Riding home last night from work and riding into work this morning I was stunned, yet again, at how rude some cyclists are and how their actions directly lead to injuries to other cyclists they will never meet.
While researching my new book The Urban Cyclist's Survival Guide, I had conversations with several experts about road rage. One of those experts was Dr. Leon James, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii who specializes in road rage and maintains a site about road rage at DrDriving.org.
We will touch on the topic of road rage several times in the blog. The revisiting of the topic isn't to drag out one subject and make it last for several blogs. No, the reason is that road rage is one of the most important topics for any motorist, pedestrian, trucker or cyclist trying to share the roadways with other motorists, pedestrians, truckers and cyclists.
What struck me about both the cyclists I experienced was their complete lack of self-awareness, especially considering that both men were dressed like Lance Armstrong-wannabes with expensive clothing to match their expensive bikes. Yet, for all the money they spent on their gear and equipment, they proved to be more of a harm to other cyclists than any angry motorist.
Why? Because the excessive and rude actions of both the cyclists provoked and antagonized the motorists around them. In short, the self-righteous actions of these two cyclists caused the road rage that other cyclists - me - had to deal with later.
I was cycling north on Clark Street going home from work when I steered left in the bike lane to avoid a car door opening. To my surprise, I was nearly knocked sideways by an Armstrong-wannabe replete in special cycling-specific shorts, shirt and shoes. He never announced his presence, never tried to yell "on your left" or even ring a bell. He simply rode up from behind me and was so close to me when I avoided the car door that I saw he needed to trim his nose hair.
I was furious and ready to say something at the next red light, pointing out that he nearly caused a wreck for both of us by not letting me know he was there. But I never got the opportunity because when a cab pulled over to pick up a passenger, Armstrong-wannabe stopped and yelled at the driver to get out of the bike lane.
I simply rode past the verbal sparring and all I could think was - Great, now I'm riding in front of a driver who is so furious with a rude cyclist that the driver is going to run me off the road.
Sure enough, when we got to a tight stretch of the road about a half mile further, the cab driver purposefully drove to the right side of his lane to pinch off the bike lane and force me to wait behind him. Maybe the cabbie would have done the same rude driving if a cyclist hadn't just yelled at him inches from his face. But I'm willing to bet a week's salary that Armstrong-wannabe's tirade is what caused the cab driver to squeeze me out of the bike path in his moment of road rage at the other cyclist.
I chalked that up to bad luck. But on today's commute into work I realized it wasn't bad luck, it's simply the fact that cyclists are getting more and more rude to other cyclists and to motorists every ride.
Riding into the Loop along Clark Street, I had another Armstrong-wannabe (we'll call this guy Armstrong-aint to avoid confusion) force his way between myself and traffic at one of the worst intersections along Clark St., at the LaSalle intersection. Clark St. is a pockmarked with potholes along that stretch so keeping an eye on the road is pretty important. I have no idea what exactly happened, but after forcing himself between my bike and traffic, Armstrong-aint decided to give the middle to finger to either myself or the motorist next to me. I don't know which of us he was flicking off but neither myself nor the car had done anything wrong. The only person doing anything wrong was Armstrong-aint who thinks Clark St is the 16th stage of the Tour De France.
Cyclists have plenty of fault to find with motorists, bus drivers and truck drivers.
But lately I've decided that the worst enemy of most cyclists are other cyclists who act in such ridiculous and anger-provoking ways that they only do harm to other cyclists. After all, when Armstrong-wannabe and Armstrong-aint have turned onto another street during their ride, they may have forgotten about yelling at the cab driver or giving the finger to other motorists, but those car drivers haven't forgotten. Road rage festers and burns, it doesn't just fade away. And when those drivers interact with another cyclist they are not going to have any thoughts of civility toward dealing with them, uh I mean, us.
That means the real reason behind so much road rage is actually bicyclists themselves who ride like they're protected on high from Keyser Soze. They are not. None of us are. And the last thing I need is dealing with a road rage incident caused by a thoughtless cyclist who is the one who deserves all the blame for causing the road rage by simply acting like a jerk.
We were all told to learn to play well with others when we were children. The adage doesn't change now that we're adults. And it's even more vital for cyclists to drop their self-important demeanor and attitude when dealing with traffic because cyclists cause more road rage incidents then they suffer. They're just too self-absorbed to acknowledge it.
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