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Why Do Aggressive Drivers Do It?

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Why Do Aggressive Drivers Do It?

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Old 01-08-18, 07:48 PM
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flying_rhino
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Why Do Aggressive Drivers Do It?

Interesting research project summarized in this Transportation Research Board article. If nothing else, at least read the results section.
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Old 01-09-18, 02:56 PM
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"Once this spectrum of behaviors is clarified, quantitative analyses can test the validity of the theory of crime as social control, techniques of neutralization, and altruistic punishment on a larger scale, and potentially build new theories of multimodal interactions. "

um yeah, we ride bikes
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Old 01-10-18, 02:17 AM
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Just glancing through the document, I see many familiar observations often posted on various Facebook and online news reader comment sections.

A common theme among commenters who don't bicycle, or don't ride in traffic, is to generalize all cyclists in ways the commenter might not do -- at least not so publicly -- in ascribing theoretical common characteristics to all members of a religion, race or nationality. Basically it boils down to "I've encountered a few scofflaw cyclists, therefore all cyclists are scofflaws."

There's also little or no acceptance of the Idaho Stop concept. In some cases I've read reader comments on Facebook complaining about cyclists "blowing through stop signs". When pressed for additional detail the complainant will admit the cyclist may have been 100 yards away with no competing traffic, therefore presenting no danger to the cyclist himself/herself or to anyone else.

Likewise, some drivers dislike the entire concept of sharing the road -- meaning, having any bicycle on any public road at any time. A notable example occurred several months on a local cycling group page. A woman who claimed to be a recreational cyclist (closed trails only) and friend of cyclists whom I know, was complaining about a cyclist "hogging the lane" on a "busy" access road near a highway. She posted a photo to illustrate her complaint.

The photo -- taken while she was driving, with a cell phone, the most non-ergonomic device since the ice cube and wet bar of soap -- illustrated a cyclist three lanes over on an apparently deserted access road with no other traffic. The driver. Two empty lanes. The cyclist in the far lane across from her. That was her complaint. And she became increasingly irrational and angry at any attempts to explain, justify or simply ask "What's the problem?" After a few hours of this she cussed us out, blocked several of us and deleted her thread.

And, as the research paper described, a common theme is for drivers to deflect any culpability by posting variations of "They had it coming" or "Should have known better", etc.

Anyway, the research paper -- limited as the author admits -- echoes many of the same things I've read. No surprise there.

And whether as cyclists, pedestrians or fellow drivers, we've all experienced the peculiarly aggressive scenario in which we attempt to pull into the road, change lanes or cross a road, having looked in every direction to ensure it's safe to do so... and a driver at a safe distance when we made our move will floor their accelerator and veer toward us or cut us off when we signal. Their goal, if possible, is to crowd or brush-by pass us, pretending we -- rather than they --created to near miss scenario, so they can honk, gesture and indulge in a tantrum about how everyone else is rude.

My end of town has a particularly deadly section of road that has claimed many victims to this irrational aggression. It's a six lane boulevard, three lanes on each side separated by a divider. Somewhat busy at rush hour but not nearly as busy as it was 10-30 years ago when it was a main thoroughfare toward the now mostly defunct aircraft industries. At other times there's hardly any traffic at all. So an approaching vehicle could easily be two lanes away from any cyclist or pedestrian. But over and over again I've seen drivers floor it, drive 50-60 mph on a 35 mph road, switch from the far left to middle lane, just for the purpose of a brush-by pass of a cyclist, pedestrian or handicapped person in a wheelchair or walker or using a cane. At times it's so bad the police set up surveillance towers and have pursuit cars stationed at intervals to issue tickets. But it's had little long term effect on the behaviors of aggressive drivers. Some roadside segments are dotted with little crosses and makeshift memorials marking where people were struck and killed.

There's a theory that redesigning infrastructure is more effective at encouraging more civil driving. There may be something to that because I see dramatically different behaviors in some areas.

But it's also possible the economic and cultural demographic is a factor. My immediate neighborhood is mostly apartments with little or no long term stability. The renters have no investment in any sense of a community. They drive aggressively and often with apparent rage. I'm most careful riding my bike within the first mile or two of home.

