BBC Column: Why cyclists enrage car drivers

Here is my latest BBC Future column. The original is here. This one proved to be more than usually controversial, not least because of some poorly chosen phrasing from yours truly. This is an updated version which makes what I’m trying to say clearer. If you think that I hate cyclists, or my argument relies on the facts of actual law breaking (by cyclists or drivers), or that I am making a claim about the way the world ought to be (rather than how people see it), then please check out this clarification I published on my personal blog after a few days of feedback from the column. One thing the experience has convinced me of is that cycling is a very emotional issue, and one people often interpret in very moral terms.

It’s not simply because they are annoying, argues Tom Stafford, it’s because they trigger a deep-seated rage within us by breaking the moral order of the road.

 

Something about cyclists seems to provoke fury in other road users. If you doubt this, try a search for the word “cyclist” on Twitter. As I write this one of the latest tweets is this: “Had enough of cyclists today! Just wanna ram them with my car.” This kind of sentiment would get people locked up if directed against an ethnic minority or religion, but it seems to be fair game, in many people’s minds, when directed against cyclists. Why all the rage?

I’ve got a theory, of course. It’s not because cyclists are annoying. It isn’t even because we have a selective memory for that one stand-out annoying cyclist over the hundreds of boring, non-annoying ones (although that probably is a factor). No, my theory is that motorists hate cyclists because they offend the moral order.

Driving is a very moral activity – there are rules of the road, both legal and informal, and there are good and bad drivers. The whole intricate dance of the rush-hour junction only works because everybody knows the rules and follows them: keeping in lane; indicating properly; first her turn, now mine, now yours. Then along come cyclists, innocently following what they see as the rules of the road, but doing things that drivers aren’t allowed to: overtaking queues of cars, moving at well below the speed limit or undertaking on the inside.

You could argue that driving is like so much of social life, it’s a game of coordination where we have to rely on each other to do the right thing. And like all games, there’s an incentive to cheat. If everyone else is taking their turn, you can jump the queue. If everyone else is paying their taxes you can dodge them, and you’ll still get all the benefits of roads and police.

In economics and evolution this is known as the “free rider problem”; if you create a common benefit  – like taxes or orderly roads – what’s to stop some people reaping the benefit without paying their dues? The free rider problem creates a paradox for those who study evolution, because in a world of selfish genes it appears to make cooperation unlikely. Even if a bunch of selfish individuals (or genes) recognise the benefit of coming together to co-operate with each other, once the collective good has been created it is rational, in a sense, for everyone to start trying to freeload off the collective. This makes any cooperation prone to collapse. In small societies you can rely on cooperating with your friends, or kin, but as a society grows the problem of free-riding looms larger and larger.

Social collapse

Humans seem to have evolved one way of enforcing order onto potentially chaotic social arrangements. This is known as “altruistic punishment”, a term used by Ernst Fehr and Simon Gachter in a landmark paper published in 2002 [4]. An altruistic punishment is a punishment that costs you as an individual, but doesn’t bring any direct benefit. As an example, imagine I’m at a football match and I see someone climb in without buying a ticket. I could sit and enjoy the game (at no cost to myself), or I could try to find security to have the guy thrown out (at the cost of missing some of the game). That would be altruistic punishment.

Altruistic punishment, Fehr and Gachter reasoned, might just be the spark that makes groups of unrelated strangers co-operate. To test this they created a co-operation game played by constantly shifting groups of volunteers, who never meet – they played the game from a computer in a private booth. The volunteers played for real money, which they knew they would take away at the end of the experiment. On each round of the game each player received 20 credits, and could choose to contribute up to this amount to a group project. After everyone had chipped in (or not), everybody (regardless of investment) got 40% of the collective pot.

Under the rules of the game, the best collective outcome would be if everyone put in all their credits, and then each player would get back more than they put in. But the best outcome for each individual was to free ride – to keep their original 20 credits, and also get the 40% of what everybody else put in. Of course, if everybody did this then that would be 40% of nothing.

In this scenario what happened looked like a textbook case of the kind of social collapse the free rider problem warns of. On each successive turn of the game, the average amount contributed by players went down and down. Everybody realised that they could get the benefit of the collective pot without the cost of contributing. Even those who started out contributing a large proportion of their credits soon found out that not everybody else was doing the same. And once you see this it’s easy to stop chipping in yourself – nobody wants to be the sucker.

Rage against the machine

A simple addition to the rules reversed this collapse of co-operation, and that was the introduction of altruistic punishment. Fehr and Gachter allowed players to fine other players credits, at a cost to themselves. This is true altruistic punishment because the groups change after each round, and the players are anonymous. There may have been no direct benefit to fining other players, but players fined often and they fined hard – and, as you’d expect, they chose to fine other players who hadn’t chipped in on that round. The effect on cooperation was electric. With altruistic punishment, the average amount each player contributed rose and rose, instead of declining. The fine system allowed cooperation between groups of strangers who wouldn’t meet again, overcoming the challenge of the free rider problem.

How does this relate to why motorists hate cyclists? The key is in a detail from that classic 2002 paper. Did the players in this game sit there calmly calculating the odds, running game theory scenarios in their heads and reasoning about cost/benefit ratios? No, that wasn’t the immediate reason people fined players. They dished out fines because they were mad as hell. Fehr and Gachter, like the good behavioural experimenters they are, made sure to measure exactly how mad that was, by asking players to rate their anger on a scale of one to seven in reaction to various scenarios. When players were confronted with a free-rider, almost everyone put themselves at the upper end of the anger scale. Fehr and Gachter describe these emotions as a “proximate mechanism”. This means that evolution has built into the human mind a hatred of free-riders and cheaters, which activates anger when we confront people acting like this – and it is this anger which prompts altruistic punishment. In this way, the emotion is evolution’s way of getting us to overcome our short-term self-interest and encourage collective social life.

So now we can see why there is an evolutionary pressure pushing motorists towards hatred of cyclists. Deep within the human psyche, fostered there because it helps us co-ordinate with strangers and so build the global society that is a hallmark of our species, is an anger at people who break the rules, who take the benefits without contributing to the cost. And cyclists trigger this anger when they use the roads but don’t follow the same rules as cars.

