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Motorist Perception & Behavior

Old 05-10-19, 07:43 AM
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nomadmax 
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Motorist Perception & Behavior

A couple times a year I'm reminded of how motorists only see what they consider to be a threat. Twice a year I take my truck to be detailed at a place up on the state route (2 lane road) just on the edge of town. I put a bicycle in the bed and ride it home so I don't need a ride. When the truck is done I reverse the process and go get it. There's a half mile section of busy two lane, then I'm back on quiet small town streets. The road is basically an artery between two larger cities north and south of my town so there's a good amount of traffic; there is a rideable shoulder. Midway in this half mile section is a conglomeration of businesses, gas station, fast food etc so there's a traffic signal there.

When I've brought one of my good road bikes and been properly kitted out to ride (shorts, jersey, helmet, eye protection, blinky lights front and back) while my truck is being detailed, that half mile section is miserable. Drivers are openly hostile and many (when the weather is good and windows are down) have commented on my heritage and intelligence among other things. Some breeze very close and smile while they're looking right at me.

There have been times when I was in the middle of a project at home and was wearing jeans, run down work boots and a cut off/sleeveless T shirt; threw my old Schwinn Varsity in the truck and went to the detail shop for drop off or ridden back up to retrieve it. I'm 60 and have a number of visible tattoos, all of which are related to my time in the military and my chosen profession I retired from. Basically, all that along with my shaved head makes me look like a felon who might have done time in the penitentiary/have nothing to lose. It's not a look I was going for, it's just how it turned out. When I'm dressed as described and not wearing a helmet, drivers will patiently wait some distance behind me while I ride the half mile section unfettered. Not once has anyone ever said anything or breezed me, heck when we get to the light people won't even look at me.

This is certainly not scientific but to me it proves one thing, it's not that other road users "can't" see us, it's that they "won't" unless they think they have some skin in the game.

Last edited by nomadmax; 05-10-19 at 10:14 AM.
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Old 05-10-19, 08:11 AM
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Old 05-10-19, 08:19 AM
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We're all human and we see what we see. As your personal experience shows, what others see in others and how they react often has little to do with the reality of how we are all individuals. In a different neighborhood, your casual tattooed self might get the police called on you, especially if you've got dark skin. Similarly,while I don't think kitted out road cyclists behave worse on the road than cyclists in general, they tend to stick in the mind and many folks (like my brother) have rather negative opinions of road cyclists. I've certainly encountered some aggressive behavior from road cyclists but I've encountered a lot from other drivers too.

All too often forget the Golden Rule of treating others as we wish to be treated.
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Old 05-10-19, 08:22 AM
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If Deebo is riding a bicycle in the street, people let him have the whole street.

Around here, the poorer folk that have nothing but a 10 year old bicycle to get to work on are definitely given more space on the road than someone in full bicycle specific clothing.

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Old 05-10-19, 08:48 AM
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interesting

no question that people probably see you as more of a threat in your non-cycling attire
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Old 05-10-19, 08:51 AM
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It's the fall out from Lance. Also guilt from fitness culture, bad lifestyle choices, general dissatisfaction from consumerism & a lack of sense of community. But also Lance. Cycling used to be cool, for a while. But now it's just a bunch of rich elitist drug-addled poseur-wannabes bent on chasing the dragon of superiority. This image in drivers minds is how Lance actually hurt cycling for the rest of us. It's also the disconnect that must be bridged if cycling is to grow & be accepted as a normal activity.

We know better, But drivers would rather be secure in their prejudice.

I had one driver make a Lance reference to me at a stoplight. I asked: "Why is it always that guy? Why not Froome or Cavendish?" The driver had nuthin' He just wanted a chance to flex his meager ego.

The tattooed tanktop rider isn't perceived to be jockeying for social superiority. They are lower in status & they know it. So there is no conflict for the obviously superior drivers to react against.

If you come from a position of privlege, equality can feel like oppression. The Lance image encroaches on their automobile derived superiority, so they react to maintain their status.

