50

Fortunately, I have very few strongly negative interactions with cars (most people generally seem to respect the way I ride), but those that do stick with me for a while.

The scenario is almost always the same. Rude driver approaches, does their rude thing (obscenities, "get off the road," unsafe passing, etc...), then speeds off to annoy the next bicyclist (or more than likely arrives at the next red light).

While this is generally a short interaction, I find that I just don't have a good rest of the ride. I find myself angry at the driver, thinking about what I could have done differently, and just generally being pissed off. Clearly I realize that it is possible I'm a jerk, but given the relative infrequency of these events I'm hoping that's not the case and I'm just riding defensively and this driver is having a bad day.

What can I do to get over (or mitigate) my anger at inconsiderate drivers?

  • 9
    Voting to close as primarily opinion based - get over yourself. And remember, might is right. – Batman Nov 4 '14 at 0:50
  • 18
    @Batman It is opinion based, but it's a problem many cyclists have, and answers could be useful to them. – andy256 Nov 4 '14 at 1:14
  • 6
    Learn how to laugh at idiots. For one thing, think about the aneurysm they're working on due their high blood pressure. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 4 '14 at 2:08
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    @Batman "Get over it" -- always the most helpful and appropriate answer to anybody saying they're unhappy about something! *cough* – David Richerby Nov 4 '14 at 10:00
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    Incase you need any help on the advice of @PeteH, see how to carry a concealed firearm on a bike – Kibbee Nov 4 '14 at 13:27

17 Answers 17

76

After 50+ years as a cyclist, this is my approach -

  • ride according to the conditions

  • ride in reasonable proximity to the curb

  • if safe, move over a little as traffic approaches

  • know where I'm going, and do it assertively

  • if somebody honks / shouts / waves, assume that they must be a friend, or are telling me something important, so smile broadly and wave enthusiastically in return

  • 44
    "Smile broadly and wave enthusiastically" - I love it. – ethrbunny Nov 4 '14 at 3:11
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    Yes, it's not really getting over it: it means I don't have the bad feelings in the first place. And since you know that the bullies are watching for your reaction, it robs them of the power they thought they had. – andy256 Nov 4 '14 at 3:34
  • Please also see the answer by ChrisW for some deeper insight. – andy256 Nov 5 '14 at 0:10
  • 1
    I can deal with rudeness from other drivers (and people in general), and I think this is good advice here. However, I've had some terrifying near misses in my time (as I'm sure more cyclists have), and it's difficult to shake that feeling of almost having been killed. – Will Vousden Jan 13 '16 at 14:11
30

There's a fake Buddha quote on some internet sites which says, "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."

The most popular of the genuine Buddha quotes (the Dhammapada) begins with,

  1. "He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me." Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.

  2. "He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me." Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.

  3. Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

  4. There are those who do not realize that one day we all must die. But those who do realize this settle their quarrels.

Anger is one of the Buddhist "poisons", and is a source or cause of "suffering", and a large part of the point of Buddhism is to liberate yourself from such, not be susceptible to it. The "wholesome behaviours" which are opposite to anger include non-aggression or non-hatred, and benevolence or kindness.

Not becoming angry might take repeated practice. There are views (about the world and about self) which are or are not conducive to becoming angry. There's awareness (of your body and reactions), etc.

It can be a deep and complicated subject. @andy256 answered it pretty well.

I worried about some of the other answers: e.g. "thinking of the driver as an idiot", or that there's "not much you can do to prevent your visceral response", might not be ideal answers.

Imagine a person who never gets angry!

  • 4
    Yes, getting angry at drivers does not help us. And they are not helped by their own behavior toward cyclists. We can be fairly sure that since they try to bully one group of people who are in a more vulnerable position (on a bicycle), they also bully others at other times. Thinking about it in the terms you have described suggests that the "smile and wave" approach can actually help them. Thanks for the insight. – andy256 Nov 4 '14 at 23:37
  • Your points 3 and 4 are the same? – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 5 '14 at 19:03
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    @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun - Not really. One is A -> ~B, and the other is ~B -> A. – Hao Ye Nov 5 '14 at 20:04
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    @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun They are similar: they're complementary. The same is true for the two halves of 5. All the verses in that first chapter of the Dhammapada are like that: that chapter is called "Pairs" or the "Twin Verses". – ChrisW Nov 5 '14 at 23:28
  • 1
    Thank you, I see the difference now. Didn't notice the very slight difference in wording before. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 6 '14 at 6:57
25

Try making up a different backstory for the driver. You are already making one up, you know:

speeds off to annoy the next bicyclist

I do very well with assuming that the driver must have an unhappy marriage, or be on their way to a job they hate, or otherwise be preoccupied with their own misery, which impairs the way they drive. If they beep or say something mean or make a rude gesture, I tell myself that they are actually angry at themselves for almost hitting me or barely seeing me in time, and that leads them to angry behaviours pointed at me, even though I have done nothing wrong.