Now cyclists reading this might think “but the rules aren’t made for us – we’re more vulnerable, discriminated against, we shouldn’t have to follow the rules.” Perhaps true, but irrelevant when other road-users see you breaking rules they have to keep. Maybe the solution is to educate drivers that cyclists are playing an important role in a wider game of reducing traffic and pollution. Or maybe we should just all take it out on a more important class of free-riders, the tax-dodgers.

68 Comments

  1. Laughing Noam
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Why do you think cyclists don’t pay tax? We pay as much tax as motorists – both locally and nationally. Your piece is a hateful diatribe of complete nonsense!

    • Posted February 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      He does not say that cyclists don’t pay tax. Re-read it and you’ll see that the mention of tax is used only as another example of free-riding. Indeed, in the final sentence he says that rather than taking out our rage on cyclists, we should take it out on tax-dodgers instead.

    • Hoover
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      Do you pay vehicle excise duty, otherwise known as road tax?

      By the way “your piece is a hateful diatribe” looks like an argument about motivations, not about facts. The trouble is, one cannot mind-read a writer, one can only deal with what is written.

      • Alex
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        Vehicle Excise and Duty Fund and Road Tax are not the same thing. Road tax is taken from general taxation and has been since 1936 (ie it comes from income tax that everyone pays).

        The vehicle excise and duty fund does not go towards paying for the roads either, it too gets absorbed into general taxation, from which road tax is evetually taken out.

        But this is a common mistake that pretty much everyone makes.

        Everyone ends up paying road tax, whether they own a car or not. This does mean that cyclists and pedestrians pay pretty much as much road tax as motorists.

      • Steve
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        “The vehicle excise and duty fund does not go towards paying for the roads either, it too gets absorbed into general taxation, from which road tax is evetually taken out.”

        So, you say it DOESN’T go to roads, then say it goes into a fund where it DOES, and expect not to be treated like a mendacious idiot.

  2. Lively Sceptic
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    There’s an aspect to cyclists that you might have overlooked. We don’t produces noxious fumes when we’re driving along. And what you motorists produce affects us more. I only see one solution, really. If there are more cyclists, you will get used to us. Take it from me. I’m Dutch.

  3. Uncle B
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    More cyclists coming soon! More low powered electric bikes coming soon. Fewer cars happening now. Asians requiring more and more oil, gasoline, are driving world oil prices through the roof. Even richer Americans now driving smaller Asian cars. Western World is feeling the economic pinch, will “downsize” to bikes. electric bikes and electric cars wherever economic and feasible. Current large car drivers, kings of the road, will diminish to a weaker minority, traffic patterns will take former rights from them to favor the new majority on the roads. Even the long distance motorways will give way to electric bullet trains, and fuel intensive jet flights will price themselves out of the marketplace as this new age transitions the Western World from its former glories to an equal or even subservient role to the explosive bloom in China and India. This is the new reality.

  4. searchandreplace
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    In 2011, there were 406 reports of pedestrians hit by cyclists compared with 21,321 pedestrians hit by cars. Of these, the numbers killed or seriously injured (accidents that are unlikely to go unreported) are in a similar ratio: that is, about 2%. These statistics, of course, relect scale, not culpability. Many cyclists at some point exchange their 20 kilos of bike for 2 tons of car, but keep their disrespect of rules for which they see no need. Then instead of running red lights, they ignore speed limits and begin contributing to the toll of 20,000 or more pedestrians hit each year and the six lives lost every week.

  5. ssfd0
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I am not clear what you mean when you claim that “cyclists enrage car drivers”. Certainly, some car drivers are prejudiced towards ‘cyclists’, just as some cyclists are prejudiced towards ‘drivers’. Both draw illegitimate conclusions about all category members based on limited experiences with members of those categories. Both act in ways likely to bring about consequences which reinforce their prejudices. Some car drivers expect the worst of cyclists and are quick to anger when their expectations seem verified, just as some cyclists expect the worst of car drivers and are quick to anger when their expectations seem verified. By and large, though, everyday experience seems to suggest that most car drivers are usually not enraged by the presence of cyclists, just as most cyclists are usually relatively tranquil in the presence of cars. The exceptions, notable as they are, do not appear to prove the rule that you seem to claim.

    I am also not clear that cyclists enrage others predominantly because they violate rules in ways which seem to indicate free-riding. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a car driver becoming furious when a cyclist overtakes or undertakes a queue of stationary cars when it is safe to do so, nor when a cyclist rides safely and considerately at well below the speed limit. It seems to me that cyclists enrage others mainly when they are perceived to act selfishly in ways that give undue consideration to others’ rights/self-determination. Cyclists infuriate car drivers when they cut them up just as car drivers infuriate cyclists when they cut them up. Similarly, cyclists infuriate pedestrians when they illegitimately cycle in ways that cause fear and inconvenience (e.g., at speed on pavements at night without lights) just as pedestrians infuriate cyclists when they illegitimately walk in ways that cause fear and inconvenience (e.g., stepping suddenly into cycle lanes without looking for speeding cyclists). Whilst both cyclists and free-riders can certainly cause anger, it is not clear to me that cyclists cause anger (when they do) because they are perceived to be free-riding.

    I would be really grateful for any help you could give in clearing up my confusions by (1) clarifying the precise phenomenon you have a theory about (assuming it is not that “all car drivers hate all cyclists”) and (2) detailing why you think perceived free-riding is a particularly important determinant of that phenomenon.

  6. Posted February 18, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate the clearer re-write, and your general point, but I still think your last paragraph confuses things a little.

    “Now cyclists reading this might think “but the rules aren’t made for us – we’re more vulnerable, discriminated against, we shouldn’t have to follow the rules.” Perhaps true, but irrelevant when other road-users see you breaking rules they have to keep. Maybe the solution is to educate drivers that cyclists are playing an important role in a wider game of reducing traffic and pollution. Or maybe we should just all take it out on a more important class of free-riders, the tax-dodgers.”

    There’s an important distinction to be made here, which I think you allude to earlier. There are some rules / conventions which both motorists and cyclists should follow – i.e. travelling on the correct side of the road. There are other rules / conventions which motorists should follow but cyclists need not; i.e. waiting in traffic queues.

    Referring to ‘the rules’ fudges that distinction. It is reasonable for motorists to get annoyed with cyclists who break rules which should apply equally to cyclists, but unreasonable for them to get annoyed with cyclists who break rules which should only apply to motorists.

