonetheless, his message had sunk and, as I approached the next intersection, I was as far left as I could go, with my tires just about touching the dotted white line. The bicyclist had also moved leftward, well into the lane. As I stopped, he threw his bike against my car and started screaming that I had hit him.
Sigh, I want to take Berner's side because I'm not a fan of pounding or screaming, but when the cyclist moves left to take the lane (something I do when I feel like my kindness is not returned) Berner misses the message and pulls up beside him again, instead of waiting behind him. But Berner, I guess, doesn't get that he is supposed to stop behind the cyclist. I'm sympathetic to the fact that he's ignorant, not malicious. And then in does sound like the cyclist goes berserk on him - something I'm also not a fan of (though, I've Hulked out a time or two myself).
Anyway Berner gets out of the car, there is some shouting, Berner shoves the cyclist and the cyclist ends up throwing Berner onto the hood of the car and then onto the pavement. A woman threatens to call the police, Berner decides to leave, the cyclist blocks his path for a few minutes and then it's over, leaving Berner feeling very shaken and dismayed.
So Berner (who is a cyclist himself he notes, the equivalent of "some of my best friends are black") is a bad driver, but not a bad person who had a cyclist lose his cool with him - the shoving we are led to believe was self-defense. This is a story that probably plays out, to some degree, daily in the metropolitan area. It is not the high point of civilization, but its not the end of times either. It's more the byproduct of current road design.
At least, that's how Berner tells it. Someone claiming to be the cyclist has a different take.
Mr. Berner, you were wrong, from start to finish.I obeyed the law at every single point here. I stopped in the right half of the through lane of traffic. It would have been unsafe for me to pull out of the travel lane and into a lane that ended in a few feet, nor does the law require it.
I did not bang on the window to let you know you were closer than the law permitted, for the simple reason that the window was open. And I was not hostile, as your wife well knows. I simply moved up and out of your way, avoiding confrontation. I know many people are not aware that DC and Maryland law require a motorist leave 3 feet of separation when overtaking or passing a bike, so there’s no point getting snippy about it.
You chose to harass me at that point, for reasons known only to you, by pulling up alongside, again, inches away from me, only now you knew you were breaking the law. I did shout at you–being put in physical danger tends to do that to me–and I moved out a little, and paid the price. I bumped you and I fell.
You got out of the car, I didn’t approach it. You screamed obscenities. You shoved me. Did I give as good as I got? Yes. But you started it at each point.
I feel bad for your wife. She clearly suffered, and I’d like to apologize to her. But you, sir, are a bully and a menace, and had the cops showed up as I’d asked, I’d have pressed charges.
So what we got here is an old fashioned "He said, bike said." My first grade teacher Ms. Shaw would make them hold hands throughout recess.
But the only things they both agree on is that Berner twice pulled up too close to the cyclist, and that Berner initiated physical contact. I don't think it's bias that makes me lay the blame in Berner's corner.