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On my commute in this morning I found myself in another situation where I was in conflict with another road user. (Briefly, a truck and I arrived at a roundabout at a roughly similar time, but I was into the junction marginally sooner and, crucially, had priority. He didn't/couldn't stop in time and only my emergency stop prevented a collision.)

So, naturally, I shouted at him, pointing out his faults. I know this won't help the situation but adrenaline and the rush of almost being knocked off aren't great ways to start a productive discussion. We had, as they say, a full and frank exchange of views which ended with my whipping out my phone and taking a couple of quick photos of his number plate and the company name from his door.

Realistically the police have better things to do with their time for this likely non-offence, but I did find the company's website and have filled in a 'contact us' form. I fully expect to not hear another word about it, I presume my complaint will be filed in the lunatic/whinging file and nothing will come of it.

The question here is what should we do in these situations? We could just put up with it, going gently into that good night, putting up with a genuine belief in some other road users that cyclists are not equal peers (cf. discussions about ignoring red lights and cherry picking rules).

Or if it's not serious enough to report to the police, am I just being too thin-skinned?

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When in doubt, chicken out. You say you arrived at a roundabout at a "roughly similar time." Given that you're smaller, less visible, more vulnerable, and are likely to be able to brake more quickly, this would be a perfect opportunity to be polite and let him have the right-of-way, even if you were there "marginally sooner." I always err on the side of caution when I'm on a bike, even if I technically have the right-of-way. –  Brian Campbell Oct 15 '10 at 15:08
    
@Brian Campbell - sorry, that doesn't wash. Erring on the side of caution is one thing, submitting to Might being Right is completely different. In this situation it was clearcut. It's everything to do with politeness and give-and-take, but why should it automatically be the cyclist giving way to the lorry? If we're to be automatically subservient to them because they're bigger and we should be grateful to be able to share their roadspace, we've lost and we should just walk. –  Unsliced Oct 18 '10 at 9:38
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sometimes you have to just let it go. Being on a bike means that you are physically, mentally and ethically superior to the idiot in the SUV (and have a firmer ass) so just smirk and let them go. Even driving a car though I tend to give way to trucks, firstly it's going to hurt me a lot more than them - they have limited visibility and more restricted braking, turning and accelerating - and they have a job to do, deliveries to make, and a clock to watch. –  mgb Oct 20 '10 at 16:15
    
I've often been in similar situations and felt aggreived and bulllied. On reflection, I've realised that most likely the drivers either didn't see me soon enough or didn't realise how fast real cyclists can go. I can usually give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not bullying or being pushy. –  JamesBradbury Mar 21 '13 at 11:57
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4 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Anecdotal evidence I have heard is that in a lot of cases complaints actually do have an effect, particularly if the company is a large one. All complaints have to be followed up and while you may not hear back from the company, management does speak to the drivers involved. Whether this has a positive effect or just creates resentment with the driver, I don't know.

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I would guess that the company keeps files on these things, and after a driver racks up a certain number, some sort of consequence ensues. But who knows what the specifics might be? –  Kyralessa Oct 17 '10 at 1:24
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This is probably what I was hoping for most by making the complaint - just a quiet word in his ear. "You're driving a truck with our name on it, I don't care if this lunatic cyclist is right or wrong, just try not to give them an excuse to vent." –  Unsliced Oct 18 '10 at 9:42
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I know someone who's on the receiving end of those bad-driving complaints for a company that has a "Tell us about how I drive phone number here" sticker on their trucks. I know that I have a small sample, but it's probably representative of how it works in most companies. Here's how it goes:

  1. You call
  2. The person understands your troubles and will make sure the message is delivered
  3. The person who received the call says to the driver "Hey, someone complained about your bad driving!"
  4. "Oh really? random comment"
  5. Everyone laughs it off
  6. Moving on

It won't be much better with the police.

So in the short term I'd say they're is nothing to do. In the long term it's all about sensibilization and working on developping mutual respect between drivers are cyclists.* They're is a lot of work to do, but really it's the only way to reduce the number of incidents like the one you're telling us about.

*The mutual part is important here. If there weren't so many cyclists doing not-so-smart (I'm staying polite) moves all the time, drivers would probably be more tolerant.

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+1 for pointing out that we cyclists also need to be better in our attitude and behaviour if we expect other drives to respect us. –  zigdon Oct 15 '10 at 18:15
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@zigdon is right. I see as many horrible cyclists as I do drivers. Makes all of us look bad. –  Brian Knoblauch Oct 15 '10 at 19:07
    
I'm on the side of being polite, but there is a line over which we could easily cross and that's when we become overly apologetic and subservient purely because we're smaller and more vulnerable. –  Unsliced Oct 18 '10 at 9:39
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However if they get lots of calls about the same driver some action my be taken. –  Ian Oct 18 '10 at 9:40
    
Depends on the region your in. In both cases where people I know made complaints to the Police, they were accepted and legitimately followed up on. Of course your milage will vary, but making a complaint might be effective. –  Dana the Sane Mar 15 '13 at 15:20
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It's easy to become angry and militant when you're cycling. It feels like cars don't respect you, and everybody's out to kill you. Nonetheless, yelling and giving the finger ultimately makes you look like the jerk, even if you are in the right.

Be courteous, forgiving, and smile. Drivers probably won't hear you from their cars anyways.

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99.99% of the time you're right. But there is a fraction of the time when you need to point out the perceived error of someone's ways. Even if you're not in the wrong, the fact that someone is so vexed by what you've done, should give you pause to think? –  Unsliced Oct 18 '10 at 9:44
    
@Unsliced That 0.01% of the time where you need to point out the wrong of someone's ways is when you are the victim of an accident. And it's the job of the police/courts to decide that, not an angry biker. –  Nik Reiman Oct 18 '10 at 10:19
    
StackExchange isn't really the place for where this comment thread is heading, so I think I'll just disagree with you and we can both move on. My question was deliberately about how useful post-facto reactions were rather than face-to-face, on-the-spot interactions. How useful direct 'discussions' are is a different question, possibly for a different location ... –  Unsliced Oct 18 '10 at 13:40
    
Drivers can indeed hear you from their cars. See: "What are some alternatives to fruitlessly ringing my bell at a motorist?" –  unforgettableid Dec 10 '12 at 21:12
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No idea if it works but I do remember advice given to salesmen driving sign written vehicles to drive courtesly the point being hammered home by the tale of a sale lost (very high value) when the potential customer realised that the idiot who had cut him up and given him the finger on his way into work was the salesman sitting in front of him he placed the order elsewhere and explained why.

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protected by zenbike Mar 15 '13 at 5:06

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