I was riding my bike to school today. There’s a good stretch of my route along 34th Ave. in Queens, a dedicated bike lane, but one with a traffic light at every single intersection. I’m not a reckless cyclist. Whenever I come to a red light, I at least slow down to make sure no cars or pedestrians are in the way before going through. I know, technically cyclists have to obey all of the rules that a car does. But that doesn’t make any sense. It takes a lot more for a bike to get going after a full stop than a car.
So I’m approaching this one red light, very slowly. It wasn’t even an intersection. Here was a traffic light that served no purpose other than to keep a spacing continuity with all of the other traffic lights. And this isn’t a busy street. It’s a single lane both ways. It’s not Queens Blvd.
The pedestrian crossing signs were white, for walk, on both sides. On one side of the street there was a dad holding one of those exercising strollers, but there wasn’t any child inside. At his side were three little kids of various ages, the oldest couldn’t have been more than five or six. Do you know why I had a chance to notice all of this? Because I was coming at the light really, really slowly. I wasn’t even pedaling, I was just rolling through.
Like I said, the dad and his kids were on one side, and I had a clear path across, and so I just went for it. But it wasn’t going to be so easy. As I made my way through, the dad ran across the street, leaving his kids back on the corner, and pushed the stroller right in my way. So I stopped, I got off the bike, and I kind of made a confused and annoyed face at the guy. “Come on man, we both had the light.”
“What?” he screamed at me. “You didn’t have the light! You had a red light!”
And yeah, whatever, if he was a cop, I guess he could’ve given me a ticket. But he wasn’t a cop. And there was no harm being done. This was just some vigilante super dad taking the laws of traffic into his own hands.
Then things escalated. I didn’t say anything back to him, but he started yelling. “You almost hit my kids!” and he took his stroller and started pushing me, hard. Like my whole bike was moving. And I looked at him and his jaw was clenched, he was physically shaking with rage.
Now I was getting angry too, call it fight or flight or whatever, but this guy was pushing me and all my body was doing was telling me to push back. What would have happened? I don’t know. This guy was about the same size as me, maybe a little shorter, but he had the whole really, really angry thing going for him. Thankfully, it only took about a second or two for me to realize that, no, I probably shouldn’t get into a physical fight with some random dude on the street, even if he did push me with his giant red sporty cool dad exercise stroller.
“Listen man, I apologize, OK?” I said it as sincerely as I could. My goal was simple, to defuse the situation and get out.
“OK!” he screamed at me, and I could tell that I’d gotten through to him somehow. That in the basest part of his animal brain, I’d submitted to his power, and even though he probably still wanted to punch, there was really nothing he could have done now short of straight out attacked me.
I used the moment to push free of his stroller and take a couple of steps forward. But now that I was sure he couldn’t get me, I called back, “Hey kids,” and I said this in one of those parenting voices that super annoying moms and dads use to talk to their kids like babies, “Daddy needs anger management classes.”
And he started coming at me and screaming something unintelligible, but I’d already pushed my bike ahead and started pedaling away. When I was positive that I’d made an escape, I yelled back, really loudly, “Hey asshole, I’m not really sorry, I just didn’t feel like getting beat up!” and they I just gunned it, not looking back.
Because, I’m serious, there’s no way I was even close to hitting his kids, absolutely zero percent. And I’m happy with how I handled the situation, not getting into a fight, speaking my mind once I was free of immediate danger. I probably shouldn’t have said asshole in front of his kids. That was my bad. But at least I didn’t do what I really wanted to do, to fight back. Because come on man, don’t fucking push me around. You want to yell at me on the street? Fine. I can take getting screamed at by some random d-bag. But don’t start pushing people. Maybe next time whoever you start pushing around is going to be a real whack-job. And what are you going to do when they start throwing lefts to your face? You want your kids to see you get your ass kicked?