As a biker in a city with few bike lanes and intermittent sidewalks, it is terrifying just to get to school in the morning. Plus, I live in a city with notoriously bad drivers.
Chalk this one up to the “Entitled Driver Without A Clue.”
Usually this character—a younger senior citizen male, typically—has decided that the world does not need to know what direction he will turn. Using the turn signal isn’t that much work, all things considered. But why bother? It’s my street, my lane, my car.
I met the extreme version of that today.
My 10-year-old Nicolas and I were biking on our way to his first day of school. We were three minutes behind schedule, but we still had lots of time. I tend to bike beside him while he bikes on the sidewalk.
We turned up Desbrisay Crescent, a lovely little park-facing street that has a sidewalk only on one side. So we crossed the street, going against the traffic (on the left side of the street).
It is not a high traffic street, and none today because a construction worker had held up the cars in both lanes. There was a little line of cars, three or four, on the right side of the street. After almost four seconds of waiting in the traffic line, though, one driver had had enough.
Suddenly, a silver Hyundai SUV started backing up across two lanes of traffic into a driveway that was, it turns out, right beside us. We were, in fact, blocking the driver from pulling into the random driveway to get away from the egregious traffic jam.
I shouted. Thankfully he heard, and he stopped, now wedged in a perpendicular blockade in the middle of the street.
He scowled at me, this male senior with a toothpick hanging out of his mouth.
I scowled back, and Nicolas and I kept biking to school.
At the next corner I got off the bike to stop traffic. Soon we were biking through the parking lot of an abandoned grocery store.
And then I saw a silver Hyundai SUVcoming at us through the parking lot.
He pulled up beside me—not stopping, but coasting—and rolled down his driver side window. He pulled the toothpick out of his mouth and yelled.
“What the hell are you doing biking behind a car while it’s backing up?”
I stopped the bike.
And I yelled back.
I did not swear, and I did not lie. But I was very forceful when I explained that he illegally backed two lanes across traffic without looking and without signaling and nearly hit my kid.
The argument went back and forth, and so I finally told him I was calling the police. He swore at me and then took off. He rolled the next stop sign, pulled a left and a quick right without signaling, and went through a residential neighbourhood.
I looked at my son, on the first day of grade six.
“Sorry about that buddy,” I said. “I probably should have ignored him.”
“That’s okay, Dad,” he said. “I thought he was stopping to apologize.”
No, this is not the kind of driver to apologize.
We talked about it for a second and decided to call the police. Our license plates on PEI are pretty easy to remember. I was able to memorize the digits “SSN” and we passed the information on to the police.
Did I do the right thing?
To be honest, I feel kind of skuzzy. Sure, I was morally in the right, and legally I had my ground. You are not allowed to back across two lanes of traffic, and a driver backing up is responsible to know what is behind him.
Plus, this guy really is a problematic driver. He will keep expecting the world to bend to his own laziness until someone gets really hurt. It doesn’t matter if he is ticketed today or kills a kid tomorrow, he will think that the world is at fault, not him.
So the only thing I really accomplished today was to get in a shouting match with a bad driver on my son’s first day of school.
See, it doesn’t matter if you are right if you do damage along the way.
Fortunately, my son was pretty forgiving. He has a pretty great story for his first day of school. When we biked up behind the school, a friend of his shouted out, “Nicolas!” My son broke out into a big, sweaty smile.
Fortunately, not much damage done. But a good reminder that there are somethings more important than being right.