Monday, November 23, 2009

Honk Report From Ennis

Four honks in twenty miles! And that is only counting the geese wanting to overtake, not the honks from annoyed motorists in opposing lanes.

On the route I needed to traverse today, I could have predicted two of them, because Texans think a cyclist ought not be in the travel lane if there is an improved shoulder. But the other two were extremely rare.

In chronological order:

First Goose; This fella had the bad luck to come up to me at place where he could not pass me safely in the 55 MPH signed speed limit road, shown here.

He stayed behind me and honked as if I were the one without the right of way. I guess he failed to remember the rule when he first got his driver's license that the faster traffic has a duty to overtake slower traffic in a safe manner in with due care. Perhaps he needs a refresher course!

Rather than passing me on the blind hill like many of his neighbors do, he waited until we got over the rise to pass me. He came up beside me on my left in the other lane, and slowed to set me straight about how to ride a bicycle. He had to occupy the opposing lane to do this because I was maintaining my position in the left tire track. If anyone cares, he was driving a recent model heavy duty red pick-up truck. Oh, and I spat in his direction as he began to overtake me. SOP. [1]

Middle aged red pickup driver: "You need to stay out of the road, someone’s going to run you over!" These words were not said in a angry tone, just a raised voice to be heard over the truck’s noise.

Middle aged bicycle rider: "So you admit that you are such an incompetent driver that you would run into a bicycle in the middle of your lane?" Yes, I really did ask him that.

Middle aged red pickup driver, after a pause; "It’s really dangerous to ride like that!"

I then studiously ignored him until he continued on his way.

I very rarely get honked at (Or even shot, for that matter!) on these two lane roads. That alone was unusual. But this fella, after being annoyed that I was causing him a trivial delay, adds 40 seconds or so to his delay by pacing me!

Silly goose!

Second goose;

On north Kaufman, traveling north, just after it is reduced from a four lane to a two lane, this goose honked multiple times. Then he passed me on the improved shoulder at this spot:

As he passed, I spat in his direction, SOP. As he re-entered the roadway, realizing that he had been insulted he slammed on his brakes, coming to a complete stop, and marking the road like this:

I avoided him and came to a stop beside him. This is the hardest position for a motorist to strike you with his car.

Rolling down the passenger window he communicated to me.

Angry automobile driver; "You can't ride in the middle of the road, you are in the way of cars!"

Calm and witty cyclist; [2] "You have a duty to pass slower traffic in a safe manner and with due care."

Angry automobile driver; "Your not supposed to be in the way of traffic!"

Calm and witty cyclist; "One of us here has operated in a legal manner, and the other one has not."

Angry automobile driver; "I haven't done anything wrong! Your the one breaking the law!

Calm and witty cyclist, as traffic begins to work their way around us on the shoulder; "You don't call a panic stop in the middle of the lane reckless driving?" I suppose it should be noted that his right front fender was crumpled as was his left rear fender. I suppose he could've used working anti-lock brakes. Just say'n.

This comment seems to get him worked up. The angry automobile driver then said, roughly translated; "I have a good mind to hurt you in a bad way and make sure you stay at the side of the road!"

The calm and witty cyclist said; "Four seventy-five ex eitch are."

Confused automobile driver; "What?"

Calm and witty cyclist; " Your license plate number, four seventy-five ex aitch are."

As he speeds off, I re-enter the traveled portion of the roadway and continue on my way.

After being so upset by my having delaying his trip that he broke the law by passing me on the shoulder, [3] he recklessly stops in the lane to spend over a minute "speaking" to me.

Silly goose.

Third goose; Now traveling south on north Kaufman, I ride into a construction zone where Kaufman's four lanes have been reduced to two. Another motorist honks like in a futile attempt to improve the situation. As the road expands to normal lanes I do not spit, being unsure of which driver following me had poor impulse control. I pull up to a stop behind them at the next light.

Silly goose!

Fourth goose; As I nearly complete the final part of my ride, on the 55 MPH signed speed limit two lane that connects to my driveway, while safely overtaking me in the oncoming lane, the elderly man honks as he goes by. Did he know about my SOP?

Silly goose!

