“You’re fair game”
In Seattle, 3rd Ave is closed to cars during rush hour – except for short distances. Cars are only allowed on 3rd until the next right turn. Left turns across 3rd are prohibited during rush hour. Cyclists, on the other hand, are allowed to ride the full length of 3rd Ave. So, during rush hour you’ll see lots of buses and cyclists mingling (along with some cars risking a $124 ticket, but that’s another story).
As I was driving the #14 down 3rd Ave, I noticed a cyclist stopped between two buses in the center lane. I pulled up next to him to service a bus stop which completed a 3 sided bus “box” around him – one in front, one in back, and my bus to his right side. Many cyclists in such situations freak out and do all sorts of dangerous things, like split lanes and ride between buses, to get out of the box. But this guy was just calmly waiting for the light to turn green. As I often do with fellow cyclists, I decided to opened my window and chat with him since I knew the light was going to be red for a while. This is where the story goes wrong. (Yeah, I tend to stick my foot in my mouth sometimes but it usually works out). I start off by saying “You’re a braver man than I am” which implies that I think he’s nuts. He gives me a bit of a puzzled look and doesn’t seem to know how to respond. I immediately realize this isn’t going well and decide to keep digging a deeper hole. “Oh, you’re fair game”. Doh! Not good. Not good. I immediately back pedal, nervously say that I bike to work (which I had done that day) and somehow convince this fellow cyclist that I don’t think he’s nuts, that he is indeed allowed on 3rd avenue, and that I was impressed with sane and confident riding. Ok, good save. Maybe next time, I’ll think it through a bit more before I open my mouth while driving a bus in uniform.