John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The Battle of the Commute rages on, as this painful-to-watch footage shows.
This was a big year for leaping forward. A black man gained a second U.S. presidential term, European scientists found what's likely the Higgs boson, a British princess was successfully impregnated in the interests of sustaining an outdated dynasty.
But some things did not change, and in fact seemed to lurch into reverse with the gears of history sickly groaning. So it was with the long-simmering feud between bicyclists and drivers, who share the same asphalt but not always the same ideas about right of way. Although cyclist-driver tension did not erupt in outright war the way it did in 2008 – when a guy in Portland, Oregon, gunned his car full-speed with a biker as his hood ornament – diplomacy between the two clans did suffer blow upon flinch-worthy blow.
Thanks to the growing popularity of portable cameras like the GoPro, many of these wheeled skirmishes are now caught on video. Below are the year's worst clashes. Be warned that many of these clips contain profanity and accidents that are painful to watch.
“DON'T TOUCH PRIVATE PROPERTY”
This footage stars a London cyclist who excels in getting himself into hairy situations on the road. (He also posts the license-plate numbers of his adversaries on YouTube.) The confrontation occurred this summer after the rider slapped the black Audi to stop it from merging into the bike lane. That turned out to be a mistake.
Bicyclist Dirk Friel's footage of an irate Ford Explorer driver mashing the bejeezus out of his horn near Boulder prompted the Colorado State Patrol to eventually arrest the 75-year-old man, who is alleged to have sonically tortured other local bicyclists as well. Said Friel: “This guy was so intent of bugging us that he backed up traffic behind him and cars had to pass him on a double yellow line. It seems he was the one obstructing traffic, not us.”
VIGILANTE JUSTICE ON THE FAHY BRIDGE
In April, a teenage driver attempting to pass a bus on the Fahy Bridge in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, slammed into cyclist Frank Pavlick. (He survived.) The driver then tried to escape – but the bus operator saw what was happening in his rear-view, and blocked the road. Another quick-thinking motorist sealed the exit from behind. Unfortunately for the juvenile, on that very morning a new state law went into effect enhancing the penalties for drivers who crowd bicyclists when overtaking.
MELTDOWN IN THE COUNTRY
Ahhh, biking in open nature: The smell of hay, the sight of fluttering birds, the shrieks of an enraged moto-Valkyrie trying to tear the wrinkles off an elderly bicyclist. This incident happened in January on a rural path in Gloucestershire, U.K. “The slim redhead, dressed in black, runs towards the male rider before kicking his bike and trying to push him off,” wrote The Sun. “She appears to have raced from a car being slowed down by the cyclist in the tranquil Cotswolds countryside.” It's been suggested that the old gent might've been a fox-hunting activist.
“THERE'S NO BIKE LANE THERE, SIR”
This severe case of dooring happened this March in Adelaide, South Australia. At least the cyclist got addressed as “Sir” for his trouble? A grody photo at the end of the video shows how the door punched a hole in his cheek like a can opener (skip to 1:10 for the accident).
In November, a motorist in the vicinity of Glasgow gave the finger to a team of spandexed cyclists in an rather environmentally rude way. Internet people are claiming the cyclists were in the wrong, because they weren't riding in single file.
THOSE CURSED ROUNDABOUTS
This T-bone crash went down in the summer in New South Wales, Australia. Writes the cyclist on YouTube: “This was a complete wipeout of me when I was already on the roundabout by a red P-Plater who just didn't think. He appeared from nowhere as you can see on the video, didn't stop and failed to give way taking me out in the process. What was he thinking?”
JIM'S MOWING IS NEVER LATE TO AN APPOINTMENT
The driver hauling this “Jim's Mowing” trailer really needed to make a split-second left turn, to the detriment of the cyclist in his direct path. The trailer clips the biker's front wheel but, incredibly, he doesn't fall and skid to a halt on his face. When he posted this video on YouTube in the summer, Australia's commuters reportedly exploded in a “heated debate over who was in the right,” with the driver claiming, “I wasn’t aware of what happened. I thought I had cleared the [cyclist] so I just went on with my day.”
I'M ON A MOTHERF'N BIKE
To lighten the mood a bit, this year also witnessed hilariously fake bike-on-car confrontations with the Dr. Dre-inflected music video, “Motherf*cking Bike.” Note that the previous warning about profanity goes double for this one, a thorough mocking of San Francisco's cycling culture produced by Sons of Science.