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?

  • 11
    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. Commented Oct 15, 2010 at 15:08
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    @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
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 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
    Commented Oct 20, 2010 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. Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 11:57
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    @mgb I think I'm going to have a sticker made with your quote and put it on my top tube. "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." Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 4:37

4 Answers 4


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
    Commented Oct 17, 2010 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
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 9:42
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    In my brief stint driving trucks this was one of the more annoying parts. Every call except the clearly unhinged ones resulted in a discussion with someone in management. At best it's a waste of (unpaid!) time when I could be working, at worst it's a formal warning. Other companies just make a note and hassle drivers who get too many complaints. I know there are companies who ignore complaints, but that's generally a symptom of their general unpleasantness. From the company perspective it's better to be nice on the phone than have an angry motorist cost a sale or damage a truck.
    – Móż
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 2:33
  • It does help but doesn't prevent another near collision, especially for long haul freight truck driver that are tired after a long distance of travel, negligence driver, not paying attention (cell phone, or too busy with GPS,etc,or even due to blind spot. Such problem are common until there is a scientific policy(truck own proximity sensors, all angle camera, cyclist signal beacon ) to fix to it, you need to ride defensively against random drivers.
    – mootmoot
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 10:00

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.

  • 2
    +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
    Commented Oct 15, 2010 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. Commented Oct 15, 2010 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
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 9:39
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    However if they get lots of calls about the same driver some action my be taken.
    – Ian
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 9:40
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    The size/power difference is important. Motorists are concerned that cyclists "get away with" breaking the law. Cyclists are afraid that motorists will kill them by breaking the law.
    – Móż
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 1:49

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.

  • 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
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 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
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 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
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 13:40
  • Drivers can indeed hear you from their cars. See: "What are some alternatives to fruitlessly ringing my bell at a motorist?" Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 21:12
  • It is really hard to be the jerk when most of the people believe that bikes should not exist. All the drivers that signals me not are just in the wrong they actually pretend to jump a red light or me disappear from the road
    – kifli
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 7:52

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.

  • 1
    Spot on. There are consequences. In one particular situation, I regularly saw poor driving (high speed passes on a narrow road and general speeding) from a sign written company delivery van. The company ignored my complaints - so I contacted the restaurant the deliveries were being made to instead. Suddenly I got an answer from the company, with the restaurant copied in.
    – JosephH
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 12:33

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