BikeSnob NYC, Bicycling - Photo:Dan Barham
It was a lovely spring day and my friend and I were riding two-abreast on a quiet street, spinning and chatting easily. Somewhere, Edvard Grieg's "Morning Mood" should have been playing.Then from behind us came an urgent honking. Before we could rearrange ourselves in single file, the driver accelerated alongside us, leaned across her passenger seat, and shouted: "What you're doing is very dangerous!"
Dangerous? We were hardly juggling knives here. As far as I could tell the only threat to anybody was the two tons of Swedish steel, driven by an angry woman looking 90 degrees away from the road.
Whether you're piloting your car, your bicycle, your Segway, or just your ¬flip-flops, the paramount rule is: Be considerate of your fellow travelers.
But what to do when that mutual tolerance breaks down, as it sometimes does on the road? A sidewalk tête-á-tête is too fleeting and fraught to attempt to forge a lasting peace. Instead, it's best to treat a conflict like an early breakaway in a race and just let it go. Here are four hard-won tips, learned over two decades of pedaling around New York and other cities, for avoiding altercations—plus a few words on how to resolve them if it's too late.
Do No Wrong
Cyclists are often the most vulnerable party in an altercation, but we're not always saints. Did you coast through a stop sign? Swerve across the street? Or ride against traffic? Head off potential problems by following the law.
Anticipate Bad Driving
That driver should check before flinging open his door, but he won't. He's also likely to speed though an intersection before (or just as) the light turns red, or cut you off by making a sharp right turn. Reduce the chance of an accident by riding defensively and expecting the worst.
Don't Fuel the Fire
Arguing with an irritated driver can make a bad situation worse. It's best to remain calm, say nothing, and keep riding. If things get ugly, stay safe and call the police.
Know the System
Learn local traffic laws that affect cyclists. If you are in an accident or altercation, be sure to get the driver's name, address, and insurance info. Also record the names of any police officers and witnesses. Get a copy of the accident report and make sure the information is correct.