Old 03-16-09, 07:02 AM
  #18  
San Rensho 
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post
I think the fear factor is it. Commute Orlando recently did a survey of cyclist and motorist attitudes about bicycles on the road, and one of the most common comments from motorists is about being afraid of hitting a cyclist. Perversely, it seems to be a common reason for motorists to rush past them, sometimes unsafely, because they just "want to get the bicycle behind me", in their words.
I admit I'm getting into amateur psychology now, but I have heard that anger is called a "secondary emotion", which I guess means that anger most often arises out of some other emotion, not directly from the situation. The "primary emotion" that leads to the anger might be helplessness, frustration, or fear. For example, racist attitudes often arise from any or all of these primary emotions.

So you take an unpredictable cyclist alternating between apparently trying to stay out of the way, but then suddenly darting out to take a turn, or riding the wrong way, and the motorist response is "What they hell are they doing, they're going to get hit, they shouldn't be on the road!" Confusion and fear leading to anger.

Take a cyclist that is "acting like a car", riding in a straight line, signaling moves, stopping for red lights, and dressed visibly, and even if they delay a motorist for a few seconds, it is clear to the motorist what the cyclist is about to do, and the motorist has been given sufficient time to respond in a safe manner. No surprises, no confusion, possibly still some trepidation (after all, most motorists unfortunately have been conditioned to expect the unexpected from cyclists), but at most minor irritation, far less outright anger.

At least that has been my experience, and the experience of many others who ride this way.
You've hit the nail on the head. I have seen this in practice, where car driver will be driving very calmy, and not in the least bit aggressive, but as soon as they approach a bicyclist from behind they will go into what seems like an attack mode, crowding the cyclist and then making a crazy, aggressive and dangerous pass, putting the cyclist, themselves and oncoming traffic in harms way. Anything to get ahead of the cyclist.

Continuing in your pop psychology analysis, I think the driver reaction comes from a very basic animal instinct, fight or flight. Whenever an animal, including human beings, are afraid, they basically have to pick between two options, running away, or becoming aggressive. The unsafe passes are merely the animal part of the human brain choosing to be aggressive.

Of course, I'm not justifying drivers behavior, I'm simply trying to explain it, since if you know what a person's motivation is, you can more effectively adapt a strategy to deal with it.
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