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Old 07-09-02, 08:56 AM   #1
urban_assault
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Do cyclists scare drivers?

This morning on a workout ride, a woman in a minivan screamed at me as she went past. No surprise there.

Well, this didn't get me mad but I was annoyed since I had been obeying all traffic laws and staying to the right like a model cyclist:angel:

I wanted to catch her to tell her all of the cycling advocacy speeches I knew. I also wanted to know what she screamed at me just for future reference. She pulled into a shopping center up ahead so I followed her to talk to her. I was not acting in an offensive or threatening manner at all. I'm the peaceful type .

She got out of the car and saw me and immediately began her rant. I can't quote verbatim but here is the gist:
  • she was behind me for 3 minutes
  • I scared her by being on the road
  • she couldn't change lanes because of traffic
  • she was worried that if she looked back to change lanes, I would swerve in front of her
  • Her kids were in the minivan with her, she was afraid for them
  • I shouldn't be riding on the road, what about my wife and kids, what if I got hit?

I've confronted many drivers (politely and otherwise) but this is the first time I received this kind of reaction. The usual reaction is that I shouldn't be on the road period, or I'm sorry I didn't see you.

My first impression was that this lady was just stressed out or a bad driver. I also wonder if she had been in an accident with a cyclist before and couldn't handle it.

I just told the lady to calm down and remember that cyclists are used to being passed by cars. Just go around and stay in control and everything would be ok. I rode off shaking my head and wondering how many other drivers react in fear when they see cyclists that they must pass.

anyone else get a reaction like this before?
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Old 07-09-02, 09:44 AM   #2
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not that I side with the driver but, I think I know why people fear cyclists as you described... and it can be explained by this story...

I was on my way to the university on my bike as usual. I was at the final stop light waiting to enter into the university parking lot, and as it happened there was a cyclist on the other side of the road waiting to make a left turn out of the parking lot. He was not wearing a helmet. With a red light, this man saw that he may be able to make his left turn regardless. He begins first by going the wrong way on the left side of the road, then merging over to the middle lane of traffic and over to the right, he does this while swerving in front of two vehicles both traveling over 45 mph. both of them had to basically slam on their brakes to avoid hitting him. He made no signal, broke traffic laws and almost got killed. (I was actually thinking about getting my cell phone out to call an ambulance, as I was sure he was going to be hit.)

I believe there are people out there who do very dangerous and stupid things such as this and it is this bad image that haunts cyclists as a whole. so maybe this is the reason for some people's anger or distrust or fear etc.
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Old 07-09-02, 11:28 AM   #3
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Yes. Cyclists scare drivers, especially the not too good drivers. They're afraid they'll hit us.

In many cases they may have difficulty changing lanes to pass us. You might wonder how someone who can't change lanes even has a driver's license but, unfortunately, there are drivers who fit that description.

Once I was riding up a long hill on a two lane road that had enough of a shoulder for me to be out of the traffic lane. Cars were passing me without problem, but one car came up behind me and wouldn't pass. I figured out later that it someone who was just learning to drive, as I could hear the 'instructor' and driver talking when they eventually did pass me. I suspect that the driver was a lot more scared than I was.
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Old 07-09-02, 01:00 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by urban_assault
This morning on a workout ride, a woman in a minivan
Say no more!

Okay, so I'm stereotyping a bit. However, my experience as both a driver of an automobile and as a rider of a bicycle tells me to always beware the minivan. When I see a minivan or an SUV on the road, I simply assume that they don't see me - and usually I'm correct.

Anywho, to better answer your question, I think that we, as cyclists, do sometimes scare motorists. As mentioned in another reply written above, some cyclist give the entire cycling community a bad image. I think it has a lot to do with the perceived demographics of cyclists.

My theory is that when most motorists see a bike on the road, the driver tends to assume that the cyclist is a kid. The driver then reasons that the kid is irresponsible and likely to dodge out in from of him/her @ any moment.

I think you see where I'm going here. My stereotypical view of a "driver" of a minivan is very similar to the stereotypical view that some motorists have of cyclists. The difference being, of course, that if we (as cyclists) give them the benefit of the doubt regarding their driving ability, we may end up dead.

Given those stakes, I shall continue to beware the minivans and SUVs on the road!
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Old 07-09-02, 01:17 PM   #5
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We scare them, and we challenge them in uncomfortable ways. People always get angry at whatever provokes those feelings.