It really is that simple.
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Old 05-10-19, 09:16 AM
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Ibtm
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Old 05-10-19, 09:25 AM
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This may not apply to your experience,

but a rider with the signature of a "cyclist" may get a closer pass because they can hold a line and are more predictable,

relative to a wobbling person on a bike in street clothes.

It's actually a strategy to throw in a wobble or two to claim more space on the road or reduce the chance of an unsafe pass.
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Old 05-10-19, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
It's the fall out from Lance. Also guilt from fitness culture, bad lifestyle choices, general dissatisfaction from consumerism & a lack of sense of community. But also Lance. Cycling used to be cool, for a while. But now it's just a bunch of rich elitist drug-addled poseur-wannabes bent on chasing the dragon of superiority. This image in drivers minds is how Lance actually hurt cycling for the rest of us. It's also the disconnect that must be bridged if cycling is to grow & be accepted as a normal activity.

We know better, But drivers would rather be secure in their prejudice.

I had one driver make a Lance reference to me at a stoplight. I asked: "Why is it always that guy? Why not Froome or Cavendish?" The driver had nuthin' He just wanted a chance to flex his meager ego.

The tattooed tanktop rider isn't perceived to be jockeying for social superiority. They are lower in status & they know it. So there is no conflict for the obviously superior drivers to react against.

If you come from a position of privlege, equality can feel like oppression. The Lance image encroaches on their automobile derived superiority, so they react to maintain their status.

It really is that simple.
I think it's even simpler than that...some people are just jerks. I really doubt the average jerky driver is really spending much time thinking about Lance or any of the other "issues" you're saying are afflicting them. They're just jerks.


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Old 05-10-19, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by MattTheHat View Post
I think it's even simpler than that...some people are just jerks. I really doubt the average jerky driver is really spending much time thinking about Lance or any of the other "issues" you're saying are afflicting them. They're just jerks.


-Matt
Probably true. Psychoanalysing the reasons behind their behavior is likely as fruitless as pondering a monkeys understanding of Shakespear as it flings poo on the zoo cage glass.
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Old 05-10-19, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
It's the fall out from Lance. Also guilt from fitness culture, bad lifestyle choices, general dissatisfaction from consumerism & a lack of sense of community. But also Lance. Cycling used to be cool, for a while. But now it's just a bunch of rich elitist drug-addled poseur-wannabes bent on chasing the dragon of superiority. This image in drivers minds is how Lance actually hurt cycling for the rest of us. It's also the disconnect that must be bridged if cycling is to grow & be accepted as a normal activity.

We know better, But drivers would rather be secure in their prejudice.

I had one driver make a Lance reference to me at a stoplight. I asked: "Why is it always that guy? Why not Froome or Cavendish?" The driver had nuthin' He just wanted a chance to flex his meager ego.

The tattooed tanktop rider isn't perceived to be jockeying for social superiority. They are lower in status & they know it. So there is no conflict for the obviously superior drivers to react against.

If you come from a position of privlege, equality can feel like oppression. The Lance image encroaches on their automobile derived superiority, so they react to maintain their status.

It really is that simple.
I agree with this, and have had similar experiences to the OP. Full cycling kit simply "triggers" certain people, most of them ambiguously macho diesel 4x4 types, who can usually be presumed to be mentally-ill to begin with, but they get a pass from the GP and the popo only because there are so damned many of them.

I find it's best to dress in street clothes, for whatever reason I have fewer problems. Maybe people think I'm riding to work, got a DUI, or can't afford a car. Maybe people on their way to work (who I find to be frequent close-passers) resent someone in full kit because they know the person is only out there working out and not doing anything useful, while they're driving their crappy car to a crappy job that pays crappy money. "Get a gym membership!" they might say.

The 4x4 people are just nuts, you can't really expect someone who's driving a 12 foot tall monstrosity to act rationally, but a lot of them are triggered by cycling kit, no doubt about it. I suspect that's one if the main reasons they buy those things, to torment Priuses and MAMILs.
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Old 05-10-19, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
Probably true. Psychoanalysing the reasons behind their behavior is likely as fruitless as pondering a monkeys understanding of Shakespear as it flings poo on the zoo cage glass.
That really cracked me up! Probably very, very true.

