Honk Report: The Territorial Hoot

I suppose there are many reasons (justified or not) car drivers might have to honk at a bicyclist, but I’m sure I suffer only one kind: the territorial hoot — an animalistic cry in the wilderness whose exigence is the transgression of territory by a feared or loathed other.

This is also known as being a jerk.

What’s amusing is the addition of stupidity.

BTW, I believe I am now having great success controlling my anger at honks by choosing to be amused by them :-)

So there I was on Grand stopped at the light on National heading west. There are two through lanes and right-only and left-only turn lanes. I was positioned in the middle of the right-most through lane behind a car. There were two cars stopped in the left through lane — so four of us waiting for the green light.

Now along comes a fellow who has all kinds of time to make a lane decision. He can plainly see — if he’s paying attention — that there are two cars in the left lane and a car and a bicycle in the right lane. He’s obviously continuing through on Grand. So what does he choose to do?

Yep. Pulls in behind me.

OK, no problem with that as long as he realizes I won’t be covering the vast distance of this big intersection at anything like the speed of most cars. If he’s in a hurry — an essential of the American car-driver condition — he’d be better off taking third position in the left lane.

So the light turns green. We all proceed forward. Then I can hear him behind me gunning his engine — whoom! whoom! whoom! Just as we clear the intersection, he close-passes me and honks.

I just laughed. Sitting as high as I do on my bicycle I’m sure he could see the big grin on my face.

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Comments 11

  1. Keri wrote:

    I’ve had a few of those lately. They make me laugh, too. “So, you were stupid enough to pull up in the lane behind the bicycle(s) at a traffic light and now you’re having a temper tantrum. Poor baby.”

    Do these people have temper tantrums when they pull up behind buses or garbage trucks, too? Probably. But they keep the crying inside their cars. If they honked at a bus, they know they’d look like an ass to everyone who saw them do that.

    Posted 10 Jun 2011 at 12:41 pm
  2. Keith R. wrote:

    I usually wave as well. I pretend it is someone I know. This makes my day. I got the idea from a short story by Clive Barker called “The Yattering and Jack.”

    Posted 10 Jun 2011 at 1:45 pm
  3. robert wrote:

    Notice he waited to honk until he had the opportunity to pass. That way, he wouldn’t risk potentially having to stop near you after the honk. It’s just part of being a “real man.” You only threaten people as you are running away.

    Posted 10 Jun 2011 at 2:05 pm
  4. JAT in Seattle wrote:

    Keri, I don’t think these people do throw temper tantrums when they fail to mentally process the likelihood of a delay due to the obvious likely behavior of large special-function(motorized) road user with flashing lights indicating they’re in the midst of their lane-blocking loading operations and fail to avail themselves of the other available lane.

    At least I almost never see tantrum-like behavior when I see drivers get stuck behind buses or garbage trucks. No gesturing, no honking, no gunning it or rapid lane changes – they accept it as “their bad” and pay the consequences (slight delay).

    Failing to mentally process that the upright human with a styrofoam hat in the lane ahead of you isn’t going to surge ahead like a corvette when the light goes green, however – that’s tantrum time. Paradoxically they’re also not mentally processing the fact that the cyclist obeyed the signal either.

    Posted 10 Jun 2011 at 3:05 pm
  5. Michael wrote:

    In a just world that guy would have gotten a $250 ticket.

    Posted 10 Jun 2011 at 4:13 pm
  6. Keri wrote:

    JAT, you’re right about the paradox! I bet the same guy gets on the internet and says things like “I’ll share the road with cyclists when they stop at red lights.”

    I have actually seen people gesture after getting stuck behind a bus. But they don’t honk or make threatening moves toward the bus driver. I saw one a couple days ago, using the open right lane to get ahead of traffic queued in the center lane. But traffic was queued in the center lane because there was a bus in the right lane. He definitely had a temper tantrum. No honking, but he did bullishly wedge his truck back into the center lane.

    Posted 10 Jun 2011 at 5:21 pm
  7. Steve A wrote:

    It may be my imagination, but it seems that your Missouri drivers have been hooting a lot more recently than my friendly Texas ones. Maybe you need to move near MSU. As in Wichita Falls.
    ;-)

    Posted 10 Jun 2011 at 6:29 pm
  8. Steve A wrote:

    Per the other comments. Last time I saw a truck parked in the right lane of a four lane, median divided road,I didn’t observe anyone honk at it. I got bored after a while and went on to work. It was still there when I went home and, amazingly enough (he says sarcastically), nobody had crashed into it. I didn’t see anyone honk at the truck on the way home, either.

    Posted 10 Jun 2011 at 6:36 pm
  9. Andy Cline wrote:

    Steve… Hmmmmm… has my honk-rate increased? Will have to check into that. But we are still in the silly season. Thankfully, that’s almost at an end. MSU in WF? Yikes! :-)

    Posted 11 Jun 2011 at 7:23 am
  10. Andy in Germany wrote:

    We get this in Germany too, although it’s rare. I tend to do the ‘smile-and-wave’ response as well, because I’m pretty sure it’s about territory, rather than anything else.

    I wonder if there’s a correlation between driver’s perception that their ‘right’ to drive is being threatened generally via fuel prices and other external factors, and the amount of territorial honking that goes on.

    Posted 27 Jun 2011 at 6:35 am
  11. Andy Cline wrote:

    Andy in G– I suspect there could be a correlation if for no other reason than things such as rising gas prices create tension and frustration.

    Posted 28 Jun 2011 at 8:33 am