Page Street has become the bane of my existence where bicyclists behaving badly are concerned. Driving home one recent afternoon, I stopped at a four-way sign, looked all directions, and proceeded into the intersection. Out of nowhere, a bicyclist flew through the stop sign to my left, riding right in front of me, forcing me to slam on the brakes. I came inches from hitting him, but he didn’t notice. As he pedaled along the right side of the street, I pulled up next to his rickety bike, rolled down my window, and said, “You have to stop at stop signs just like cars do.” The scrawny, pale, twenty-something with thinning curly dark hair – wearing only Bermuda shorts, a T-shirt and, of course, no helmet – flipped me off and shouted a string of expletives. I felt my Sicilian blood boiling as I kept pace with him. “Why is it you think you’re exempt from the law?” Suddenly and without warning, like the snake that he was, Curly whipped his head around and spit at me from the passenger side. I was in the process of rolling up the window, so his wad of spit didn’t hit me. Instead, it bubbled slowly down the window of my just-washed car.
I kept pace with Curly, rolling the window down part way again. “What you just did qualifies as battery in the state of California,” I yelled, “and you should be arrested for road rage.” Curly laughed and flipped me off with both hands as he steered the bike with his knees. “What are you going to do about it?” he asked smugly. Curly sped up and so did I, pulling in front of his bike, and trapping him between my SUV and the car parked next to him. As he came to a screeching halt, I rolled the window down a couple of inches. What color he had in his pale face drained and suddenly the smug smile was gone. “Are you crazy?” he asked, his voice shaking. Any ability I had to be rational went out my spit-covered window. “If I was crazy I would crush you like a bug right now,” I screamed. “Fortunately for you, I’m not crazy – but the next person you spit at might be and they could run you over or pull out a gun and shoot you.” Suddenly Curly was mute. Having made my point, and thinking maybe Curly learned his lesson, I rolled up the window and continued on my way home.
But Curly hadn’t learned a thing. He pulled along my driver’s side and spit all over that window, then he spinelessly pedaled to the opposite side of the street and rode, illegally, against traffic. We hit the stoplight at the corner of Page and Divisadero at the same time, and, with hoards of people present, Curly got his voice back. “Get out of your [expletive] car and come here and say that, you stupid BMW [expletive]!” he screamed. I shook my head. “You’re pathetic,” I said without rolling down the window this time. “Now you want to fight a woman? Wow, you’re classy.”
Curly continued to hurl profanities and insults, too vulgar to print in this newspaper, until the light turned green. I assume he didn’t want to end up on another deserted stretch of road with me, so he turned left on Divisadero and disappeared.
As I hosed Curly’s disgusting spit wads off my windows, I realized he was right about one thing: there was nothing I could do about it. Had he been in a car, I could have gotten his license plate number, but on a bicycle, he was as anonymous as he was arrogant. Same thing if he runs a red light in front of a red light camera. Same thing if he hits a pedestrian and isn’t stupid enough to talk about it on YouTube. More than ever, I believe it’s time to hold bicyclists accountable for their actions, and that means license numbers that are visible to cops, victims and witnesses – just like on the cars and motorcycles they share the streets with. Police also need to write more tickets. It’s a win-win: hold bicyclists accountable and bring much-needed money to the city. Put some of the money toward bike lanes, bike traffic signals, and bike education.
Unfortunately, well-behaved bicyclists will also have to pay the price, but that’s no different than me paying the price for motorists behaving badly despite not having a violation of any kind all the years I’ve been driving. I know the Bicycle Coalition has a powerful political voice in this town, but we need to stop kowtowing to them and put the brakes on law-breaking bicyclists.