What you need to know about road rage and how to avoid hairy situations (Part 1)

1 in 5 Australian drivers admit to road rage against cyclists. Swearing, honking, gesturing, throwing stuff, ‘gentle swipes’; pretty much everything gets done to cyclists. And about 1 in 10 do it at least once a month.

We know, it doesn’t make any sense. Why would anybody want to hurt a cyclist? If there’s any conclusion to be drawn from this stat, you can be sure of at least one. If you’re a cyclist, you don’t want to be seen anywhere around Australia. It probably won’t end well.

But the thing is, road rage against cyclists is not just an Australian thing. It happens pretty much everywhere in the world.

Get this. A study by Angus Reid Institute found that 43% of Canadian drivers believe there is “quite a bit of conflict” between cyclists and drivers. And the majority of that number say cyclists own the fault.

In a survey conducted by Fat Lad at the Back, it was found that 63% of UK cyclists have experienced aggressive behavior from drivers, with 70% reporting that they have experienced a near miss with a car.

In America, the statistics aren’t any better. According to Ped Bike Info, the total cost of cyclist injuries per year in the US is over $4 billion. The number of estimated cyclist injuries was 50,000 in 2014 and in the same year, 726 cyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles.

So, it’s pretty clear that road rage can and does happen basically anywhere. But what causes it? Are drivers entirely at fault for these incidents or do cyclists also have a share in the blame?

If you find yourself in a hairy situation with a huge hummer bearing down your flank, how do you respond? (Here’s a teaser: definitely not by flipping the bird. That’ll probably end in pain)

This article explains just what you need to know on how to handle yourself in a spot of trouble. But first, why exactly does road rage occur in the first place?

Cyclists and drivers can’t seem to stand each other

It’s the damnedest thing. There’s always one incident or the other involving irate drivers and miffed cyclists, with each pointing fingers at the other. While it seems there should be enough blame to go round, no one wants any slice of it.

Here’s some of the reasons we’ve come across on why there’s so much rage between cyclists and drivers.

Cyclists don’t follow traffic rules

A good number of drivers believe cyclists simply don’t follow traffic rules and that explains much of the ire.

In an interview with CBC News, Faizal Mohammed, a cab driver said “[Cyclists] don’t follow the rules. There’s no safety measures, no helmets, they don’t follow the lights. No anything.”

As far as he is concerned, cyclists are not entirely upstanding members of the road traffic community and if they’re wrong, they don’t admit it. “If there are ever any mistakes, they hit the car and are abusing, then they run away”, he says.

Drivers don’t know how to share the road with cyclists

Cyclists, on the other hand, say drivers don’t know the first thing about sharing the road with a bicycle. There may be some truth to this.

Ford found, in a survey conducted in 2018, that 49% of drivers said they did not feel confident driving alongside cyclists and another 30% said they did not feel adequately trained to share the road with cyclists.

So, in the absence of essential training, drivers simply don’t know how to treat cyclists and this often results in incidents that may lead to road rage.

Cyclists shouldn’t even be on the road at all

There’s a lot of feeling in this one. Some drivers have a tendency to see cyclists as vermin encroaching on roads that should be used by only vehicles.

They believe that cyclists are not equipped to share the road with the kind of neighbors they generally do. After all, you can only wear so many helmets, shin guards and elbow guards. At the end of the day, it’s always the cyclist’s body on the line.

Besides, cyclists should also be made to obtain a license before they get on the road. So if you’re not certified in the same manner that a driver has to get a license before they can drive, then you have no business riding with the big boys.

Drivers don’t always pay attention to the road

According to research, drivers are to blame in at least 79% of accidents with cyclists. Guess the major reason for the accidents. Yep, distraction.

This study found that driver distraction accounted for 1 out of every 4 accidents that involved a vehicle and a bicycle. Texting, calling, tweeting and other smartphone use while driving were found to be leading causes of the distraction.

Cyclists suck. Drivers suck worse

This one’s the omnibus reason. It’s why some drivers get that rising feeling of discomfort and annoyance at the thought of having to follow behind a bicycle or gently drive by them.

It’s why cyclists get their hackles up once they hear the horn of any kind of vehicle behind them and get ready to go all out, even up to this extent.

But don’t get ahead of yourself there, buster. Remember you’re still sharing the road with a 3000-pound steel and glass monster. And it doubles as the other guy’s protection, as against your lightweight two-wheeler.

So, how should you handle yourself if things get hairy?

Read the solutions in part 2 of this series.