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Commuting 101: How to react to aggressive or angry drivers

by Commute by Bike

When a driver becomes angry or aggressive during your commute you may feel the need to react in some way, but keep in mind that this is often what they are hoping for. Just like the bully on the playground, they will only pick on people that react in some way.

The best thing to do is hold you line and do your best to ignore the driver. If their actions are enough to make you feel physically threatened, you can get their license plate and report them to the authorities. While this may not have a huge impact, it’s the best way to handle the situation.

At all times remember you are the slowest and most vulnerable vehicle on the road and, while we have a right to the pavement, we must keep a defensive mindset and do our best not to provoke anger even when we are in the right.

 
Burley nomad 229

122 Responses to “Commuting 101: How to react to aggressive or angry drivers”

  1. Drew says:

    A sign on the fence where I work says it all. “You can be dead right, and still be dead.”

    Discretion often is the better part of valor, though sometimes I really pray for a red light…

  2. John says:

    I “never” encounter that kind of driver while riding during work. On my way to and from it could happen. In that case,
    I would like to get them to pull over so I can show them my badge. Then the real discussion would begin as to driving etiquitte

  3. Fritz says:

    Yay John! :-)

    The book “Art of Urban Cycling” promotes the philosophy of just letting it slide. The only behavior you can control is your own, after all.

    Cycledog has his solution for aggressive drivers that you might want to read about.

  4. jason says:

    Generally I don’t do anything unless they take the time to honk or role down the window to yell. Then at least half the time I can chase them down and have a talk to them when they stop. I live in a small town. I have never had problems with anyone after talking to them. Actually I have never had a problem after a good effort chasing. Something about seeing the same bicycle in your mirror after one or two miles, especially after you are trying to get away. The best is when it is a business vehicle and I can call them up instead of chasing them down. I once called the police on the only taxi co. in town.
    Most don’t have enough intelligence to hold on to their point. All part of the fun of riding bike for me.

  5. Paul of N.W. GA says:

    Yesterday, I had a motorist try to run me off the road while I was in a park, within feet of a traffic light.
    Someone at CBB mentioned AIRZOUND (amazon $18), mine arrived in the mail the day before. I gave a nice blast and he quite moving over on top of me. When a rapped on his window, he reverberated his threat and I said OK, I’ll get your tag. A state patrol happened along with in a minute, flagged him down, gave him a rundown and he went in his direction.
    I guess he saw the patrol heading towards me, knowing what he did and took a side road. I was proud of myself, I had been pushing thirty mph (light tailwind) with my touring bike and stayed pretty claim.
    The air horn helped. After, I have never been through the park and back in such time”. : ) If anything, sometimes those idiots give me a real power-boost”.

    I have been thinking about mounting a big rubberband on my handlebars to make a slingshot. Have any of you tried doing that?

  6. SteveG says:

    You are right, man. It’s not worth getting riled up over. This morning a car took advantage of a break in traffic to cross the road, cutting me off. I shook my head. The guy didn’t like the shake, obviously. He gave me the finger. I gave him the finger back. Then I pointed to my crotch urging him to “take a mouthful.” He started swearing. Luckily both of us were past the point of stopping. The thing is, I didn’t need to provoke the guy. I was in control the whole time. I knew he was going to lunge out. There was never a chance I was going to hit him, or him me. I was just annoyed he was so discourteous. I shouldn’t have let it get to me. I’m working on staying calm. Always the best approach.

  7. _Russ_ says:

    One word “Nose Trumpet” (thumb to nose wiggling fingers) the childish reaction to an Immature and thoughtless keeps me from taking it too serious and makes the driver realize they are just as juvenile.

  8. SteveG says:

    Re: Nose Trumpet. Hey, that’s not a bad idea. I actually laughed when I pictured that. It could certainly defuse a tense situation. (I suppose both thumbs in both ears, wriggling fingers, tongue sticking out, would be a tad too much.)

  9. Mike in Florida says:

    I live in the land of big trucks and rednecks. Surprisingly, most drivers are fine. They may pass too closely but I’ve only been scared once. I was riding home, taking a shortcut through a subdivision, when this beat up old Lincoln Town Car came screeching around the corner, leaning over 45 degrees on its blown suspension. The car was too close for my liking, so I yelled “Get OVER” and pedalled on. Well, the young man driving didn’t like that so he turned around, pulled ahead of me and stopped, blocking the road. He got out, sleeveless Confederate flag shirt and all, cussing me out and saying “I’ll beat your ass beetch”. I reached to my seat tube, unsnapped my pepper spray, and told him I would light him up if he didn’t get back in his car and leave. He left, but I snapped a pic of his plate and called 911.

  10. Galvin says:

    I wish for half the patience you all have. I dont hesitate to return a negative gesture to a honking, yelling motorist. Typically I taunt them to stop or turn around. Sometimes they do and their normal response is “get on the sidewalk”, even if there isnt one. I yell out my right to the road, which most dont even know exists. Today’s obstacle was about 70 years old and fairly fired up. I’m just waiting to get my beetch ass beat one day by someone more threatening. No love for the cyclist commuter in Lake County Indiana.

  11. Paul of N.W. GA says:

    Galvin, It’s no better here in north west Georgia. At least once every five miles I cross paths with someone who feels I have no right to the road. I can’t imagine a worse place than here, all roads have narrow lanes and most have no shoulder, not one bicycle lane and police who threaten me. After each run-in, I tell my self “someone has it worse” and increase my speed till its gone. I don’t remember it being this bad when I lived in Florida.
    With the help of everyone here at CBB, I have been showing better control with these motorist” Thanks : )

  12. GeekCyclist says:

    When someone yells at me and I can catch them, I like to look in the car with a big smile and say, “Heeeeyyy….. oh, sorry. When you yelled out the window I thought you were someone I knew. Was there something I could do for you?” They usually look away sheepishly and I think they usually realize their stupidity.

  13. Val says:

    GeekCyclist: you have hit on a widely aproved technique. The best overall recommendation I have seen is to get in the habit of responding to honking or verbal abuse by smiling, waving, and yelling “Hi, Pat!”. By using a non gender specific name, you can apply it to anyone, and the net effect is to totally confuse the driver, leaving them wondering who you thought they were. When they’re confused, they stop being belligerent, and you ride away.

