City Desk

Cyclist vs. Driver on a “Racially Charged” Commute

Prince of Petworth posts a letter from a cyclist who had an angry encounter with a driver during the morning's commute as he waited in the middle of a lane for a light to turn green:

The driver behind me, in a light-gold newish Cadillac, laid on his horn and waved his hands at me from inside the car. I gave a shrug to say “what do you want me to do?” There was no room to pass the stopped traffic on the right, and I wasn’t going to dart out against traffic in the eastbound lane of Florida just to save a few seconds. The driver got out of his car, and we had the following conversation:

Driver: “Get your cracker-ass off the road, I’m trying to get my kids to school!”

Me: “Give me a *ucking break, there’s a red light, where do you want me to go?”

Driver: “On the *ucking sidewalk, you’re lucky my kids are here, or I’d beat your ass.”

The driver was ready to continue this conversation, but at this point, the light had turned green and I was on my way. This exchange left a particularly sour taste in my mouth. Yes, I realize I did not respond in a way to diffuse the situation—that’s just what came out at the moment. I’ve been mulling this over though, trying to figure out what it’s about. Did the 4 feet of space of Florida Ave that me and my bike take up seriously delay this guy from dropping his kids off at school?

Was it really necessary to resort to a nasty racial slur (and in front of his kids)?

Writes a friend of mine in a conversation on Google Reader*:

I'm wondering what the world would be like if every time a black person had an experience with racism they told someone about it who then published it on the Internet.

*Dear Google: Reader is useful! Don't kill it!

Photo by Mike Hicks

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  • Sam2
  • rock+creek

    "I'm wondering what the world would be like if every time a black person had an experience with racism they told someone about it who then published it on the Internet."

    If someone would start pulling together anecdotes RE: this for DC in a blog, I'd definitely read it.

  • Bri

    Call me crazy, but unless this guy is indeed the number one bicycle rule follower in all of DC I am sure there is more to the story prior to him stopping at this light. As someone who commutes in this area daily I have witnessed bicyclists doing all sorts of things that slow up traffic & annoy the crap out of people driving. Not that calling this guy a "racially charged" name was ok, but I have seen enough foolishness in this area that would frustrate even the most mild mannered person. Why was this guy in the middle of the lane anyway? What bicycling rule is THAT?

    Also, if randomly being called a "racially charged" name while you are minding your own business bothers you, you have not been living in the world some of us live in!

  • oboe


    If the cyclist was waiting for the light to change, and was going straight through the light, his being in the center of the lane was perfectly legal and the right thing to do. The asshole in the car needs to put on his big boy pants wait. Sounds like you may need to study up on area traffic laws.

  • Skipper

    Typical cyclist: Someone called me a bad name and didn't celebrate me for being forward thinking! I'm the victim! I had to cry into my nanobrew beer for hours afterwards.

  • oboe


    A bicyclist is a screen onto which a cretin can project just about any motivation. Someone who wouldn't get the fuck out of my way fast enough is clearly arrogant and entitled.

  • Mrs. D

    Bri, this rule:

    "All the rights and responsibilities of motor vehicle operators." Same as, like, every city in the United States and many other places throughout the world.

  • Bri

    For some reason I thought he was between 2 lanes, which I see happen often. I agree that the driver was way out of line.

  • oldmh

    Yes, in this case, the cyclist was completely following the law. Unfortunately most people don't know that that is the law and unfortunately many cyclists ignore the laws, so that doesn't help either. But based on what I'm reading here, the driver had no excuse for being a jerk.

    I run into annoying situations everyday but I manage to refrain from name-calling. Not that hard.

  • Viss1

    This is why riding downtown sucks. DC is still a long way from Portland.

  • Peter Orvetti

    So the driver threatened the cyclist with physical assault? I would have taken the license number and called the police.

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  • Tweety

    There is so much we don't know about this story (although we do know the writer instantly resorts to vulgarity in tense situations). Like most letters of complaint sent into Prince of Petworth, it seems likely this story was told in the most self-serving light possible.