Sideswiped and gutter sniped

There are a couple stories about which I’ve been holding out on you. One involves an incident last weekend with a gutter snipe driver who calculatedly attempted to run four of us cyclists off the road.

guttersnipe [ ˈgətərˌsnīp ] NOUN derogatory
a scruffy and badly behaved child who spends most of their time on the street.

Why do I call the driver who drove within four inches of our group of four single line cyclists a gutter snipe? Because he acted like a scruffy and badly behaved child who spends most of their time on the street. In fact his beat up, rusty white Econoline van was audible behind us for more than a half mile. One of our group intoned, “Better move over. There’s a hot rod behind us.”

We weren’t 200 meters into the ride when the van pulled up next to me as the last rider in slow line. His front bumper was four inches from my body and bike when he gunned the engine for all it was worth. The van shot forward with a loud backfire as he strafed our entire line. All of us shouted in alarm. Our lead rider, who happens to be the fastest sprinter among the group, reacted quickly and took off in pursuit. He read the license plate before the van got too far ahead going 40-50 miles an hour on a 35 mph road.

Make no mistake. It was intentional. It was dangerous. It was loud. It was close. It was early morning. It was not possibly an accident. It was unlawful. It was malicious. It was symbolic. It was emblematic. It was horrifying. It was frightening. It was nasty. And it was real.

Open season, open roads

I wrote last week about the fractiousness of society and how there seems to be a growing intolerance for cyclists on the road. It’s not everyone who drives that is a problem of course. There are far more courteous drivers. There are far more courteous cyclists. It’s the bad ones who egregiously flaunt the law.

Triathlete groupThe real problem is the grey area where perceptions meet reality. Last weekend a group of us rode our bikes in Wisconsin west of Madison. The roads there on a Sunday morning are not busy at all. A few cars typically pass you on the country roads. Some might have to wait a few seconds before a hill, and most don’t seem to mind.

Yet it’s easy to forget that you’re on a public road when you’re in a group. The riding gets easy going downhill and people swing out into the lane for safety and room to pass. But if a car is approaching from behind, cyclists simply look like a random obstacle and discourteous to boot. The relative speed between a car going fifty and a cyclist going 25-30 mph is still quite pronounced.

Which is what made it interesting that there was a white vehicle trailing our group for a segment of the road. It is very likely they were capturing video of our riding habits on their phone. Evidence against cyclists perhaps in the war over who owns the road?

Road hogs? 

It’s an overall interesting phenomenon, this idea that one person has more right to the road than another. It’s all very random if you think about it, or perhaps not. At this point it might pay to consider the lyrics of the Todd Rundgren song Emperor of the Highway:

I am the emperor of the highway
I wield the universal will
One might chance to overlook on my divineness
Unless I’m sitting in the Imperial Poupe de Ville

I am the emperor of the highway
Strapped with foolish mortals such as these
I need never indicate my intentions
I can stop and go and turn just as I please
For I am the emperor of the highway

But sometimes, stuff happens

Sideswipe oneSeveral weeks ago while driving to a late lunch with relatives on a Sunday afternoon, we were in the far left lane of a busy Route 64 near Maywood, Illinois when a vehicle in the lane to the right of us swung over and sideswiped my car. Wham, and wham again.

The driver pulled ahead of us then and we were stopped at a light. “I don’t think he knows that he hit you,” my companion Sue observed. So she got out of our car and walked up to knock on the window. She asked him to pull over at the next light and we met in a parking lot.

He got out of his vehicle and proceeded to pour out his life story to me. “My wife is in Gottlieb,” he explained, a hospital just back the road. “She’s been on her back for six weeks. I don’t know if she’s going to live. I lost my first wife to breast cancer and my second wife to heart disease. I had a stroke back in December.” Then his voice trailed off.

Obviously distracted, the man was also 85 years old and possibly hard of hearing. But he was doing his best to deal with a lot of different consequences in life.

His insurance covered the repairs on my vehicle, which were just completed yesterday. Fortunately no one in the incident was hurt. I felt really bad for the man in his circumstance. I’ve been through the hospital stuff and the loss of a wife due to cancer. I know how life can throw you curves and sideswipe you when you least expect it.