  14. tom says:

    These last two replies; GeekCyclist and Val might have something there; cause last night, this guy noticed me; and then face to face he said; “Boy, you can sure see your light” (it was dusk), so this whole discussion is a bit like roadrage; but sometimes, it goes to show, you can not be certain. This is virtually, the only time, I’ve ever had a face to face confrontation with a driver too; and it turned out okay; but it was sure confusing. He seemed to be a nice guy in fact and complimented the hunk of scrap metal I was riding.

  15. Jett says:

    After reading some of these posts, I’m beginning to think Atlanta isn’t so bad after all. The drivers I encounter are almost always courteous and knowledgeable, but I also spend most of my time on roads that are frequented by other cyclists.

    There is one story I like to tell however of a pair in a pick-up truck that was verbally harrassing our Sunday morning group. Our first impression of these guys was 1) they had never been to town before, 2) had just gotten out of whatever bar they were in, and 3) were looking for some butt to kick. Fortunately, it became amusing because we caught up with them at the next light. They were clearly uncomfortable because we severely out-numbered them. We were all smiling and started politely chatting with them about how nice it was to be out, where they were headed that day, and who they thought might win the game that afternoon. It completely disarmed them and left all of us with the impression we’re more alike than different.

  16. bryan says:

    I would like to share a couple of my experiences. one of them happened back in ’92 in Austin, TX. At the time Critical Mass was demonstrating a lot (clogging up traffic with hundreds of bikes and getting themselves arrested) so there was a general public hostility towards cyclists. I was constantly seeing drivers’ middle fingers for no reason. One day I was cycling home from work during rush hour. The two-lane road (curb with no shoulder) was particularly heavy with traffic that day. I was able to keep pace with the traffic until I started up a long and steep hill. The guy behind me began to lose his cool. He began to ride too close to me and I could see him yelling in his car. He was trying to turn into the left lane to pass but none of the other cars were letting him in. He then tried to squeeze past me and was revving his car engine. I had recently read some cycling literature about how to be assertive in traffic and I moved to the center of the lane to stop him from trying to squeeze past. OOH that made him mad!! I heard him floor his engine wide open. He was going to kill me. At that exact second a sidewalk ramp opened up on the curb and I dodged to the right. He missed me by inches. That is when I learned “you can be dead right and still be dead”. When a guy is that agitated, get out of the way! Luckily I have never dealt with a guy so angry since then.

    I am a high school teacher and I commute to school. Part of my commute takes me along a road that is obviously on the way home for another nearby high school. Teenage boys think it’s funny to yell things at the cyclist on the road. I find it amusing that I cannot understand a thing they say. I’m sure they are trying to say something like “Get off the road, moron!!”. But with the wind in my ear, the noise of the traffic, the tick in my right pedal, and the doppler effect of their voices it sounds something like “I WANNA WONGA”. I laugh at their stupidity. A couple of months ago I heard a truck following close right behind me and I could hear some commotion in the truck and I thought to myself “Here we go again”. The truck pulled up next to me. I was trying to ignore it when I heard “WOO HOO!!! GO MR. REESE!!! WOO HOO!!”. It was one of my own students encouraging me on! I laughed.

  17. Ke Ru says:

    I love Val & Geek Cyclist’s responses. I have a mixed commute – suburban, urban, rural and pass through some major highways. I’ve adopted a wave strategy, kinda like random acts of kidness.

    I pedal through intersections and wave to the grumpy people at the stoplight/sign, you’d be surprised how many smile & wave back. Kinda fun, try it.

    I guess as a car driver I’ve seen a few knuckle heads on bikes that aren’t exactly good will ambassadors. So whether I’m on the bike or behind the wheel I try to be reasonable.

  18. Ingrid says:

    I’m in Olympia, Washington and used to get the occasional honk, rev, projectile or yell. I started wearing a lightweight, safety orange, reflective cycling vest/bib and it all stopped. It seems we have a trained caution and respect response to this equipment. It also sent the signal that , yes, I know I’m on the road and I’m doing what I can to be safe. It was kind of magical.

  19. Bee Gee says:

    no reaction is usually the best…if someone really wants to have a civil discussion with me (possibly about the way I ride my bike on the road,) I’m sure they’ll find a way to say so, and not just bully you with their car. Ignore agression b/c it only breeds more agression. Any decent person will regret being mean to an undeserving individual (especially if there’s no mean retaliation)

    Funny story: I’ve experienced my fair share of jerks on the road my apartment is on. However, one night I was riding to town w/ my girlfriend and some dude came up behind me and honked. When he pulled next to me I wanted to throw something at him (this was a year ago before I decided to try and lose the rage). The interaction went something like this:
    Him: “Hey! Hey! hey! hey dude!”
    Me: (failing to ignore him) “What? There’s plenty of room, there’s no one else in your lane at all!”
    Him: “Nah man, I ride a bike too. I just wanted to tell you that it’s almost impossible to see you from the back. You really need to get a better light.”
    Me: (taken aback!) “Thanks! Thanks so much! have a safe drive dude!”

  20. mechanikal_vandal says:

    The thing with aggressive/angry drivers is that generally they know you are there. Drivers that just dont pay attention is another issue all togother.
    With these drivers that see you and give you agro the good thing is that as long as you ride properly the driver USUALLY knows better than to hit you.
    Recently i was riding along a dual carriageway in a fair amount of traffic so i was doing about the same speed as the rest of the traffic. The bus i was behind stopped in the nearside lane and i looked behind me, checked their was plenty room and moved into the outside lane to pass the bus. Well the driver behind me must have reckoned that 3 or 4 car lengths wasnt enough room for me to move into as he leant on the horn. I decided that this driver needed to learn when the horn is meant to be used so i slowed to a snail like pace in the outside lane. By this time we were past the bus and another car which i presume had undertaken mr honky came up in the nearside lane and matched my pace.
    I thought i was gonna get sum abuse from this driver but when i looked over he gave me a thumbs up! he was blocking the inside lane for me so that mr honky was stuck behind us! We continued this rolling roadblock for several hundred yards till we got to a traffic light junction where i was turning off.
    Just goes to show that not all drivers are bad and that you can use your vulnerability to your advantage.