This mindset lets me feel a little smug about the poor sad idiot who is now driving away from me. It works even if I'm in a car. When I'm on a bike, I can also add to my mental list that they may be jealous that they have not been able to arrange their lives in a way that lets them commute by bike, or go for a ride in the middle of the day, or whatever it is that I'm doing while they are stuck in their car being angry. You have to pity them, really.

Then smile and remember how much better your life is than that poor sad idiot motorist's, and carry on enjoying your ride.

  • 4
    I am not sure negativity is the right way to go. If you go around thinking that people who honk at you are bad rather than needing more education on how to drive on a complete street this would become a sad world. – Chris Belsole Nov 4 '14 at 18:52
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    they're not bad - that's my point. They aren't trying to annoy you, they're just not doing a very good job of driving and interacting right now. If your backstory is "the poor uneducated driver doesn't know what they need to know to drive well" then that's also a good substitute backstory. – Kate Gregory Nov 4 '14 at 19:11
  • 3
    +1 and deserves more. I find laughing is much more effective than smiling (keep it for the really angry times). I also remind myself of Hanlon's razor "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." – mattnz Nov 5 '14 at 1:20
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    "they may be jealous that they have not been able to arrange their lives in a way that lets them commute by bike, or go for a ride in the middle of the day" I vote loudly for this argument! – Alexandre Mazel Nov 5 '14 at 13:10
12

The best revenge is riding your bike.

Remember, they're stuck in a car, probably dealing with stop and go traffic, other jerk drivers and literally burning money from their gas tanks. You're on a bike, getting fresh air and exercise, probably making better time than the drivers, and definitely having a better time. Enjoy your self.

8

This may sound simplistic. It's probably something you already do, and you can develop it further with practice and awareness.

Acknowledge your feelings: "That interaction was very painful. I didn't like that at all."

Then gently let them go: "Everything is OK. I am safe, and life keeps on going. This is great weather. When I get home, I'm going to listen to one of my favorite podcasts."

7

In my youth I entertained some militant bicyclist thoughts, so let me share a few stories.

  • (Notre Dame, Indiana) I was riding my bike home from the department. A car full of high-schoolers (or may be freshmen?) approached from behind. The dudes on the back seat came up with the bright idea to poke me with a baseball bat. They barely made contact, and I was mostly WTF? Thankfully it was all over in a second, and nobody got hurt.
  • (Notre Dame, Indiana) I was again riding my bike home. The laces on my right shoe got caught around the crankarm. After a few more pedal strokes they became uncomfortably tight, and I noticed that something was wrong. This was the first time it happened to me, so I didn't know what to do (the remedy is to pedal backwards - the laces will come loose again). I was gradually losing speed, and eventually fell to my right on the grass (no curbs or sidewalks). Conk. A pick-up-truck driver coming from behind saw that something unusual happened. He pulled over, and walked to me to check if I was all right. He supported the bike in the air so that I could turn the cranks and get myself loose. The friendly Hoosiers.

To each bad story there is a good story.

Militant I said?

  • (Turku, Finland) I was riding my bike downtown during a rush hour on a narrow street. A car zips by me, and more or less immediately steps on the brakes wanting to turn right, but being forced to wait for pedestrians to cross the street. There was a bus on my left, and I had nowhere to go. I hit my brakes, barely got around the back of the car, and rather than taking my chances with the bus decided to lean on his roof for support. I was already pissed, so I didn't do that gently. Of course, the guy comes out of the car, fuming. But, instead of the teenager he was expecting, he faced my unhappy 6ft4in 220lb self. He thought better about picking a fight, muttered something and went back in. I wasn't exactly proud of myself. I could (should) have anticipated the development of that traffic situation much better, but I was having a bad day anyway.

But we have the superior method of transportation, so let's take pity on the car drivers.

  • (Turku, Finland). A nice summer day, low 80s (very warm by local standards). I was riding my bike home from downtown after doing errands. After a visit to a cam'ra shop I noticed this guy in a red convertible in front of me in the traffic lights. When the light turned green he sped away, but at the next traffic lights we were still there together turning left to a somewhat congested street (the scene of the previous story). Two more traffic lights, and we are still together. AND I had stopped at an ATM to withdraw a bit of cash while he was stuck there. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!!!!!!