    As such, in addition to educating motorists about the important role of cycling, we should also educate them about the rules which needn’t apply to cyclists, so they hopefully don’t get so enraged in future…

  7. ricky
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    maybe we hate them because they get in the way, are slow, and impossible to pass without endangering your life if there is oncoming traffic.

    • kc5tja
      Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      So, what you’re really saying is NOT that you hate us cyclists because we’re slow and impossible to pass safely, but that us cyclists are generally rude to not pull over to the side and let faster traffic pass us.

      I agree with this restatement — as a cyclist, I get much scorn from motorists, but who can blame the motorists when I see other cyclists doing things which piss *me* off as a fellow cyclist? I have to obey the laws of the road just like a motorist does, and that includes unwritten laws, like “slower traffic pulls to the right”, or even common courtesy things like blinking lights to indicate “thank you” when it’s called for.

      And don’t get me started on cyclists who run red lights. In a car OR on a bike, that just infuriates me.

      Cycling is huge where I live (San Francisco), and yet, I swear we’re the worst offenders when it comes to violating basic road etiquette. Ricky’s rage could largely be ameliorated if we, as a community, adopted good riding practices, like letting a vehicle pass at the earliest opportunity, etc. It’s not rocket science; a Shimano or Raleigh bike doesn’t grant its rider a license not afforded to a Harley rider. It’s just plain good manners.

      Ricky, I just wanted to reassure you that not all cyclists are like the ones you run into. There are a few of us who give a damn and who try to be good riders on the road.

      • Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        Ricky: “they get in the way, are slow, and impossible to pass without endangering your life if there is oncoming traffic.”

        Unfortunately this is the nub of the issue.

        You wouldn’t pass another car or a motorbike when there is oncoming traffic, would you? What gives you any right to do so with a cyclist?

        Of COURSE you can’t pass a cyclist when there is oncoming traffic. If you do, it is your fault for endangering your own and the cyclist’s life. In this case, the cyclist is blameless. You can wait another 20 seconds to get to work instead of putting someone’s life at risk.

        Cyclists have no obligation to pull over for faster traffic, nor should they – they have as much right to be on the road as any motorist. The biggest danger to cyclists is motorists thinking they don’t exist; the safest thing a cyclist can do is to ride as if they were a car.

        Trying to pass cyclists as if they weren’t there is one of the main reasons cyclists are killed on roads so frequently, and it is this kind of attitude that perpetuates the problem.

      • Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink

        kc5tja,

        Thank you. I agree, it’s the offenders that make all cyclists seem bad. I’m sure that the reverse is just as true.

        – Jon

    • Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Ricky: “they get in the way, are slow, and impossible to pass without endangering your life if there is oncoming traffic.”

      Unfortunately this is the nub of the issue.

      You wouldn’t pass another car or a motorbike when there is oncoming traffic, would you? What gives you any right to do so with a cyclist?

      Of COURSE you can’t pass a cyclist when there is oncoming traffic. If you do, it is your fault for endangering your own and the cyclist’s life. In this case, the cyclist is blameless. You can wait another 20 seconds to get to work instead of putting someone’s life at risk.

      Cyclists have no obligation to pull over for faster traffic, nor should they – they have as much right to be on the road as any motorist. The biggest danger to cyclists is motorists thinking they don’t exist; the safest thing a cyclist can do is to ride as if they were a car.

      Trying to pass cyclists as if they weren’t there is one of the main reasons cyclists are killed on roads so frequently, and it is this kind of attitude that perpetuates the problem.

  8. Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    You know who else breaks the “moral order of the road”? Car drivers. By going faster than allowed; by not using their turning signals; by not looking at bikers and other traffic participants on their right when making a right turn; …need I go on?

  9. tomstafford
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    @reubenbinns good point. A wiser me would have avoided the confusion.

    @ssfd0 the phenomenon is that some drivers express disproportionate anger at cyclists (both individuals and as a general category). As for why I think that perceived moral transgression is one of the causes, how about we try and think about ways we could convince ourselves this idea was or wasn’t true. Predictions:
    – less anger in road cultures with more cycle lanes
    – less anger in road cultures with fewer road conventions
    – more anger in road cultures where differences between cars and bikes emphasised (fast roads or gridlock)

    Of course the trick is to find a prediction which differentiates from all the other hypothesised causal factors. Or one which falsifies the idea. Any suggestions?

  10. Martin
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    You make an interesting point, but I believe it misses the mark.
    The truth is, motorists know on an at least subconscious level that cyclist are better than them. We don’t pollute the environment, there is less visual and audible pollution compared to cars and we kill fewer people and animals. It’s simple jealousy that affects drivers and rage against people daring to be better than them. History is full of examples of this. Throughout history, the Jewiwsh people were generally more accomplished. How many Nobel laureates are Jewish? How many successful business people are Jewish? Still, people have tried to exterminate them since biblical times, because they were jealous and felt threatened by Jewish superiority. The same thing can be said for motorists. In fact, that makes them nothing but proto-fascists, ready to strike at a minority that is not conforming to their ideals of mediocrity.

    • Hoover
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      Cyclists are “better” than motorists? Do you mean morally and ethically better?

    • JS`
      Posted February 20, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      As a pedestrian, I have nearly been run over numerous times by cyclists who refuse to stop for red lights or who ride on the sidewalk. From my experience, biyclists want to be treated like automobile drivers but refuse to follow the same rules.

  11. PaddleSlapper
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I think Ricky has put his finger on it.

    A lot of drivers get angry at cyclists because a lot of drivers don’t have the driving skills to pass cyclists safely.

    Much easier for drivers to get angry and blame cyclists than face up to and deal with their own shortcomings.

    • Ferdia
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Cobblers. Most drivers have the skill. What pisses drivers off is that they have to do it over and over and over again. If cyclists behaved like all other traffic, and when passed, stayed in the line of traffic there wouldn’t be anywhere near the number of road rage incidents or acccidents. Instead we have the same cars overtaking the same cyclists again and again after every set of lights. When you’re passed, stay passed and stay safe.