  21. Duder says:

    I carry a bidon full of gas. Anyone gets too pushy, I light up their car and ride on.

  22. Rockman says:

    Knock their mirror off with your foot, sprint to the next one way street and escape.

    Go around the block, catch up to the car and knock off the other mirror.

    Rinse, repeat…

  23. Mark says:

    I use a variation on Russ’ approach. When a car does something really stupid, I give them a lovely thumbs down, in spirit of the gladiatorial games. I get a good chuckle at the double entendre, which helps keep me calm. Even though I’m sure drivers have seen me do this, many are just watching for some sort of reaction and potentially excuse, I’ve never had anyone negatively react to it.

    I’d also like to encourage everyone to take Bee Gee’s lesson to heart. In the winter, when I spend most of my riding time in the dark, I periodically ask motorists stopped at a light if I was easily visible. I’ve gotten some good feedback and I think it also helps a little with the overall cyclist/motorist relationship.

  24. red says:

    Courteous drivers deserve courtesy, moron drivers deserve abuse. I used to advocate peace/zen attitude but I don’t anymore: why should bicyclist always be the gentle ones? If I can whack up and yell and give finger to a car that is threating my life I certainly do so, damn!

  25. CrackWilding says:

    I’ve had four incidents in two years of riding to and from work daily in Atlanta. The first was a jeep full of rednecks that actually tried to sideswipe me for kicks (and attempted to punch me from the passenger window), and the second was a near sideswipe by someone who didn’t feel I belonged in the road. In both of these cases I wound up getting in a shouting match with them.

    The other two were instances where someone was annoyed at having to be behind me for a moment, and both attempted to intimidate me with their cars. I usually ride in pretty heavy traffic, so in both cases I was easily able to catch up with both drivers and snap a photo of their license plates and their faces if possible. I try to remain calm and silent. This, I find, makes people pretty nervous, and they tend to hightail it out of the vicinity as quickly as they can. One guy actually squealed his tires tearing around a corner to get away from me.

  26. Bif says:

    My current thinking is to take the energy that might go into responding and, instead, immediately dial 911. Get the description of the vehicle and driver, write down the license#, take a photo if possible, and get on the cell. Even if it seems “minor” or “just an inconvenience”.

    Much of the “annoying” or “aggressive” actions described are illegal in most jurisdictions.

    Ultimately, driver awareness of the rules of the road, and awareness that they face legal repercussions if they act aggressively, are what will make the difference.

  27. CrackWilding says:

    It’s worth trying 911, but there are no guarantees there. I tried them on two occasions and was brushed off by the cops both times with something along the lines of “sorry, there’s nothing we can do.” Whatever.

  28. Nick says:

    Oddly enough, I bookmarked this site back in the spring and haven’t been back, but was thinking of just this topic recently… kismet? Anyway, since then, I’ve had some memorable things happen to me:
    * Had a half-full beer can thrown at me by a carload of highschool kids
    * Been edged off the road by a half-dozen generic white work vans (could have been the same van but one, in which I put a dent with my bar-end; the rest don’t have that dent)
    * Had a semi driver shake me off from drafting! Sheesh man, what was it hurting? Chicken!
    * Had a suburbanite pleb woman scream (actually scream, not yell) at me to get on the sidewalk, get off the road, she’ll run me over if she sees me again, I should be arrested, etc. All this, across the lap of her passenger- her teenage son, blushing furiously in embarrassment at her disturbing behavior. Although I wanted to lambaste her with every word in the book, out of courtesy for her much more well-behaved son, I did not, and just explained evenly my right to the road, and how it’s called a sideWALK, not a sideRIDE.
    Somehow, balancing all this out, was one ray of sunshine:
    * I was a feature in a cycle commuting article in the local paper! I’ve gotten a number of friendly honks and waves from people who recognize me from the article, and have gotten a handful of people out of their cars and on their bikes, at least for the warm months.
    For next year, I most certainly want to have more ‘offensive’ tools… heck, some defensive ones apart from my bike pump, too! I need some sort of loud horn- I have a MegaHorn (http://www.amazon.com/Bicycle-Mega-Horn-Electronically-Powered/dp/B000AOA3DA), but the strap broke last season and I haven’t fixed it yet. I’ve considered a can of R134a hooked to a semi truck horn, but don’t like the weight and the fact that I would be more deaf than the driver would be startled. Pepper spray is a must, so long as I’m upwind.
    Does anyone carry any handheld defensive pieces? Hammer, rod, flail? I’ve considered it, but wonder if it would aggravate a precarious situation.

    Nick

  29. Fritz says:

    Here are a couple of recent items to add to your arsenal:

    POLITE jacket and t shirts. It’s kind of funny, actually.

    A bike with a built in flamethrower. Really. There’s even a video.

  30. Matt S. says:

    As I was driving 72 MPH in a 70 MPH zone last week, someone came right up to my tail, and gave me an ugly glare as he passed me. If there are people out there who won’t respect my decision to exceed the speed limit by 2 MPH, they certainly wouldn’t respect my decision to bike 15 MPH in a 30 MPH zone.

    Anyway, I have an Incredibell on my bike. If any one ever yells or honks at me, I respond with a “ding ding.” I’m trying to communicate “yes, I know I’m a dork, you don’t have to tell me.” I’m not really sure how they interpret it, because I can’t really fathom their thought processes anyway.

    I guess it’s kind of like the “Nose Trumpet”, but I don’t have to take my hand off the handlebars during a potentially dangerous situation.

  31. gwadzilla says:

    I am not Ghandi

    I am mellow I am cool

    until I am not mellow
    until I am not cool

    the 100th monkey gets the bird

  32. Joe says:

    The weirdest experience I had with a car while riding my bike was getting pulled over by the cops at 6:45 in the morning. I didn’t get a ticket or anything, but the cop warned me that he could easily give me one.

