Road rage

Usually my commute to work is a quiet and unremarkable affair. Either something happened while I was in Atlanta or this is National Road Rage Day, because I have never had a commute like the one I had today before. At every stop sign I stopped only to be passed by a speeding car that barely slowed, driver honking frantically, as they spun directly in front of me to make a right or left turn. The fact that I caught up at the next stop sign/stop light without breaking a sweat or even trying hard only served to further enrage them. But the fact that bicycles are faster than cars in traffic is not news in San Francisco.

At one stop sign a scooter rider passed me on the right to jump in front of me in queue as I was making a left turn. When I caught up to her at the next stop light, she had moved (illegally) into the bike lane to jump the queue of cars at the light. I rode up to her and said, “It’s very rude to go around me on the right just to jump the line.” She looked shocked that I had pierced her bubble and ran the red light to get away from me. On the bright side, she stopped poaching the bike lane. Instead she swerved into oncoming traffic to get ahead of cars.

As my dissertation adviser used to say, “These people eventually fall of their own weight.”

On the last leg to work, which is on a quiet residential street, I was puttering away up the hill when I heard frantic honking behind me and a revving engine. So I stopped and looked. “What?” I asked. Directly behind me a woman in a giant SUV appeared to be screaming curses (soundproofing: it works both ways) and waving me toward the sidewalk. “I’M SUPPOSED TO TAKE THE LANE,” I said loudly and slowly. Continuing to honk, she swerved in a screech around me and drove off… to the stop sign 100 feet ahead (which she ignored, granted). San Francisco residents will not be surprised that two small children were sitting in the back seat of her SUV.

A pedestrian on the sidewalk stopped dead in disbelief. “You were right!” he yelled to me. “F#@% that lady!”

I’ve never seriously considered a helmet cam until today. If I had had one, I wouldn’t be kicking myself now that I didn’t get photos of all these people’s license plates. None of them should be behind the wheel of a car.


Filed under commuting, San Francisco, traffic

7 responses to “Road rage

  1. Well, looking at the bright side, it’s probably better to get all the jerks in a single day. That way you only arrive at work angry one day vs every day. But it sucks to start the day in a hostile environment.

    Re: the honking woman in the SUV. For some reason, I’ve only been honked/yelled at by women, mostly for taking the lane in narrow lanes. I guess the guys don’t have any problem just going around.

    • I agree that women drivers seem to honk and yell more than men, which mystifies me. Maybe it’s like when kids get angry at their parents and kick their dogs. Men seem more likely to pass too close and cut me off. I find it ironic that the one thing I do that irritates drivers more than anything else is stopping at stop signs.

  2. GRJim

    Couple of things: cool blog.

    Secondly, welcome to SF. SUV/breeder mentality has been fully integrated into our once fair city.

    Thirdly (I lied, had one more), Summer Solstice.

    • One of my co-workers said the exact same thing about the summer solstice! Maybe people were mad that the weather was so wintery on the ostensible first day of summer. Also, thanks!

      I tend to flinch at the word breeder, but I agree that there are people here who seem like they’re in San Francisco but not of San Francisco: they would never ride Muni or send their kids to SF public schools. They’d be easy to ignore if they didn’t drive SUVs, but alas. On the other hand, they all end up moving to Marin before their oldest kid’s fifth birthday.

      • GRJim

        Of course the term isn’t aimed at all people who have kids, but I use the term to connote a “my family above all, including my sanity, others’ welfare, others’ ways of living, others in general — they’re just obstacles!” way of thinking that has always been the antithesis of SF’s liberal, accepting philosophy. I see these people as having entirely the wrong spirit to be living here, as they have imported their values and misapplied them here.

        Soapboxy — also SUVs, as currently mega-sized, are completely the wrong scale for our city. They physically barely fit into our lanes. So I was trying to be succinct but look what I end up writing.

        Alright, sorry for the rant.

      • I’ve written before about how we have this hangover minivan that we got when our son was born, shortly before moving into San Francisco, the worst timing ever, and I COMPLETELY AGREE that large motor vehicles are out-of-scale for the city; the minivan makes us crazy. We hope not to have it for much longer, and I’m trying not to make the same mistake all over again with our bikes by being very cautious about cargo bikes that could be too big for San Francisco.

        I get what you’re saying because we made the choice to adjust our lives to being in San Francisco, rather than trying to force it to be something it’s not (like the suburbs). I think the attitude you’re describing is people trying to force it, and their road rage may reflect the fact that this is inherently an impossible effort and thus it’s insanely frustrating. We’ve become much happier as we’ve adjusted to the city, and what an amazing city it is, but it wasn’t always easy.

  3. GRJim

    It’s way, way easier than it used to be. Been riding in the city since ’85 off and on; back then it was suicidal. You youngsters don’t have any idea how good you got it.

    This road rage stuff is seasonal and also unpredictable. I make it a point to be extra cautious around full moon cycles, Fridays, rush hours, welfare check delivery dates in certain neighborhoods (sounds harsh, but I used to drive a cab) and whenever the Entitlement Index reaches red.

    On the other side of road rage is mellow, drivers now ashamed of previous events.

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