  12. Hugh S. Myers
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I believe there is a flaw in at least one of the arguments set forth. If anyone should feel upset at the lack of ‘following the rules of the road’ it should be the cyclist. Historically, they were there first. The 4-wheel pollutionists came after…

  13. Hang
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    My fellow cyclists, just let it sit for 10 minutes. He’s not saying it’s right or wrong that drivers are enraged at cyclists. He’s putting forth one hypothesis to explain it. Look, we know some drivers are angry at us. This is a plausible explanation. Of course there are bad drivers and bad cyclists. However, drivers can’t easily tell a good driver from a bad one. Cyclists, on the other hand, are obviously different so it’s easy to prejudice against them. It works the same way with other forms of prejudice. Every group has its bad apples. When there are bad apples in other groups, we tend to generalize and say the entire group is bad. Bad apples in our own group are explained using outliers; they don’t represent us they’re outliers. You even see this happen among drivers when it’s easy to distinguish between sub-groups. For example, SUV drivers are often group together as are sports car drivers.

  14. Posted February 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    This article picks up on fantastic point about perceive road etiquette. It seems to imply that part of the reason for cyclist rage is this perception about what is legal on the road. Naturally this is based on the actual laws of the road, rather than perhaps what the laws of the road *should* be for different forms of transportation.

    Personally, I believe that cyclist really *should* have different rules to follow to cars. For example, lane splitting on a motorcycle is legal in many countries and is considered a safe practice as they travel through the traffic, rather than disrupt the traffic (i.e. they don’t actually hold it up so long as a car driver doesn’t freak out).

    The same rationale should be applied to cyclists. The problem is that driving culture in many Western cities (like Auckland) doesn’t like having something/someone disrupt their ‘flow’. A cyclist, unlike a motorcyclist, becomes and obstacle which one has to go around, that is, until the lights, in which point the cyclist then passes the car again. It doesn’t help with flow, for example, if the cyclist has to stringently abide by the light signals but now we have a catch 22; flow would be achieved if the cyclist can jump the lights, say, ride through the red along with the pedestrians crossing at that time, but the car driver would then feel that the cyclist is ‘breaking the rules’. The problem is, if the cyclist has to get away from the lights with the car at the same time, they become an obstacle to the car again, and thus disrupt flow. It’s a no win for the those that feel aggrieved at the options open to a cyclist.

    Sure, cycle lanes will benefit all, but the reality is that cars, motorcycles, buses and cars are all different forms of transportation and should be given their own unique rules to follow. Helmets are compulsory, perhaps no portable music players for cyclists should too. In the end each form of transport has their own special considerations, techniques and risks; the shame should be applied to road rules for these vehicles.

    • airdrummer0
      Posted February 20, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

      “ride through the red along with the pedestrians”

      damn straight i do…a cyclist operates in the same energy range as a pedestrian, so i’m gonna follow pedestrian rules.

  15. Bernd Bloed
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    And the first comment comes from a self centered cyclist jerk.
    No wonder everybody hates these people!

  16. kc5tja
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    So, what @Ricky is really saying is NOT that you hate us cyclists because we’re slow and impossible to pass safely, but that us cyclists are generally rude to not pull over to the side and let faster traffic pass us.

    I agree with this restatement — as a cyclist, I get much scorn from motorists, but who can blame the motorists when I see other cyclists doing things which piss *me* off as a fellow cyclist? I have to obey the laws of the road just like a motorist does, and that includes unwritten laws, like “slower traffic pulls to the right”, or even common courtesy things like blinking lights (at night) or waving (during the day) to indicate “thank you” when it’s called for.

    And don’t get me started on cyclists who run red lights. In a car OR on a bike, that just infuriates me. And, the whole “not looking before making a turn” thing isn’t restricted to car drivers, either.

    Cycling is huge where I live (San Francisco), and yet, I swear we’re the worst offenders when it comes to violating basic road etiquette. Ricky’s rage could largely be ameliorated if we, as a community, adopted good riding practices, like letting a vehicle pass at the earliest safe opportunity, etc. It’s not rocket science; a Shimano or Raleigh bike doesn’t grant its rider a license not afforded to a Harley rider. It’s just plain good manners.

    Ricky, I just wanted to reassure you that not all cyclists are like the ones you (and, frankly, I) run into. There are a few of us who actually give a damn and who try to be good riders on the road.

    • Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      I live in Sydney and cycle to work; I recently had a motorist cut me up by about 1 inch, nearly knocking me over, and then yell prolonged abuse at me while slowing down to a menacingly slow pace.

      I had done nothing wrong and was riding safely. The driver’s issue with me was that I “had no right to be on the road” because I “don’t pay road tax”. This was sufficient for him to spend about a minute abusing me loudly.

      This seems to be a widespread misconception held by motorists (see the first comment from Laughing Noam above). I think it might be a good idea to clarify publicly (with posters?) that cyclists have just as much right to be on the road as any motorist and that whether one pays road tax is irrelevant.

  17. anon
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I found this article very compelling because even when I’m on foot and I see cyclists break rules it enrages me.

    But it enrages me for a second reason. I live in Vancouver. We have awesome bike lanes but constantly I see cyclists using busy roads that are only 2 or 3 blocks from roads with bike lanes. IT ENRAGES ME!

    • Gonewest
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:05 am | Permalink

      Where I live there is no legal obligation for a cyclist to use a bike lane.

  18. Marnie
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    speaking from the point of view of a now excyclist I found this article fascinating. I always wondered why I was either attacked for taking up a small share of the road or totally invisible to car drivers.

    I’ve had vehicles turn right thereby causing me to come to a breakneck stop or a smudge on the side of their vehicle. Another invisible cyclist trick was to open the car door just as I was in a position to smack right into it. I’ve had vehicles drive along the side of the highway in what must have been a desire to make me leap into the ditch which actually did happen more than once. When I cycled I used to have my own fantasies such as sharp knives attached to my wheels which would cause damage to car tires that came too close for my well being and paint in spray cans to indicate my anger and disenchantment with having to share the road with such insufferable fools.

    I am amazed at the anger I still feel after all this time.

    • airdrummer0
      Posted February 20, 2013 at 1:06 am | Permalink

      that’s why i carry a brick;-)

  19. Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Kinda sounds like what’s really being argued for is a Rules of the Road for Cyclists.

    If it’s inappropriate for cyclists to follow car-based road rules, but motorists allegedly consider cyclists to be “free-riders” (in what is clearly a zero-sum game! (that was sarcasm)), then if cyclists had a list of rules they had to keep — and they kept them — then it would seem that the free-rider anger may no longer apply.

    Anyway, it’s an interesting thought this article revolves around. But if it’s at all actionable (as many people seem to be assuming), you still have yet to prove the premises of the argument:

    1 – that motorists really are angry at cyclists with any regularity (as opposed to simply being a very vocal minority)

    2 – that the same anti-cyclist sentiment happens broadly across communities.

