When I get on my bike I become much more assertive than usual. I don’t worry about being too pushy because I’m confident in my skills and understand the danger of someone screwing up. At the same time, the super polite manner that my mom instilled in me is hard to kick. The result is me speaking up often, but in a feigned sweet tone. Two circumstances always make me speak up: when a driver opens a car door in my path and when a cyclist passes me in traffic without any warning. These things happen all the time riding in Chicago.
Yesterday was particularly bad for people opening car doors in my path. Five times I had to say, “Look first, please! Thanks!…(under my breath) moron.” One time a nasty woman crowed back, “I did look!” I wouldn’t brag about that, lady, since you decided to open the door anyway. Another time I did not have the patience to muster a polite correction and instead growled, “Watch. It.” while giving the evil eye to a guy who open his door right next to me. If I did not stay on the far side of the bike lane at all times, a door would hit me sooner rather than later.
On top of this, a few cyclists passed me in traffic without ringing a bell or giving any vocal acknowledgment. Combined with drivers opening car doors and massive potholes, that makes for a potentially dangerous situation. I stay aware of my surroundings with my rear view mirror, but some teamwork is required among cyclists on the road to keep everyone safe. I always say, “Ring, ring, get a bell,” or “Say something, please!” in a sweet voice. I’m sure this is annoying for them, but not as annoying as me accidentally knocking them into traffic.
Overall, I think my little comments help. People need reminders that they don’t live in plastic bubbles, population: 1. Most drivers probably forget about how dangerous their doors are to cyclists and a polite reminder will help them remember in the future. And maybe some cyclists simply don’t think about how dangerous it is to pass another cyclist in the bike lane without a peep. At least, that’s my best case scenario hope – otherwise, I’m simply an annoying beeotch.