‘[They] started getting super aggressive’

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Biking over 1,900 miles across three countries in three-and-a-half weeks is no easy feat, especially when drivers are hurling insults and rolling coal.

That was the experience of this cyclist trekking from Canada to Mexico, who detailed the harassment she received in the r/bicycling subreddit.

At the time of her post, the cyclist, who identified herself as Heather Werner and pointed to her social media accounts chronicling the journey, was traveling through Kansas and enjoying how “gorgeous” the roads were. However, she could not say the same of the drivers who tormented her.

@heath.er.wer.ner From start to finish, a journey across the heartland! A grand adventure can be found right in your backyard…so long as you’re willing to take that first step. To the many people who made this journey unforgettable, thank you. ❤️ #takethefirststep #adventureisoutthere #bikeacrossamerica #travel #traveltiktok #seetheworld #adventure #adventurecycling #bikepacking #biketouring #roadtrip #jamisbikes #jamisrenegade #bikeride #bikelove #bikelife @Jamis® Bikes ♬ original sound – わをん🌎🌍🌏

“The drivers started getting super aggressive,” she said. “Swerving at me and laying on the horn, screaming what a f****** w**** I was, and finally, the big finale: f-bombs, middle fingers, AND rolling coal, all from one truck.”

While the verbal abuse the biker endured was obviously problematic, the coal-rolling was harmful to both her and the environment. 

Rolling coal is when truck drivers illegally tamper with emission controls in their diesel engines so that the car can spew out excess amounts of black smoke. It’s typically performed in front of cyclists and electric vehicles as part of an anti-environmentalist movement.

However, the EPA’s Clean Air Act prohibits deleting emission control systems, and a few states have explicitly outlawed the modifications.

Per the EPA, coal rolling can lead to 570,000 tons of excess nitrogen oxides over the vehicle’s lifetime. The modified cars are so toxic that their air quality impact is equivalent to the addition of nine million regulated diesel trucks on the road.

Nitrogen dioxide, one of the byproducts of coal rolling, can lead to chronic respiratory issues while polluting ecosystems like lakes, coastal waters, and forests.

“It ain’t just Kansas. The lack of common decency in much of America is truly disheartening. The thing is, you’re not seen as a human being, you’re an obstacle,” one user said to the original poster.

“Congratulations? on joining the club,” another said sarcastically. “It is somewhat amusing that these truck owners are so threatened by a gal on a bicycle.” 

“I’m good,” she responded. “I was a little shaken right after, but I’ll be leaving the state tomorrow, so at least now I have a good Kansas story.”

The cyclist’s calm composure and positive attitude paid off, as she posted on her page that she completed her trip none the worse for wear. And she has since been promoting on her TikTok account that she is featured on the latest season of the show “Naked and Afraid,” with her episode having debuted in November.  

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