OK, so it doesn't happen often. Someone throwing a pop can or a tennis ball or whatever at the poor innocent, weird, offensive, horrible bicyclist on the shoulder. Let's face it, riding around with big bulky bags hanging off the bicycle, flags, reflectors, meandering vagabonds that we are. We deserve to be loathed, castigated and symbolically stoned.
The car passes by at say 30 miles per hour as the ball leaves his hand. The talented right hander adds another 40 miles per hour of accurate heat onto the projectile. As it finds its mark in the small of the cyclists back, the the 70 miles per hour is transformed first into incredulity, later to become a combination of anger and bruised tissue. The cyclist hears ever so briefly a faded doppler version of the celebration of a direct hit. Only after this all happens does the cyclist process that he has been targeted and taken out, so to say.
I'm certainly not a psychologist, but I have to believe there are a certain group a individuals that have a remarkably low tolerance for the 'ain't like me' folks called bicyclists. I think, though I could be worng, that touring cyclist are especially prized game. I imagine it must be fortuitous to these warped assholes, that bicyclist are prized targets of opportunity. It is the 'hit and run' scenario from heaven. Chances of injuring the cyclist 50%. Chances of getting caught, nil.
More dangerous than these hybrids of humanity are the ones that use their cars and trucks as weapon to scare the living bejeezus out of us. There are several techniques that I have noticed. One of the more popular, and no doubt the most thrilling to the maturity-challenged is the sneak up and honk technique. This is best executed on a country road with low traffic, when the 'ain't from around here' bicyclist is most off guard. Usually its an old chevy or a pick-up truck, I don't know why. The bicyclist isn't really looking in his rear view when all of the sudden HONNNK!, followed by squealing wheels, with the possible addition of vulgarities and hand gestures for good measure. It gets the heart going a bit, but you get to thank yourself later than you are you and they are whatever they are.
I must put this all in perspective. For example, during my 1500+ miles up the east coast of the United States, I had exactly one close call with, of all things an unwary (or uncaring) public bus driver who literally caused me to ride into a ditch to save my bacon. And I had one run in with a local yokel with whom I broke my own rule. Don't engage with assholes. On that one, I returned the favor of his language and gestures as he drove by. Then the car stopped about 100 feet ahead of me. I caught up. (What choice did I have?). A young roughneck (a good a word as any) exited his vehicle. "What did you call my girlfriend", he asked, no weapon visible that I could see. I had to dig out, think fast, what to say or do, shit. "Didn't realize this was your road", was all I could muster. And to my great fortune, probably the result of years of good clean living and daily prayer, the joker went on the defensive. " I know its not my road. If you could afford a car, you wouldn't be riding a bike on this road.", he reasoned. And who was I to argue with such sound logic? Exit stage left, I thought. "Guess not", I agreed. And that was it. I kept pedaling for a while, my heart beating out of my chest, half wondering if he was stalking me up ahead. After I settled down, I realized - lesson learned. All that said, these were the only two incidents of note, and the last one was half my fault, I guess.