Friday Musings: The Art of the Heckle

I’m sure most of you have been heckled before…it can be an unpleasant side effect of sharing the road with other users who don’t really understand why you’re out there.

And we’ve probably heard the same heckles over and over…you know, the “get on the sidewalk!” and the ever-popular “Hey Lance Armstrong!”. Yeah yeah…heard it all before. There is definitely an art to heckling…it’s tough to be creative with something that is clever, intelligible at high speed and for such a short duration of interaction between motorist/cyclist/pedestrian.

I asked the other writers here at Bikecommuters.com if they’d share some of their favorite heckles. I didn’t get too much in the way of clever ones, but let’s hear what the crew has experienced:

RL has had a carload of men catcall and whistle at him. Personally, I rather like being whistled at or catcalled…call me vain, but it suggests to me that I’m easy on the eyes! RL agrees: “Wasn’t sure how to react at first, but took it as a compliment, I guess I still have it.”

Miriam has had a SUV-load of adolescents lean out the windows and bark like dogs at her. Also, “I did have a woman yell at me for a good three blocks on my first ever commute in Seattle calling me a f%#king bitch who needed to learn how to drive and did i want her to run me over?!”

Elizabeth had a pedestrian…yeah, someone on FOOT…shout “Buy a car!” at her. I find this one deliciously ironic…as my friend Chip back in Tampa had to say, “you think cyclists have it bad out there…you should try being a pedestrian — we’re third-class citizens!” Hollering at a cyclist to buy a car when you’re walking just defies reason. E thinks the lady was trying to impress her friends. I suggested she might have been drunk.

I asked some of our Facebook fans to recount their favorite heckles…the one that took the cake there was “Buy a horse!” Funny, weird, and original all in one.

So, what are some of the heckles you’ve heard out there? We’d love to hear them…just drop them in the comments below. Don’t worry about profanity if you’ve got a doozy to share.


16 Comments

  1. Matt August 24, 2012 4:03 am 

    I had a guy yell “get on the sidewalk like a real man”.

  2. Eric Smithers August 24, 2012 5:15 am 

    My buddy Jeff and I were biking through the famed Rowlett Park on our way to Ybor CIty in Tampa (an area I know the Ghost Rider is very familiar with) when a very southern woman in a gleaming Cutlass passed us and uttered the best heckle ever. Now, don’t get me wrong, she gave plenty of space when she passed us on the narrow street. She didn’t shout, didn’t even give us the pleasure of hanging out of the window to throw the rabble, rabble fist shake. Instead, she just rolled down her window and gave us a sweet, almost soothing, “fuck you, baby,” as she sauntered along. The “fuck you” part was a little sharp but she pulled it all together when the “bay-bay” just rolled off her tongue. She hated us but she was polite about it. To this day, it’s my favorite heckle by far.

  3. Ghost Rider August 24, 2012 5:25 am 

    @Eric — how bizarre! Southern folks DO have a way to cut you to the quick, but be polite about it.

    I had a sidewalk cyclist berate me once as I passed him down on street level (Florida Avenue northbound from downtown Tampa, for my peeps in FL). He said, “boy, you’re gonna die down there in the road…you should be up on the sidewalk with me!”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that statistically, I was much safer where I was. At the next stoplight, he told me, “I’ve only been hit two or three times up here. How many times you been hit?”

  4. Mike August 24, 2012 5:41 am 

    I once rode on a state crossing group ride with a bunch of “Freds” and had numerous people spit “Organ Donor” at me as they passed on their $3,000 crabon bikes.

    I had many thoughtful conversations at the end of the ride each day with people that questioned my decision to ride without a helmet, and formed some great friendships while disagreeing with them. The larger group of 800+ riders shunned me however without bothering to even speak to me.

    They also were very, very busy warning each other about every car that passed, “CAR BACK!!!”. They seemed skittish in anything resembling traffic (read:more than 1 car per hour) and treated the whole experience like it was a very dangerous enterprise.

  5. Jesse August 24, 2012 7:51 am 

    I know I may be temping fate, or the bike commute savior deity RidesWithOnePannier – but in a total of 4 years of bike commuting and many more of just riding around…I’ve never been heckled. Don’t misinterpret, I’ve been nearly run over, side swiped, t-boned, and right hooked too many times to count right now – but unless I tune out more than my usual amount when I’m riding, I’ve never heard a heckle while on the road in Seattle.