  33. Nick says:

    “I didn’t get a ticket or anything, but the cop warned me that he could easily give me one.”

    For WHAT, pray tell? Were you impeding traffic, riding on the wrong side of the road, being a nuisance? They can’t give you a ticket for not being easy to see; that other stuff, well… could just be he spilled his McDonald’s coffee in his lap, and decided he was gonna give hell to the next person he saw, which was you. Who knows.

    Loved the link for the “POLITE” shirts, but agree that might be more trouble than it’s worth. A link from that site, however, went here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/articles/archive/whitevanman050706.html – and THAT explained a LOT. I think I get more flak from those ubiquitous and unmarked white contractor vans and the occasional landscaping truck than any other vehicle on the road.

  34. CrackWilding says:

    Must not have been too easy.

    I got pulled over once, by a bicycle cop. I’m not the sort of person that flies through intersections without looking, but if I’m sitting there at the front of the line and there’s nothing coming, well, let’s just say I like to put some distance between myself and the cars behind me.

    So I did that one day, and a bike cop saw me. He chased me down and lectured me for 15 minutes. Then he let me go. I don’t know if the words “I could easily give you a ticket” escaped his lips, but you can bet when they say that, they really mean, “It’s kind of a drag for me to give you a ticket — lots of paperwork and whatnot. So I’m going to selectively enforce the law.”

    Not that I mind, of course.

  35. Rick S. says:

    Too often the timid invite disrespect, I see this in “hashmarked” crosswalks with pedestrians especially. In my jurisdiction, one foot within that area means ‘cars stop.’ Never enforced, I bet that is the law in many places. So true bicyclists veering away from opening car doors, the Door prize!!

    Knock on wood!! At least I will!! I am very aggressive and reinforced when the timid bicyclist is complaining about equality /par with automobiles. Set aside the fact that we all pretty much are vested by paying taxes, set aside altercations with commercial operations (taxis, the most aggregious and profit making on publicly funded streets), set aside breathing extra filth from one driver SUV’s.

    When I’m on my bike, which is 90 percent of my travel time, if a cab cuts me off, off goes his left rear view mirror, if a non commercial vehicle screws with me, usually just the right mirror. If some jack ass makes eye contact and OPENS his door, I spring it; pulling the door out. It spreads the hinges and slams back!! Great!

    If you are on the trail with an I-pod, I don’t warn you, won’t compete with your music, If you are walking 3 abreast, will spin the outside person up.

    Respect me as a bicyclist, I’ll respect you.

    We need to exercise some leverage both as pedestrians and cyclists or we’ll be run over.

  36. Jett says:

    I rarely have any trouble on the bike. I experience more rudeness when I’m in the car on the interstates around Atlanta. In the car it happens about once every 10 trips. On the bike it has happened once in the past 3 years.

    Not to say I haven’t had people misjudge my speed and pull out in front of me. Last week a lady forced me into the other lane because she wasn’t paying attention, so I rolled up to her window and gave her a smiling “What were you doing?” look. She rolled down her window and I explained she almost whacked me. She apologized for being distracted and we ended up laughing about the whole thing.

    Also last week, I came across another commuter on my way home and we joined up on a short downhill behind a car that had slowed because the lane was narrow and traffic was coming from the opposite direction. This other cyclist started waving to the motorist to keep moving. I certainly would have liked to keep my momentum on the downhill, but thought it was a bit much to think I was in a position to recommend a course of action for another driver. This got my attention, but the other cyclist didn’t stop there. He continued to harass the driver by calling her ignorant and saying that he could have run into the back of her. He was too hot to be reminded that he would have been charged with following too close if he had struck her.

    Atlanta is supposed to be an awful place for cycling — and I can think of many improvements — but from this thread, it sounds like there may be more anger toward cyclists in other cities than perhaps in Atlanta, and this, despite the occasional poor behavior of our cyclists.

  37. Matt S. says:

    Yesterday I was driving (sometimes I have to). As I came to a stop sign, a teen came barreling through the intersection on the sidewalk (on the side that was against traffic). If I was paying a little less attention, I would have pulled forward too far, and he would have slammed into the side of me.

    I momentarily pondered whether it would have been appropriate to yell “Get on the street!”

  38. Nick says:

    Rick: Your methods initially seem a little harsh, but I’m always paranoid of getting the Door Prize when skimming queues, myself. I’ve considered springing the next open door in my path- it’s happened to me two or three times, and only once did someone actually EXIT the vehicle. The others were either ignorance or sadism (trying to scare me). Next season’s recumbent will have a chainring guard on it, I’ll just pile right into the mother, and hash it out later!
    Jett: I don’t know how bad anywhere else is, just where I am. The only problem with a thread like this is that we’re commenting on a season’s (or several seasons’) worth of car-aggression stories. In truth, I don’t think I have an altercation per week… maybe one or two a month, and those are usually passive-aggressive drivers skimming the shoulder or crowding it during queue to hold me back. If traffic is slow, I just go around and split lanes until I can get back to the shoulder. Very seldom are the actual interactions- the van that stopped short in front of me got a dent in the back door from my bar-end, and I calmly fielded the raging harpy I mentioned above out of deference to her son.
    Those of us in the northern states will be cutting it off soon; wet plus cold equals susceptibility to sickness and hypothermia. I’m going to spend the winter building a recumbent, and in the spring, by golly it’s gonna have every manner of horn and bell I can think of to put on it! May also carry a hank of rebar, just in case… ;)

  39. Julie-Bob says:

    I try to redirect any “frustration” towards dangerous car drivers and use my time in traffic to be nice to cars. (The old “respect is a two-way street” thing)

    Specifically I tell people who have a burned out brake light or a flat tire that they have a burned out tail light or a flat tire.

    This usually surprises them and helps reframe their opinion of cyclists on the streets as helpful, nice folks.

    I try to not get involved with dangerous drivers, in any way (even a shout), cuz I have learned (the hard way) to avoid trying to get killed by maniacs.

