Street Savvy - Open Letter To An Angry Motorcycle Rider

By Marcus Roark, Photography by Drew Ruiz

Dear Angry Rider,
I am a lifelong motorcyclist, and have been riding on- and off-road for more than 30 years. As such, I make it a point to watch out for motorcyclists whenever I drive my car. But something you did today disturbed me...

Driving to work, I decided to move from the right (slow) lane to the middle lane to avoid a slower vehicle. Before doing this, I checked both side mirrors as well as the rear-view. Not seeing any vehicles in the vicinity, I changed lanes. Once in my new lane, I looked in my rear-view to find you a scant few feet away. It was obvious that you were running considerably faster than the other traffic. Being a motorcyclist myself, I was shocked and ashamed that I came so close to taking out a fellow rider! As I tried to figure out how I failed to notice you, you came up on me in the left (fast) lane. I was sorry for my apparent inattentiveness, but unsure how to express that while driving down the freeway. Then you moved your helmet in an "I'm-staring-mad-at-you!" manner and shot me the finger!

I tried not to judge you harshly; after all, I had nearly flattened you. After giving me your "salute," you sped on by and I thought that was the end of it.

Instead, you moved to the right lane and slowed down so you could flip me off again! This is the point at which I no longer cared about your safety. My adrenaline flared and I returned your "show of affection." In the heat of that moment, I was tempted to show you how foolish it is for a motorcycle rider to taunt a car driver. I was angry and ashamed-angry that you goaded me, and ashamed that I bought into it. I could not believe how infuriated you were able to make me! Did you not think about how utterly defenseless you were and how much protection I had? Why would you try to instigate hostility in someone who could end your life with a simple twitch of the steering wheel?

I spent the next hour fighting the emotions from our encounter, and only now amI able to clearly think about what went wrong:

1. I could have looked twice before making my lane change. Knowing full well that here in California many motorcycles lane split at stupid-fast speeds, I should have looked farther behind me.

2.I could have refrained from returning your second salute, and held my emotions in check.

3. You could have avoided speeding up to me in my blind spot. If you can't see my face in the mirror, I can't see you! The traffic was light, and there were no cars in the fast lane to impede your progress.

4. You could have assumed that my trespassing in your zone was an honest mistake (it was), and be happy that everyone was okay.

5. Barring that, you could have avoided the second encounter altogether. Had I been a less well-adjusted individual, you might not be reading this now. What is most alarming to me is how your handling of the situation caused a downward spiral. When I violated your road space, you presented such a bad image of a motorcyclist that even I-a fellow rider-momentarily wished you harm. Imagine what someone who already has a negative view of motor-cyclists might feel after such an encounter!

I deeply regret my handling of this situation. It has taught me quite a bit about how motorists see motorcyclists, and how our actions can reverberate in their minds much longer than we realize.
Sincerely,
A Fellow Rider

By Marcus Roark
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