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Old 05-10-19, 11:59 AM
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@MattTheHat you are unfortunately the most right in this case.
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Old 05-10-19, 12:00 PM
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I chalk it up substantially to ****phobia.

"Look at that guy's butt in tight shorts- oh ****, what if I'm gay?"
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Old 05-10-19, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
I agree with this, and have had similar experiences to the OP. Full cycling kit simply "triggers" certain people, most of them ambiguously macho diesel 4x4 types, who can usually be presumed to be mentally-ill to begin with, but they get a pass from the GP and the popo only because there are so damned many of them.

I find it's best to dress in street clothes, for whatever reason I have fewer problems. Maybe people think I'm riding to work, got a DUI, or can't afford a car. Maybe people on their way to work (who I find to be frequent close-passers) resent someone in full kit because they know the person is only out there working out and not doing anything useful, while they're driving their crappy car to a crappy job that pays crappy money. "Get a gym membership!" they might say.

The 4x4 people are just nuts, you can't really expect someone who's driving a 12 foot tall monstrosity to act rationally, but a lot of them are triggered by cycling kit, no doubt about it. I suspect that's one if the main reasons they buy those things, to torment Priuses and MAMILs.
Fully see what you mean in paragraph 2. Someone in a crappy car driving to a crappy job probably looks at someone riding to a crappy job on a crappy bike with some sympathy. I know when I pass immigrants on bicycles in industrial areas, I sure am glad I'm in a car amongst the 18 wheelers and dump trucks.

The big truck guys and gals aren't just biased against bicyclists. They're biased against anyone not driving another big truck. Anything smaller than their vehicle is viewed as a speed bump.
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Old 05-10-19, 01:02 PM
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A Psychic generator, so the motorist perceives you as an M1 Battle Tank or Godzilla ,

would still have an unpredictable result..


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Old 05-10-19, 05:45 PM
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It's nice to know that others have experienced or at thought some of the same things I have. That means I'm not certifiable just yet I think there's truth in just about every response here.
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Old 05-11-19, 12:05 AM
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I'm a guy who loves bicycling but do not share the view that a bicycle going twenty miles and hour belongs in the same lane as vehicles orders of magnitude larger and moving ten or more miles per hour faster. Per the posted speed limit.

If you choose to ride for any reason besides "recreation" then you need to accept you're stepping into a world where people think the roads were built for them and them only. That you're infringing upon their territory.

Sometimes those people see their vehicles as big anonymizers; giant shields which protect fragile egos. Unfortunately, on the road, we're the fragile ones and they aren't.
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Old 05-11-19, 03:04 AM
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If I'm recalling correctly, a British or European study (not sure where Brexit stands right now) indicated that cyclists wearing helmets and cyclist kit tended to receive more unsafe close passes than other cyclists in more casual attire, without helmets, etc.

I can't say I've noticed any difference in how drivers act around me. My rides are about 50/50 road bike with full kit and hybrid with casual attire. I always wear a helmet, a hi-vis yellow Bell MIPS. Not sure if the helmet is effective in sending the intended visual safety cue usually triggered by seeing hi-vis colors.

My hometown is reasonably cycle friendly. There's always the tiny fraction of negligent, aggressive, belligerent or hostile drivers, but I don't notice any particular pattern based on what I'm wearing or riding.

It's pretty much the same experience walking, which often feels as dangerous as cycling. Crossing intersections is perilous, even with walk signals. I seem to see more drivers ignoring pedestrian walk signals, crowding or cutting off pedestrians already established in a crosswalk, etc. And they aren't always distracted -- often they're making eye contact, so it seems more overtly hostile.

But it's difficult to look for patterns across an entire city or region because so many incidents are not reported in the news media or investigated consistently by law enforcement. As a former police/fire/emergency beat reporter I checked the incident reports every morning for the paper. Pretty much every noteworthy incident made the paper, especially with smaller rural papers where the police blotter is regarded as entertainment. Nowadays, though, hardly anything is reported. You'd need to visit the law enforcement office in person and try to wrangle the reports from their reluctant hands. Often when I hear about a death or serious injury to a cyclist or pedestrian, it's weeks or months later, unless the victim was acquainted with our cycling community.

