Previously in the “Dan is mad at bike lane parkers” saga.
I’ve moved on to Tactic 8: I bought some nametag stickers and wrote on them “I parked in a bike lane”, and have stuck them on a couple cars that are in bike lanes. A change to what I proposed before: these stickers are not bumper stickers, they are harmless and easily removed; the goal is to either spark people to think about it (not likely) or to give them 5 seconds of annoyance as a penalty for doing a slightly annoying thing.
On Wednesday, I try Tactic 5a: stopping in front of a parked car, and kind of waving “hey, can you move out of the bike lane?” (this has been somewhat effective, really!) The driver, a ~30 year old white man in an Audi unfortunately with a resemblance to David Tennant more striking than my own, waves “no.” I go “come on, please?” He goes “nope!” So I put a sticker on the hood of his car.
Guy gets pissed, jumps out of car, pulls sticker off, and shoves me off my bike onto the ground. (I am unhurt.) We start yelling at each other, crowd gathers, etc. He’s maintaining that I put the sticker on his car, he shoved me, so we’re even. I think I said “you think so? want to let the cops settle that?” He says sure, call the cops. So I do.
A couple of other cyclists are going “come on, you two, just shake hands and make up, don’t waste the cops' time.” I coax a gritted-teeth apology out of him: “I’m sorry.” “You’re sorry for…” “For pushing you.” “And for parking in the bike lane.” “… uh, for double parking.” “No, for parking in the bike lane.”
These other bikers are pressuring me to shut up and accept his apology (as well as scolding me for stickering his car in the first place), so I do, and I ask the cops to cancel the call.
Guy and I then talk more, and I think “ah great, we’re all calmed down, we might come to some mutual understanding!” Nope. He goes on to explain that it’s just traffic, deal with it, dude. I’m saying “yeah, but this makes me swerve around you, which is dangerous, and this is exactly what a bike lane is trying to prevent.” He says he doesn’t care and is going to keep parking in bike lanes anyway. Eventually he goes “Look, I don’t want to be having this conversation anymore. Have a good one.” and climbs back in his impervious metal box.
I’m unimpressed with his… basically, his retraction of his apology! When I thought we might be cooling nerves and he might be realizing he’s taken it too far… instead, turns out he’s just saying what he really thinks now that he knows the cops won’t actually show up. I call back the police and ask if there’s anything we can do at this point. We did get his license plate, and it’s in the incident report, so in fact yes, we can still file charges.
I go into the police office the next day to make a statement. I try to figure out what happens next - turns out it’d probably be that he’d get charged with misdemeanor battery (possible sentence: up to $2k fine and 6 months jail and/or probation), we’d both have to show up in court, and we see what happens. I decide to take the statement home and think about it.
So many thoughts at this point! And this is 3 days later. I think I’ve let them settle to where I can put them in order. (and post them publicly on the internet? *shrug*)
The primary feelings are anger and frustration because I feel somewhat powerless here, and because he “won.”
What happens if I do file a report?
Probably nothing happens - the case gets dismissed somehow.
Maybe we both go in front of a judge and the judge says “you two play nice now, ok?” I would feel good that Dude was inconvenienced; I would feel shitty because he “won.” He would continue being a terrible person.
Maybe the judge would convict him of this, and he would get a fine and/or probation. That’d be great. Maybe it’d be a “oh geez, I’m kind of a jerk” moment, and he’d clean up his act.
Maybe the judge convicts him, and he actually goes to jail! Uh, I would feel… kinda bad about this. Like, he’s a rich white kid so I think he’d be ok, but… I dunno, this would feel disproportionate. (to be clear, if he was nonwhite, I probably would not have even bothered him in the first place and certainly would not call the cops on him!) However, the chance of this is (I hope!) miniscule.
Maaaybe I get hit with some fault of my own for putting a sticker on his car! I mean, who knows. He’d probably try to make a case that I was “menacing” him or something because I made physical contact with his precious Audi.
In any of these cases, I have to deal with it longer, and that exacts a logistical and emotional toll on me, which I could very easily not do. I mean, it’s not like I have medical bills that he should pay for or something.
What happens if I don’t file a report? Guy continues to be an ass. This is kind of a problem. I hate to let that guy continue to exist in the world. Probably he is not as much of an ass usually, but I do feel bad letting him be out there in the world and thinking that whatever he does is ok.
Hold up - this case is dumb as hell, right?
But remember, this is because of the shove, not the bike lane.
