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:
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
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.