But as soon as I get a mile or two away I'm in an older established neighborhood of middle class homes, where residents are invested in their blocks and community. The entire vibe is different.
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Old 01-10-18, 07:16 PM
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FWIW, I encounter anything from passively respectful to obviously aggressive behaviour on the part of motorists on the arterial and open country roads that I ride, while on quiet residential roads at the same (commuting) times of day, the motorist behaviour I experience ranges from passively respectful to downright gracious, e.g., beckoning me to cross at stop signs when it is clearly not my turn.
Could it be that people on average feel inclined to be more polite and gracious while in their own neighborhoods, versus when immersed in the every-man-for-himself environment of non-residential roadways?
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Old 01-10-18, 10:38 PM
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OP, thank you for posting this.

A couple of things perplex me about this study:

1) The first sentence is that the study was about "individuals who identified themselves as both a driver and a cyclist", but reading the full study doesn’t bear that out. The study results are only from 68 responses in the “aggressive subsample”. In the quotes in the "teaching them a lesson" section, 3 were from "rarely/infrequent" cyclists, 5 from "sometimes" and 4 were "frequent". They quit giving the frequency information in the “they had it coming” section. In the descriptive statistics, the “aggressive subsample” appeared to be significantly less likely to bike or wear a helmet than the full sample.

2) Being a layman, I’ll take at face value their comments about “snowball sampling”, and the weirdness of the statistics makes me all the more convinced that this data can’t (and shouldn’t) be generalized. Particularly strange was that on average the “aggressive subsample” was “infrequently” on a bike and “infrequently” using a helmet, yet tended towards being equally comfortable on a “busy street in mixed traffic with no bike lane”. That just doesn’t smell right. I gotta think they typo'd.

3) Where are all the comments about slowing down traffic? They said the frame of the questioning eliminated cases where the aggression reduced the driver’s travel time, but criminy isn’t that what you read all the time in comments on news articles? Hard to believe they framed it so well that the "you're slowing down cars" rationale didn't bleed through more.

All in all, interesting but the most charitable I can be is they say it can’t be generalized and I think they are right on in that point.

The part I think worth emphasizing is the diversity in people’s conceptions of what “acceptable” cyclist behavior is in the US.

I got to ride one day in the Netherlands and I was able to pretty much stay on fully separated trail from Groningen to the German border. At one point, I missed a turn and got on a two lane roadway. I didn’t go ¼ mile before drivers were yelling at me to get on the parallel trail. (I had a helmet on so that was a clear sign I was a foreigner..) I got the sense that a concept off what is “appropriate behavior” is widely shared there.

In the US that is clearly not the case. A few days ago I was on a quiet residential street, stopping at every stop sign and following all rules of the road. I watched a driver in my mirror and I pulled to right, indicated for him to pass, and he did not for 2 blocks. I stopped at a stop sign in front of him and he then passed me in the next segment, calling out to me to get on the sidewalk. Very clear that he and I are a long ways apart on what is acceptable behavior.

The point the article makes, and I agree, is that there is a big variance in this country about what constitutes acceptable behavior, and then I suppose that does let 0.4% of a snowball sample justify their aggressiveness..

As has been said better by others, I'll take the aggressive over the inattentive any day of the week..
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Old 01-11-18, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by flangehead View Post
The point the article makes, and I agree, is that there is a big variance in this country about what constitutes acceptable behavior, and then I suppose that does let 0.4% of a snowball sample justify their aggressiveness..

As has been said better by others, I'll take the aggressive over the inattentive any day of the week..
Part of the issue is every state having their own set of standards and laws, as well as it being particularly easy to get a drivers licence in the US. The testing procedure is laughably simple.

I also agree about preferring the aggressive over inattentive. I've heard many people accuse Italian drivers of being "crazy," but I'll take them over American drivers any day of the week. They may like to drive a bit quicker, but they are WAY more focused on what they are doing (95% of cars being manual shift helps), and generally have a better understanding of driving dynamics.
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Old 01-11-18, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by robertorolfo View Post
Part of the issue is every state having their own set of standards and laws, as well as it being particularly easy to get a drivers licence in the US. The testing procedure is laughably simple.