However! If there were no bike lane, I would shrug it off. Like, I start arguing with some guy at a bar and he shoves me - there’s no way I’m filing a police report.
If there were no shove, I wouldn’t even think about it either! As a result, this makes me think that I’m playing “gotcha” - the result is, “I tweaked you enough that you fought back, and now that I’ve got a concrete instance of you technically battering me (though I was totally fine) I’m going to take you down.”
Why am I playing gotcha? Is this maybe a case of misdirected anger at other things in my life, surfacing as righteous fury at bike lane jerks?
Ok, but this whole bike lane fixation is dumb as hell and I should get on with my life, right?
Well, “grant me the courage to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I can’t, and the wisdom to tell the difference, right? (see also: Ram’s answer to my last post)
Which category does bike-lane-parking fall under? … probably a “serenity to accept what I can’t.” Fighting bike lane parkers one by one is Not Very Effective.
But overall bike infrastructure is a “courage to change what I can.” Organize lobby phonebank vote etc!
On the other hand, I hate doing this kind of work.
So maybe this is a “serenity to accept what I can’t, while doing the normal background amount of courage like voting and donating and stuff.”
Yeah, ok, I can deal with that. Based on the last point on #4 here, this might be just misdirection of anger from just the general stress of life.
Still, f this guy.
But: maybe I caught him on the worst day of his life, who knows.
If that is wishful thinking and he is always an ass, well… that tends to be its own reward, and it’s ok if I don’t accelerate it.
For my part, usually I’ve found the best thing to do with Very Unpleasant People is to just stay away from them forever, if possible.
F these other bikers too. Seriously: what the hell? Nattering on about “well, you shouldn’t be stickering people’s cars”… I have little patience for this sentiment of “the status quo is wrong but let’s not make anyone upset ever.” If someone is standing up for what’s right, you take their side 100%.
I get why people don’t report crimes sometimes. Not at all saying this is anywhere near the same magnitude as sexual assault survivors but I kinda get the feeling of “I think I have a 90%-solid case to hammer this terrible human, but that’s not 100%; I might just get laughed out of the room; and this whole thing is embarrassing and it would just feel really bad to open it back up.”
That said, all the cops I talked to were remarkably cool about this whole thing! I can imagine them rolling their eyes a lot at this case, but nobody did. The lady at the station who was helping me figure out what would happen in this case, particularly, seemed very adept at conflict resolution and interested in helping me sort through what I wanted out of it.
Finally, notice for a moment all the weirdness that the metal box of the car adds to this situation. He feels threatened when I touched his metal box. (probably because many metal-box-damages cost hundreds or thousands to fix.) He has the luxury to withdraw from any situation he doesn’t like, into his metal box. The size of his metal box is the problem in the first place (a double parked bike/scooter/longboard/etc probably doesn’t even impede anyone). So: electric cars, rentable cars, self-driving cars, Uber/Lyft cars, (fill in the blank) cars are no solution. As long as we are addicted to these metal boxes that take you out of your environment, we’ll have drivers (or passengers) being obnoxious because of them.
:( I’m sorry about this whole thing! It sounds bad :(
(not sure how to phrase that well in text; I thought about just saying “:(”, because that’s the content here, but that seems hard to interpret)
Thank you! It is kind of you to say so. Another thing I am learning in this case is the difference between something that is externally very bad, and something that internally feels very bad. This is not externally very bad and the “objective” “outside voice” from me says “don’t write a 3000 word blog post about this, it’s stupid!” But it is internally bad and I am allowed to feel bad about it, even if the correct course of action is “do nothing.” Being a human is complicated, part N.
I totally feel this, and having terminology for “internally bad” vs. “externally bad” seems useful. I had an internally bad experience like this at the vet the other day (suspected I’d been badly overcharged + pressured into a medical test, which internally registers as “dude you’ve been mugged!"), and all I could really do was be mad for a while and wait for the (mild, but still qualitatively) trauma to pass. Well, and look up a bunch of prices to see if this vet has Actually Mugged Me, so we can get a new vet if appropriate :)
Ugh! Yes I feel that! Hell, I’ve had that feeling when bargaining for tourist trinkets, and even when it’s about literally a dollar it can feel internally bad. But then you tell someone and they’re like “dude it’s a dollar, and you’re rich, and the trinket seller isn’t, I cannot believe you’re mad about this” and I’m like “yes you’re externally correct, but but but but…”
Anyway, sorry you got Possibly or Actually Mugged!
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