Many victims of collisions and hit-and-runs are folks on the low income end of the community and ignored. If the victims are mentioned at all it's usually with a condescending or dismissive remark about victims having it coming because they were careless, etc. But when you look at the neighborhoods where these incidents occur, it's often aggravated by poor infrastructure. For example, hardly anyone would try to cross a highway unless they were insane or desperate. Looking at where these highway and boulevard collisions occur, it's often in poor and disregarded neighborhoods where highways sliced through older communities, splitting them apart and dividing them from resources such as grocery stores, and even from bus lines. The nearest safe crossing may be a mile away. In the absence of concern for pedestrian and cyclist safety, some folks will take risks to avoid having to walk miles out of the way -- understandable for disabled folks who need wheelchairs, walkers or canes to get around.

So my perception that my hometown is relatively safe for folks on foot and on bikes may not reflect reality for folks in other adjacent communities.
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Old 05-11-19, 04:10 AM
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I did not have even a single tatoo but quickly ran out and got some. Just for my own safety you understand.
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Old 05-11-19, 05:23 AM
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Maybe it is not that they fear you without your riding kit, but that you look like a pretentious d-bag with it**. (Everyone does with a matching kit).

Also, most drivers have probably have more frustrating experiences with people who look like ďroadiesĒ than riders who donít take themselves so seriously. So they bring that baggage with them when they see you dressed like either a Roadie or a normal person that they might relate to.

** Not saying you ARE one, it is just what it looks like.

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Old 05-11-19, 05:48 AM
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People are miserable, on the way to their daily grinds. Itís an unintentional taunt that youíre out enjoying yourself at that same time. Kits as opposed to casual attire? Perhaps they see people in casual attire on bikes as commuters, on their way to their ****ty jobs also. They donít harbor as much animosity toward them because, ďIím on my way to my ****ty job, but at least I have a car to get there.Ē
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Old 05-11-19, 06:10 AM
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I really can't say I've ever noticed that it makes a difference where I ride. Maybe I'm just lucky to live in a place with cooperative drivers, but I rarely get a close pass regardless of my attire.
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Old 05-11-19, 06:10 AM
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Do you own a GoPro? Have you tried wearing a conspicuously placed camera to see how that affect motorist behavior?
Originally Posted by honcho View Post
We're all human and we see what we see. As your personal experience shows, what others see in others and how they react often has little to do with the reality of how we are all individuals. In a different neighborhood, your casual tattooed self might get the police called on you, especially if you've got dark skin. Similarly,while I don't think kitted out road cyclists behave worse on the road than cyclists in general, they tend to stick in the mind and many folks (like my brother) have rather negative opinions of road cyclists. I've certainly encountered some aggressive behavior from road cyclists but I've encountered a lot from other drivers too.

All too often forget the Golden Rule of treating others as we wish to be treated.

That has nothing to do with it. You can do everything right, break no laws/rules, share the road and still not win.

Originally Posted by base2 View Post
Probably true. Psychoanalysing the reasons behind their behavior is likely as fruitless as pondering a monkeys understanding of Shakespear as it flings poo on the zoo cage glass.
Originally Posted by pickettt View Post
People are miserable, on the way to their daily grinds. Itís an unintentional taunt that youíre out enjoying yourself at that same time. Kits as opposed to casual attire? Perhaps they see people in casual attire on bikes as commuters, on their way to their ****ty jobs also. They donít harbor as much animosity toward them because, ďIím on my way to my ****ty job, but at least I have a car to get there.Ē
That's really all you need. That and this: misery loves company.

It works well enough in warfare. Which riding on the road can sometimes seem like.

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Old 05-11-19, 06:13 AM
  #25  
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The only option I find here in Sydney which is often heralded as one of the worst places in the world to cycle is assume no one can see you. This means for me use a mirror, obey Newtons laws of physics before road law and and run at least 2 lights all the time
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