As car drivers, you've been there before. Distracted by that game of Angry Birds, the burger you're shoving into your fat face or just asleep at the wheel, you've nearly killed a motorcyclist. You might even have tried to do so on purpose. But underneath that helmet is an actual human being. Here's what happens when you try and kill one of us.
The idea for this article occurred to me the other morning. Riding home from a girl's house through rush hour traffic in LA, the big ol' Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX I was riding was just a tad too wide to make it between a V6, slushbox-equipped Mustang and a parked car. Toot, toot and the car scooted an inch to the left to let me by, just as I'd intended. But, as soon as I'd ridden through the gap, the driver got on the horn and the passenger started yelling out the window. I didn't even clip that black plastic mirror as I'd ridden by so just figured it was the usual thing - jealousy.
Turned right on Melrose, looked in my mirror, and there was that V6 Mustang again, now veering wildly between lanes, its rental car-spec suspension heaving and wallowing, its slushbox desperately hunting for acceleration. Right up behind me, flashing lights and honking. Ok, I see what you're doing. Universal hand symbol for "wanker" deployed, I popped in front of a couple cars, figuring that'd be enough to dissuade the knuckle draggers. Surely they'd realize that a) I wasn't intimidated and b) they were messing with a more highly evolved form of life. Nope. Pulling into a left turn lane, who's behind me being all honky and flashy again? Why, it's the Mustang twins, fat-n-angry and fat-n-angrier!
Realizing they weren't going to just go away and way too caffeine-free that early to just lose them, I made the turn and pulled the big v-twin across the road. Sidestand down, off the bike and lean back against it arms crossed. Just as I'd planned, a couple cars pulled in behind the Mustang men, effectively blocking them in. Now, you might be thinking that a big, shiny symbol of mediocre credit might just push a skinny blogger and his bike out of the way but, in my experience, the estrogen content in the burgers that give men like these their man tits limits their rage to the impotent variety. We sat like that for a good 10 minutes, me chuckling inside my helmet, them looking like their seatbelts were cutting off circulation to their increasingly red faces, cars behind honking up a fury. Back on the bike and a block down the road they were nowhere to be seen.
Now, if you ride a bike, incidents like these are far from uncommon. Most of the time, when a car driver tries to kill you, it's just because they're texting or grossly incompetent, usually both. You only encounter the hyper-aggression once or twice a day. Out of, say, two dozen murder attempts, that's not so bad. Since you try and kill us so often, we've developed a few defense mechanisms. Here's what goes through our heads when it happens.
An important note: lane splitting is expressly legal in California, where I live, and in the rest of the world outside those 49 freedom-hating states. It'd even be safe if you drivers would bother learning how to drive, then pay attention when you do so.
Thought One: "I wonder how much those wing mirrors cost to replace?"
Thought Two: "Should I tear them off, punch them or just boot that mirror as I ride past?"
Through Three: "That meathead should really get new tires, driving around with them completely bald must be pretty dangerous."
Thought Four: "Oh look, he's getting out of his car. Do you think he realizes I'm wearing head-to-toe body armor and the carbon fiber equivalent of brass knuckles?"
Thought Five: "Man, car drivers are an angry people. They sure do shout into their phones a lot."
Thought Six: "It's not my fault you have to sit in traffic. In fact, by not contributing to congestion, I'm making your wait incrementally shorter. You should be thanking me."
Thought Seven: "If you like that phone so much, then why'd you make me take it from you and throw it over that barbwire fence?"
Thought Eight: "Are red lights and stop signs really that hard to see?
Thought Nine: "I wonder if there's a correspondence between road rage and Clear Channel listening?"
Thought Ten: "Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise."
Thought Eleven: [just making the sound a sheep makes inside your helmet]
Thought Twelve: "This would all be a lot easier if people just looked where they were going."
Thought Thirteen: "Good job, accelerating wildly like that netted you one place in traffic and cost you about $10 in gas."
Thought Fourteen: "You know, you don't have to sit in traffic either. Learning to ride isn't that hard."
Thought Fifteen: "Did your dad never teach you how to drive in the rain? Following that close is a really bad idea."
Thought Sixteen: "You realize that if I tear off your door/mirror/aerial/headlight/whatever, it's a matter for the insurance companies, but if you hit me, you're going to jail, right?"
Thought Seventeen: "Man, it's nice out today."
Thought Eighteen: "Let's see. 100 HP and 400 Lbs or 160 HP and 4,000 Lbs. Who's going to win this race?"
Thought Nineteen: "Wouldn't it be nice if cops wrote tickets for bad driving instead of just speeding? That way, the roads might actually be safe and stuff."
Thought Twenty: "Screw this, I'm outta here."
Photography Credit: Sherman Thomas