Combine this with the reality that for drivers, the roads are already a competitive and hostile environment, and you have a clear picture of why drivers and cyclists will always conflict.

The best we can do, I believe, is to be as predictable, courteous, and unchallenging as possible. This often requires being assertive, but I find drivers don't usually mind when I "direct traffic" in order to keep them from hitting me -- it lifts the responsibility from their shoulders and relieves the fear.

But there will always be a few who are so close to the edge that anything will set them off.

I've learned (through unpleasant experience) that if they start out by screaming at me, there's no point is talking to them. They're already around the bend, not amenable to reason, in the grip of their emotions. I treat them the way I treat wild animals I meet in the woods: move slowly and calmly away and try not to startle them.

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Old 07-09-02, 01:42 PM   #6
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Here is a typical comment from my father-in-law: You people (meaning cyclists) are crazy for riding on the street. The street is for cars.

My father-in-law's feelings are typical of many drivers.
They don't know the law concerning bicycles and cyclist's rights to ride on the road.


Many motorists ARE afraid of cyclists. They don't know how to pass or feel they can't safely pass a cyclist. That is why they will follow you for blocks and then shoot past you like a rocket when they get a chance.
Around here it seems that most of these motorists are either "old" (retired) or mothers in minivans.

I've long been an advocate of including bicycling rules of the road in the standard driving test for motorists. They need to be educated.

Along with all of the health benefits bicycling offers, a bicycle is a practical and functional means of transportation. Bicycles are not toys!!
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Old 07-09-02, 06:37 PM   #7
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I agree that the best solution is to be politely, cautiously, legally, and defensively assertive and predictable. Fortunately, the California Vehicle Code summary booklet, required reading for all motorists, contains several diagrams of bicyclists making vehicular left turns and lane changes, and supports the general mantra of "same rights, same rules, same roads." Last fall, the then-new director of the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans, often called "CarTrance") departed from tradition by taking a long on-road bike ride with the director of the California Bicycle Coalition. That is progress!



Roads are for people, not just people in cars.
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Old 07-09-02, 07:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by urban_assault
*she was worried that if she looked back to change lanes, I would swerve in front of her
I think this says a lot.

Were you likely to swerve in front of her? Of course not. Why would she think you might? Because some kids on bikes are likely to at times.

I think a lot of motorists still think of bikes as things that kids ride and so they can tend to treat us all like kids.

They can think that we're all unpredictable on the road.
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Old 07-09-02, 09:11 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by urban_assault
She got out of the car and saw me and immediately began her rant. I can't quote verbatim but here is the gist:
[list][*]she was behind me for 3 minutes
Did she have a stopwatch on that? I hear so many drivers accuse cyclists of holding up traffic, yet very few of them end up behind a cyclist for more than 3 seconds and certainly never more than three minutes. Mind you, they'll wait behind a slow driver for that long without complaint.

Quote:
Originally posted by urban_assault
[*]I scared her by being on the road
Tell me, does she generally get scared by people being on the road or what? If so, she should find a less stressful activity than driving.

Quote:
Originally posted by urban_assault
[*]she couldn't change lanes because of traffic
You mean to say drivers over there actually change lanes to pass a cyclist? I haven't seen anyone around here do that for years.

Originally posted by urban_assault
[*]she was worried that if she looked back to change lanes, I would swerve in front of her
[/QUOTE]

Isn't that what she has a rear-view mirror for?

Originally posted by urban_assault
[*]Her kids were in the minivan with her, she was afraid for them
[/QUOTE]

Afraid of what? (see my above comments)

Originally posted by urban_assault
[*]I shouldn't be riding on the road, what about my wife and kids, what if I got hit?[/QUOTE]

People other than just cyclists die on the road everyday. More so in mini-vans than on bikes. Again, why is she on the road?

Quote:
Originally posted by urban_assault
anyone else get a reaction like this before?
No. And I tend to think that if she didn't have so much time on her hands you wouldn't have got that reaction either. It's funny how people can claim to be 'held up' and 'running late' yet still find time to carry on like complete morons.
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Old 07-09-02, 10:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by urban_assault
... she was behind me for 3 minutes ...
This can't be true, can it? I mean, three minutes? Knowing what I know about Atlanta roads, they tend to have zero shoulder, so it is quite possible she couldn't safely pass you. Is this true? Why three minutes?