Having seen car/bike encounters from both sides, the advice is to be chill. The enclosure of a car brings out the worst in many people sometimes. Normally they would be nice folks, but something happens there. I'm no psychologist, so I don't know what. I try to keep these stories in mind, when I meet bicycles and I'm behind the wheel.

5

I might be a dissenting voice on this site, as I more often drive than ride my bike on the road, but consider that it might be you being inconsiderate, if you pardon the pun. May be it's you hogging a lane or dashing to the right of a driver trying to make a right turn -- one cannot tell from your question.

I also ride a motorcycle once in a while, and the one thing we were taught most persistently in our safety course was this: "Ride as if everyone else were there to kill you." I find this applicable to any type of vehicle, really. For every bicycle rider rudely cut off by a car driver, there is a car driver equally rudely cut off by an 18-wheeler driver.

I'm sure that if we all on the roads were thinking a bit more about others than about ourselves they (the roads) would be safer. Come to think of it, this applies to other aspects of life as well.

  • Welcome to Bicycles mustaccio. No, I don't think you are dissenting; the OP concedes "I realize that it is possible I'm a jerk". – andy256 Nov 5 '14 at 1:54
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    If I thought everyone was "there to kill me" I'd sell my bike and buy a tank. Assuming they're inattentive and careless might help, though. – James Bradbury Nov 7 '14 at 10:28
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    There's a great book "The Invisible Gorilla" that covers the cognitive psychology of attention. Drivers are (almost always) NOT trying to kill you. However, things are happening fast, they only have so much attention, and may be spending too much of it on a cell phone. It is safer to assume that they do not see you because so much is happening that you have been filtered out. – Technophile Nov 7 '14 at 16:55
4

There's really not much you can do to prevent the onset of such feelings. It is your visceral response. I also think that if you're riding hard, there may be some biochemistry involved that makes angry emotions more pronounced. Just accept a certain amount of anger. There's nothing you can do about it in the brief moments during and after the incident.

Smiling and waving is perhaps one way to respond. But if you're actually angry, it comes off as sarcastic and some drivers might take even more offense to that than almost anything else, escalating the situation.

The best immediate response is to just focus on the safety of yourself and others riding with you. If possible, try to remember details about the vehicle and its driver because sometimes you might get another "round" with this person if they didn't get their satisfaction.

After the initial rush you have an opportunity to cool down your emotions. I have found it helpful to realize that part of the intent of aggressive driving is to get a rise out of the victim. In a way these hostile drivers are spreading grief like a virus. There's no trick to mitigating this. You just have to deliberately put it out of your mind.

  • 1
    Agree. I have no problem calming down while I drive, yet every little thing drives me mad while riding. We are all monkeys in shoes, so we need just to be aware of it. – J-unior Nov 6 '14 at 8:12
3

Instead of getting mad at them remember that the people who honk or drive too close are need more education on how to drive on a complete street. It is our job as cyclists to do our best to follow the road rules. If you are doing that you can be confident that it is not your fault if you get honked at. Rather it is their ignorance of safe driving that is the issue. To that I would pity them rather than be angry at them. You can fight this in your own way by educating people about the rights of cyclists and the proper rules of the road. For everyone that causes harm to you on the road there is always the police.

3

I find that more often than not, when I get mad at drivers, it is very often a reflection of my own mood. If I'm in a good mood, bad driving just washes over me. On the rare occasions I am in a bad mood for some reason, the slightest inconsideration by a driver gets me seething. The best response to bad, inconsiderate driving is to ignore it. (But I sometimes imagine catching up to them at the next traffic lights, reaching inside their open window, plucking their car keys out the ignition and throwing them in a convenient river / gorse bush)

3

See them as human, with, alas, human limitations.

People react first based on reflex including fight-or-flight, then based on their beliefs, their mood, recent experiences and experiences earlier in their history. Then after a while - if they are calm - they may start noticing the present.

It's not about you. It's about their history.

  • Driving requires intense focus and elevates reactivity. Totally relax and you'd go off the road! Drivers are a bit wound up to start with. Not about you.
  • A driver whips around a curve and find you and an oncoming car: shot of adrenaline triggers fight-or-flight. They are now shocked, scared, maybe angry. This happened right after they saw you, therefore (they think) you made them feel that way (post-hoc, ergo pocter-hoc) and they react. Maybe they're embarrassed because they shouldn't have been going that fast. Not so much about you. Do leave a safe path for cars to get past...
  • They're late for an appointment, feel out of control of the situation and are frustrated, impatient, maybe scared. You're slowing them down (by a few seconds). You'll see a disproportionate reaction. Not so much about you.
  • They just had a fight or were bullied and are wound up: not about you.