    I had a fellow rider chide me once for not stopping for a pedestrian at a crosswalk on the Burke Gilman Trail…I just politely explained that had I seen the man magically through the huge bush that obscured the trail where he approached from, I most assuredly would have stopped. This lead to one of the most ludicrous, passive aggressive, only-in-Seattle apologies I’ve had the pain and suffering to listen to. But that wasn’t the question was it…

  6. ret3 August 24, 2012 9:14 am 

    I been heckled a few times, but I’ve never quite been able to make out what they said, what with the roar of their motor and the pounding of my heart in my ears. I do occasionally get asked for directions (by motorists at stoplights) and for the time by pedestrians.

  7. Jazz August 24, 2012 10:37 am 

    Every time we ride together my husband has notes that we tend to get heckled whereas he apparently is “almost never” bothered alone. It’s a little long but here’s one of my favorites:

    One afternoon we were returning home from the grocery shopping. This particular roadway has four lanes and the two middle lanes take a slight left up a hill to our house. Since traffic can be treacherous on the weekends we get in the right middle lane as quickly as possible and travel the 3-4 blocks to our turn. We enter the empty lane at a red light and as soon as it turns green a car comes up.

    The following too close starts then honking. We each have around 40lbs on our backs so we’re waving the driver around. He speeds into the left lane and gets stopped in slow traffic then cuts us off to get in the far right lane and stops beside us at the next light. He rolls down his window and he’s a 40 year old man with a really thick Chinese accent; “You need to get out of the road” “Roads are for cars” “I could’ve killed you” (one of my personal favorites).

    We’re both irritated and I start shouting back “We’re turning left” “We’re allowed here, CVC21202” “You’re an @$$”

    And then he says. “We’ll you- you’re just a dumb stupid DUMBBELL!” Then at my husband “You should teach your DUMBBELL girlfriend when to shut up, you’re a bad boyfriend you’re going to get her killed– DUMBBELLS” Then he sped off red faced and cranky. We laughed all the way home.

  8. JaimeRoberto August 24, 2012 1:51 pm 

    I think the “Get a horse” comment has its origins from the time when cars were new and broke down a lot. When the car was stranded on the side of the road, observers from a horse and wagon would comment “Get a horse”. As a child I lived at the top of a steep hill. My father would have to walk his bike up the hill, and we would taunt him with “Get a horse!”

  9. Mir.I.Am August 24, 2012 4:50 pm 

    @Jazz – Holy shet, that story had me ALL cracking up sideways!!! DUMBBELL, hilarious heckle. Can we give out any awards? Ghost Rider, you got an extra pair of Bike Commuter socks or something for this heckle!?

  10. Paul G August 24, 2012 5:11 pm 

    I was doing a night ride one time and a bunch of college kids with a flip cam in a SUV stuck out a note and piece of candy on a coat hangar wire. Wanted me to take and read the note than eat the candy. I don’t remember what the note said and I didn’t eat the candy. Scared me at first but ended up pretty funny. I figure it maybe on YouTube but I’ve never found it. I’ve also been yelled at, stuff thrown at me (big gulp) while being yelled at, etc.

  11. Jeff August 24, 2012 6:54 pm 

    We don’t get heckled in Vegas too much because most of the drivers are too drunk to remember how to roll down their windows and slur at us.

  12. Suzanne S. August 25, 2012 4:38 pm 

    I used to live in New Orleans and I remember getting a lotta thumbs out “Can I get a ride?”s which always made me smile. And I pretty much always responded “If you can catch up!”

  13. BluesCat August 25, 2012 7:58 pm 

    My most memorable heckling incident was provided by a guy on a bicycle. He evidently thought my recumbent was some kind of low-rider bicycle and I was an illegal alien, because all of his comments ran along the lines of “Why don’t you go back to Mexico!” and “I’m a TRUE American!”

    Jeff – We have a similar situation in Phoenix with sleazebags being unable to heckle us because of rolled up windows. But I think here it is because they don’t want to lose all the air conditioning by rolling down the window.

  14. listenermark August 26, 2012 5:05 pm 

    While cruising thru the burbs one afternoon I rode past a group of half a dozen teenage girls. They yelled out “hey hey bike dude.” When I failed to engage them every single one of them started calling out “Hey Richard!” Over and over. Clever, slightly vulgar, and very funny. I treasure that memory.

  15. Dan August 31, 2012 6:51 pm 

    The neighbor and I were riding along 400W near West Lafayette, IN, about a quarter of a mile from 250N before work. A pickup type truck with a flatbed in back had to wait for about 5 seconds before it could pass. The driver gunned it when the road was clear, turned onto 250N and stopped. He leaned towards the passenger window and screamed “Get off the road, fat ass!” Now, the neighbor is pretty thin, so I’m guessing he was referring to my 240lb frame. Apparently, he doesn’t appreciate the sight of a gentleman of my size in spandex shorts.
    Anyway, 250N has been “Fat Ass Road” ever since.

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