The tension between drivers and cyclists seems to be heating up. Some jackass even started a Facebook Fan Page called “There’s a Perfectly Good Path Right Next to the Road You Stupid Cyclist” that is currently getting a bit of notoriety. If you read through some of the comments, you’ll see a lot of drivers who talk about wanting to kill cyclists — or at least about how much they enjoy honking their horns at us or flipping us off. Of course, drivers aren’t the only ones saying stupid stuff on the page. One cyclist took it so far as to let people know she carries a gun while she rides and how she is looking to shoot at aggressive drivers.
Yesterday I was contacted by someone from https://www.sharethedamnroad.com/ asking if I wanted to share links with them on this blog (which, I guess, I’m doing in a way right here). These guys are selling riding jerseys saying things like “Share the Damn Road” or “Don’t Honk at Me.” Frankly, I think this is a flawed approach and these jerseys are more likely to inspire honking and other bad behavior than discourage it. I’m going to assume that most cyclists realize this and that these guys won’t be around for very long.
Let’s face facts — there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and many of them drive cars. Plenty also ride bikes and some are even serious riders. I hate to say it, but I’ve seen several cyclists — ESPECIALLY ON ORGANIZED RIDES — whose behavior justifies anger on the part of drivers. It is as if all of the sudden, riding 6 abreast or riding down the middle of the lane is just fine. I do realize that endorphins seem to have a negative impact on mental acuity, but there’s more to it than that. These cyclists put themselves and the rest of us at risk.
This poses a problem. While I’m confident that I could hold my own in a physical altercation with an angry driver who decided to stop his car and get out to try and demonstrate how tough he is, chances are that’s not going to happen. They are much more likely to choose the more cowardly tactic of yelling, throwing or using their car as a weapon. I have no doubt about who is more likely to prevail then and it isn’t the person wearing Lycra.
If you are a cyclist on a group ride and see a fellow rider acting like a fool, let them know in no uncertain terms what you think about the fact that they are putting YOU in danger. Finally, if you are a cyclist who actually carries a firearm while riding, do yourself (and the rest of the pro-gun community) a favor. Keep that fact to yourself or, at the very least, don’t go online and write about how you plan to shoot at aggressive drivers. Part of being a responsible gun owner is knowing when you can/can’t should/shouldn’t use lethal force. If you’ve received proper training, you’ll understand why going online and telling the world how you want to cap people is not too swift. If you haven’t received this type of training, you shouldn’t be carrying a gun in the first place.
At any rate, this season I’m expecting the very real potential that more drivers will feel OK about acting like jerks around cyclists (after all, now they have a place on Facebook where they can tell all their friends how much fun they had running a cyclist off the road). It might be valuable to think in advance of how you will respond. After a few years of trial and error, I’ve come up with my own theory on how to treat a rude motorist — ignore them completely. If they honk, yell or whatever, don’t give them a response. Even flipping them off shows that they’ve gotten to you, and that’s what they want. If they do something that endangers you or your fellow riders, get a license plate and call it in. It’s that simple. If they stop and threaten you, that’s a different story — then it is time to defend yourself in whatever way the situation demands.
Beyond that, act as an ambassador for cycling. If there is a car behind you, get over to the side of the road and wave them past. If a driver shows you a courtesy, be sure to signal your appreciation. Respect the rights of other drivers, but also make sure they respect your rights to be safe. If there’s a bike lane, use it, but if the bike lane is full of debris, don’t. If you need to take a lane, do so. For example, if you are going to make a left turn, own the turning lane. Don’t allow yourself to get pushed off to the left-hand section of that lane.