A Shared Bike-Cab Moment

Q: What would cause a bicyclist and a cab driver to share a moment in the middle of a busy Chicago intersection?

A: Nearly falling victim to a supremely stupid and dangerous move by another driver.

On my way home yesterday, as I waited in the middle of an busy three-way intersection to turn left – my light was green but through traffic from the other direction had the right-of-way – a big SUV pulled next to me and then awkwardly inched itself half-way in front of me at a turning angle, effectively cutting me off and placing me dangerously within its turning radius. I was thinking, “What the hell, moron??” and had to walk my bike backward. (True to stereotypical form, the driver was a woman talking on a cell phone.)

We sat there as one, two, three cars went by coming from the other direction. There was one more car, a cab, in the line of right-of-way traffic. Our light was still green. Shockingly, the SUV driver turned left right in front of the cab. She did not dart out quickly; she simply turned as if she had all the time in the world.

For a split second I was sure the cab would crash into the her and both would crash into me. Thankfully, the cab driver managed to stop in time by slamming on his brakes and the SUV continued on as if nothing strange had happened, leaving the cab driver and me stopped in the middle of the busy intersection, staring at each other and shaking our heads in disbelief. Happy to have someone to commiserate with, he made a “What was she thinking????” gesture and I responded with a “I have no idea, but that shit was crazy!” gesture. We shared a moment. Then he continued straight and I turned left, strangely giddy for the rest of my ride home.

I deal with so much ridiculousness on my bike every day, connecting with a driver about the confirmed idiocy of another driver was oddly comforting. It reassured me that I am not the crazy one. It also reminded me that cars are not my natural enemy; rather, stupid drivers are a common enemy to all. I prefer to focus on that part of the incident, rather than think too much about the fact that there are so many drivers distracted by cell phones that they don’t know or even care what they’re doing on the roads. After all, if the cab had crashed into this woman, she probably would not have been injured in her huge SUV and I’m sure she has insurance, so why should she care enough to follow the law and not talk on her cell phone while driving? That would be terribly inconvenient.

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29 thoughts on “A Shared Bike-Cab Moment

  1. GravelDoc says:

    Your close call sounds really frightening. I wonder if your giddiness might also have been, in part, due to the surge of adrenaline that happens due to the “fight or flight” physiological response to such close calls. Although I don’t necessarily like “tattle tales”, I certainly would not criticize anyone for taking down a license plate number and reporting the offending party for such careless and imprudent driving.

  2. bongobike says:

    Clueless in Chicago. Nothing more terrifying and infuriating than a totally clueless driver in a big-ass SUV.

  3. Jesse says:

    Ah yes, I’ve had that “left turn from the right lane” happen to me as well. Along with the “right turn in front of me from the left lane because they didn’t want to wait for the green light”, and just recently, the shocking “left turn into the oncoming traffic lane rather than going around me” maneuver. (That one’s a bit hard to describe – I was waiting to make a left. A car approaching from the right wanted to make a left turn, but instead of turning around me as they should have, they cut the corner and made a left turn straight onto my street on my right hand side!)

    Drivers like that scare the heck of me, mostly because of the complete lack of respect for me as a participant in traffic.

  4. Thom says:

    Glad you’re OK! I hate it when that happens.
    BIG suv’s must be some kind of driver prozac.
    Let’s let the air out of her tires, see if she notices.

  5. SleDog says:

    Big SUV + Insurance, that’s moral hazard X 2

  6. Miss Sarah says:

    What I still don’t get is that cars don’t understand that bikes are entitled to the whole lane if they want. So if you wouldn’t cut a car off that way, ditto for a bike.

    Even in North Van where the bike lanes end and we were riding as a foursome on the street, all very straight and single-file, people honked at us and articulated that we should “get off the road” despite the fact that there wasn’t even a sidewalk. Just a ditch on either side of the road. And what kills me is that it wasn’t even BUSY on the road.

    When people cut me off or pull up without realizing I’m there, I usually start pounding on their car (not damage inducing) with my fist and yell something to the effect of “WTF?!”

    Maybe it’s perpetuating the myth that we’re all crazy, angry, thrill seekers. But… wtf?!



  7. RobW says:

    As a legally blind cyclist, (I’d much prefer the armorplate of a car chassis with these type drivers) I am finding this “excuse me while I ignore you” mentality a growing epidemic. People just dont care that they are endangering everyone on the road. Ga Law allows it, so in some places I just take the dead center of the lane, and even that doesnt help sometimes. This type of entitlement driving we are seeing is really starting to get scary.

    • *amanda* says:

      What! A! Story!
      …and well put explaination of what’s really a cyclist’s worst enemy: reckless people driving cars, not the cars THEMSELVES.

      On two *completely* UNrelated notes:

      1) Are there going to be LGRAB Summer Games 2011?? ‘Cause if there are, that would be TOTALLY RADICAL!

