Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

I’m sure I’ve written on this subject before. I know thousands of other cycling bloggers have, so I’ll make it short in case you’ve heard it all before.

I’ve had two rides this week that included some questionable car driving and unquestionable aggression. The first was on Saturday morning (always a weird time on the road here in France), when I was honked at by a driver and given the doigt d’honneur by the passenger. Later in the ride a car that looked a lot like the little black Twingo that assaulted my calm drove by again and yelled something unintelligible.

I know what you in North America are thinking, ‘at least he didn’t pull a gun on you’ (I’ve heard this happening more than once), and it really only hit me because of the rarity of such events. Maybe every 3 or 4 months…maybe.

Today the drivers just seemed to be fed up with their de-confinement already and wishing they were back in their government-subsidized house arrest. Cars passing me far too close, oncoming cars passing other cars and squeezing me over to the non-existent shoulder, that sort of thing. One was Belgian, but I’m not going to make any conclusions…yet.

The other day I happened upon a Facebook post from somewhere in the US that was the usual ‘us vs them’ conversation between car drivers and cyclists, and I quickly realized once again that, man, I got it made in France. I’m sure these go-nowhere arguments exist here, but for the vast majority of my many rides all over Southern Europe people share the road. I don’t have a lot of experience riding back home on roads, but from what I gather from my friends that do, it’s not always the case.

Feel free to tell me how lucky I am.

18 thoughts on “Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

  1. Hi Ger, I have since installed a front light on my bike as well as a rear light. The response from drivers in my neck of the woods or your Mom’s has been nothing but positive. I find in the past I had more close calls with drivers passing other cars towards me as opposed to just passing me from behind. Now they see me and are actually careful before attempting such a move.

    • Good to hear, Pierre. I’ve had all good experiences back home, too. That trip from Montreal to Gaspe that we started together is a good example. Not one issue at all.

  2. I used lights for the first time today after a conversation with a friend. I think that it is probably useful to indicate to motorists that you are thinking about them. A motorist actually stopped to let me past on a narrow road today, an unusual occurrence.

      • It depends, for me… I’ve got my Venge down to a slim 15 pounds but I still use a Garmin radar/taillight when I ride solo (usually on my heavier rain bike, but sometimes you just gotta ride the good bike, eh?). There’s no question motorists treat me differently when I’m flying the light… in fact, now that I really give it some thought, I wonder if the light signals to motorists that I’m not a pretentious weight wienie (even though I really am) and therefore they offer a little more courtesy because I’m not “one of those cyclists”.

        Oh, now that can get the melon cranking!

  3. It depends on where you live, brother. The USA is a big place with a whole mess of people from all walks of life. Where I live, west of Flint, Michigan, it’s a cyclist’s heaven. We’ve got hundreds of miles of quiet, wonderful roads.

    • I’m genuinely glad to read this, Jim. I must hear a lot of the negative stuff because people end up comparing back home with what we’re riding in France with clients.

    • I need to have thick skin for that. I rode a scooter in Malaysia and a motorcycle in Thailand/India and immediately understood that ‘size matters’ on the roads of some countries. I’m not sure I’d be a cyclist if I was there!

  4. A funny thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I witnessed a typical car driver argument with a passing cyclist (not me), only it was the cyclist who threatened gun violence on the car driver! So, yes we definitely have our guns in America. The cycling industry has enjoyed a huge boom over here and there are definitely more folks riding. We’re nowhere near the sort of critical mass needed to make a major difference in the minds of motorists, but every little bit helps. Like other posters, I’ve taken to using a tail light during day rides. Add the weight, Gerry. Just think how fast your bike will feel when you take it off on race day!

  5. The only thing I’ll say here for the moment, lest I go off on an unbridled rant about my currently pathetic excuse for a once-great nation, is “Maybe a canister of pepper gel, if you must, rather than a gun.” Works on dogs and other wildlife as well as jacked-up drivers of jacked-up pickup trucks.

    • You can save that rant for the next time we are enjoying a nice meal after a great ride in Europe. Or you can let ‘er rip right now. I’ve got lots of time to read these days!

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