I also agree about preferring the aggressive over inattentive. I've heard many people accuse Italian drivers of being "crazy," but I'll take them over American drivers any day of the week. They may like to drive a bit quicker, but they are WAY more focused on what they are doing (95% of cars being manual shift helps), and generally have a better understanding of driving dynamics.
I haven't been to Italy, but that was my observation in France. I went to Paris when I was 20, to take a long bike tour. My hosts in Paris told me I would enjoy riding in the countryside but not in the city. Seeing how people drove, that made a lot of sense to me. But after taking the Metro and walking around a lot, I figured out what the dance steps were. They drive super fast, but they're totally ready to brake when necessary, and they don't get visibly angry, at least not the way New Yorkers and Bostonians do. I got into traffic, and I did just fine. The requirements for earning a license are tough there, and they're a joke here. Their driving style looks crazy to many Americans, but it made a lot of sense to me.

The year before I married my wife, we decided to take a trip to Paris, many years after my first trip there. She said we'll be renting bikes and riding around. I asked her if she was serious, because she's not as experienced at cycling. She said absolutely, and that's what we did. And we had a blast.
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Old 01-13-18, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by flying_rhino View Post
Interesting research project summarized in this Transportation Research Board article. If nothing else, at least read the results section.
Wow...it's like someone tried to reframe a grand mal seizure into a ballet by trying to make this look like any sort of meaningful study.
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Old 01-14-18, 12:56 AM
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You can ask the same thing about a lot of things that are harmful to others, without going into specifics. It's like asking why does your mother like your brother more than you or why am I short?

That would be rather vague and I doubt you'll get rational answers from many aggressive drivers, if they admit to it.
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Old 01-14-18, 02:07 AM
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And now these robotic cars will have cyclists removed from the roads entirely. Well, seems the software and linear silicone digital AI cannot really handle cyclists and pedestrians and human driven vehicles as can a chemical analog multi-path computer (human brain). Since it is claimed cyclists may also bully robot cars the best thing to do is to remove them from the environment. Read up on it. The companies driving this stuff have already been complaining. Yeah, Google is having road rage because their little jelly beans cannot handle complex behavior and multiple outcomes. So much so they have been disguising the robotic cars so they will not be bulled by cyclists and pedestrian and human drivers.
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Old 01-15-18, 08:46 AM
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Some people argue that where cyclists are more common, they will be more accepted. I spent 13 years in an area with few cyclists, and actually found that drivers treated me more respectfully.

Familiarity breeds contempt.
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Old 01-16-18, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
Seeing how people drove, that made a lot of sense to me. But after taking the Metro and walking around a lot, I figured out what the dance steps were. They drive super fast, but they're totally ready to brake when necessary, and they don't get visibly angry, at least not the way New Yorkers and Bostonians do. I got into traffic, and I did just fine. The requirements for earning a license are tough there, and they're a joke here. Their driving style looks crazy to many Americans, but it made a lot of sense to me.
Yep, absolutely. I'd add that they generally have better car control as well, which is helped by the fact that the average car is what we would consider a sub-compact (so they brake very well). Most kids get a 50cc scooter as their first "car", or perhaps a micro-car/city-car (with a puny engine). If they are really living large, they might get something like a Toyota Yaris.

Nothing like here in the US where you have 16 or 17 year old kids driving enormous SUV's while texting and talking to their friends. It's especially lovely that many parents justify such decisions by saying, "they are safe." Of course the translation is that they are hoping their irresponsible child will not get hurt, even if that means that you do.

Originally Posted by Loose Chain
And now these robotic cars will have cyclists removed from the roads entirely. Well, seems the software and linear silicone digital AI cannot really handle cyclists and pedestrians and human driven vehicles as can a chemical analog multi-path computer (human brain). Google is having road rage because their little jelly beans cannot handle complex behavior and multiple outcomes. So much so they have been disguising the robotic cars so they will not be bulled by cyclists and pedestrian and human drivers.
This is a super interesting topic as well. I don't see how large numbers of driverless cars could efficiently interact with some human operated vehicles. Everything would grind to a halt if some of the humans decided to take advantage of things, or bully them, as you said. This will, of course, lead to a call for all humans to be removed from the equation, in the name of safety, and it will deteriorate into a mess. The only hope would be segregated roads, which would actually be rather nice, in my opinion.
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