If I hear a car lingering behind me for any length of time (ten seconds ... tops) I immediately take action to rid myself of the pest. A lingering car is a sure sign of a nervous driver ... and I rid myself of that driver before they do something stupid that will affect either me or other drivers.

Yes, bikes do scare drivers. We do, after all, typically take up some portion of the driving lane. Some drivers are more scared than others. Predictability is key. But to have someone linger on my tail for three minutes would scare the hell out of me.

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Old 07-09-02, 11:03 PM   #11
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Yes, she did say 3 minutes! Yes she was exaggerating quite a bit because I look back every so often anyway. This stretch of Peachtree road is six lanes wide and ridden on by cyclists every day and there is no way it would take 3 minutes to get around me or any other cyclist.

Chris, I agree with you...
Quote:
No. And I tend to think that if she didn't have so much time on her hands you wouldn't have got that reaction either. It's funny how people can claim to be 'held up' and 'running late' yet still find time to carry on like complete morons.
I'd agree with the moron assessment.
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Old 07-09-02, 11:26 PM   #12
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Just a quick note to let you all know I think all of your posts regarding this are right on the money. The reaction from this "lady" is extreme but certainly not rare. I think as long as there are cars and bikes sharing the same roads you are going to have this problem, unfortunately. Urban, you did the right thing and didn't retaliate or get out of line. You are to be commended, good job on your part.
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Old 07-10-02, 12:05 AM   #13
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Other cyclists scare me. On my way to the trail system I need to ride the valley trail system. Other bikers generally terrify me with the uncontrolled driving, wavering handling of the handle bars, riding 3 to 7wide (damn tourists) on a 10 foot path. These things scare ME. I know my driving and my ability on a bike but these people will end up either hurting themselves or someone else.
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Old 07-10-02, 01:54 AM   #14
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I agree with all of you. i used to get the same when on the dual carriageway into Edinburgh (two lanes both ways) I'd hear a car slow up behind me and turn round to signal them to pass, but they wouldn't.

i've never understood how someone can drive a car at 70 mph (the limit here) and yet not be looking far enough ahead to move safely out before having to brake for a cyclist. By the time they get behind you and brake, it then becomes more difficult for them to pass, because the speed diference between them and the now faster traffic in the outer lane is greater.

Observation is 95% of driving, but some drivers can't see beyond their bonnet. I used to slow down and knock down through the gears on my motorbike coming up to red lights(rather than have to brake at the last minute) and still be overtaken by motorists who obviously didn't notice the light and then would slam on their brakes as they did! Sheesh!
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Old 07-10-02, 05:22 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by urban_assault
This stretch of Peachtree road is six lanes wide and ridden on by cyclists every day and there is no way it would take 3 minutes to get around me or any other cyclist.
Yeah, I get tailgaters all the time. It's funny how they're the worst in the world if they tailgate a car, but supposedly a victim of "being held up" if they tailgate a bike. I'd like to know how the figure that one out.

One that I got was quite hilarious. Four deserted traffic lanes at 5.30am one morning, and this guy got right behind and tried to tel me I was "holding him up" and he was going to be late. Yeah, right, just use one of the other deserted lanes, tosser.

Incidentally, while she undoubtedly did carry on like a moron. I find myself agreeing with Bigtime, you reacted in exactly the right way. It would have been easy to retaliate, but you didn't stoop to that level. I think you set a good example and maybe, this lady won't try to talk anymore cyclists off the road in future.
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Old 07-11-02, 12:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by RonH
You people (meaning cyclists) are crazy for riding on the street. The street is for cars.

I ironically hear this all the time, and they always refer to cyclists as "you people", "you crazy people" and my favorite "you biker people are crazy" oh well, maybe we are crazy
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Old 07-11-02, 12:57 PM   #17
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she was worried that if she looked back to change lanes, I would swerve in front of her
Here in Ft. Collins there are a lot of cyclists on the road. If I had to estimate, I would say maybe 10% know what a line is. I think probably those same 10% know to stop or at least slow down at stop signs. The same group probably knows not to dart in and out of traffic, wear a helmet, use a light at night, and drive on the right side of the road with traffic. On campus especially, traffic is usually a big free-for-all. I've almost hit cyclists driving my girlfriend's car (since I don't have a car ). You can't blame drivers for being a little skittish in this situation. Just as there are relatively few drivers who know the subtle nuances of the purpose of bike lanes with large signs stating, "BIKE LANE", there are also relatively few cyclists who understand that big red and white sign that says, "STOP".

