Aggravating Other Road Users

It seems there are some cyclists out there that seem intent on aggravating other road users by their actions.

Just this morning, for example, I witnessed an altercation between a cyclists and motorist that was completely unnecessary.

The queue of cars at the junction was maybe 15-20 deep, and there were several people on bikes using the cycle lane to bypass the queue. Except that for some reason, in the middle of the queue one of the cars had decided to pull right into the curb, completely blocking the cycle lane. I’m not entirely sure why he had pulled that far to the left. He wasn’t parking up, or pulling into a driveway. Maybe he was trying to see past of other cars ahead, or maybe he did it deliberately because he hates cyclists. We’ll never know I guess.

Anyway, so one of the cyclists (dressed in lycra and on a road bike) took exception to the car blocking the cycle lane, and decided to slap the roof of the car to express his displeasure. The motorist in turn started yelling at the cyclists out of his window.  I didn’t catch all of what he said, although there were some definite swear words. However motorist’s yelling would have been largely lost on the cyclist as he was already about 10 cars ahead at the front of the queue.

And I remember thinking to myself at the time, what was the point of slapping the guy’s roof? It seems to be an increasing trend amongst some cyclists, who think it’s a great way to express their disapproval of a motorist’s actions. And the reason they do it seems to be because they know it mightily pisses the driver off.

Car owners tend to get very upset if you even lay a finger on their beloved vehicle. And if you couple that with the shock of an unexpected thud, then of course they’re going to get upset and angry. It’s the basic fight of flight response of anyone when challenged – and more often that not, because of the relative protection afforded by their steel cocoon, a driver is going to go into fight mode.

So with this in mind, why try to deliberately antagonise the driver? Yeah, he may have done something wrong, but by slapping his car he’s not going to instantaneously think “Whoops – I must have done something wrong. I’ll try and pay more attention in future.” No, he’s going to think “What just hit me? Bloody cyclists!”, and he’s going to come away from the incident hating cyclists just a little bit more.

Each negative interaction like this builds up a mutual animosity between cyclists and drivers – and that can’t be good for any road users. We all know about the phenomenon of “road rage”, and as a more vulnerable road-user, I don’t particularly want to be on the receiving end of it.

Of course, I witness bad behaviour all the time, and I used to get angry about it too. But these days, I find a whithering look of disappointment is much more effective than an angry shout. It’s much more likely to elicit an apology from a driver, and hopefully will encourage them to be more careful in future.

Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog

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