When cooler heads prevail on the pedals
I’m going to tell you a story today.
This is a true story. No exaggeration. No embellishment.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were riding bicycles on a gorgeous fall afternoon. She’s new to the game but seems to really be enjoying the bicycle. Sunday afternoon seems to be our time to do this together.
Although most of my riding is still going to be with a decidedly faster crowd, I have enjoyed these nice little rides, although that’s not really what my wife thinks of them — 30 miles to her is halfway across the country.
On this particular day, we were slowly climbing up a long not-too-steep hill near where we live, when along came a motorized vehicle whose driver really didn’t think we should be riding bikes on that particular stretch of road — or any road, for that matter.
To say that he violated the Jeff Roth 3-foot-law (an excellent piece of legislation passed by Senator Doug Overbey that requires drivers of motorized vehicles to give bicycles at least 3 feet in clearance as they pass) is an understatement.
I motioned for him to come back, not for a fight but to show him that I am a human being whose life he had just put in jeopardy.
I got my wish. Let’s just say that the rest of this encounter was rather ugly. I stayed calm because I feared for my safety and that of my wife. In an attempt to personalize the encounter, I told him my name (big mistake), but he said he knew who I was anyway.
When he sped off, I wrote down his license tag number.
For the next couple of days, I agonized over what to do. Press charges? Have law enforcement officers pay him a visit? My biking buddies wanted to form a posse and pay him a visit. None of that appealed to my wife. Or to me, really.
All I could think of was retaliation. But fear and anxiety compelled me to do nothing. I was angry and frustrated.
Then on the third day, I came to realize that retaliation was not the way to go. That I didn’t need revenge but that I needed to reach out to this guy with kindness. Answered prayer? Probably, but I didn’t think of it in those terms at that moment.
Still, I had reason to believe, based on our only encounter, that a visit from me might not be well received. So I did nothing.
Then the next day, I’m at work and our receptionist came to me and told me that there was this guy on the phone that really wanted to talk to me. I’m perpetually busy and I usually have her take a message but she recommended that I talk to this guy. So I took the call.
It turns out it was him. The guy from the encounter on the road. He had called to apologize. He was genuinely remorseful. He asked for forgiveness and I gave it to him.
The absolute best case scenario for this whole event was for this fellow to realize that he made a mistake, apologize, and then change the way he treats bicycle riders. I think that’s what has happened.
Despite the fact that our initial encounter was really, really bad, I truly believe that this guy is deep down a good guy. I also believe that the roads are safer because of this episode.
And maybe both he and I are better people because of it.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (email@example.com)