It is uncommon that anyone ever honks at me on a two lane without a shoulder. Both honking and passing on the right are expected on a two lane with a shoulder. Four same direction honks and two opposite direction honks in twenty miles is considerably odd.

Two of them were sufficiently outraged by my lawful behavior to interrupt their trip to publicly chastise me. They were not satisfied with simply being ignorant of the traffic laws. In their certitude, they were determined to make sure everyone was aware of their ignorance!

[1] SOP: Standard Operating Procedure

[2] Hey it's my story, and I can tell it any way I like.

[3] He illegally passed on the right: Sec. 545.053.(a) An operator passing another vehicle shall pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance.
He illegally traveled on the shoulder:
Sec. 545.057.(b) An operator may not pass to the right by leaving the main traveled portion of a roadway except as provided by Section 545.058.
Sec. 545.058.(a) An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of a roadway if that operation is necessary and may be done safely, but only:
(1)  to stop, stand, or park;
(2)  to accelerate before entering the main traveled lane of traffic;
(3)  to decelerate before making a right turn;
(4)  to pass another vehicle that is slowing or stopped on the main traveled portion of the highway, disabled, or preparing to make a left turn;
(5)  to allow another vehicle traveling faster to pass;
(6)  as permitted or required by an official traffic-control device; or
(7)  to avoid a collision.

He operated his vehicle in a reckless manner without due care: Sec. 545.401.(a) A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in wilful [sic] or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

Curiously, this is the statute he accused me of violating. To whom does it most accurately apply to? Sec. 545.363. (a) An operator may not drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.


  1. Did the red pickup have an OU sticker in the back window? Maybe it's my pickup friend's dad. Strangely, I found your post to be a morale boost. All those guys had no trouble at all seeing you and not cluelessly hitting you, supporting my theory that they're ruthlessly conditioned by a life of avoiding minor road debris. You, in turn, should take heart. It's clearly not worth the trouble to honk at a 2x4 in the road or a squished raccoon.

    Next time, might you not work something (nicely) about annoying cyclists into the discussion? Like "am I just an annoying cyclist to you?" I'd hate to have to make a special drive to Ennis and it wouldn't be the same if a cyclist yelled it at you.

  2. Yes, all important points, Steve! None of them overlooked me, all of them avoided "running me down", and yet of those who "communicated" to me verbally, I was likely to get creamed any moment.

    The question is, of whom do they have such a low opinion of operational competence- themselves or their fellow motorists?

    As to the someone yelling at me; (For those who are missing one of the blogosphere's most delightful writer -Rantwick- where I made a comment Steve is referring to...) "I wish you annoying cyclist's would get out of the road!" I suppose it could happen! I have taken some poetic license to allow some motorists meaning to be displayed in a manner and tone that is more suitable for some of my readers tender ears. It is also more interesting than the repetitious and unimaginative filth spewed in real time by these motorist scofflaws.

    I would like to point out out that I rarely use crude language. Their continual use by some seems to be a well returned to too often, and becomes useless noise after a while. It diminishes the speaker more than it harms the one it is directed at. The use of crude language in writing astonishes me, and never seems to improve the writers stature.

  3. These kinds of encounters, regardless of being "in the right", rob me of much of the reason I ride. Fortunately, they don't happen as much since I left Houston. Up here in north Denton County, most of my pick-up encounters include waves...with all fingers.

  4. As long as I've read your stuff, I've always envied your ability to calmly argue with angry people. I just can't pull that off. I just clam up and mutter obscenities later.

    As for praising my blog so highly all the time... thanks, you really are too kind.

  5. There is courage in being in the right. And all those times I've ridden away wishing I had said "fill in a pithy comment here" has armed me with ready made retorts. Although the "You admit to being an incompetent driver?" is a new one.

    I also spend a few minutes every once and a while practicing saying them- that is, training my mouth so it does the drill when my emotions are running high. Just as it works for military training, it works in the face of imbeciles!

    It really isn't a fair fight. The law is on my side and angry motorists always take the same silly positions. This can be seen clearly in the public comments after every news story about cyclists. EdW of cycledog lists them here:

  6. "It's too easy to just get along so I don't try"

    Two wheels are considered, by some, to be a sign of poverty and people don't want to be encouraging of anything to do with poverty or 2 wheels. You'll find about a third of the drivers consider you a homeless bum, a third feel sorry for you and a third get it. Maybe if you wore a tux they would consider you road worthy and stop honking.