  40. Jett says:

    Does anyone find a difference in how they are treated based on what they are wearing? For instance, I seem to get more courtesy and respect when I’ve got the backpack and panniers and I’m wearing street clothes. If I look like I’m on a recreational ride, I don’t get the same courtesy.

  41. Nick says:

    I can’t say I’ve received different treatment from drivers based on what I was wearing, but then again, when I’m cycling recreationally, I don’t generally cover the kind of ground I do when I’m commuting. Typically when I cycle recreationally, my wife is with me, and we don’t venture out of our little town, stick to residential streets, and don’t go much faster than 10-12mph (she’s a recreational rider). When I commute, I’m DEFINITELY out there, moving along at a good clip (18-25mph), on busier roads where few riders wander unless they’re also commuting. Also, I almost always wear the same thing every day, so that doesn’t change much.
    I would be interested to hear from others though! Food for thought in choosing your gear.

  42. CrackWilding says:

    I find it hard to separate the hard facts from my perceptions, which vary from day to day, but there was a study done in Great Britain recently that showed a definite difference in the way riders were treated based on attire. Among other things, it showed that women get more space than men. Those with helmets got less space, as did those with any spandex.

    Wish I could dig up the link…

  43. mechanikal_vandal says:

    I think the idea of your attire influencing drivers attitudes to you works to a degree. I ride a single speed road bike with spoke cards etc and im usually wearing 3/4 length jeans and a courier bag so i probably look like your typical messenger and i do think this is part of the reason drivers give me a wide berth. And also because im a confident (maybe forceful) rider. A lot of car drivers are like playground bullies, and not only towards cyclists, they look for anything that could be thought of as weakness ie, old lady in a small car, cyclist with 10 ton of lumi yellow clothing/helmet/mirror/looking nervous and push in infront of them in queues etc. If you stand upto them they kinda take notice and think twice about messing.

  44. Rick S. says:

    Being passive has never worked for me; I’ve even seen others broadcasting passivisity and seen them being threatened in some matter; the squirrely look while mounting and just not having the pedal ready for quickly moving out, the weird dismount while moving your handlebars all about; some just looking straight ahead like you’re scared to death. Too much reflective crap. That whole intensity and life style thing is important, i think, in the urban setting; that and some homeboy clothing is important in the rural settings. I used to live, and ride alot, in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties in panhandle Florida. Back then (1980′s) Florida was famous for being one of the worst biking states, and especially Escambia Cty. was the worst specific area. What I did was to simply wear a ball cap, sports jersey, and put a cooler on my rack; heck I was riding because it looked like I had a DUI and had to. No one screwed with me. Before that I did the spandex sort of thing and was constantly hassled. I kept a .45 in the cooler tho. which on two occasions was a good thing.

    Now. I know for me, weighted aggression and holding assholes accountable seems to be transmitted, somehow, to drivers throwing their ‘weight’ around.

    Like the bike messenger image, one can radiate “I’m riding, I’m here, don’t f*ck with me” and mitigate some of the obnoxious behavior of many drivers.

  45. red says:

    Rick, I agree, that’s the way to go. Take your place in traffic and be bold about it. Be proud and don’t let drivers think they can get away with everything.
    I may add: be extra nice and cool with pedestrians/elderly on the other hand.

  46. Joe says:

    Nick: I was going downhill on an empty road, heard a car behind me, and pulled into the opposite lane to let the car by :( Even though there were no other cars on the road, the cop said I shouldn’t be “swerving all over the road”. Oh well.

  47. Steve B. says:

    I have only been commuting for a very short time and have had a couple of minor instances that I just blew off. Strangely, they all happened on the same day! It must have something to do with the moon phase or planet alignment, I don’t know. Since I am new to bicycle communting, I have planned a route that lets me avoid high traffic areas and major roadways but that takes me near a busy college campus and through a rather “bad” part of town (as in “I wouldn’t want to be here at night”).

    I try be be calm when someone does somethinig stupid and not let it get to me, but there have been times that I have responded in kind to someone’s aggressive actions. Especially when they put me in a dangerous situation. For that reason, I carry some protection, pepper spray for dogs and a gun for morons and scumbags. The knife is there just in case I run out of bullets. I will defend myself. Most likely, I will continue to ignore the idiots that I encounter or maybe try some of the tactics mentioned. But having my “tools” with me gives me security and, maybe, that helps me keep my cool when someone does something stupid.

  48. Lee says:

    During my first century, I noticed some of the lycra clad crowd riding in the center of the lane on the country roads we were on. Though car drivers honked, the more cyclists were in a pack- the less they yielded. I read later in a local paper some car drivers whining about the cyclists behavior. I liked it- almost a little Critical Mass mixed in with the century!

  49. Ken says:

    I had a couple of guys in a beat up pickup truck try to push me off the road. I’m waiting at a stoplight, the only person waiting at it, when I hear a motor behind me. Okay, I think, someone else pulling up to the light, maybe it will change faster. Then I felt a bump– I turn around and the top edge of my tire is stuck a bit under the truck’s fender. Both guys are laughing as I have to get off the bike and with a quick jerk unstick my tire. I get back on the bike and wait for the light (which still hadn’t changed), and when it finally changes, I start to pedal: but not before the driver lays on the horn with all his might. Knowing that these are just the kind of people who’d pass way too close I stick to the center of the lane and pedal at a pretty decent pace, probably 13-15 mph in a 20 mph residential speed zone (I coudn’t pedal as fast then as I can now). Behind me I can hear the truck driver and passenger yelling things like “Use the sidewalk ***hole!” and “What you are you, a f***ing moron?”. They finally get the idea that I’m not moving and speed around me as we cross railroad tracks (not the best idea anyway). And this was the very south side of Chicago.

  50. CrackWilding says:

    Cripes Ken, that’s about the worst I’ve heard. I think anyone who so much as touches you with their car has pretty much committed assault. I hope you got the guy’s license plate number. Not that th cops will follow up, but still…

  51. Ken says:

    I wish I had. This was when I’d first began using my bike regularly about two summers ago. I don’t even think I’d gotten a rack, pack, or lights yet. So I was still pretty intimidated, and though I stuck to my right to have the road, I didn’t think to do something like get their license plate. It’s really the only trouble I’ve had aside from a few comments yelled at me like everyone else has. But yeah, actually hitting me, even if was only a light tap, could have gotten them in a lot of trouble. Now I pay greater attention to what’s going around me and will catch a license plate next time I get trouble.

