Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Group W Bench, VA
Diatribe re: lane encroachment (warning: lengthy)
I'm not sure where to post this since some of it is just riding talk (General Discussion), potentially-colorful venting (Off-topic) and dealing with unusual events (Riding Proficiency) but here goes. I feel it's critical to explain the fine points about what happened so I apologize in advance for writing a book about it:
I had a rather unusual encroachment into my lane the while riding home on Friday evening in a rainstorm in heavy traffic. I was in the leftmost lane on a 4-lane freeway and in the HOV lane, which is allowed to be occupied by any vehicle with two or more passengers, hybrids and motorcycles are also allowed. Traffic was crawling along at 10-20 MPH for miles, and cases like this I keep about 2 second's worth of space between me and the vehicle in front of me, or a car length or less when it gets under 10 MPH (any more than that you're inviting people into your lane in front of you)
Normally I ride on the left side of the left lane (right next to the yellow line) since it offers good visibility ahead and plenty of time and space to react if/when someone decides to move in from the adjoining lane. However if traffic on the right starts going by faster I move to the right side of the lane so I'm more easily visible to someone coming up from behind. Behind me, there was a red SUV which had been there for some time, it was in that lane when I merged into it several miles before with plenty of space in front of it - it had many car lengths of empty space in front of it when I merged in and I did not force my way into the lane in front of it. It stayed back there for many miles keeping a safe distance and didn't appear to be a factor, so I kept a casual eye on it without undue concern compared to everything else going on around me.
Until I noticed suddenly, it got quite close and all of a sudden the right front fender is coming even with my left elbow...and the guy is in my lane, coming even with me, and of course I'm reacting by squeezing right and riding the line between lanes as I watch this guy pass me on the left in my own lane. He didn't even seem to have the courtesy to cross the yellow line on the left to give me space. Since I was already in the (small) escape route that existed, I didn't have too many other places to go or much else to but look at him through the passenger window as it came even with me. At which point I laid on the horn as I was looking right at him and he was looking directly at me. And I am POSITIVE he knew exactly what he was doing and saw me the whole time. He had been behind me for quite a while, and I'm tall, quite visible, and very hard to miss.
For whatever reason this made him back off and I raised my left arm in a "WTF!?" kind of gesture, and he backed off many car distances behind and stayed there - I had the impression that his passenger, a woman, was his wife and maybe she was chewing him out something fierce. I mean I hope she was.
I chalked it up to being just a true brain fart and kept my eye on him closely but eventually, after more miles, what with rain and other traffic to watch, and the situation seemingly having calmed down, I was caught by surprise again somewhat when he decided to change lanes to the right when that lane started moving faster again, and he passed VERY close to my right side. So close as to appear intentional.
Since it was raining and getting dark, discretion was the better part of valor and I fought off any urge to chase him down and shake my fist at whim or whatever. Thinking about it since then at odd times over the weekend, I've played out various Sons Of Anarchy-themed scenarios and toyed with the idea of mounting a quick-release clip to the bike that could carry a small 4-lb sledgehammer to be used on windows or side mirrors, but that's just a fruitless exercise in fantasy that always ends up in some no-win scenario at the side of the road with blue lights flashing, or in court. So keeping cool was the right choice. This time.
Other than reminding myself that it's impossible to be too vigilant even in regards to drivers or situations that appear to be non-factors, I'm tempted to use this as a case to rally for legalizing lane-splitting here in this state during rush hour. Seriously - if some putz can force me into lane-splitting by knowingly shoving me onto the line by passing me in my lane from behind, then why shouldn't I be given some control over the situation and do the same thing, but at my own discretion?
Thanks for listening.
"Ignorance is a powerful tool if applied at the right time, even usually surpassing knowledge." - E.J. Potter