    Ramblin Rod

  7. When you have a face like mine, Ramblin, you soon stop being concerned with what other people think of you.

    Thanks to our society's tolerance of incompetent motorists, to drive my bicycle defensively requires that I drive it in the center of the travel lane.

    I do wish you would comment again and explain what you mean by "It's too easy to just get along so I don't try". Very cryptic. Incoherent without context. Would you deign to make it clear for me?

  8. You are trying to establish ground dominance (well within your right as a traveler I must add) but so are the cars. They do it with yelling and honking and you, it seems, do it with a bit of sny quietness. I usually ride armed and that keeps me from yelling and getting into a possible jail sentence. I've read your blogs and I just don't have your composure. I do use a bike for transportation (not as much as you) but I avoid 2 lane confrontations. I know and respect your car-less-ness and think you're doing a good thing but strangers on the road do not. Establish your ground, keep riding but don't die. I'd miss your blog.

    I know I ramble - I ain't pretty either - Rod

  9. I lost count of all the honks and yells we got last week when Robert and I were riding all over town to video locations. But I can tell you all of them were from motorists not the least bit impeded on multilane roads. In most cases there was almost no traffic.

    Today Mighk and I traveled around town to video crosswalk behavior (in the worst city in the US for pedestrians). I recall 6 honks while riding to locatons, there might have been more. Four were on a 2 mile stretch of 4-lane road. None involved motorists who had to wait a second to pass.

    I think it's the holidays. I've noticed an uptick of incivility in years past. People get nasty around the holidays.

  10. Goodness, Keri, I am so glad you said that! I too have been working on a "holiday" theory.

    I am remembering back to previous years, but I think it is clouded with cold weather. I find that I receive more courtesy from motorists in cold/bad weather.

    It has been above 60 degrees in the afternoon around here. Also something I have been reluctant to note in deference to my far north reader.

    Hey, you be careful out there being a pedestrian! Far safer to drive your bicycle when getting around!

  11. I made Mighk walk through the really dangerous intersections. I said, "You get workman's comp if you get injured doing this. I'm just a volunteer. But I'll be happy to drive my bike through the intersections all day."

    I've noticed a correlation between courtesy and bad/cold weather as well.

    It's been hot again here. Today was sunny, but the humidity must have been approaching 100% I felt like I was wearing a plastic coating over my skin—it couldn't breathe. I would trade our far north reader a week of subzero for this soupy heat.

  12. The only weather correlation I've noticed is that motorists seem less likely to inappropriately honk when the cyclist looks about to drown in the rainstorm. It appears more related to the stress level of the motorist. Holidays are a stressful time. Afternoon commutes tend to be more stressful than morning ones.

    Interestingly, complex interchanges are one situation where I have never been honked at - when on a bike.

  13. @Chip, Anon:
    I can't tell how many times I wonder if people think I am bum when I wear my unconventional non-spandex outfit. I sometimes wonder if cyclists in spandex are considered pros by some drivers.

    While the holiday season is supposed to be joyous and people are supposed to be friendly and show goodwill toward others, many are running around trying to get to shopping malls and outlet stores, trying to amass more stuff. Where is the spirit of the holidays or does that only happen if some "spirit" gets into the system and chills one out?

    Peace to all :)

  14. Yes, they are running around and amassing stuff, but for this season, it is mostly stuff being amassed for others! How is that a bad thing?

    As a society, we are spending a lot of effort thinking about what others around us want and what they would be pleased to receive as a gift. When you think about it, that's rather remarkable!

    As with any human activity, some people are going to twist and distort all of it, but I think that Christmas time is an over-all good for us.

    What Tiny Tim said!

  15. I've always had trouble with merry Christmas, happy Veterans Day or happy Easter. All those days deal with death, but I think happy or have a good Thanksgiving's OK since it's about survival. Have a good Thanksgiving.

