So there I was at the corner of Allen and Franklin Streets waiting for the light to change so I could make a left hand turn. It was already balmy. I had a bucket of just-mixed raw bread dough on my front rack (pictured above), which I bake at work during the hot weather so I don’t have to heat up my teeny home kitchen (the ovens are on all day at work anyhow). And as I stood straddling my bike I was enjoying the balmy weather but–I have to admit–dreading going to work in a hot kitchen. I was sort of daydreaming, I suppose, and glanced down at the bucket of dough thinking I’ll refrigerate it when I get to work (the heat and humidity would make it rise too quickly, resulting in a young dough). It was a little after 8am and not many cars on the narrow street. I heard a car approach behind me so I held out my left arm, indicating to the driver that I was turning left. And that’s when I heard it, first the horn then the yelling.
HOONNK…HONNNK! GET OUTTA THE ROAD!
Startled at first, then I turned in disbelief..maybe, I thought, this was not directed at me. But I was wrong. So I pointed towards the corner and yelled back “I’m turning left”…only to be met with:
HONNNNK…HOOONNNK! GET OUTTA THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!
The bumper to her car was just a few feet behind me, I have to say it made me a bit nervous. But here’s the best part:
The traffic light hadn’t even changed yet, if I was not in front of her she wouldn’t be going anywhere.
Now my blood pressure was beginning to rise, but I kept my composure. I calmly turned the bike around and went to her car window. The middle aged woman that was behind the wheel was like a caricature of a crazy-mad driver…there seemed to be spirals in her eyes and smoke coming from her nose and ears. I went directly to the window–didn’t raise my voice but I’m sure I had a “tone”–and told her that the bike that I was on was a street legal vehicle and had the same rights as her car, and that I was using hand signals, following the law, and had every right to be where I stood. For a second her eyes seemed to roll in back of her head, then she spat: “Get outta the road!” and then hit the gas (the light had changed). When she took off, making a left turn as well, her car nearly swiped me and if I didn’t remove my foot from her tire’s path it may have been ran over.
If I had a dollar for every time a person told me to get out of their way, get off the road, or on the sidewalk (pavements to my friends across the pond) I would be a “monetarily wealthy” person (and I purposely put quotes on monetarily wealthy because I believe there are many other ways to be wealthy than having buckets of cash).
Anyhow, and contrary to many motorists belief (and some bicyclists, I suppose), adults on bikes belong on the road and it is, in fact, illegal for an adult in New York State to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. This got me thinking about other legalities and rights, and it didn’t take me long to find them. Here’s a couple snippets, to read the entire page on bicycle laws in New York State click here. And yes, I realize I’m likely preaching to the choir but I just had to vent. Thanks for listening. The italics and some of the bold lettering in the below quotes were placed by me.
§ 1231. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles or skating or gliding on in-line skates.
Every person riding a bicycle or skating or gliding on in-line skates upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this title, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to those provisions of this title which by their nature can have no application.
§ 1234. Riding on roadways, shoulders, bicycle or in-line skates lanes and bicycle or in-line skates paths.
(a) Upon all roadways, any bicycle or in-line skates shall be driven either on a usable bicycle or in-line skates lane or, if a usable bicycle or in-line skates lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge. Conditions to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, in-line skates, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle or person on in-line skates and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.
Yes, I live a long way from Texas–where the above sign is designated–but I came across the sign recently (can’t remember where) and love it…and I wish there were some of these around NY State. It is, I think, good, really good to know your rights. But sometimes, such as when there is a lunatic in a large car directly behind you, it doesn’t make a difference. I’m sure if someone saw me immediately after my encounter I would have looked visibly shaken. I only had another city block to pedal before I arrived at work. As I pedaled a phrase from Mahatma Gandhi came to mind…
And this is what I thought about when I turned into my place of work and could see that just a few hundred feet down the road the woman who needed me “outta her way” so badly was stopped at the very next traffic signal.