The best advice I have for you is:

  • focus on your own safety first; includes being visible, your path is predictable to drivers, and that they have a safe path to follow and don't have to choose between hitting you and going off the road
  • have compassion for yourself and for them
  • be kind and courteous, don't pass rudeness on. "Rudeness: the gift that keeps on giving"

"Keep your stick on the ice. We're all in this together"
- Red Green

2

First and foremost would be to not take it personally, there are a lot of drivers that just think cyclists shouldn't be using the roads at all so no amount of good cycling will help that.

That will help mitigate, but doesn't help you to get over the anger...

To do that you either need to take a quick break to compose yourself or hope that a set of traffic lights are approaching where you can "ask" said driver for clarification or find a little bit of enjoyment in seeing them stuck in traffic again whilst you may continue onwards.

  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit but he wasn't saying to plough through. But it isn't uncommon for you to go sailing past stopped cars as you pass them in your empty cycle lane (only up to the lights of course) – Baldrickk Nov 4 '14 at 10:50
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit - Yes apologies, I wasn't implying going through the lights but a red light quite often creates a queue of traffic whilst a bike can go to the front of the queue – Sayse Nov 4 '14 at 10:52
  • @Sayse: Ah, right yes okay :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 4 '14 at 10:55
  • Thanks for the answer; the type of driver I have in mind isn't usually interested in a chat. Personally I think the safest place to be is far behind them. – Felix Nov 4 '14 at 15:45
  • @Felix - It doesn't have to be a two way conversation :) – Sayse Nov 5 '14 at 7:24
2

There are few better ways to make a person who is angry, even angrier, than to engage in polite behavior. Kill 'em with kindness, as I learned years ago working Tech Support.

While I've not yet had the chance to employ it, my plan is to smile, wave, and call out, "Love you! Mean it!"

Just ensure that if they go into cardiac arrest, you are not struck by them.

1

Share the road
Horse drawn vehicles, cyclists, motorists, family of ducks, dumb possum and even a pedestrian pushing a cart must all share the road, no mater how fast or slow. If you want to go fast, expressways and freeways are limited access by law, are the only stretches which we may enjoy the convenience of not having to stop for a truck backing out or a child's ball being chased. Otherwise expect delays at all times and be prepared to slow down when it increases safety, approaching the posted speed limit only as conditions permit. The California Vehicle Code has eternally stated that all roads are public and we all must share them. Motorcycles are not permitted to ride directly on the line, but lane sharing is permitted by statute and so is not illegal. However empowered motorists may feel by large equipment and vehicles which occupy a great percentage of the lane width, the basic law is do that safely, not as an entitlement to be a road-hog. If it weren't for the poor attitudes of soccer mom's in SUV's in a hurry to disregard cyclists rights, California would not have had to pass a new law recently which specifically addresses the problem - The three foot rule - citations may be issued to motorists who diminish the safety margin within a three foot buffer zone around slow moving traffic. The law also states a horn is required equipment to be used to alert for safety such as two quick taps alerting a wandering cyclist of danger and the same law prohibits any other use. Citations are issued for calling to friends, summons from a residence and certainly for embellishing a complaint or harassment. CHP discourages cyclists (and motorcyclists) from "flipping-off" or other non-sanctioned hand signals (I always augment my turn-indicators with Right, Left and Stop hand-signals during all operation and conditions,) simply because road-rage kills the rider in a mass-mismatch of car vs. cycle collision.

Enjoy the stress-free now
Let them honk, let them shout, snap a photo of their license plate, do your best to allow the angered driver to pass safely, and with that, then they will hopefully pass out of your life as they do so, forever - shine on you crazy diamond. If they persist as a continuing problem, post them to #baddrivers, share the photo with law enforcement and ask them to pass it around during roll-call. Savor in the thought that you will enjoy the smell and feel of fresh-cut grass between your toes and the full dome of blue sky overhead or nighttime cosmic colander canopy of stars and that you will never be trapped by a seat-belt inside a crushed steel cage upside-down in a fireball, or worse, becoming the paraplegic burn-victim who survived that. Most of all be cheerful that your heart is light, healthy and free of plaque for the rest of your stress-free ride while the weight of their out-of-shape caffeine driven time-compression in-order-to-chase-an-elusive-dream to enjoy at some vague planned future will shorten their years above ground.

