08 July 2008

Cyclist Rage.

Yes, my biking amigos (there are a surprisingly numerous lot of you), let's talk about it. It is a strange phenomenon. Stories like the following, for example:

Car/Cyclist Conflicts

Indeed it would appear that there is something uniquely enraging about a cyclist on the road. You don't hear much about Motorcycle Rage, perhaps because of the still pervasive notion that people on motorcycles (especially Harleys) are tough biker-types (when in fact most of them are 50 year old accountants finally letting their "wild side" out). So what causes cyclist rage? Let's examine this objectively; I am not justifying this rage, just examining some possible causes.

First of course, there is the gear. Ludicrous looking (albeit practical) bike shorts and the rest of the gear might induce some mockery, but this should produce no actual rage in all but the most unbalanced of individuals. It does however play a cumulative role in the larger rage-provoker of pretentiousness: the perception of cyclists as a smug, insular, self-righteous group like Prius drivers, which can exacerbate other forms of rage. Cycling has some loose connections to environmental tree-hugging smugness, which does nothing to temper the perception of pretentiousness, unfortunately.

Then of course, the obvious speed factor. Let's face it, except for the really physically fit specimens like myself, most cyclists cannot pedal fast enough to keep up with the flow of traffic. This is probably the core of the rage that is produced. To understand the mind of these enraged individuals, consider other similar scenarios:
  • Driving a car at 40mph on a runway in front of a plane wanting to take off
  • Groups of pedestrians walking slowly on a bicycle trail, impeding the flow of bike traffic
  • Pedestrians walking in the middle of a lane on a busy street
These are not identical comparisons, of course, but they serve to hint at one of the causes of anti-cyclist rage. To the enraged motorist, the roads were designed and built for motor vehicles. Not for pedestrians, not for Radio Flyer wagons, not for Power Wheels, not for wheelchairs, and not for bicycles...only for vehicles that can maintain an acceptable rate of speed. This is not true in a legal sense of course, as it is perfectly legal to travel via bicycle on our municipal roads, but the enraged individual is not considering this, they are only feeling wrath and indignation that you are impeding their travel, with a vehicle that in their mind does not belong there.

Another potential cause is the "bad eggs" of cycling. Allow me to relate a personal example. On Volker Boulevard, down by UMKC, a cyclist was in the lane, moving slowly. As a mild-mannered and wrath-free "Share the Road" sort of motorist, I gave him a nice wide berth, and due to flow of traffic could not drive around him. We reached a stoplight, and he tooled around in a circle, up onto the sidewalk and back down into the road, and then decided to mosey on, running the red light. I watched him do this twice, and when he turned, he did not use the hand gestures motorists would be required to do were their turn signals not functional.

That is one of the other sources of friction between the cyclist and motorist communities; when cyclists (surely a minority of them) ride their bicycles like the laws of the road do not apply to them. The attitude that cyclists are owed equal treatment on the road, and have as much right to be on the road as motorists, clashes jarringly with the occasionally witnessed attitude that they don't have to stop at red lights and signal their turns. Granted, logical and rational folks like myself understand that a few bad cyclists don't spoil the bunch any more than the numerous bad motorists do, but for those with eyes dimmed with "hard-favour'd rage", it could engender further resentment and indignation.

Lastly, it could simply be that cyclists present the easiest target on the road, and thus become frequent victims of road rage. Compared to another motor vehicle, it is harder to effect egress on a bicycle, there is no way to roll up the windows and lock the doors, so to speak, and there is unlikely to be a group of four unseen homies in the backseat to back up the cyclist in case of an altercation. So they present a target of opportunity, unfortunately.

With all that in mind, I'd be keen to hear from the cycling members of the Reading Audience. Are there other causes that I may have missed? It is indeed a strange phenomenon.


The Angry Coder said...

One additional thing, and this is what I hear about most often, is when groups of bikers are riding they tend to take up the entire lane. Around Longview, they have been known to take up both lanes! Now that's just downright unacceptable.

You make a good point about bikers wanting to have it "both ways": to legally be a vehicle until one grows impatient waiting for a light and then **poof** I'm a pedestrian! There is a lot of ignorance on the part of drivers about the legal aspects of cycling, but the same could be said of cyclists. In the example you cited, the cyclist should not have run the red light. However, a cyclist is only required to use a hand signal if it's "practical". So cyclists are not legally required to signal, but generally are taught to do so. Road conditions, curvature, hills, speed and individual ability all come into play.

As for myself, I shun group rides. I don't wear biker shorts. I always ride the yellow line as much as is practical. I am also a "driver" so I can related to both sides and I feel that I am a very polite biker. For all this, I still have had morons shout "use the sidewalk!" (generally in places where there is no sidewalk) or blast their horns as they pass me (which is completely unnerving) and a few times, take a swerve at me. Nothing will send me into a rage of blind fury like those last two things. In my mind, it's an assault and I am absolutely ready to fight. One of the reasons I haven't carried a gun so far is I don't trust myself with one in situations like that! But I have chased after people, waving a salute at them and loudly voicing my displeasure. Once, I caught up with one of these people at a light. As I rolled up to the passanger who was rude, I asked them what they had to say now. They just stared straight and rolled up the window. Not so tough now, were ya?!

