Bike Snob

Sorry Not Sorry

Because there’s no apology like a backhanded apology

Form letters for cyclists covering some of the more common unpleasant scenarios you’re likely to encounter on the roads.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

This past fall, in Rochester, New York, a driver returning from the golf course in his Range Rover hit a 10-year-old boy on his bike, then left the scene. A judge made the driver apologize and he subsequently penned the world’s shittiest letter:

“I’m very sorry that you rode into the side of the car I was driving on Friday, September 7th. More importantly, I am glad you didn’t need to be treated by the attending ambulance on the day of the incident. Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season.”

Chances are you’re not nearly so morally bankrupt, but why should drivers be the only ones who get to say “sorry” without really meaning it? Following are form letters for cyclists covering some of the more common scenarios you’re likely to encounter.

Dear Motorist,

I’m so sorry for touching your car.

As you may recall, on the day I dared make physical contact with your automobile, it was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and visibility was excellent—certainly more than sufficient for you to see me on my bicycle. Even so, you steered your vehicle into me, from which I can draw only two (2) conclusions:

  1. You were trying to kill me;
  2. You found the phone in your lap to be more compelling viewing.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it was the latter.

Now, it may surprise you to learn that there’s a significant weight differential between my vehicle and yours. Mine weighs under 30 pounds, and that includes the six-pack I was carrying on my front rack. Meanwhile, according to the car-maker's website, your Hyper Red Sportage weighs 3,305 pounds. It also says your vehicle is “Built for Life’s Adventures,” which presumably includes close encouters with cyclists.

Indeed, it’s precisely for this reason that I felt so comfortable knocking on your window in order to alert you to the fact that you were about to knock me over and crush me beneath your optional 19-inch alloy wheels. Certainly my knuckle could do little damage to your vehicle’s exterior, whereas your compact SUV could easily kill me. It also seemed a more efficacious way of alerting you than simply yelling; after all, Consumer Reports says cabin noise levels in your vehicle are “unobjectionable,” which leads me to believe you were both oblivious and well insulated.

Nevertheless, upon being awakened from your reverie, you were far from contrite. Instead, you yelled words to the effect of, “How dare you touch my car!,” as though it were a priceless work of art behind a velvet rope in a museum, and not a household appliance on the public right of way available to any asshole able to swing the $169 per month for the lease and spell his or her own name correctly on the registration form.

So again, sorry to have touched your car, and you’re welcome for my sparing you from becoming a murderer. What you’re feeling right now is the dawning realization that you behaved like an idiot, but don’t worry, it’ll buff right out.


[Your Name Here]

Dear Pedestrian,

I’m sorry I “almost hit” you. I’m also sorry for putting “almost hit” you in “irony quotes,” but the thing is, what you call “almost hitting you” I call “not hitting you at all.” This explains why, assuming some other calamity hasn’t befallen you between then and now, you’re perfectly fine.

I realize the reason you yelled at me was because you were startled and you momentarily thought you were going to die. However, you were never in any real danger (at least from me), because when you stepped out from between two parked cars while checking your Uber driver’s location on your phone, I was already prepared. It may surprise you to learn you’re not the first pedestrian who has ever stepped out into traffic in front of me on a city street. Indeed, you weren’t even the first pedestrian who stepped out into traffic in front of me that day. Between the car doors and the boozy brunchers, the entire roadside is practically booby-trapped, and so I always ride accordingly.

Also, not to get all Ron Burgundy on you, but I’m your friend out here, compadre. The real enemy? The cars. You may think I’m one of those “crazy cyclists” (you made that quite clear in your tirade), but the fact is even the craziest among us have an extremely poor track record when it comes to killing pedestrians. It almost never happens. On the other hand, drivers kill pedestrians like you all the time, and when they do they rarely get in trouble for it because all they have to say is that you “came out of nowhere” and it will be dismissed as “just an accident.”

Admittedly there are cyclists who would have yelled back at you for stepping into traffic. There are even those who would call you a “fucking idiot.” I am not one of those cyclists. Because I ride a bike, I know that whether we’re cycling or walking the reason we break the rules is that the rules were made for drivers. I also know that you’re not looking out for bikes because you’re preoccupied with the real threat to your survival, which is the cars.

And hey, it’s 2019. You looked at your phone while walking. It happens. Who wants to live in a world where having your head up your ass is a death sentence?

Warmest regards,

[Your Name Here]

PS: You also asked “Where’s your helmet?” If you really want to know, it was hanging on my coat rack. Helmets are for racing. Which I wasn’t doing. Which is why I didn’t clobber you.

Dear Onewheel XR Rider,

Look, I’m sorry I yelled.

First, I owe you an explanation. The reason I called you “Doughboy” was that, you have to understand, that thing you ride looks like a rolling pin. Consequently, my first thought when I saw you was that it looked like the bike path was a giant pie crust and you were a tiny pastry chef preparing it for baking.

Speaking of the bike lane, I admit that as a cyclist I felt proprietary about it. But now that I’ve had time to think about it I realize it’s silly to be that way in the 21st century. There are lots of viable low-impact ways to get around the city: bikes, scooters, skateboards—and yes, even a go-kart wheel attached to piece of plywood. So if that contraption inspires you to leave your SUV at home, then I’m happy to share the bike lane with you. (Even if you’re not wearing a shirt, which for some reason you weren’t.)

Moving on to the reason I yelled: the bike lane is one-way and you were coming right at me. It’s also narrow. Because the city still dedicates too much space for cars we’re all forced to share what’s left. So by all means let your kook flag fly, but try to keep others in mind while you do and ride with us instead of against us.

And I admit the “Where do you plug in the vape pen on that thing?” comment was gratutious.

Ride on, shirtless bro-bag!

[Your Name Here]