Car drivers are not the only road users who can express road rage. Sometimes cyclists get excessively angry too and display rude behavior ranging from verbal insults to physical confrontations.
As a cyclist, I’ve been in road rage situations many times and will try to explain the phenomenon as objectively as possible.
The main reasons why cyclists behave in a rude manner are:
Disrespect From Others
Many motorists treat cyclists as inferior road users because bicycles are slow and weak in comparison to motorized vehicles.
Drivers often show a sense of superiority based on the law of the jungle – the strongest and most powerful animal is on top of the food chain. On the road, motorized vehicles represent that animal. As a result, cyclists are often treated as “second-class citizens”.
This results in the following:
- Bicycles are not seen as a legit transportation unit and are often disrespected regardless of what the traffic laws say.
- Some motorists take it a step further and often purposefully make the life of a cyclist harder by starting verbal and even physical confrontations. (E.g.., One time a taxi driver started insulting me for riding close to him.)
When similar events take place, cyclists get hostile towards others. In some cases, even a fight might take place.
Very often pedestrians disrespect cyclists too. The most common scenarios are:
- Walking on the bike path
- Hauling cargo on the bike path
- Pushing a stroller on the bike path
When that happens, the chances of a confrontation between a cyclist and a pedestrian increase exponentially.
A Sense of Superiority
Many cyclists see cars as a highly inefficient form of city transportation creating traffic jams, polluting the planet all while making people fat and inflexible in the process.
Meanwhile, bicycles solve all those problems because they’re efficient, fast, burn calories, and do not pollute the environment.
This mentality could result in a sense of superiority and catalyze rude behavior towards motorized vehicles.
Cyclists often feel superior to pedestrians too. The reasons are:
- Bicycles are higher on the transportation food chain. Thus, some cyclists abuse their power.
- Cycling is a more efficient form of transportation than walking.
Transforming From a Vehicle Into a Pedestrian in Seconds
Another reason why cyclists appear rude to others is the frequent transformation from a vehicle to a pedestrian whenever the cyclist wants. One of the most common examples is riding on the street and then hoping on a sidewalk to take a shortcut. Some cyclists even ring their bells to alert pedestrians and ask for a corridor even though cycling on the sidewalk is prohibited.
Cyclists are the most vulnerable road users. The fragility of a cyclist increases their anxiety levels and adrenaline in a dangerous situation.
If a car hits the bumper of another car, the consequences wouldn’t be as severe as hitting a cyclist. A slight hit or even a touch can throw a cyclist off balance and cause a fall with serious consequences including death.
When there’s a close call, a cyclist’s adrenaline could reach epic levels and cause a big scene (e.g., the cyclist breaking the windows of a car with a chain lock).
Catch Me If You Can
Bicycles do not have license plates, and cyclists often wear helmets and glasses. Consequently, traffic cameras cannot catch a cyclist violating the law and issue an automatic fine. Thus, it’s not very difficult for a cyclist to get away with reckless behavior.
The fact that the cyclist himself is the most likely person to get hurt if a collision happens increases one’s willingness to take extra risks.
Silent Street Competitions and Snobbism
Cyclists can be rude not only towards motorists and pedestrians but towards other cyclists too.
The most common example would be the wannabe pros. Those would be the cyclists who have expensive bikes and dress as if they’re about to enter the Tour De France. They’re often condescending towards regular commuters in “civilian” clothes.
Why? Because the “equipped” cyclists feel superior and see the less dedicated as posers who don’t try hard enough.
The phenomenon can be illustrated more vividly if you compare a racing car to a station wagon. The owner of the sports car will easily “smoke” the station wagon and feed the ego in the process.
In some situations, the sports car driver may even break a traffic law (e.g., speeding) to exert their superiority. The same happens when a Tour De France wannabe passes next to a commuting cyclist on a bike lane in a rude manner and screams: “You don’t belong here!!!”
I’ve been a commuting cyclist for years. My experience led me to the following conclusions in regards to road rage and overall behavior on the road:
- Road rage never helps
In your anger, you’re hurting yourself more than the other person. Confrontations are to be avoided.
- Arguing is a waste of time
Arguing is a clash of egos rather than a rational discussion. Consequently, even if the adversary is wrong, they’re highly unlikely to admit their fault. Arguing doesn’t lead to anything other than more arguing. If someone hates cyclists and behaves in a bad manner towards you, calling them a prick won’t change a thing.
For that reason, in most cases, it is better to remain silent unless you have input that can prevent a bad situation.
For example, if a young driver does a right turn while cutting you off, informing them to look for cyclists when turning right could be helpful. However, it’s better to just give your advice and leave. Expecting the other person to say “thank you” is pointless. If they have the mindset to understand what you’re saying, a single sentence is sufficient.
- Silent Competitions Are Fun, But…
Racing other commuters could be fun but could also be dangerous if traffic laws aren’t respected. Never forget that there’s no prize waiting for you when you overtake someone. That said, you don’t have to ride slowly if you don’t want to. Just don’t pretend that you are in a real competition because you’re not.
Following the principles above has greatly reduced my anger outbursts which were pretty common at the beginning of my “commuting career”.
Having said that, expecting to be perfect is a lost cause. Even if you’re the most polite and patient person on earth, it’s always possible to end up in a high-adrenaline situation that turns you into a beast. Usually, that happens when there’s a clear injustice.
Nonetheless, we still owe it to ourselves to at least attempt to tame the angry voice in us.