    By the way I had a guy call me a bum on the train because I ride a bike. Oh well.
    No spandex and looking like a bum Rod

  16. @chip,
    Perhaps I didn't say it clearly! I am not against people buying things for others or the holidays. I don't rejoice the bad manners that surrounds the holiday shopping season, the craze, the rushing, fighting over parking spots, etc, when people forget what it is that the holidays are for. That's all!
    Peace :)

  17. There is courage in being in the right.

    There is also courage in courtesy. In those areas where there is an improved shoulder, moving to the right would have been a courteous gesture.

    You may in the right, but you don't have to be an @ss about it. Even if the motorists are. Be better than them.

  18. You do recognize that shoulder cycling has many problems and difficulties, right Doohickie?

    1) A cyclist riding on an improved shoulder has no rights as a vehicle under Texas law.

    2) Improved shoulders collect debris.

    3) Improved shoulders vary in width, sometimes disappearing without warning altogether.

    4) One design purpose of improved shoulder is to provide improved sight lines for crossing traffic. A shoulder riding cyclist gives up that benefit.

    5) Distracted drivers have a drift bias to the right.

    6) Distracted drivers, during their occasional scan forward, often overlook any object not in the travel lane itself.

    7) Improved shoulders rarely receive the same quality of repairs as the travel lanes, and rarely in a timely manner.

    8) Improved shoulders often have design features that are built-in hazards to cyclists, like improper drain grates, rumble strips and uneven lips created by re-paving projects.

    9) Shoulders often extend to the right of right turn only lanes and bulb-outs.

    And these are just the ones I come up with off the top of my head.

    So avoiding travel in the shoulder makes me right on multiple levels.

    Your problem with a legal slow vehicle on the public road stems from your windshield view of the public road. You remain caught up in the culture of speed.

    You call me out for being rude. That I ought to cast aside any concern I may have for my safety for the noble purpose of giving a courteous gesture. An empty gesture, in that what it will do to improve the lives of a couple dozen automobile drivers is to keep them from being subject to the horrors of overtaking a slow vehicle.

    Are you proposing that I should put my health at risk for the benefit keeping some motorists from getting upset?

    Do you put a greater value on the few precious seconds saved by any given motorist's trip than on me?

    I will need a more compelling reason than courtesy to compromise my safety and my right to travel on the public way.

  19. You call me out for being rude.

    Not exactly, although I think I implied that you can be an @ss.

    Maintaining your lane while there isn't a safe place to pass is the prudent thing to do. On the other hand, if there is an improved shoulder, and there isn't debris, would it actually hurt you to move over and let the faster vehicle pass? Other "vulnerable road users" such as farmers on tractors do this all the time in Texas; moving over to the shoulder is called using the Aggie passing lane. Even if this isn't mandatory, it is expected behavior from a vehicle that is going much slower than the speed limit here in Texas.

    I'm not with you on these two lanes, so only you know if there is too much debris or other hazards to make pulling over unsafe. You're the one out there; you make that call every day.

    However, I really think spitting as people pass you is just plain nasty and belligerent. Why engage with someone in such a rude manner when they're already annoyed? I just think you're asking for trouble by escalating the situation. Sooner or later you'll do that to someone with something more than a pellet gun in his pickup truck and we'll be eulogizing you. I don't want that.

  20. @Doohickie
    "Maintaining your lane while there isn't a safe place to pass is the prudent thing to do. On the other hand, if there is an improved shoulder, and there isn't debris, would it actually hurt you to move over and let the faster vehicle pass?

    Passing safely is the overtaking vehicles responsibility, you seem to imply a cyclist needs to make it easier by getting out of the way. Have you ever seen a shoulder that is equally smooth, clean of debris as a travel lane?

    "Other "vulnerable road users" such as farmers on tractors do this all the time in Texas; moving over to the shoulder is called using the Aggie passing lane."

    It's a vehicle operator choice to use the shoulder.

    "spitting as people pass you is just plain nasty and belligerent."

    Agree spitting is unnecessary, get the friggin license number and call the law enforcement, let sort it out.

  21. DanC said, "It's a vehicle operator choice to use the shoulder."

    And let me add EXHIBIT A

    Note the slight difference in width between that and the tires on ChipSeal's bicycle. I bet those provide a slightly different experience on a rough shoulder, particularly since the vehicle they carry does not have to be balanced.