Rolling pathology

Which makes the war over cycling on the roads all the more painful and random to consider. What makes people so selfish that they cannot be considerate for a very brief encounter on the road? It’s a deep form of sociopathy that has infected a world that has ostensibly pulled together in the wake of tragic events in the past.

Sideswipe tooIf makes you wonder if some people ever really put aside their differences? Perhaps there is a culture inside the culture where the concerns of self and fear of differences never vanish. Ever.

All it takes is the pressure of money and politics and selfish greed to bring out disaffection in souls that are torn by the notions of competition in life. Politicians sense this need within a segment of the populace and appeal to the darker side of human beings. They hope to leverage it to their own advantage when elections come along. Then people seeking only to embrace the winning side go along to get along. They join parties and never look back even when said party is working against everything that is good for them in life.


Religions point fingers at other religions and races point fingers at other races. Even sexual orientation and gender become focuses for ostracization by political and religious gutter snipes.

That’s right, you know who they are. They are the ones buzzing others off the road in a rage of political and righteous furor. They care not who they hurt. They care only that their taxes go down and their net worth goes up. They hate anything that smacks of compassion for the weak or different in society. It galls them that people don’t look and act exactly like them. It ticks them off that people question the suppositions and assumptions they make even when those beliefs are clearly discriminatory. It angers so many that they might have to sacrifice some small advantage in life. They cannot imagine giving up some level of authority or wealth they have gained for themselves in this world.

Then there are those who are plain pissed off and disaffected. Lost in a place where their lives make no sense, they seek reason to get back at the world any way they can. These are the people who grab guns and go on shooting sprees. Others drink or drug themselves into oblivion. Still others channel their hatred and rise to positions of political power where they content themselves with driving others into the gutter.

Weakness as a strength

Chuck with LambsThen you encounter those who, in moments of real weakness and need, demonstrate the call for compassion in this world. Actually that is all of us. In our moments of weakness and failure we hope only that people will be kind and merciful in forgiving our mistakes.

At the same time, we have a call to push for justice. If anyone knows how to investigate the license plate number of the man who dangerously buzzed us last weekend, let me know. I plan to report it to the police of course. We’ll see what comes of that.

This is not vengeance we seek. That man is simply a danger to society. All of society. There is no limit to that kind of anger and false righteousness. We would be wise to recognize it even in the people clamoring for our votes, or else the nation itself could get sideswiped by the gutter snipes whose egos, ideologies and hairdos are a bumper crop of bald aggression.


About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at, and Online portfolio:
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7 Responses to Sideswiped and gutter sniped

  1. Dan In Iowa says:

    Did you turn this snipe in to police? I’d be interested to know if there was any follow up. The last time someone came that close to me was on an open road with no traffic. I called 911 with the license and location, but forgot to ask the 911 operator to have the sheriff/police send me a report on what happened after.

  2. bgddyjim says:

    Hate to tell you brother, but you contradicted yourself. If it was about taxes going down and net worth going up, your buzzer would have been driving a late model Lincoln, not a rotted out econoline van. The guy who buzzed you was more than likely on your side.

    That said, I got buzzed yesterday too. POS Chevy Impala. Maybe 2007 or 8, silver. I was in the drops, a foot from the edge of the road at 22 into the wind and he waited till his bumper was even with my back wheel before he leaned on his horn. Didn’t even hear him coming because of the wind. Almost shit my pants, he got me so good. I waived for him to come back so I could put a cleat imprint on his forehead but the sissy kept going.

    I hope you gave your guy’s plate number to the cops. That’s a felony in my State. Mine sped off too fast for me to get his.

    People are angry, there’s no doubt. But it’s because we were told it was all going to get better, that even the seas would stop rising… And it got worse. A lot worse. All that’s missing now is a malaise speech.