  52. I will occasionally get run of the road, or attempted to, anyway, riding in downtown San Antonio where the median speed during business hours is about 15 mph. i like to do about 20. i have been riding over 15 years and do have a case of “the rules don’t apply to me” but i do not feel i am ever unsafe. but i do carry my bike chain (literally a case hardened steel chain wrapped in cordura with a regular steel padlock) around my neck for easy access like some sort of bicycling rapper. if a car really maliciously tries anything out of line, i just whip off the chain and swing it into a rear quarter panel…usually the offending vehicle thinks they have actually hit me and tends to zoom away without even realizing it is i that has had the last laugh. this is not recommended, however, just something for an extreme situation and further evidence we need to be assertive, not aggresive. responsive and proactive instead of reactive and reflective. if a car that thinks they have just hit a cyclist just takes off it is the same or worse than a hit and run. texas law says i can have a whole damn lane if i want to take it…i usually don’t, but that’s out of COURTESY, not OBLIGATION to cars on the road. sometimes lessons need to be taught and bullies need to be stood up to. again, not recommended. let me do it. i got your back.

  53. Josh says:

    This makes me think of a couple things…

    There’s an emerging “messenger” culture spawning here and I have noticed they tend to get more respect from cars. And they’re typically not following many rules, rarely dressed bright and might have

  54. Josh says:

    [admin - accidental submit, can you combine comments? Sorry :)]

    (continuing…) 1 blinky, tops. I think next in line are those with paniers and obvious commuters. Then there are the racers and onto the recreational. I’ve seen a lot of hostility to spandex and recreational riders mostly because the car driver knows they can get away with it and freak the biker out. I rarely see any messenger-type or commuter get messed with probably because of the driver knows they’re more likely to retaliate.

    Of course, I think the big difference is riding style. People can tell if you’re confident or not.

    I often take the lane even with a bike lane present. I’m either in the door zone or there’s slower recreational riders. I’ve actually had drivers smile at me when I check my shoulder at a stop light as group of rec’s finally pull up next to the curb.

    I typically let things go but will at least shake my head or something small because it was simply a mistake (non-malicious) on the driver’s part. But for the really stupid people or the ones just on a power trip, a couple fenders have been kicked, a few windows slapped and a few middle fingers in their rear-view. I can let things slide but don’t let the idiots or a$$holes get away with anything.

  55. Seb says:

    I’ve got deep respect for you guys standing your ground in a country where the vast majority of the people are driving cars to work. You are often seen as freaks to “normal” society, just by making a choice of health and environmental respect. Here in Belgium “utility bike riding” and commuting is more common, but unfortunately not common enough, like in the Netherlands (perhaps I’ll move there someday… bike heaven)

    Even over here I’ve got lots of negative reactions when I’m claiming my part of the road. When cars are waiting to get on the main roads from driveways and side roads, they always stand still on the bike lane (yes we’ve got bike lanes over here) blocking my entire passage.
    When I’m giving them “my evil eye”, they back off or try to force themselves into the rushing traffic.
    It works quite well since I’m athletically built.

    When honked at, I’m using the wave and smile technique for years and years and it works like a charm.

    One thing I just can’t stand: People using their cell phones while driving.
    It really pisses me off, because I once was hit by a woman driving an SUV who was “multitasking”. When doing the “put the damn phone down” hand signal the drivers often get very mad. I guess they don’t want to be lectured by a cyclist.

    Don’t be afraid but don’t be overly couraged either. just make em feel you’re entitled to your part of the road and make sure they notice you.

  56. gowestgirl says:

    As much as I understand the desire to retaliate against rude and aggressive drivers I believe it is wise to simply try and get a license plate number and immediately report the problem to the police and/or write a letter to the editor of the local papers. These drivers are jerks and I fully believe they not only feel entitled to the entire road, they also feel entitled to run bike riders off of it. My community had a recent controversy when the newspaper published a letter from a car driver who labeled bike riders “legitimate moving targets”! The bottom line for me is that as bike commuter, increasingly by necessity given the price of gas and the absurd cost of living in my town, I am more vulnerable on the road. I try and stick to the multi-use trails and side street until I get to downtown where the traffic is considerably slower and bike riders are commonplace. I have voted for tax increases to extend bus service (which includes buses with bike racks) and plan to support any tax increases that go to expanding the urban trail. I try and make myself seen and follow the rules of the road to avoid incurring the ire of drivers.

  57. Neil says:

    I actually got told I was causing traffic once… that was pretty funny. I just started laughing and then blatantly gave her the cold shoulder.

  58. brent says:

    yeah – I’m always amazed by that… how can a bike POSSIBLY hold up traffic?? A bike IS traffic. Traffic can’t hold itself up. Or, rather, that’s the DEFINITION of traffic: vehicles holding each other up!

  59. Kevin says:

    I have found a way to difuse road rage and show your patriotism. A few years ago I was riding around Asheville and noticed how friendly everyone was suddenly being with me. Offering directions, giving me a wide berth on the road, waving (with the whole hand!). Then it dawned on me, I was wearing one of my brother’s ratty old T-shirts with U.S.M.C on the back. Here in western NC the military is very popular and I believe the drivers assumed I was at some point in the Marines (I was in the Navy). Now when I commute to work I always wear a shirt with a military emblem and baggy shorts (them tight un’s won’t do around these parts) everyone salutes and leaves me alone! (disclaimer, this technique won’t work in Berkley, Ca.)