    My feeling is that places where cycling has become Normalized, anti-cyclism becomes highly marginalized. Drivers in well-cycled areas (such as the Bay Area where I live) do become accustomed to the modified expectations of cyclists and do not simply see them as gnat-sized cars bent on gaming the system at cars’ expense.

    It’s also likely that cyclism enculturates its own Rules of the Road which differ regionally (just as they do with cars — take a gander at Pittsburghian light-jumping for example), and that what’s good for Brighton wouldn’t work for San Juan.

    Just some thoughts.

  20. Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    +1 to Glenn McCord with his comment above —

    specifically, the example situation he brought up describing how cyclists forced to follow the car rules of the road actually obstruct good flow of traffic.

    • Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure I agree. We all get enraged at having to sit behind tractors and lorries because they disrupt the flow, but this is inward rage – no-one is actually angry at the driver of the tractor, and no-one suggests anyone does anything about them. The difference with cyclists is that they are small, and drivers think that they can sneak past them as if they weren’t there – anything the cyclist does to prevent that (ie. by cycling safely) is seen as obstructionism; thus the driver gets angry at the individual cyclist.

  21. Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    Ah, no worries, the same thing happened on my blog. A convoluted analogy was interpreted as “you are stereotyping an entire group of people”! Not an easy thing to avoid when you’re summarizing a complex idea into a post.

    Interesting case here, of the free rider. If we’re hoping for a cultural shift towards bikes it’s important to address. Here there are bike paths (I see the distinction has been made in a comment). People are held up by bikes but we know it’s only temporary so there seems to be less anger. The towns also remind people that bikes must follow exactly the same rules as cars, so we know when bikes are playing fair vs when they are cheating.

    There’s also gobs of awareness about fossil fuels and an entire community devotion to nurturing our long, pretty bike path that more and more people are using for work, or recreation. In fact upon seeing a bike, many cars will actually cross into (if it’s empty) the opposite lane to give the cyclist extra room.

    Pedestrians on the other hand are rage-inducers here, capable of holding up traffic for huge amounts of time. Crosswalks are everywhere yet pedestrians stroll in front of moving cars all the time; and even when on the crosswalk cars will nearly take their leg off trying to get past them. People are hit frequently here.

    The other thing I wonder about is road rage (in one article blamed on fumes from inside the car). Massachusetts drivers are famous for breaking rules (I’ll not mention our fun nickname). Anger on the roads here is extreme but not towards cyclists. Which makes me feel like there’s a regional aspect to this problem and a shifting defeniton of free riders.

  22. Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    **There’s also signs everywhere that read “Share the Road”! with a graphic of a cyclists which is a good reminder.

  23. ravisarma
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Not sure if a commenter has already pointed it out, but cyclists are, in many regions, allowed *by the rules* to perform some of the operations listed, just as motorcyclists are (e.g: lane sharing or lane splitting). The problem is not car drivers exacting altruistic punishment, but quite simply, a combination of car driver ignorance and mistaken sense of entitlement.

  24. Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Given my recent run-ins with the police, I don’t consider them to be a benefit of taxation.

  25. Caravan
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    As some other poster pointed out, how much is the assumption that cyclists enrage car drivers based on empirical studies? It would be interesting to see which proportion of car drivers are actually enraged, for which reasons, and whether those car drivers which are also cyclists are less or more enraged than others.

    Personally, I am very rarely angry about cyclists when I am in my car, but more frequently when I am a pedestrian (for example, if someone rides his bike on the sidewalk).

  26. David Ziegler
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    As a urban cyclist in Toronto, the law says that I am entitled to a full lane just like any other vehicle.

    Instead of taking my full lane, I (and almost all other cyclists) squeeze into the space between fast moving traffic and parked cars (that open their doors without warning).

    So, yes I am not following the rules – I am biking in what is not legally a traffic lane – at considerable personal risk – so as not to impede car traffic.

  27. tomfarsides
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    [Previously ssfd0]

    @TomStafford. Thanks for the reply.

    You say that “the phenomenon is that some drivers express disproportionate anger at cyclists (both individuals and as a general category).” I am afraid that I am still unclear. How is “DISproportionate anger at cyclists” identified and measured? Do you mean anger at the time of a perceived violation, anger whenever the category ‘cyclists’ is salient, or anger whenever the category ‘rule-flouting cyclists’ is salient? How many is “some drivers”: most, a significant minority, a few isolated individuals? Do you mean that drivers get angrier towards cyclists than other road users get towards cyclists? Do you mean that drivers get angrier towards cyclists than they do towards other road users, e.g., tractors, motorcyclists, pedestrians, or rule-flouting motorists – ones who don’t indicate, hog the middle lane, tail-gate, etc.? Unless I can feel confident that I have understood what particular phenomenon you are trying to explain, I cannot in confidence evaluate your claim that it essentially a by-product of evolved ‘altruistic punishment’ in response to perceived free-riding. As I said before, most drivers do not seem to be furious at ‘cyclists’ most of the time.

    I am also still unclear about how to identify behaviours likely to be perceived as instances of free-riding. In your response to @RuebenBinns, you suggest that a minimal requirement is that we are talking about behaviours that drivers perceive as violations of rules (because they apply to cars) but which do not in fact apply to cyclists. That does not seem enough, though. Drivers may get angry seeing cyclists zooming past in a cycle lane while they are stuck in a traffic jam, but they will surely recognize that this is legitimate road-use by the cyclists even though it is not for them. They may get frustrated at being stationary and jealous of the cyclists’ free progress, but are you suggesting that they will be angry at these cyclists because they perceive them to be free riding? So as well as not being clear about the specific phenomenon you are seeking to explain, I am not clear about which situations you think will trigger that phenomenon or about why you think perceived free-riding is likely to play a significant role in explaining the link between the two.

    Sorry to go on, but I think care needs to be taken not to use the phrases “free-riding” and “moral transgression” interchangeably. The latter includes but is not exhausted by the former. I think that “moral transgression” (broadly speaking) is likely to be a significant determinant of both on-site anger towards certain cyclists and of prejudice towards ‘cyclists’ (as a category) by some people (including some drivers). It is widely thought that road users should be responsible and considerate and many people consider significant proportions of cyclists to regularly fail to be either – just as many cyclists feel that significant numbers of car users are irresponsible and inconsiderate, particularly towards cyclists. But you seem to be suggesting something much more specific than this: that a significant and perhaps dominant determinant of any perceived moral transgression here is specifically due to perceived free-riding. As far as I can tell, your main reasoning for this is that people who observe free-riding get cross, but that of course does not mean that people only get cross when observing free-riding. Do you have any empirical grounds for thinking that perceived free-riding is a significant determinant of anger resulting from certain behaviors by cyclists and/or of anti-cyclist prejudice? If not, your account seems closer to speculation than explanation (despite phrases like “Now we can see why there is…”).

