The BBC’s Jeremy Vine is certainly not the only cyclist who has suffered road rage from a driver. We spoke to 1000 cyclists and found that more than half have experienced some form of road rage from drivers, and 30% of these say they experience it regularly.
This got us thinking:
- What is it that makes drivers so angry on the roads?
- Why is this anger so often directed at cyclists?
- And what can cyclists do to diffuse the situation – or avoid having to face it?
What is road rage?
You’re walking as fast as you can, but you’re going to be late for a meeting.
The lady in front with the pushchair blocks the pavement and you drop your pace. When you finally pass her, you get immediately stuck behind an old man with a walking stick. And, when you manage to squeeze past him, there’s a teenager who cuts straight in front of you.
At best, you tut, and, at worst, you rather rudely command him to move aside.
Now imagine a similar scenario in a car.
At every juncture you may well picture yourself cursing, shouting, hitting the steering wheel, pulling up close to them, flashing your lights, or maybe worse.
That’s road rage.
It happens because driving can be stressful. It doesn’t help that our roads are so crowded, either.
But, primarily, it happens because when we drive we are in a private space. Cars cocoon us from the inhibitions that being in public creates, and we feel free to express our emotions more powerfully as a result (especially anger and frustration).
So, what’s a cyclist to do?
How to avoid road rage if you’re a cyclist
1. Ride within the law
Which isn’t to say that drivers understand what this is. But, that’s a different matter.
2. Keep a record
It’s not so much noting down a registration after the fact that helps, but wearing a clearly visible videocam on your cycling helmet can make some drivers think twice.
3. Be aware and be seen
Wearing high-vis clothes helps you to be seen, and this reduces sudden panics that lead to stress and anger in drivers.
Be aware of vehicles’, particularly vans and lorries, blind spots, and that most drivers do not expect to be overtaken on the left, so do so with care.
4. Don’t strike when the iron is hot
If you are the victim of road rage, try to control your temper. It’s hard, because the adrenaline is pumping.
Here are some practical things to do:
Breathe deeply – to help stay calm
Count before you say anything – the old tricks are often the best
Come off the road for a couple of minutes – let the driver disappear into the distance
Decide to maintain silence – and avoid using hand gestures
5. Save the politics and philosophy
In a moment of confrontation you are unlikely to engage someone in a reasonable debate about the rights of cyclists or the nicer points of the law.
No matter how aggrieved you feel your best bet is to try and avoid escalating the situation – you’ll be left with a burning sense of indignation but you can cope!
Report any criminal or threatening behaviour to the police. You’re a rider, not a fighter.
The rights and wrongs of road rage
Cyclists have every right to be on the road, but drivers are not our enemies. We share the roads and the sooner we all learn this the better.
In the meantime, keep yourself safe by doing all you can to avoid road rage, and to defuse it if it happens. Threatening behaviour is not something you should have to deal with. But, by the same token, it’s something best dealt with by the police. Keep cycling, and keep yourself safe.
Take a look at our infographic for more interesting insights and information on cyclists and road rage:
Click to access podacst-fight-or-flight-response.pdf