  60. Jimmie says:

    If someone honks at me, I like to yell back “Hi Sweety” or “Hey big boy”. I’m 6’2″, so a bad driver that makes eye contact with me when I tell him hey big boy tends to get a little worried and stay the hell away from me. No body likes any sort of innuendo from a behemoth on a bike. lol

  61. bee says:

    it’s a sad struggle for cyclists/commuters in dallas. big trucks, soccer moms yapping on cells phones, rude people, and the fast paced life makes people more inconsiderate towards each other. i’ve had my share of trucks trying to run me off, golf balls and bottles thrown out windows, foul language, and finger gestures. it’s really scary and i came to the point that i put my conceal carry to use when i commute just as a precaution. i REALLY don’t intend to go that far, but i’m protecting my lifestyle. i don’t bother riding on the roads anymore and find small residential streets and jogging/biking trails to get to where i need to go. i would rather move to a bike friendly city, but that probably won’t happen anytime soon. wish you all the best in your riding.

  62. Fritz says:

    We have a regular on CBB who carries on his commute.

    When I commuted across from Haltom City to Irving, TX, I had a good friend / college buddy in the Fort Worth Police. I never felt the need to carry a firearm, but my friend Officer Bacon (yes, that really is his name) told me that he really thought I should carry. I see the occasional story in the news about a bicyclist who shoots a motorist. In the media, it’s always the cyclist’s fault (of course :-/ ).

  63. CrackWilding says:

    Actually, for all the hoopla about concealed weapons in various state legislatures lately, carrying a prominently displayed .357 Magnum would probably keep the harassment to a minimum.

  64. Fritz says:

    I’ve often thought an NRA bike jersey would be a good seller.

  65. Bryan says:

    A shotgun slung across a cyclists back would make motorist think twice before getting involved.

  66. brent says:

    sometimes i wonder why the amercicans invaded iraq… and then i remember: oh. yeah. they’re americans.

  67. CrackWilding says:

    Way to hijack the thread! Congratulations, you’re our first troll!

  68. brent says:

    nuh uh – i’ve posted on the thread already. i’ve read every comment in this thread.

    you can only be a troll if you’re not hanging around.

    and also, you can only be a troll if you’re off-topic, and frankly i think that the fact that this is an american conversation has got a lot to do with the talk about guns and inimidation: the rest of us… we don’t have conversations about guns. we don’t have GUNS.

    there’s an entire thread back home here in an ausralian bike forum about this actual thread – about not just this topic but this actual page – and the response is universally derisive of american gun culture. the US is the only country in the world where talk about reducing the risk of aggression in bike commuting leads to guns.

    (apologies for the lack of caps, i have a sore hand, so i’m typing 1 handed)

  69. CrackWilding says:

    a) Given that you don’t see american cyclists actually riding with prominently displayed guns, I think we can assume that at least a few of the latter remarks were facetious. Mine certainly was.

    b) Thanks for informing us of the troll rules. I never got my troll rule card.

    c) Going from a few gun remarks to Iraq is a troll move.

    I don’t own a gun, nor would I. Moreover, I have consistently voted against those who would have us intervening militarily around the world. I suspect that many of the other people commenting in this thread feel the same. What you’re reading here is simply frustration. What you’re reading *into* it is your own small-minded stereotypes.

    Cheers!

  70. Jack says:

    Motorists can kill with their vehicles, cyclists with guns just evens the playing field. Not saying that cyclists should carry guns…and most don’t.

  71. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    A few years back, I need an axe handle. So, I went to the local hardware store and bought one. I strapped it to my rear rack and hit the bussy road. After I was home I thought “wow, no motorist did anything to me that trip, no horns or screaming” back then on that road it was imposible to not he harassed “.

  72. Fritz says:

    Brent, those of us talking about guns are just joking around.

    And I thought Aussies were supposed to be known for their sense of humor. *shrug*

  73. brent says:

    yeah ok.

    but “Motorists can kill with their vehicles, cyclists with guns just evens the playing field. ” isn’t the sort of sarcasm that I’m used to.

    @Crack – I get that most Americans are peaceful people, and I’m sorry to make the mistake. But whose fault is it if the American stereotype in the rest of the world is “Warlike”? Not yours personally, sure, but not mine either.

  74. Scott says:

    I have to commute home in the dark and last night I had a car load of guys turn around…I did not know this at the time….and proceded to drive by and crash me out. Dark deserted country road. I really think I have to consider carrying a gun. It would have been better if I would have been able to put some rounds in the back of the car…not very hard to find the car with no back window. It is pretty hard to find x type car with no color description, no plates because it is hard to read when you are hitting the pavement. All the cops can do is say sorry. I did start to read this thread to find alternatives…So for any of the gun naysayers I would like to hear some constructive ideas to ID a car that has hit you at night.

  75. evilbrent says:

    shooting at people helps you read numberplates in the dark?!

    how about you start your quest for justice by NOT trying to murder people with guns you murderous murdering murderer.

    I’m sorry that you got mugged by some hooligans in a 1.5 tonne weapoon. it would have been WORSE if you’d put some rounds into the car – because then instead of nursing a couple of scrapes, a broken bike and a serious grudge you’d be nursing a couple of scrapes, a broken bike, a serious grudge and 2life sentences.

    dolt.

    GUNS DON’T MAKE YOU SAFER!

  76. CrackWilding says:

    Oh man, I got into a wicked firefight with a couple guys just yesterday. They cut me off in traffic and I unloaded a few rounds into their trunk. Well, they opened up with a minigun. My bike was hit twice — bored holes right through the frame. Somehow they missed me, though I my ear got nicked just a bit.

    Anyway, evilbrent suddenly shows up and starts schoolmarming everyone. What a bore.

  77. brent says:

    ok – that one I can find the sarcasm in…

  78. Scott says:

    shooting at people helps you read numberplates in the dark?!

    Did I say shoot someone??? Hmmm. Don’t recall saying that. Besides if shooting someone after being on the receiving end of deadly weapon does not fall under the self defense catagory, I don’t know what would.
    All I asked for were suggestions on a way to have proof you were in contact with the offending vehicle. I really doubt that you could get to a pistol fast enough to hit a car that just hit you. By the time you stop with the crash and you get to the gun they are probably not going to be in range.
    I just wish I could understand how a person could think that random acts of violence are funny.

    Cheers
    Good luck with your commute!

