Far Right?! I was taking a LEFT!

Even Bike Law lawyers get hassled.

Like many of us, riding for me is stress relief; it’s an escape from conflict and a busy schedule. Sometimes incidents on the road have the opposite effect and one incident this weekend made me question the state of humanity. It was not an unusual event, nor a particularly violent one, but the “conversation” punctuated how self-centered our society feels, at times.

First, the Punishment Pass

I had just left the group ride I was on, cutting the route short to get back in time for my kid’s baseball game. I was turning left onto a lightly traveled, low-speed road with 3 north-bound lanes. One of the lanes would end, eventually, becoming a right turn only lane, so I started in the far-right lane and would gradually make my way left.

There was very little traffic, but as I looked back to see if the next lane was clear, there was a car coming up fast, behind me. He came way too close to my wheel, before veering to the left and passing by about a foot. Not the worst punishment pass ever, but a particularly stupid one, considering the driver had 2 more lanes entirely to himself. 

Next, the “Conversation”

I just shook my head and continued on, making my way left. But then we met at the next light and the driver rolled down his window. This was the conversation:

Driver: What are you doing in the middle of the road? You’re supposed to be all the way to the right.

Me: (angry) I was in the right lane. Were you trying to kill me?

Driver: You’re supposed to be all the way on the right side of the road. It’s the law.

Me: (deep breath, much more calmly) No, it’s not.

Driver: Yes it is

Me: No, it’s not

Driver: Yes it is

Me: (feeling cringy about saying this, but this had to end somehow) Look, I’m a lawyer. I represent bicyclists.

Driver: (interrupting) Good for you

Me: (ignoring the interruption). My point is that I know what the law says. And there are legitimate safety reasons for me to not be riding all the way to the right. For one thing, I was moving into the left lane. And you had two more, completely empty, lanes to get around me.

Driver: But I was in this one.

That left me speechless for a second. What do you say to someone who can’t even share a lane when he has two others to choose from? I thought: I’m trying to reason with a toddler.

The light changed. As he started to go, I said, “well have a nice day and please don’t hurt anyone.”

Don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of nice people out there. Some people go out of their way to accommodate us on our bikes and to be safe. Many realize that if they wait a few seconds, there will be a safe place to pass, and they do so with plenty of time and plenty of space.

One Rotten Blueberry

But it just takes one rotten blueberry to spoil the whole bowl, and this guy really got me that day. If we can’t give each other even a tiny little concession; if we demand that “this is my lane, and you need to just get out of my way” then what hope is there for ever getting past our differences? How can we improve as a society when such a vocal component of that society won’t share anything? People don’t want to pay taxes for schools, because they don’t have kids in school, or they don’t want their tax money to go to bicycle infrastructure, because they don’t ride bikes.

This needs to change. Society only works if we all give a little to make it better for others. They, in turn, give a little to help us. And to those who don’t have anything to give, well I feel fortunate that I have enough. I’ll help pay for this guy’s 6 lane roads, even though I don’t drive much. And I hope, after he has some time to think about it, that he’ll give me one of the lanes.


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