For 2011, ditch the road rage

Middle fingers flying through the air, yelling and screaming. “You cut me off!” “It was my turn!” “You passed me too close!” “#$*%& !!!! AHHHHH!!!!!” Sound a little too familiar? If you ride a bike on the road with cars, there is no question that you have felt frustrated or personally offended by a motorist.

As cyclists, it’s easy to feel self-entitled when it comes to the open road. After all, the huge mass of steal and moving parts called cars need to watch out for us, right? Not necessarily. Cyclists are supposed to follow the same traffic laws as cars. It’s easy to blow through a stop sign, or use a red light as rolling stop because you see pedestrians doing it. Bike lanes can feel too narrow when you’re trying to ride next to your friend, so maybe you poach the white line a little bit. Or heck, maybe there isn’t a shoulder or bike lane. It’s ok, the cars will see you, right? They’ll see you while they are dialing on their phone, looking the other way out the window, picking their nose, spacing out, eating a sandwich, putting on make-up, routing through their briefcase… right?

It’s common to see an angry, over-caffeinated cyclist screaming at a car going down the road. The car probably did something wrong. Unleashing the angry beast makes the cyclist feel vindicated because he was wronged. However, there are some factors to consider as a cyclist when sharing the road with cars. First and foremost – the act of patience.

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DELIBERATE?

Just because you were cut off or feel that you were offended doesn’t mean it was intentional. The motorist probably didn’t even see you in the first place, or let’s face it, maybe you were absent-mindedly taking up a good portion of the road. As a motorist who is also a cyclist, surely there have been times where you accidentally passed a cyclist too close while messing with the radio, or maybe you were too engaged on your cell phone talking about that new lightweight handlebar you’re going to buy to see them at the stop sign. Everyone makes mistakes; they are inevitable. Plus, the car will always win.

DEAL WITH IT

You feel the great red rage bubbling up in your chest like a champagne bottle about to explode. It’s ok to feel angry, but how do you manage your anger? Let’s think big picture for a minute. The act of yelling and flipping off a motorist might make you temporarily feel better, but chances are that you will leave a sour taste in the mouth of that motorist regarding cyclists as a group. The next time they see a few cyclists riding together, there’s a chance that out of anger and resentment, the motorist will not slow down to pass on a 2 lane road, or maybe even cut an innocent cyclist off on purpose to get revenge on you. Your interactions on the road as a cyclist, whether they are positive or negative can influence the relationship between cyclists and motorists as a collective group. Maybe next time, you can politely ask the motorist at a stop light if they saw you, or explain that it makes you feel endangered when they pass too close. If they haven’t ridden a bike in traffic, they might be unaware. Say thank you or wave if they do something right.

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If you are riding on the road, it is guaranteed that a motorist will encroach upon your safety or personal pride, intentional or by accident. How will you deal with it next time? Will your raised angry fist turn into a wave?

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