      2) How many bikes do you own? I have one that I adore. I ride it with the boyf, and used it for last Summer’s LGRAB games. I recently purchased a cheap Schwinn for $150, because HOW COULD I NOT for $150?!?!?! Now…(I feel a little guilty to say)…I’m eyeing a Biria Easy Boarding Comfort Bike…like, badly eyeing it…should I purchase??? :P

      • jenny says:

        April said:
        I swear that 9 times out of 10, if someone almost hits me, or does the classic “slows down at stop sign and then goes without looking,” they’re on a cell phone.

        Which is ILLEGAL in Oregon!

        It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving in Chicago as well, but it doesn’t seem to stop anyone!

  8. As a shop cat, I find my wanderings to be just as perilous around you cyclists as you zip around corners. Luckily, my cat reflexes are a lot faster than you wheel-spinning bi-peds. Be careful out there and keep on pedaling!

    • Matthew Sterling says:

      Milo, glad to hear your speedy reflexes have kept you safe but there are some simple precautions you and other cats might consider to make your wanderings less perilous. I know this is a challenge but signaling your turns would be nice.

      Silliness aside, this is scary as hell when drivers do stuff like that. I’ve had cars come around me like that a couple different times in a left turn lane. Not cool.

  9. April says:

    I swear that 9 times out of 10, if someone almost hits me, or does the classic “slows down at stop sign and then goes without looking,” they’re on a cell phone.

    Which is ILLEGAL in Oregon!

    It makes me want to throw things at them. Preferably rocks. At their windows.

  10. Hilarious description of the gestures/ facial expressions! I share a lot of those moments with other cars. After all, it’s Boston, and horrible drivers are common as dirt.

    • Tinker says:

      Boston roads, all by themselves scare the HELL out of me! Freeway speeds on city streets, no limited access, no on-ramps, no NOTHING.

  11. martha p says:

    seems counterintuitive, but I am finding that bus and taxi drivers are often my allies out there, as scary as they may seem … at least they are usually focused on driving and not their iphones…

  12. Maureen says:

    Oh Dottie, sorry this happened to you, and I’m glad physically you remain unscathed! I’ve noticed an increasing amount of negligent driving lately! I don’t have an answer as to why though.
    As far as “on cell” it’s been illegal here in NY for several years, yet you see it constantly!
    BE CAREFUL OUT THERE – as stated in the old series Hill Street Blues.

  13. Amy says:

    Wow, dangerous oblivious morons abound. Sheesh. I had one end up next to me just yesterday. I was in a line of traffic on a two lane road (one lane either direction) approaching a stop sign. Lady in a car behind me thought that she might be able to squeak past to get in front of me at the stop sign, but didn’t have enough space. So she just stopped beside me. In the oncoming lane. With oncoming traffic which had to stop. There were other cars that had been behind her that were now behind me preventing her from getting back over. And nobody honked or made a rude gesture to her or anything. They all just sat there staring at each other. It was almost as if since she was in a car then her carelessness was acceptable. I just rolled my eyes and made my way up to the stop and carried on.

  14. L says:

    A friend of a friend was heavily fined for using a cell phone while driving in Singapore.

  15. Karen says:

    What a scary few moments! I’m pretty sure we’ve all had plenty of similar experiences, often involving a driver in a large vehicle, distracted by a cell phone, texting, or even reading a magazine while driving. I think that part of what fuels this dangerous and inconsiderate way of operating a car is the drivers are often not cyclists themselves and feel pretty impervious to harm in their oversized vehicles. They don’t share the same level of concern about hitting someone or being hit because they feel protected. And since in many cities, even drivers who strike cyclists due to their own negligance still don’t face very serious consequences they just don’t see it as a big concern.

  16. Liz says:

    I have a mini roundabout just by my house – (used to be a four way crossroads but now there is a raised mini roundabout – which many people drive over rather than round). Now roundabouts are tricky for cyclists since you are supposed to give way to the right (UK) but often they dont give way if the person is a cyclist – but I have had more problems with people overtaking me ON the roundabout! Yesterday I had someone do it so that when they had to turn to go round their rear end almost knocked me off! – If I had thought quicker I would have given it a fist pound to freak them out and raise their awareness. But normally when I yell at them they look at me and laugh or shrug! So rude!!! I get total bike rage.

  17. Julia says:

    Her brain just didn’t see the cab. She probably didn’t see you either. When you have a disembodied voice talking in your ear to YOU, it is a whole different sort of brain activity than having a passenger or the radio talking to you. It is like schizophrenia. That voice is Authority and your brain works differently when you hear it. This is the reason the talking on the cell phone in the car while driving should be illegal.

  18. JennM says:

    Goodness! Glad it all turned out OK in the end. For some reason, driving has become a time for multi-tasking in recent years. A time for talking on the phone or text messaging or putting on mascara. That’s why I like my bike! I’m forced to slow life down and just DO ONE THING. It’s nice.

  19. […] A Shared Bike-Cab Moment […]

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