On one of my many drives down I-81 in Virginia, I was enjoying the scenery and music. I had reached one of those rare states of a driver’s high. I had the road to myself, the windows down and good music going. All of the sudden I looked to my left where a T-bird had pulled up next to me. Unprovoked, the guy behind the wheel flipped me the bird. I was surprised, but then not all that shocked. Falling victim to road rage (either as the giver or the receiver) in the States seems all too common. I am still not sure what set this guy off.
It is hard to really generalize what it is like driving in Korea, but I can say it is not like that. On one hand, I could argue that drivers here are much more relaxed then they are back home. But I could also easily argue the opposite. In one week, I stalled out, cut off other drivers and drove well below the speed limit without hearing one honk or curse word. That same week, I watched a cabbie cut off another driver, stop him in his tracks, walk back to the car and punch the driver through the window. It is a bit of crapshoot when you get out on the road in Gwangju, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that it has mostly been positive.
I bought a bike on my 30th birthday, partly to offset my increasingly lame and old tendencies. I was starting to hear it from my 26-year-old wife about my being in bed before 10PM. “You are old!” she would taunt. Drastic actions had to be taken.
It wasn’t just my mid-life crisis that made me buy a bike, it was also that Lindsay and I wanted to feel like we had more opportunities to see and experience Korea. In the few months that I have been a biker, it has certainly done just that. I feel like you really get to know a culture when you are out there on the road with them.
Being among the drivers that have long scared me as a pedestrian has not been a big deal. As a biker, you definitely have to act as if you are invisible. Car drivers will move(usually slowly) over on you. However, if you do anything questionable or dangerous rarely do they stare you down. Well, except for the taxi driver who punched the guy who cut him off, oh, and the bus driver we had one time that tailed that guy for about 10 miles for cutting him off. Usually, though, they let bad driving (and there is plenty of that) roll off their back.
They have mostly accepted me into their road fraternity. Besides the occasional stares, Lindsay gets when she is on the back, they hardly even look at me, not even to give me the middle finger.