    One (hastily conceived) empirical test starting to disambiguate other factors from a story relying on ‘altruistic’ punishment could possibly look something like this. People would be shown video clips of various road users engaging in a range of acts. Some of these acts would be done by cyclists, some would be examples of potential free-riding, and some would be done safely and with consideration to other road-users while others would be done recklessly and without regard to others. Viewers would then be asked to assess each behavior on a range of measures, some of which assessed perceived free-riding and some of which assessed viewers’ emotional reactions (including anger) towards and (especially negative) evaluations of the person viewed. Finally, viewers would be given an opportunity to invest personal resources in supporting or opposing a campaign to get each person viewed nominated for a ‘good (or bad) road user award’.

    If I understand you correctly, you would predict that participants would perceive key cycling behaviours as especially heinous rule-violating acts, even when engaged in safely and considerately, and that this would make participants’ blood boil and have them eager to invest in dolling out punishments. As far as I can tell, you would also predict that this would happen especially when non-cycling car drivers evaluated violations by, specifically, cyclists (and do so relatively without regard to how safe and considerate cyclists were). Is something like that correct? (For the record, my prediction would be that people would get distressed mainly to the extent that behaviours were perceived to involve unjustified harm or risk, largely irrespective of who did them.)

  28. tomstafford
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    @tomfarsides A short reply to your long comment – I am happy to confess that my column is closer to speculation than explanation. For sure the evidence base is personal observation, rather than a systemmatic programme of operationalising my concepts and empirical investigation. I offer a putative role for altruistic punishment as plausible but very far from either proved or properly specified.

    You make good points about the elaboration of the idea, something I have not done and for which thanks.

    • Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      Tom, I think your analysis is excellent, and you should be encouraged by a lot of the over-emotional responses you have provoked. You’ve hit a raw nerve with many people, which I think proves your point. The issue is how people perceive rules (laws or customs) and fairness (in how they are applied and followed in practice). Very few of these comments, even the longer ones, reveal much empathy for why some behaviours might provoke anger in others. Instead, we see a competition forming, with many rushing to proclaim/defend the moral superiority of their ‘side’ – perfect conditions for stimulating the anger of those who feel social rules are being broken.

  29. roytindle
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    The City of London recently produced a list of cycling offenses committed within the ‘square mile’ within 2012 – as a result of a freedom of information request. When I downloaded the document, I expected a few hundred offenses but the total was 3,618: remember the area, approx 1 square mile.

    The great majority relate to “Contravening automatic traffic signals” but also included a fair number of “Riding cycle without lights in the hours of darkness”.

    I don’t have comparative figures for cars but, on the basis that most transgressions are not recorded, this is an astounding figure which suggests remarkable ignorance/arrogance regarding safety.

    • Gonewest
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I live at an intersection with signs marking a mandatory stop all 4 directions. Anecdotally speaking, if I watch the traffic out my window during rush hour the majority of the cars do not actually stop.

      This is a residential area where children play, people walk their dogs, and twice a day children cross these streets on the way to and from school.

      It’s obvious that drivers are looking at this intersection as they approach, trying to ascertain if anyone else seems to be coming, and then just roll through the intersection without fully stopping. Drivers seem to assume there is no danger if they don’t see anything. But they are frequently wrong.

      My town has one of the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities in our state. I have been twice struck by cars. Both times I was cycling in broad daylight wearing bright colors and riding legally near the shoulder at a reasonable speed. Both times the other driver was cited for a moving violation (unsafe turn or similar).

      Now, I also see bicycles riding through this intersection and it’s obvious they are making the same calculation (see no one coming, nobody in danger) and they too ride through the intersection. So it’s exactly the same psychology for drivers and bicycles.

  30. Posted February 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I do find it confusing to talk about road sharing in this way. We talk about enraged drivers; but isn’t that all there is? I don’t remember ever hearing about enraged pedestrians, bicyclists or bus riders. As others have pointed out these people have more freedom (if you can call it that) but what is it about driving that makes them angry or at least seem more angry? The “vulnerable” travelers certainly have more dangers but also more options. Is that it?

    • roytindle
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      I spent a large part of my life as a cyclist and only gave up through living where I could not safely store a bike, and, latterly, through arthritis.

      Sometimes, now I am an enraged pedestrian, particularly in central London where, so often, I have to get out of the way of selfish, dangerous and usually rude cyclists, whenever I want to use a pedestrian crossing. Cars stop but many cyclists do not – and then subject me to abuse for getting in their way!

      • Posted February 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

        This is why some regions want cyclists to have license plates.

      • airdrummer0
        Posted February 20, 2013 at 1:11 am | Permalink

        i would get my cane accidentally caught in their spokes;-)

  31. scmurcott
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I am often a pedestrian, and have been a cyclist for years, I do own a car – I choose not to drive because it is often unnecessary. It seems like a massive waste of hydrocarbons when I could be getting some exercise while I travel between A and B.

    If you think there are no rules to being a cyclist then you are mistaken. Cycling in traffic is seriously dangerous. I live in South Africa, until recent changes to the law some drivers actually seemed to try to commit murder frequently.

    When I cycled to work (I was a driver for a courier company at the time- the irony) in Johannesburg, I was often nearly killed by sadistic drivers. Consequentially I am a very careful and considerate driver who tried hard to anticipate other road users – whether in a car or not.

    Do you know how hard it is to keep a steady 10 inches from the curb, to negotiate intersections, to safely pull away with stinking cars from a traffic light – of course you move to the front – so they can see you, keep to the side and indicate to the drivers your direction – cos you can die on the road really easily…

    I found this article quite short sighted and think using valuable non-renewable resources is the ultimate in burning our future and free-riding in the present.

