Bicycling in Alternate Universe Boston

My bicycle route takes me out of Medford, through Somerville and Cambridge, and then across the Salt & Pepper Bridge into Boston. Crossing that bridge is like turning a video game up to Hard Mode — all the bike lanes disappear and suddenly there are double-parked cars to contend with. I ride fully alert and very defensively, so if a cab cuts me off taking a right turn I’m rarely surprised.

Today I biked in and, as always, it was smooth sailing until I crossed that bridge. On Congress Street there was a black SUV in front of me moving slowly and straddling two lanes. I could see through the rear window that he was on a cell phone. I employed my usual strategy and backed way off, giving him space to drive erratically, but he was moving so slowly that I had to pass him or stop. He drifted over toward the left lane and seemed satisfied with that choice, so I started approaching him on the right.

That, of course, is when he saw some sort of traffic ahead, slammed on the brakes, and took a hard right into my lane. I hit the brakes, which my bike has because I like being able to stop quickly. On the scale of 1 to 10, 1 being a light tap and 10 being a death grip, I had to apply about an 8 of pressure. Alarming, but not life-flashing-before-my-eyes. I’m stopped, he stopped, there is honking behind us.

(You may notice that so far we are in Regular Universe Boston.)

I’m someone that never honks in traffic because by the time I realize I should be honking the other asshole is already halfway down the block. But today I gave that guy the biggest finger ever and a loud FUCK YOU to go with it. And he saw it. At that point he did not try to run over me, so I was already feeling good about myself.

I took off, and soon a car pulled up alongside me with the window rolled down. I was ready for it: you asshole bikes shouldn’t be on the road, get on the sidewalk, etc etc. Instead I heard:

“Did you see that guy? On the phone! I don’t know how you guys do it.”

Then another cyclist rode up alongside me and checked to make sure the guy in the car wasn’t giving me static. I said something like “He’s being a good guy!” I found it hard to find words to express that the guy in the car was “being nice.” This is a very foreign concept and my language seems to have difficulty expressing the idea. The cyclist said the asshole in the SUV pissed off like three more cars behind us, and all that honking was definitely for him.

If a cyclist can get cut off — while passing on the right no less — and still get support from other Boston drivers, I have to wonder if I’m in the right universe.