Still, if that lady had yelled at me, I would have chased her down. Good call on that one.
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Old 07-11-02, 02:01 PM   #18
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I think many (maybe even most) drivers are scared period. They're scared of cyclists, they're scared of pedestrians, they're scared of other cars, they're scared of changing lanes, they're just plain scared. That is one of the main things that makes them dangerous.
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Old 07-11-02, 02:19 PM   #19
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Probably afraid of getting sued .. not that anyone gets sued here in the good ol' US of A.

This is my 100th post ... woohoo!!
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Old 07-17-02, 02:43 PM   #20
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My aunt's boyfriend and I got into a heated debate about cyclists right to the road, a few months ago. Of course he thought that we should all be using the sidewalk. I told him about the new bike that will be coming out next year with a steel frame and fiberglass shell. It will have a full set of headlights and rear lights as well as brake lights. In addition it will be outfitted with combustion engine that will run on normal gasoline, and be able to reach speeds in excess of 100mph! There's even talk of eliminating the inefficient pedaling motion of past bikes and replace them with 2 foot pedals for a simple go/stop operation.

I think that this is the only kind of bike that overweight, stressed out motorists want to see us on.
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Old 07-17-02, 09:17 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally posted by lin_kieu
My aunt's boyfriend and I got into a heated debate about cyclists right to the road, a few months ago. Of course he thought that we should all be using the sidewalk.
I have found people like this are best ignored.
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Old 07-31-02, 01:33 AM   #22
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The best we can do, I believe, is to be as predictable, courteous, and unchallenging as possible. This often requires being assertive, but I find drivers don't usually mind when I "direct traffic" in order to keep them from hitting me -- it lifts the responsibility from their shoulders and relieves the fear.
Quote:
If I hear a car lingering behind me for any length of time (ten seconds ... tops) I immediately take action to rid myself of the pest. A lingering car is a sure sign of a nervous driver ... and I rid myself of that driver before they do something stupid that will affect either me or other drivers.
I agree 100% with these statements, I give most people a wave as they pass, if they have slowed down or given enough room. I also wave cars past if they are hesitant to pass, just so they know I am aware of their presence. Like most people here I take the lane when necessary and ride in a straight and predictable manner.

Quote:
It's funny how they're the worst in the world if they tailgate a car, but supposedly a victim of "being held up" if they tailgate a bike. I'd like to know how the figure that one out.
Thanks Chris, that's funny.

Anyhow, even if you did hold this lady (I use that term very loosely) up, what was the hurry? Closing time at the mall, BFD!

CHEERS.

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Old 07-31-02, 01:35 PM   #23
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Sounds as though the person may have been a "timid" driver and obviously one with difficulty facing distractions.

I've heard people say the are "afraid" to drive during halloween because they might hit someone. Surely they are not physically fearful for their own safety, rather the overall consequences of what may happen regardless of actual fault.

For perspective I offer the following observation. In a week of daily riding I may see someone do something which worries me once or twice. Sometimes they actually violate some rule or act against common sense. Sometimes it just seems as though they might do something odd and it concerns me or maybe startles me.

During the same week of daily riding I barely notice the many, many hundreds of vehicles I encounter each day uneventfully.

How much longer would the threads in this forum be if we all wrote a message about each and every driver we encountered who didn't, shout at us, throw something us, cut us off or ultimately hurt or killed one of us?

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Old 07-31-02, 02:42 PM   #24
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George Carlin uses reality to create humor. Although this was written to be funny, the reality of it is scary. He wrote this because many people out there would be able to associate with and get a chuckle out of it. It's not verbatim, but close and comes from his "Things I hate" routine. I truly believe this is the view that many people who pass me every day have of cycling.

"I hate bicyclists. They're toys! Leave them in the yard! They have those special little helmets for their special little heads, and they're always sticking their arms out to let YOU know where THEY'RE going. I'll tell you where you're going! Thirty feet straight up in the friggin air when Michelin meets Nike, that's where YOU'RE going!"

I ride like every car coming up behind me has Carlin at the wheel.
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Old 07-31-02, 09:19 PM   #25
Chris L
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Originally posted by webist

How much longer would the threads in this forum be if we all wrote a message about each and every driver we encountered who didn't, shout at us, throw something us, cut us off or ultimately hurt or killed one of us?
In the case of my posts, probably little difference. As I have said in the past, if I reported every law-breaking driver around here too the police immediately, I'd never make it home from the police station.
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