Defusing Road Rage

first_imgA few days ago on my morning trip down to the coffee shop to get a little wisdom at the ORG Table (translate: Old Retired Guys), a driver blasted through a stop sign and almost made it my last day on a bicycle. So what did I do?Two things. First, since I ended up a few feet from the driver’s window, I did not yell or make obscene gestures, not even any dagger eyes, Instead, I waved and smiled and tried to give him my best “no worries, we all make mistakes” look. Second, I decided to write this commentary – and the “other side” for next time.I’ve already written several columns about the prickly relationship between cyclists and motorists sharing our public roadways, but today, I’m talking directly to cyclists, not motorists.I want to believe that road rage toward cyclists is easing and that more motorists have adopted the Share the Road philosophy, but any avid cyclist knows road rage continues to be a problem – and a dangerous one. So, here are my suggestions on what cyclists can do to help defuse it.1. Attitude Adjustment. This is No. 1 for a reason, because it is. I’m one cyclist who knows that some of my brethren have a holier-than-thou attitude. This feeling of entitlement shows through to motorists and is maddening to say the least. Instead of cyclists thinking they have some special rights on the road, I prefer that all of us consider ourselves ambassadors for everybody who rides a bicycle, now and in the future.Basically, be careful not to give motorists any reason to dislike cyclists. Don’t take over a road. Don’t inconvenience motorists. Pull over when you have traffic backed up. When waiting at a stoplight, leave room for motorists to turn right on red. Be considerate.Reward politeness with politeness. Smile and wave when a motorist gives some courtesy and space.Here’s a good example. I, like many cyclists, just want equality, but frequently, when I’m stopped at a stop sign going into a through street, waiting for traffic to clear, a motorist will stop, even though they don’t have a stop sign, just to be nice and help me cross, like I was pushing a stroller or something. I wish they wouldn’t do this, but nonetheless, I smile and wave my gratitude as I cross the street.Reward rudeness with kindness. Even when a motorist cuts you off, yells obscenities or hazes you, don’t yell back or make obscene or frustrated gestures. Don’t ride over to the driver’s side window for a little chat; this almost never has a good outcome. Again, smile and wave. Nothing will change that incident; but next time, the motorist might feel a bit guilty and behave differently.2. Obey Traffic Laws. Follow the rules of the road, at least to the extent the average motorist does. For example, it’s a rare motorist who doesn’t sometimes roll through a residential stop sign after making sure the way is clear, and I doubt many motorists blame cyclists for doing the same. They do, however, resent cyclists not coming to a dead stop at a stop sign going into a busy street or at red lights.Most state laws require cyclists to signal turns, so do it whenever possible. And do it aggressively instead of a little quick point in the direction you plan to turn. Get that arm out there and hold it until you have to go into the turn. Hopefully, most motorists understand that signaling isn’t always possible when cyclists must keep both hands on the bars and brakes for safety reasons.Drive, not ride, your bike, so you behave like you do when driving your motor vehicle. And avoid riding on sidewalks. You wouldn’t drive your car on a sidewalk, right? Make left turns like you do with your car; don’t cut corners. Never, ever drive on the wrong side of the road or in the same lane against traffic.3. Hold Your Line. Riding a straight line is perhaps the best habit a cyclist can have – best for safety; best for being predictable to motorists; best for allowing motorists to safely maneuver around you, best for defusing road rage. Avoid any sudden, erratic movements, such as weaving in and out of spaces between parked cars. Watch ahead for obstructions like potholes and bulb outs and make minor adjustments far in advance.4. Be Bright. Forget fashion and be as visible as possible. Wear highly visible colors and reflective clothing. If you removed reflectors from your bicycle, as many avid cyclists do, substitute by wearing reflective clothing, reflective patches on helmets, saddles and bike bags or daypacks, and reflective straps around pant legs. Also, always use lights, front and rear, in any low light situation.5. Safety in Numbers. The more cyclists on the roads, the safer the roads and the more motorists will get accustomed to sharing roadways with bicycles. So, get out there; don’t leave it in the garage because you had a conflict with a motorist. However, if you’re riding in a group on a roadway without a shoulder and hence sharing a lane with motorists, be sure to ride single file.And finally, don’t forget, you’re an ambassador now. Act like it. Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Emaillast_img read more