at the risk of sounding trite, can’t we all just get along?

It was a kind of crazy evil magic: where there had been four people biking, suddenly there was one person with a clipped back tire, another one on the ground, and the two of us skidding to a stop to make sure everything was okay.

We’d been biking down the Springwater Corridor on a lovely spring evening to marvel at how high the river was running. Because it was purely a joyride on a multiuse path, we were going slowish, riding next to each other and keeping up a conversation. The two guys coming towards us were going much faster, and as we got closer the one in front slowed down rather abruptly. The guy behind him, not noticing the speed change in time, ran into his back tire and crashed to the ground in front of us.

We stopped. My thought, of course, was to make sure the guy who fell over was okay. He seemed a little miffed that he’d fallen, but otherwise fine. He got back up no problem, thanked us for making sure. After that, I don’t really remember specifics. What I do remember is the guy in front, the one who’d slowed down and been run into, all of a sudden was yelling. “This is what happens when people ride next to each other!” and “I just got rear-ended!” and who knows what else–like I said, I can’t remember the specifics anymore–but super, uncalled-for angry-talk.

It was explosive. It was the most confrontational anyone has ever been with me. And I have no idea where it came from. Certainly if we’d been riding side by side and taking up the whole path I could see him being slightly annoyed that he had to slow down to wait for us (though honestly, on a multiuse path, you have to expect that kind of thing), but the Springwater is wide. We were close to each other. There was plenty of room.

 

(that guy did not look like this. But he sure was angry)

I could also see why he might be upset that someone ran into him, but until we were talking about it later, I kind of forgot that he’d been wronged in any way. He was so quick to throw out blame in every direction that I forgot to make sure that he was okay, too. (And honestly, if it were just a matter of him being angry at being run into, it would have made more sense for him to yell at the guy who actually hit him than to yell at me and James. Who knows.)

Anyway, he yelled a lot. He insinuated that we were irresponsible bikers for having been next to each other, even though we were in a super wide portion of the trail and there was definitely room for even four or five bikers side by side. Maybe he ever slandered our mothers, who knows.

I thanked him for his opinion without committing to any opinion of my own and we took off. I was glad to be in my shoes, enjoying the day, instead of in his, angry at the world. But it’s stuck in my mind since then. Before then, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a confrontational encounter with a stranger. I strongly believe that if you put positive energy into the world, it’ll come back to you as such–and so far, that’s almost always held true. But this guy seemed determined to be angry, determined to be wronged and aggrieved and the self-righteous victim of others despite my best efforts at rational discourse. I didn’t really know how to respond to it except to not really engage and then get out of there.

Despite the distance of time, it still sticks in my mind because I don’t really know what the take-away lesson of all of this is. Certainly this guy was not super friendly, whether because he’s actually a bonified asshole or was just having a bad day, and that’s disconcerting to me because I like to think that if I care about others they will care about me too. For a few seconds I felt a little bad for being out on a joyride and wanting to bike next to my partner until I realized that that’s totally ridiculous: if multiuse paths aren’t safe places for people to go for slow rides or be next to each other without getting yelled at for being in someone’s way, then there’s not much hope for transportation in this world. And it annoys me that I even for a second felt bad for being slower than someone else–what kind of world is it if we’re just looking at other people as impediments to our own velocity?

So I don’t know. I enjoyed the rest of my ride; James and I marveled at the river and biked home next to each other in the parts where it makes sense to do so because it’s nice to be able to talk to the person you’re biking with. I imagined that guy finishing the rest of his ride angry and looking for a fight. For his sake, I hope he mellowed out a little–it was a nice day for a bike ride, after all, and I hope he was able to ultimately remember that.

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