I have been wondering lately, how would the perception of surrounding motorists be effected if I had a firearm obviously strapped to my back? I would bet I'd start getting a wide swath of road and uneasy but polite waves and nods. Maybe it would be worth it.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

Well, there is the old maxim, "an armed society is a polite society".

Open carry is a very controversial thing, and has its shares of pros and a healthy smattering of serious cons, as well. Here is some info on it:


Probably not advisable in Kansas City, at least.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

I'm also a bit surprised that a simple battery-operated turn signal is not standard equipment on road bikes, or a legal requirement. I am always afraid a cyclist is going to swerve in front of me, so turn signals are kind of nice. I completely understand why hand signals are not always practical, though.

Seems like a few tweaks, like a turn signal, actual marker lights for night riding (is it legal to ride on the streets at night?), and maybe a brake light would make the bicycle a little more road friendly in general. I wouldn't think it would add too much weight.

Percussivity said...

Well it is not a written law to my knowledge but seems to be general knowledge amongst cyclists that 30 minutes before Sundown you should have a tail light and a head light on... same goes until 30 minutes after sunrise.

I also can relate to both sides... I get irritaed with cyclists who take the center of the lane when there is no problem with the right side of the lane. It is official though in Missouri at any rate that cyclists should use the right side of the lane (not the shoulder) unless avoiding obstacles or potholes/glass etc.

I'm somewhat paranoid when I ride so I give a lot of attention to being polite to drivers and 90% of the time I stop at stop signs (and 100% of stoplights). If nobody is around and I am tired and don't want to lose momentum I may run a stop sign or two.

The Unabashed Blogger said...

Summary of thoughts:
Night Riding: It is legal if you have a headlight (white light), reflectors on moving body parts or bike parts (pedals, ankles), and a rear red light. I would also have reflectors/lights on the sides of my bike and my person as well. The problem with adding weight is it slows us down more. You think that it’s not that much extra, but you are talking about many people who spend hundreds of dollars to shave off 5-6 oz per piece of equipment or parts. Not to mention ppl like me who are biking to save money, not spend it on expensive equipment. At least, not more than I have to. Between tires and tubes alone I have spent quite a bit.

Obeying Traffic Laws:
I do not know how many times I have heard cyclists state that they will almost always "run" a stop sign or redlight once they see there is "no" danger. Phaw! These are the same idiots that talk down about ignorant motorists. These guys are not very safe and should get tickets. On the other hand, I do not know how many times I have had to "run" a red light while on my bicycle or motorcycle because the sensors do not recognize me as a vehicle. That is very frustrating and I almost always wait at least past the 2nd cycle of when it should have turned green. I mean, it sucks when you sit in a busy intersection by yourself hoping a car will come along behind you to trip the sensor. Moderation and reasonable cause should be the factor. Unfortunately, not everyone can exercise this. I am an advocate for obeying the law.

Road Rage:
A cyclist must be very vigilant and learn to keep a tight rein on their frustrations. Face it, many people who scream and yell are more likely to use their car as a weapon than their fists. When a vehicle outweighs you by more than 3500 lbs, it can be a bit scary. It’s best to have a thick skin and hold your temper. With that said, I have verbally addressed a few ppl… I’m working on it…

Personal Protection:
I need to do more research. Guns can be heavy and I am not sure that is the answer. Of course it is AN answer; the desire is there. I just pray every time I ride. “Lord, watch over me as I ride.” And I mean every letter of it and believe he answers my prayers. I try not to follow it up with a salute and verbal discourse with the next moron that comes my way.

Other Dangers:
The idiots who feel too comfortable passing me with about 6 inches to spare. I would love to do that to them a time or two so they can have that experience, it is quite scary. I mean, what if I had to go around a giant pothole and didn’t see the guy driving 55 in a 35 flying up on my left in a red ford f-250 construction vehicle with the guy on his cell phone? Did I mention the other lane was empty?

Emergency Vehicles:
LOUD and unpredictable. It’s hard to pull over out of the way when the cars around you don’t even act like they know what to do. Next thing you know you might get forced into a curb.

I believe the biggest issue for ALL parties is ignorance of the law and their ability to obey it. Let’s have our cities hammer education of our cycling laws and cycling safety into everyone and then we can take a look at individual problems.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

One major problem with firearms as self defence for bikers, is simply, when would that be useful? Threatening behavior or harassment don't justify the lethal use of force. A motorist driving in a threatening manner might be cited as justification for self-defence because the cyclist is in fear for his or her life, but if some driver tries to harass or scare you by driving at you in a menacing manner, and you draw and unload into the windshield, killing the driver and/or any other occupants in the vehicle, my money is on you are going to prison. Not saying a car can't be a threat of that magnitude, but I'm just saying that will not be considered a clearly, indisputably justified self defensive shooting.

