Is That Tobacco Juice on My Leg?

So today was a tough training ride.  I had to ride painstakingly slow to maintain a low HR for endurance training.  The reward for 40 miles of this (other than frozen fingertips):  A Tobacco Juice Shower.

Now I’m exaggerating a little bit. It was only on my leg.  Although, it did surprise me when it happened.  And of course, as a cyclist, this is all my fault.

Yes, I was riding on a single-lane road at a slow speed and taking up a few inches to the left of the white line (although as far to the right as possible on this narrower stretch).

Yes, I must have forced the SUV of fellow citizens to slow down as they passed me (only to turn right seconds later into a school parking lot).

And yes, I know that I have a legal right to share the road, but I guess that doesn’t matter.

And I am sure the driver was unaware of a nationwide push to enact a “Three Feet” Law that already exists in Tennessee.  The driver may have forgotten that those few inches between his side-view mirror and my head may be inches I decide to use in the last second to avoid a piece of glass on the road.

With all this in mind, I’m sure the passenger felt it necessary to teach me a lesson in bicycle safety and throw a cup full of tobacco-laden water at me.  I’m sure he was aiming for my legs as just a subtle reminder as to who “owns the road.”  Certainly he knows that if it had hit my face I may have lost concentration and swerved into the lane in front of the next car.  Not sure, I would have learned a lesson that way–maybe my fatherless children would have.

Since it was all my fault, I did not follow the SUV into the school parking lot to apologize for my transgression (after all, I might have been misunderstood and gotten pummeled in the process).

Since it was all my fault, I didn’t go into the parking lot and wait until they left the car unattended and let all the air out of the tires (after all this would ignite their simmering dislike for cyclists and maybe they’d do something worse next time).

No.  Instead I thought, there must be something positive I can do. Since it was all my fault after all.  So I decided to give a friendly wave to every driver who had to wait even a second (due to oncoming traffic) to pass me using a three-foot clearance.  I gave a friendly wave to all of them hoping positive reinforcement would help build a more positive relationship between drivers and cyclists.

I won’t mention the kind of wave I provided my tobacco-chewing friend.

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13 Responses to “Is That Tobacco Juice on My Leg?”


  1. 1 Kevin February 6, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    I have found that waving to drivers while biking is one of the best possible things you can do. For the drivers that are sharing the road like they should, it is a good way to say “thank you”. And for the jerks who like to honk, yell, and drive you off the road, I have found that waving just infuriates them because they think that the meaning of their original gesture has been lost. It is a great feeling either way.

  2. 2 Gini Dietrich February 7, 2010 at 1:56 am

    I have no words.

  3. 3 @HRMargo February 7, 2010 at 4:53 am

    People who are disrespectful of cyclists suck. I really hate it when people don’t respect the rules of the road (even when on a trail). I’ve seen as much irresponsible behavior on bike trails as I have on the road. You’re the man, Bike Whisperer.

  4. 4 Julie Walraven February 7, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Wow, I know that there are issues between cars and bicyclists everywhere but that was disgusting and really immature. Your actions though are admirable. Hopefully you will share the road with more polite drivers in the future and this will be an isolated incident. Hopefully…

  5. 5 Deb Dobson February 7, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I got run off the road years ago but a driver who thought swerving might teach me a lesson for riding on the streets. I am appalled that one threw tobacco juice at you. You handled it with grace.

  6. 6 Mike D. Merrill February 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    It amazes me the level of stupidity on the road and how many folks aren’t aware of cyclist’s rights. Sorry this happened to you.

    @mikedmerrill

  7. 7 Rick Vosper February 7, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Class act all the way. Congrats.

    And you were right not to let the air out of the tires, too. Unless you had a set of diagonal cutters in your pocket to slice the valve stems off completely. Or even better, a Schraeder core-remover, which you can buy at any bike store and takes up almost no space in your pocket.

    It’s important these things be done right or not at all.

    Funny thing. Here in Arkansas, which has its share of both pickups and tobacco juice, the drivers are exceptionally courteous, even on the narrow roads with no shoulder and a drainage ditch on the side. Must be a cultural thing.

  8. 8 Stan Xhiao February 7, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Wow, the same thing happened to me just this morning, except it was outside a church parking lot, and the driver threw his whole SUV at me instead of a cup of Skoal juice. Plus, it was a clearly marked city bike route, which means I should have squeezed further right.

  9. 10 Tstonecareers February 8, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Hey Friend,

    Sorry to hear about the tobacco – juice shower. Totally rude and completely disrespectful. People are just ignorant to the rules of the road and the requirement to share it. There was a terrible story this past summer about a team of cyclists from Ottawa who were run off the road and the driver left them there injured.

    I am glad that you were not hurt. Continue to ride safe.

  10. 11 oldguy February 22, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Well just imagine their reaction when you cycle by them in the future. Imagine gas too expensive or not available and they have no idea how to ride a bike. Just imagine…

    • 12 bikewhisperer February 22, 2010 at 4:23 am

      I only wish they knew how dangerous the behavior is. A friend told me this weekend he had a beer bottle thrown at him. What are these people thinking? Obviously, they are not thinking at all.

  11. 13 Lois Arbogast March 1, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Wow. Seriously? While this post is hilarious (since I’m not the one getting showered with tobacco-juice), it also reminds me how ridiculous and obnoxious people can be. I’m not even a cyclist and I don’t think I would have responded as gracefully as you. If it’s any consolation, I’ll be sure and remember this story next time I see the San Diego peloton out training over lunch and I’m driving past. 3-feet it is!


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