    • Let’s take a look at the real demographics of disadvantaged and angry Republican or Democrat voters. Many of the ilk that buzzed me are formerly blue collar workers. Perhaps they were/are Democrat. But not necessarily. Many are from the Rust Belt and from the South. The main concern these days is their guns and feeling empowered against a society that does not seem to care about them. Some are Christian, but it is a brand of disaffected, fairly literalistic religion that does not embrace tolerance, especially for anyone “different” than what they consider “mainstream.” Certainly cyclists fall well outside this Pickup Truck mainstream. Then there are the hardass wannabes that don’t know quite why they should be pissed off. The Republican Party has aggressively leveraged that anger by getting these various groups to compete against each other and yet still vote the same party line. All told, that has poisoned discourse in this country by creating a massive atmosphere of distrust and competition. In a direct way, that contributes to why drivers refuse to Share the Road. They’ve been told they don’t have to share anything if they don’t want to. Not their tax dollar. Not their property. Not their guns. Not their religion. It’s a systemic plan by conservatives to divide and conquer. Get people focused on one-issue objectives and keep them angry and distract them with social issues like abortion or guns so that they’re too obsessed to watch the ugly transfer of wealth and power to people who really don’t give a shit about them.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Or they’re Democrats, whose party has forsaken them for a vote, in illegal immigration (though establishment Republicans are no better) or as a crusade against a person’s right to defend oneself, or in taxes (where they never throw the old money [establishment Democrat] under the bus, just the new money, so with their ridiculous policies, end up making it harder for people to climb, in what is supposed to be the best country in the world in which to do so. As for distrust, gee, I wonder why there is distrust. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period. But we’ll just have to pass the Bill to see what’s in it (Nancy Pelosi D-Mars). Who comes out to say a cop shooting a guy who beats him about the head is racism when they know damn well it isn’t (Al Sharpton, President Obama), so that half a small town is burned for no good reason?

        I hear you that people are angry but to blame it on Republicans, especially in your State is too NPR. Sounds like you could use the President’s advice and tune into FoxNews every now and again. Just go for Brett Baier or Megyn Kelly over the info-babes. 😁

  3. I see and track Fox News all the time. It plays 24/7 at my health club. My conservative father-in-law used to watch it all the time. It made him arch and angry about his opinions. But here’s the truth: I have seldom (if ever) seen them report a story straight like a journalism outlet should. And I’ve worked in journalism and the media for 20+ years. Fox News is not news. It is opinion disguised as news. And if you can’t see that, then you’ve never learned what news is in the first place. As for trust and Democrats, there is no crusade against the right to bear arms. There is strong and justified reaction to events like we’ve just seen, where innocent people are slaughtered in cold blood. And what does Fox News come out and say, “The answer would have been more guns.” In church, yeah? You should pack heat while praying to Jesus? That is the most cynical response possible, and proof that they’re liars when they claim to be ‘fair and balanced.’ And that’s also the problem with the political platform of Republicans. It is so full of purposeful contradictions and blatant euphemisms no one can tell what the GOP really wants except power. That is evidenced by the fractured field of bloviators now running for POTUS. A bunch of power-hungry, single issue candidates who care not that they would be elected to serve. Their idea would be to get the people to serve their ideology. That’s how Bush conducted himself. As for the health care program, you do understand that the bill was architected as much by politicians trying to deliver benefits to the insurance companies as it was by anyone actually trying to change the system. That’s why there are problems with it. It was a divided piece of legislation as a result of people trying to kiss the asses of big money insurance, pharma and medical systems. What we needed was the public option. Plain and simple. But Republicans called that socialism. Which is bullshit. It would have been a balance in the marketplace just as public universities provide access to education at the state level. That would have given people a true and honest provision for millions to purchase health care in a truly public marketplace rather than this fractured, privatized system we have had to this point. It’s uncivilized. Now we’ve emerged with a compromise dependent on subsidies, which are a poor substitute for the public option. These are now threatened to be struck down on legal means. However, despite these problems, Obamacare has not ruined the country as people have threatened. It has, for people like me, allowed an independent businessperson to gain access to insurance where in the past I’ve tried and been denied because my wife had cancer. Pre-existing conditions, you see. The system we had was cruel, dispassionate, discriminatory and very, very Republican.

  4. andy says:

    Chris, thanks for the thought provoking post. Loving the conversation.

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