  32. jype
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    What you say makes sense, but cyclists have a very different point of view and see car users as free-loaders who won’t haul their fair share and are causing a mess by just being there (which is what makes traffic, pollution and noise bad – I have yet to see serious pollution, traffic jam or harmful noise levels without any use of motorized vehicles). Most cyclists will also clearly see that their use of the bicycle makes you able to park your car – if they hadn’t used a bicycle, your spot would have been taken by their car and you’d in the worst case have to drive back home and walk back to wherever you wanted to go.

    I also think cycling is inherently safer as the stakes for the individual taking risks are much higher (thus significantly reducing occurrences of intentionally harmful acts, which is called road rage when drivers do it) while danger to other road users is minuscule compared to that of a reckless driver. There is also a much broader spectrum of evasive manoeuvring available to cyclists and to people being threatened by cyclists, and you’re actually exercising while cycling.

    • Khart
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      your comments typify the cyclist who refuses to recognize the weight and speed of a car negate most of your opinions on the superiority of cyclists.

      • Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

        No, Khart, YOUR comment typifies aggressive “I’m bigger than you” motorists who refuse to believe that they have responsibility for how they manoeuvre a ton of metal alongside vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists. If somebody on the road is vulnerable, it is your job to act safely around them just as it is theirs not to endanger their own life recklessly. Your life is not worth more than that of a cyclist just for being enclosed in a shell; it is worth the same.

        On the other hand I don’t think it’s about “hauling your fair share” – I think the reason lots of cyclists see themselves as slightly superior to motorists is simply because, unlike driving, their pastime is free, efficient, excellent exercise, wicked fun, and much faster in cities. They are having fun among lots of miserable-looking motorists stuck in traffic queues, who seem not to have discovered what a buzz cycling is. This is usually a wrong-headed conclusion to jump to, but I have to say sometimes it’s hard to avoid.

  33. Tom Warren
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    I live in Eugene Oregon, a pretty bicycle-philic city. The rancor is deep on both sides and sometimes irrational. What has lately become obvious to all, however, are certain immutable facts that Cyclists tend to resent and avoid realistic cautions about:

    1) A 2-4000 pound vehicle will always win in any confrontation. Cyclists shouldn’t live in denial of this – perhaps it shouldn’t be this way, but it is.

    2) A driver can’t see you most of the time if you are not directly in her path. It’s just a matter of human visual perception and not being used to looking for YOU in blind spots. Don’t take it personally.

    3) Passing a vehicle on the right at an intersection will get you killed if they decide to turn right or pull to the curb. Running a red light because you don’t want to stop will get you killed also. Shouldn’t be this way, but … it is.

    4)If you are an obstruction by being too slow in traffic, drivers will do nearly anything to get around you. It’s not fair. It’s sometimes against the law. But remember #1.

    good luck!

  34. acdha
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I think much of the anger is due to the fact that it’s an attempt to rationalize driver’s rage by sounding scientific without actually being so.

    As a theory it needs to explain – or make any attempt to address – why angry drivers are disproportionately offended by cyclists than the *much* greater (at least one order of magnitude where I live) number of their fellow drivers who break laws far more flagrantly in ways which are far more inconvenient. A cyclist rolling up to the intersection line at a traffic light doesn’t cause much of an inconvenience compared to the other drivers who blocked the intersection before the light changed but the visceral rage is almost always reserved for the cyclists.

    As an actual explanation, I prefer the theory that drivers are unwilling to relinquish or even recognize the special privileged status they’ve enjoyed for the last half century or so where civic planners were obsessed with free-flowing high-speed traffic at the expense of all other users. It explains the behaviour and the focus on others – quite similar to, if lower magnitude, e.g. traditionally male fields treatment of female workers and attempts to blame problems on the newcomers.

  35. plutosdad
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Actually if you read cycling sites, you’ll find the free rider problem applies to the auto drivers, not the bicyclists. It is a misconception to believe roads are paid for via transportation-related taxes. For highways and county roads yet, but for local roads most studies indicate the majority of funding comes from property tax.

    Property tax means everyone pays no matter how much they use the road. From people who don’t drive because they are elderly, to people who don’t because they take the bus or train, to people who bike. In fact, because drivers’ cars do the most damage to roads, yet they pay only marginally more in costs to maintain those roads, they are the ones who are free riding.

    Sorry this link is for Canada, but I’ve seen similar studies on other cities.

    http://prezi.com/abij_yt8togt/on-the-costs-of-roads-and-how-we-all-pay/?utm_source=website&utm_medium=prezi_landing_related_solr&utm_campaign=prezi_landing_related_author

    • plutosdad
      Posted February 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      Of course, maybe your point is that drivers only THINK the cyclists are free riders, without realizing that they themselves are. That is probably true.

      I think privilege, as someone pointed out, is part of it. None of us likes to give up privilege, and we usually say “everything was ok until the new guy showed up” except it was NOT ok, it was just good for us and we didn’t notice how it was bad for others.

      Lastly I am not sure the idea that “I have to follow the rules why don’t they” applies. Again, maybe drivers THINK they follow the rules, but according to my helmet camera they do not, not any more than cyclists. Instead most conscientious people drive or bike in a manner they think is safe. Not using signals, rolling through stop signs, etc, are things drivers do constantly if they think no one is around. I guess the question is, are the drivers aware of their own constant breaking of the rules?

  36. Someone from Neptune
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I suppose this is an entertaining enough piece of fluffsci for a magazine column, but really, it loses me at the title. As a driver, do I get enraged at cyclists? No. As a cyclist, do I go in fear of anything with an engine? No. As a driver, do I generally follow the rules of the road? Generally yes. As a cyclist? Less than as a driver. In short, I do whatever I think sufficiently safe, and in thirty years have never been involved in an accident involving damage to person or property, neither do I ever get tooted at for excessive caution. Boring, yes, but competent driving should be, even if it doesn’t fill column inches with click-driving comment hooks.

  37. amphiox
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    An interesting test of this idea would be to compare the levels of driver rage against cyclists on roads with and without well demarcated bicycle lanes.

    If it is truly about an instinctual sense of breaking the collective rules that govern the use of the shared public space, the separation of that public space should reduce the animosity. Drivers would be expected to no longer see cyclists as “sharing” their space and thus subject to the same rules as they are, but occupying their own separate space, in which a different set of rules (ones exclusive to cycling) applies.

    This would also of course be a public policy solution to the problem.