It is also worth pointing out that a firearm is not to be used in deterrence; a firearm could only be drawn in a case when its use would be justified. Some guy threatens you or harasses you, throwing back your shirt to expose your 1911 is not-NOT-NNNNNNOOOOOTTTTT legal. It is brandishing. He then becomes the victim and YOU are the criminal.

There are just so few actual scenarios where a firearm would be a very useful tool, it seems, that it would probably not be advisable. The best tools for a cyclist to defend himself are probably in the mind...conflict avoidance, 360 degree awareness, and a COOL temper. There might be some situations, where you and the motorist are "dismounted", where traditional self-defense comes back into play, but when you are on your bike and they are in their car, it isn't the time to whip out a piece and start flailing lead.

BESIDES, lol, if we are talking about shaving ounces off, who wants a 3 pound steel automatic with a heavy leather carry rig strapped on while biking? Of course, there's always Kel-Tecs...

The Unabashed Blogger said...

For those of us who care, this is interesting: http://cycledog.blogspot.com/2008/06/arent-you-happy-to-get-here-safely.html

The Angry Coder said...

The equipment mods could probably be worked out w/o greatly affecting weight now that LED's are so powerful. The whole setup may add half an ounce. For race scenarios, that could be removed: for commuting it would be absolutely practical.

I see the function of carrying a gun visibly strapped as acting as a deterrent to people doing things that seem innocuous (blasting their horn next to you or swerving at you but not trying to hit you). It would make people 'count the cost' a bit before doing something stupid like that. But, apparently, that is 'brandishing' and that is illegal. Sheesh! Liberals and their nanny state laws...

Our friend, Dr. Mark, could have benefited greatly from a firearm, brandished or not.

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

I would say that is not necessarily the case. Laws against brandishing are well-founded, IMHO. While deterrence could be considered a possible effect, if the situation is not of the level that someone's life is clearly and indisputably endangered, bringing a firearm into the open in that situation only escalates the situation, in a horrible and potentially lethal way. The goal is always de-escalation. Pride, indignation, the euphemism "self-respect" as it pertains to someone's inability to ignore and brush off an insult, all of these things make terrible companions to a sidearm, and if one is unable to swallow anger, ignore hostility, and accept the perceived shame of smiling and walking away from insults, however unjustified, then one is a lot more in danger WITH a firearm than without one.

I'm not saying that a firearm can never de-escalate a situation without it being used...there are situations where that would not be brandishing. Just because one draws does not obligate one to fire if the attacker ceases the attack and retreats. However, if there is an absence of a true, violent, and life-threatening attack, drawing makes you the one threatening his life. Consider that under the law, he would be potentially justified in defending himself, at that point!

All this to say, any self-defense weapon (gun, pepper spray, pointed stick, a bunch of loganberries) is an imperfect tool and is NOT a magic keep-me-safe wand. The best thing, again, to keep anybody safe is to stay alert at all times, stay aware of your surroundings, and proactively avoid conflict WHENEVER possible, even (perhaps especially) when it means swallowing pride and justified indignation. Which you cyclists have a fair share of! ;)

(just to be clear, I didn't mean that in a critical way, I just mean that given the aforementioned cyclist rage, cyclists tend to have a very justified anger towards idiot motorists)

The Unabashed Blogger said...

I love to call them "moronic ignorants"...or "ignorant morons" if it rolls of the tongue better for you. I don't know how many times I had to tell myself to just "let it go" this morning on the commute. They weren't terrible offenses, just bad driving in general...

The Unabashed Blogger said...

Now this is interesting and offensive. I don't think I'd ever ride in a Critical Mass ride.


The Angry Coder said...

I didn't so much mean riding around waving a gun or drawing it. Just having it strapped on, in plain sight. People would probably give pause more before yielding to their stupidity. But don't worry, I don't even own an operable firearm so I won't be testing that theory any time soon!

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

I think I might go with a folding stock para FAL carbine, though. 7.62 NATO should have plenty of punch (compared to 5.56) for knocking out an engine block, the folding stock and sling mounts should work great for slinging it across your back for a bike ride, and you can even affix a bayonet for that extra bit of deterrence.

I wonder how many loaded 20rd magazines you could stow on the bike before it would get too heavy for effective transport...

For those of you with $1500 to spare

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

Never mind this one's better

The Irascible Neufonzola said...

I've got it now lads...forget the firearms...

Get yourselves an iKlwa, a zulu short, wide-bladed thrusting assegai:



Sling one of those things on your back and you'll find people much more polite. Especially if you just wear a loin cloth, and do Zulu war chants when confronted. UZU!!!!!