I’ve witnessed a number of crashes and other incidents while bicycling: bikes running into other bikes (usually on accident, but not aways), cars running into bikes on accident. I’ve never seen a car intentionally hit a bicycle. Until last Wednesday. As far as I know the victims suffered only minor injuries and property damage.

A group of around 20 riders was traveling west on Champaign county road 1100N, ½ mile East of county highway 6 (Seymour slab). I had just rotated to the back of the group when a short while later I heard a car horn honking several times in rapid succession. There was already enough room for the car to pass, but as is customary in this situation (even if the driver is an asshole), I was preparing to hug the shoulder to provide the driver an excessively wide berth. I don’t like to take chances.

The driver had different plans. Just a very brief moment after I first heard the honking (and I was at the back of the group, so I heard it before anyone else) the driver was already up along side of the rider next to me, passing within maybe a foot or two. This scared the hell out of me. As the driver continued passing the group he (I’m assuming it was a he, I’d like to think women aren’t this stupid) moved closer and closer to each rider. As the car moved up I could see a good four feet of pavement and at least one or two more feet of solid grass shoulder to the left of the car. It was absolutely, unmistakably clear this was no accident. This was intentional.

I obviously don’t know whether the driver intended to hit anyone or just to drive really close to teach us a lesson for daring to travel on his road, but after passing within inches of a few people he finally bumped one (who managed to stay upright), then struck the next one pretty hard knocking him halfway across the road into the other riders. Fortunately, they all also managed to stay upright. Then, as would be expected from any individual this classy, he sped off, leaving in his wake at least three crimes, 20 witnesses, and one photograph which clearly shows his car and license plate number. What a fucking idiot.

Taking a look at Illinois state Rules of the Road we can see the following:

On most roadways, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other roadway users. Bicyclists are prohibited on limited-access highways, expressways and certain other marked roadways.

Following are laws and safety tips you should know:

  • Drivers must yield the right-of-way to a bicyclist just as they would to another vehicle.
  • When passing a bicyclist do so slowly and leave at least three feet of passing space.


Offenses for which your driver’s license may be revoked include, but are not limited to:

  • Felony Offense – A vehicle was used while committing a serious crime.
  • Leaving the Scene – Leaving the scene of a crash that killed or injured someone (minimum three-year revocation).

Offenses for which your driver’s license may be suspended include, but are not limited to:

  • Traffic Crashes – Refusal or neglect to report a traffic crash.

As of now the incident has been reported to the police and the police have identified the owner of the vehicle. Hopefully, this reckless driver can be brought to justice in the near future.

Stay safe out there.

The Antidote

There were a couple incidents at the latest Critical Mass rides in a few major cities. Unpleasant altercations with a motorist in Seattle and with a (horrible, by the looks of it) police officer in New York (watch the video). Of course there are two sides to the stories, and as you can imagine in these cases both sides claim the other started it.

If you’re not aware, Critical Mass is a group of “bicyclists” who meet the last Friday evening of every month and ride through the city completely blocking traffic and generally disrupting motorists as much as possible. I think the idea initially was to protest how bicycle unfriendly many cities are, but it seems to have degenerated into lets go get rowdy and piss people off.

I hate Critical Mass.

Why? I ride my bike every day on city streets. I obey laws. I signal turns. I am courteous to automobile drivers, pedestrians, and other bicyclists. I respect them and I hope they will respect me also. Critical Mass riders antagonize drivers one day a month, and then I ride on the same streets as those drivers every other day of the month. Am I one of the rude, disrespectful Critical Mass riders? No. But motorists don’t know that. It’s very easy to stereotype and think all bicyclists are the same (just as it is to think all motorists are the same).

A funny thing happened last November when I was in California on a business trip. I was riding around San Francisco on a friday evening when I came up to the back of a group of 20 or so bicyclists on Market St. At a stop light one of them looked over at me and noticed my Dahon Helios XL and turned to his friend and said “Hey look, this guy’s got a Helios.” Anyway we started talking and apparently he had the same bike. I asked what was going on and he informed me I had stumbled upon a Critical Manners ride. They described it as the antidote to Critical Mass. This group has the same basic mission as Critical Mass (to demonstrate the need for more bicycle friendly cities), but they obey traffic laws and are generally nice to people. The ride is organized by the San Francisco Bike Coalition. I rode with them a few blocks until I reached my destination. It was a good time.

We’d probably all be a better off with a little more manners and a little less mass.

The Backscatter

Yesterday was mostly wasted. At 7:37 A.M., shortly before I intended to sit down to start working, I started receiving spam backscatter emails. What happened was some asshole, somewhere in the world, sent probably hundreds of thousands of spam emails with my email address forged in the From: line. Tens of thousands of the email addresses they spammed were invalid. When one sends email to an invalid address the mail server usually sends an automated reply informing you the address was invalid. Since my address was the From: address of these spams, I received automated responses to these spam emails yesterday. It continued all day. I received dozens per minute. All day.

I was completely overwhelmed and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Over the past few years I have received a few random backscatters. A couple months ago I received 8-10 in a single instance. A few weeks ago I received about 400 at once. Yesterday I received 15,673. The first several hundred went straight to my inbox. Eventually my junk mail filter started recognizing them and filtered thousands automatically, but there were still several hundred in my inbox. I literally spent all day dealing with this shit. There was at least one legitimate, work-related email that I completely missed because of this. I only learned about it by searching my junk mailbox after someone asked me about the missing email. Who knows how many other legitimate emails are mixed in with them? I am still receiving them, but thankfully they are becoming less frequent (maybe one per hour now).

What an asshole.