“Sorry, I didn’t see you.”

Those were the words of the SUV driver who cut me off on Thursday. Really?? And whales speak French at the bottom of the sea, I’m sure.

I was riding Oma in broad daylight with no sun glare. The narrow one-way street was ending and I was preparing to take a right. While I was moving over to take the lane, an old SUV started to pull around and squeeze by. I did the “back off” signal that Adrienne mentioned in an earlier comment – left hand out and pushing back with fingers splayed. Completely ignored. After he immediately swung in front of me and took a right, I called out, “Thanks a lot, buddy!”

We were soon stopped in a line of cars turning left and he said something out his window that I could not hear, so I said, “You cut me off back there.” Then he rolled down his window all the way and stuck his head out. I would have bet money that he was going to call me the B word and peel off. Instead he said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you,” smiled, and looked at me a bit too long. He was flirting with me. At this point I really had nothing to say except, “O…kay” and waved him on. Did he actually expect me to reciprocate? In the wise words of Lily Allen: “Not in a million years, you’re nasty, please leave me alone.”

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23 thoughts on ““Sorry, I didn’t see you.”

  1. Carolyn says:

    That would be how I would feel. Def tough moments. Hate those close calls!

  2. E A says:

    Ah… I like to think of my bike as my invisibility device and my bright yellow wind/rain jacket as my invisibility cloak. Because as soon as I’m wearing the hi-vis yellow jacket and on my 2 wheels, cars don’t see me. You must have such a device, too. Be safe out there!

    In the meantime, we ride (www.rideofsilence.org) each May to advocate sharing the roads and honor the crash victims.

  3. Trisha says:

    It’s not fair and it’s really not OK for him to have cut you off like that. ;-) Perhaps it was the equivalent of playground hair-pulling — except deadly and all?

  4. I was delighted to learn about the “back off” signal, but I wonder whether drivers know how to interpret it.

    Flirtation after reckless endangerment, what a wooing strategy! What is the thing to do in these cases — get the person’s plate number and report them?

    • Mr. Dottie says:

      I used the “back off” signal earlier this week after a driver honked at me several times for taking the lane. The response I received was a long continuous honk instead of short ones followed by being buzzed at the next intersection.

      • Sungsu says:

        Moronic drivers will honk at anything. I was a passenger in a car approaching a red light. We stopped short of the red light because my driver saw that a driver on the other side of the street was blocking her lane while awaiting a parking spot. Two other drivers successfully drove around the waiting driver in the space on our side of the street. A third car pulled in behind the waiting driver, ignored the available space to go around, and proceeded to honk continuously for at least 20 seconds, until at last, the parking space opened up and the waiting driver could pull in.

    • Drivers know what it means, but they have not all learned how to react. No signal works with the clueless. Hopefully, repeated usage and exposure will help.

  5. calitexican says:

    ahh! i missed that tip. that’s what i get for reading in google reader i suppose.

    sorry to hear about that encounter. what a weirdo! did he think that would 1. work or 2. make up for being an A-hole as if you would magically crumble and kneel at his feet? i really do wonder what goes on in people’s head sometimes.

  6. Tinker says:

    Smidsy. “Sorry, mate, I didn’t see you.” Usually reserved for those idiots that run over a motorcyclist,(very occasionally, a bicyclist, for which they need to have their eyes open, to correct their aim), while said idiot has a cellphone stuck in their ear. I know the buffoon well.

    The sheer effrontery of trying to run you down, and only then recognizing that you might otherwise be delectable, or at least acceptably fetching. The mind boggles.

  7. The road is a dangerous place. We tend to forget in our day to day lives that these steel clad four wheeled coffins folks drive sometimes hide complete scum bags. Get a can of mace. Learn to use it effectively.Then carry it so you can get to it easily. Sorry this happened. Hey!….Let’s be careful out there.

  8. Kyong says:

    wow, what a moron. sorry this happened to you, dottie. i really admire you for being assertive and calling him on his bad manuever. in those kinds of situations, i don’t know why, but *i* end up saying sorry just out of habit. i got squeezed in going straight on a green in a bike lane by 3 cars who shoved me out of the way to make their right turns near the university i work at. i just stopped & put my foot on the curb til they made their right turns.

  9. Mel says:

    It’s not that he didn’t see you he was just too self absorbed to notice.

  10. Christa says:

    Wish California would ban right turns on red lights. I do the “back off” signal while cycling and walking. I take my strolling very seriously. Can’t one enjoy strolling even in an intersection? It seems that seconds are like hours to motorists.

  11. Sooncheol says:

    sorry to hear about the bad encounter. i was riding my road bike on a low traffic highway and a trash truck was oncoming on the opposite lane and it kept honking at me.
    because i was riding on the middle of the lane? was it trying to tell me i need to move over to further right? or telling me my bike and i don’t belong to the highway? who knows what the driver of the trash truck was thinking?
    i got honked so many times on highway even though cars could go around with ease. how hard is to go around a bicycle (moving at 15-20mph) where there’s no on oncoming traffic on the other lane? and speed limit is 70mph. people just try to intimidate cyclist off the road
    keep riding folks and claim the road

  12. kristin says:

    I was riding from the loop to Andersonville yesterday (mostly on Clark St.) and got cut off 4 times. Mostly no one even acknowledged me or their offense. Grrr. I feel your frustration! SUV drivers are the worst.

  13. ksteinhoff says:

    I ride with an AirZound air horn.

    You honk at me, I’ll honk right back. I don’t know if it makes any difference, but it makes me feel better.

    My horn’s bigger than his horn.

  14. Johnny says:

    “I didn’t see you,” was what the lady who ran me over said:(
    As if not paying enough attention to see people is some kind of excuse or someone else’s fault! LOL

  15. James says:

    Something like that can just ruin a ride. After being cut-off, right hooked, etc., I’ve heard the “I didn’t see you” a few times (minus the flirting), but more frequently drivers say they didn’t know what to do. It’s too bad every driver doesn’t have just a little experience cycling in traffic to develop some awareness and understanding.

    • Didn’t know what to do? That is c–p. Any one who drives knows they are supposed to pass with no less than 3 feet, we are taught that in school. We also know you do not speed up to turn right in front of someone. We wouldn’t do it to a Hummer, or a cop.

      • James says:

        I agree. It should be common sense not to right-hook a cyclist. Not everyone has had the same drivers ed experience, and may not have had any instruction on how to share the road with cyclists, but I am nevertheless astounded when someone makes that kind of statement. I’m hopeful for when cyclists become more commonplace on U.S. roads; perhaps then more motorists will know how to share the road.

        A related issue in the U.S. is the extremely low bar set to obtain a driver’s license. I have both a U.S. and a British drivers license, and the latter required magnitudes greater skill to obtain. In the car-centric U.S. driving is almost treated as a right; our society is structured around the assumption that everyone drives (in most communities anyway). In the few years I spent in England, I never once saw the aftermath of an auto accident, whereas in U.S. cities commuters drive past wreckage regularly, which is an anecdotal indication of the quality of U.S. drivers.

        Some suggest that motorists should try cycling even once to gain appreciation for challenges faced by bike commuters. Here’s an article about what drivers could learn by trying out cycling: http://bit.ly/cycleteach.

  16. E A says:

    James, you’re right about the ease of obtaining a license here and also how driving is considered a rite of passage in the U.S.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to implement a “road users educational course” to middle school children to teach them the rules of the road for ALL users – including pedestrians and bicyclists. That’s the age when most kids start riding bikes on the street and it would be good to educate them at the outset.

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