Life is short, why hurry to the end?
or Go ahead, get in front of me, you go first!
When I was fresh out of academy as Motor Safety Patrolman I had always wondered "Where are all these people off to in such a hurry?" I heard many similar answers, while none were identical, some were bizarre but actual reasons, offers of sex offended me and were cited for bribery, but most were mundane excuses. But at the end of my tour there was one common thread which each shared in one way or another to answer my question. They were all in a hurry to get to Forrest Lawn (the cemetery - Go ahead, get in front of me please, you go first… and don't take me with you!)

1

Just get over it. Ignore it. Most importantly be careful and try and stay out of the way. After all, cars (while most will try and avoid you) are definitely heavier than bicycles.

I live in an area that's heavy with bicycles and some (very small percentage) do blow right through the red lights and stop signs, almost hitting me and my little girl on many occasions. So, in an ironic way, I know how you feel. But because my little one sees my reactions, I have to just let it go since not all cyclists are jerks and she takes in everything I do. It is sort of like ignoring a barking dog.

As for you pondering whether you might be a jerk. Well, if you are asking then it's worth considering.

0

Easier to wait and go around
Way back while I was attending Jr. High School, the roads would pack with students cycling home mere moments after the bell to dismiss rang. Four days a week, every week, this hopped up red Mercury Cougar driver would harass us expecting us to ride on the sidewalk instead of the on the far right of the road as we were instructed at assembly. Then suddenly he was cool behind us or would turn and take another route. Years later I learned that one of our pack knew where he lived and every time we were harassed he woke up to three missing tire stems. (Not a recommended solution, but very satisfying.)

0

You must realize that people do not have free will. The best neuroscience researchers currently tend to agree that the so-called "free will" is just an illusion. Of course, if some "soul" existed, it would probably support "free will" but the scientists do not believe in such things as soul and neither do I. Because we just have a finite number of atoms in our brains and that's all there is in there, our behaviour is a product of an very complicated and perhaps non-deterministic algorithm, so complex in fact, that it creates an illusion of free will. But we have no more free will really, than a bird that poops on you.

Having realized that, it then becomes pointless to be angry at other people. There is no point, just like there is no point to be angry at the bird that pooped on you. The bad behaviour of people is a product of their bad algorithm in their brains.

Instead of being angry at them, you instead, be thankful to Nature for the luck that you have, that by pure chance, you happened to get a better algorithm in your brain. You should thank your lucky stars for that, and have pity on these poor beings that don't have such a nice algorithm, and hope that maybe in the future science will be able to fix their algorithms a little.

  • Buddhism doesn't believe in some "soul", but does believe in a certain amount of free will. You are affected by the choices you made in the past (e.g. karma), and you will be affected in the future by choices you make in the present ... but you can and do make choices in the present. – ChrisW Nov 8 '14 at 11:59
  • If there is no soul, then how can you make choices? Who is the independent agent that makes the choices? Your brain? It is just a collection of physical atoms, governed by the laws of physics, some indeterminate, like quantum mechanics, but there isn't any "choice" there. Where is the choice coming from if there is nothing more than a bunch of atoms? – Mark Nov 8 '14 at 12:31
  • There's no "independent agent": and yet, choices are made. There's a summary at Free will in Buddhist philosophy (in which "conditioned" is described here). For that matter, "where is the anger coming from" if there is nothing more than a bunch of atoms? Your premise that sentient beings are "just atoms" reminds me of this analysis. – ChrisW Nov 8 '14 at 14:16
  • Yes, anger comes from atoms. Sentience comes from atoms. Itelligence comes from atoms. Awareness comes from atoms. But not choice. Think about it. If you want to argue with me based on Buddhist philosophy and not logic, sorry I won't. I don't believe anything that is not rational and logical. I give you a rational argument, and you give me back some irrational religious thinking. It's like, we are on different planets. You obviously do not understand how logic works. How do you think this computer works on which you are writing this? Based on religion? No, based on logic and physics. – Mark Nov 8 '14 at 14:55
  • 1
    @Mark Welcome to Bicycles SE. We ask that users remain civil on this cite. Your statement "You obviously do not understand how logic works" is belittling and rude. Please keep this in mind when using the site in the future. – jimchristie Nov 10 '14 at 15:13

protected by freiheit Nov 8 '14 at 18:12

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