  38. Barbara
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    One of the reasons I get angry at the stupid things some (only some) cyclists do is that I (a car driver) have to take sudden action to save the life of the cyclist who doesn’t seem to care enough about his/her own life to use a light while cycling on a dark, rainy night, or to stop at a stop sign while I am making a perfectly legal left turn through the space the cyclist has chosen to occupy illegally. I find my self raging (internally), “If I hit you with my car, you’ll be dead, but I’ll have to live with the guilt my whole life!” (I don’t want to argue that that is logical, but then, anger often isn’t.)

    Oddly, one thing that helps me has been realizing that any ignorant fool with good balance can ride a bicycle. Most people who bicycle a lot learn the rules of the road and mostly follow them. (I’m OK with their coasting through stop signs IF there really isn’t cross traffic.) But on any given sunny day a lot of the bicyclers are clueless idiots, who may survive long enough to learn safe bicycling only if I take better care of them than they seem to take of themselves.

    • Shane
      Posted February 25, 2013 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

      @Barbara

      Experienced cyclists feel exactly the same way. I’ve had more close calls with other cyclists than motorists, and attribute that to inexperience of many cyclists. In a city where cycling is just beginning to get mainstream acceptance (Montreal), this has become a fact of life and motorists and experienced cyclists alike have to learn to watch out for and anticipate novice riders. Public bike rentals (Bixi) have driven many cyclists off bike paths and back onto the road, where cars are much more predictable than inexperienced riders on the rentals.

  39. Justin
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    As a motor/cyclist who has cycled in many continents and cultures, I agree with the premise of the article, that it has to do with an innate sense of “fairness” and implied social rules. There is also a factor of brain laziness to do with familiarity, indicated by the difference in response between cultures where it is normal to have many cyclists and/or motorbikes as part of the usual driving conditions. As a driver I don’t like unexpected occurrences like being passed on an inside lane. “Hey wake up! Something new and unexpected has just happened in your visual field!”. And if its just an unattractive form in a shiny spandex outfit, all that wasted effort to snap me out of daydreaming will leave me very irritated indeed…

    As a motorcyclist I see a strong difference in response when overtaking within queued traffic on my motorcycle (this is legal and known as “filtering” in the UK) and doing the same on a bicycle. Its about the same speed differential, but motorcycles are accepted as part of the main road traffic which behaves this way, and drivers seem to expect this and pull aside, because they see the other drivers allowing this behaviour too.

    You could possibly test the social rules hypothesis by establishing how drivers feel (and see what your own reflection indicates) towards cyclists in the following conditions:

    1. When the cyclist passes their car on the inside of a traffic queue approaching a roundabout, on the road
    2. When the cyclist passes their car on the inside of a traffic queue approaching a roundabout, on the cycle laned part of the road, where a cycle lane is painted onto the road surface
    3. When the cyclist passes their car on the inside of a traffic queue approaching a roundabout, on the cycle path, where the cycle path is a seperated cycleway area (like a footpath but usually painted red and distinct from the pedestrian footpath)*.

    My experience of having lived places with shared/separate/non-cycle ways is that 1&2 are the same reaction. It is only 3, where there is a truly separate cycle area, which will give a neutral reaction on the part of the driver in traffic. I don’t believe this is anything to do with the physical seperation, I think it is the social rules and fairness separation. “It is a separate area with its own established rules, it is not affecting me”.

    Hmm. I look forward to zooming past lorry drivers with EEG wires hooked up to their dashboard measurement units whilst the local university department tests this out :-)

    * I make a note of this, because as a driver I still feel irritated if I see a cyclist using the pedestrian footpath to overtake cars, even if there aren’t and haven’t been any pedestrians around. Its that “you are breaking the rules” thing again, even though they are someone elses (pedestrians’) rules.

  40. Justin
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    In terms of how do we fix this problem? I think we must go with more empathy & understanding of other types of road users.

    It should be a compulsory part of completing every driving examination that the intending driver perform a kilometre lap of a busy dual carriageway on a small pink tricycle.

    Each aspiring driver must complete passing and braking manoeuvres in rushhour traffic on a 250cc motorcycle in a torrential downpour. You will empathise that a motorcycle rider in the rain can see nothing, really *nothing*, except vague blobs and blurry brake lights whilst travelling through traffic at speed. And it rains rather frequently, so this motoring condition is disturbingly common. Car drivers, please turn on your lights.

    Each aspiring driver shall be plied with stimulating energy drinks, placed in charge of a heavily laden lorry, and instructed to perform a circuit designed to include a selection of pre-schools, tourist outings, mountain passes, and snack stops of dubious nutritional value but a familiar warm glow.

    Driving is a skill. I have been driving 20 years, and have the decency to acknowledge I am not a good driver in many of the above conditions.

    I strongly believe that in the near future, self driving cars will become ubiqutous and the cost of insurance for any one wanting to takeover the controls themselves will become prohibitive. I really do. And in the cities, logistical delivery transport will be restricted to self driving vehicles.

  41. Yuki
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    At the moment we have to renew our driving licences every 10 years, lets make it every five and include an online test on the highway code and a psychometric test on anger management. Fail and you are a pedestrian for five years. Make this compulsory for any and all road users.
    Then get the police back on the roads and tackle all dangerous road use. It is complete anarchy out there and people are being killed, simply from a lack of policing.

  42. Cellar
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get this, I really don’t. You’re sitting there in your cozy windowed metal box, I get the weather. I actually have to work at going forward, it’s all manual labour, alright legwork. You dally, I have to stop because I don’t kow where you’re going and I certainly don’t want to get crushed, and when you’ve finally made up your mind I have to start from standstill again. Possibly in the rain, on ice, uphill, against the wind, in the snow, both ways, and so on.

    Of course, I try to be a good little cyclist, in the sense that I’m trying to be nice and predictable, that it’s clear what I’m going to do and not get hurt or killed causing surprise. But I’m a different class of road user. I can’t go on the motorway, say. I have my own set of disadvantages. So I’m going to use all the advantages I get. If you can’t deal with that, how selfish is that?

    Let motorists with a cyclist problem be a cyclist for a while. I do suspect the underlying cause is a complete failure to grasp that cyclists just aren’t driving cars. And of course, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s plenty of cyclists who haven’t thought about it and fail to be predictable for motorists. But that’s not all of them. So in addition we have an overbroad generalisation mucking up the picture.

  43. Kerry Maxwell
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    Cyclists only enrage a small subset of motorists, those known colloquially as “Assholes”.


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