Being Sorry (The Rest of the Story)

If you read the last TCI Friday, you will know that I had an unfortunate and entirely avoidable conflict with a runner, who turned out to be my neighbor. I promised then to update you on the exciting conclusion of this ridiculous mini-drama, and rather than do it in the comments of that post, I figured I’d do it here.

The brief re-cap for those who don’t want to go back and read the story for themselves is that I came upon a jogger in the bike lane, running against the flow of traffic, and so I decided, despite there being no one else around, to hold my ground and force him out of my lane. Then, as this manufactured conflict came to fruition, I realized the jogger was one my neighbors.

Self-righteousness isn’t a good look. And in fact, of all the types of anger available to us as humans, it’s maybe the most dangerous, because it inflates the ego and obscures the view of a more nuanced reality. I have been as guilty as anyone of indulging self-righteous anger, and I have reaped all the predictable rewards, e.g., alienating friends, copping a vicious emotional hangover, and living in a manufactured and uncharmingly solitary reality.

So I went over and apologized, and what happened was surprising.

First, I did not delve into the right/wrong of the conflict. I said, “You and I had a little run-in last week and just wanted to apologize, because I did not need to do what I did.” And he said, “I don’t remember this happening.”

To be honest with you, I suspect this is not true, but that’s also beside the point. When I owned the fact that I’d nearly run him down for no very good reason, he said, “Well, that sounds like something I’d do too. So maybe this is a moment of personal growth for both of us.”

Then he told me he’d entered the lottery for both the London and Berlin marathons, which are run 7 days apart, and we lost ourselves in a conversation about training and travel and how amazing it would be if he got into both and had to pull that off. We parted friends, possibly better friends than we’d been previously, since they only moved in last summer.

Look, here’s the thing. As a cyclist of many decades, I’ve developed a whole system of rules for how I think the road should be shared. No one cares what my rules are. They have their own. Occasionally, some toxic brew of ego and overblown masculinity gets me into a dumb scrape like this. It’s probably fear-based, ironically.

I am keenly aware that, like it or not, when I’m out on the bike, any bike, I represent cyclists to the world, and with that in mind, I need to avoid silly shit like this. My neighbor’s a good guy, so this turned out to be not a very big deal, but there are no guarantees. Ride more patiently. Ride more graciously. Ride like there’s a whole world full of people you’re collaborating with. These are the lessons.

Join the conversation
  1. bart says

    I have a righteous-anger fueled cycling conflict event in my past that I still think about. I know exactly why I was so ticked off in the moment and how silly it all is in retrospect. In that case I don’t know the people on the other end of the event but my behavior certainly did no good for helping the image of cyclists. I still won’t ride that section of road as it sets off all of these strong, mixed emotions. I agree with your lessons.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @Bart – I can relate. These things have an emotional half-life that is unpredictable. There is something in my mind that litigates and relitigates ad infinitum. Some things I can let go easily. Others stick. I’m not clear why.

  2. alanm9 says

    At my age I should be more serene, but I live where motorists not only don’t care about my safety, but not each others’ either. On my commute I see at least one criminal motorist run a solid red light every single day. Granted, 90+ % are either courteous or predictably clueless, but the idiots keep me on high alert at all times. Vehicular harassment is infrequent but not rare. So, in your situation I would probably justify it to myself and move on. Not pretty, but I’m being honest. And yes, I actually DO love riding bikes. 🙂

  3. Jeff vdD says

    I attended a Boston Bike Week event at the Aeronaut Brewing Company in Somerville a handful of years back. Part of the program included a panel discussion of cycling infrastructure and safety. One of the panelists, the Reverend Laura Everett (, shared a simple and wise approach she tries to use when she’s on her bike and engages in more than brief passing with a motorist in a contentious situation.
    “Hi, my name’s Laura, what’s yours?,” she’ll say before continuing the conversation.
    Yelling and/or gesturing may be for many of us a first instinctive response, and those actions might even be Reverend Everett’s first instinctive response. Shifting the narrative from conflict to one of common humanity strikes me as the best path toward all parties emerging from the encounter better than they entered.

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