  79. brent says:

    o-oh… you just wanted to shoot the ca-ar. why didn’t you saaay sooooo…

    I’ll tell you what counts as self defense – shooting someone BEFORE you’re on the receiving end of violence – when you do it AFTER, when the car’s driving AWAY… the cops tend to see that more as retaliation than self-defense.

    —-

    it’s bad parenting that leads to this behaviour, ultimately.

  80. zonerr says:

    One of the worse things I heard was a talk radio host here in Nashville. He talked about how he wanted to smash into a rider who was riding his bike. Something about the guy being too “liberal”. I felt it was irresponsible on the hosts part even to mention the act. Knowing how much less protection a rider has over a two ton suv.

  81. Heath Anderson says:

    After being buzzed by a car, I like to give a three finger wave to remind them that Minnesota laws requires cars give bikes at least three feet as they pass. I feel like I’m informing drivers as I flip them off.

  82. Shane says:

    My favorite story involves a pickup truck with an aggressive driver and an awesome girlfriend.

    Short story: he sees me coming and cuts me off. I had to swerve around and pass him. He guns it and comes as close as he can to my handlebars as he screams up to the next stop light. I pull up next to him and I see the passenger window already rolled down. I get ready for him to start screaming some obscenities. But… Inside I see an upset girlfriend with her arms crossed telling him “Say Sorry”. :)

  83. Nick says:

    I actually had my first intelligible yell a few months ago, followed by my first ANTAGONISTIC intelligible yell, a week or two ago. The first one came from a carload of college-age kids, one of whom saw me in my chartreuse AlertShirt, three 5-LED headlights, PB Superflash on my helmet and two Serfas blinkies on a crossbar on my rear rack, and exclaimed, “HOLY S–T, HE’S FLYIN’!” I didn’t know why, if _I_ was the one flying, _he_ was the one who seemed high, but whatever! ;)

    The second one was very loud, very clear, and very stupid. As I proceeded at a green light, the passenger in a car turning left from my direction yelled, “WHY DON’T YOU BUY A CAR, A–HOLE.” Of course, since he waited until he was safely LEAVING, I couldn’t chase him down and tell him I already own FOUR petro-guzzlers, and I save anywhere from $5 to $10 PER DAY that I _don’t_ drive. Idiot.

    Now, if someone were to ask me a question like that and WAIT for the answer, rather than just spewing nonsense that will never receive an answer, I’d be glad to talk it over with them. The short of it is, they don’t WANT to know, they just want to feel somehow superior in their tiny-brained way. Oh well, too bad for them, they’re still inferiors! Homo Superior is here, and he comes equipped with a bicycle. :D

  84. Andrew H says:

    I live in a stuck up community where teens drive fast cars with lead feet inherited by their parents who drive gas guzzling monsters, often times while I’m riding home from work I’ll get the Engine Rev, the multiple horn honks and the speeding car in the opposite lane of traffic, the best thing to do is check stay defensive and keep your eyes on the road and avoid eye contact or interaction.

    It’s sad that most people forget what it’s like to ride a bike, after all they rode for years before they got a license and car.

  85. Anonymous says:

    2 recent stories from my town:

    1) We have the world’s largest amateur ride (apparently) of its type (16,000 people, 210km not a race). A group on the way to the start line at 4am were targeted by some yobs in a ute. They aimed for the front of the group and rammed the group. No permanent injuries I think, but some bikes destroyed. It was in the news all day – everyone’s really upset.

    2) A person on one of the forums I visit had someone chuck a CD case out the window and injure her – so she got her mobile out and took a photo of the licence plate, then caught up to the car at the next lights (of course) and took a photo of the passenger, then took phone to the cops. Cops took it seriously and apparently if the driver doesn’t say who the passenger is he’ll be the one to get charged.

  86. Brian Lacy says:

    I teach my students to never react in anger or fear, but to strive to show firm friendliness (not backing down though) outwardly, while in inwardly noting all details – including license plate and potential witnesses. The best way to change others is to use sugar – not be appeasing or to act sarcastically, but to show how our way is more fun and peace-making. It’s amazing how disorienting it is to the bully.

  87. drew82 says:

    i live in mobile al, and for the most part my commute is in neighboorhood streets that are easy for people to pass me, although i get the occasional rev past, heh, guess they feel challenged! it is really fun to actually leave cars behind from block to block, since i can accelerate quicker from stop sign to stop sign :)
    but when i do hit a major road i get an occasional “get a car!” yelled, usually from an overweight redneck, so when i catch them i usually reply with “get some excercise!” most times they then stare ahead, and ignore me. heh.

  88. phil lynch says:

    I read an article in a women’s bike magazine – the only bike mag available in the store – that gave the following [ILLEGAL] advice: when confronted with actual physical threat to assertively say “Police officer – threatening me is ASSAULT and touching me is BATTERY! Think CAREFULLY before you say or do ANYTHING!”. I repeat that falsely identifying yourself as a police officer is ILLEGAL.
    I have, however, morphed this idea into something that I think IS legal, namely: “RETIRED Cherry Hill NJ POLICE OFFICER – threatening me is ASSAULT and touching me is BATTERY! Think CAREFULLY before you say or do ANYTHING!”. I live in Florida and my belief is that this is quite a curveball for the average bully/coward to handle (and all bullies are AVERAGE cowards).
    My first move in an actual PHYSICALLY-THREATENING situation (where the driver charged/ran at me after he hit me from behind) was to DEMAND “Liscence/registration/insurance PLEASE!” That stopped him totally dead in his tracks – he was still a toughguy of course. This was the point of success – he’d stopped his threat to my physical safety and that’s all that matters. I walked around him and got his plate#. Now he calls the police on me. An off-duty Palm Beach County Sherrif’s Deputy heard “car vs bike” on his scanner and responded from his home as it was nearby – bless him; isn’t that nice of him! The perp blowharded to the Deputy, and the Deputy asked me next what happened, and I told him I got hit from behind, no damages/injuries. Blowhard DEMANDED a written report be generated by the police dept. The Deputy told him that certainly he’d be happy to do that, but… doesn’t blowhard know that this is a “citeable offense”? Does blowhard really want the Deputy to do that??? Blowhard changes his mind. The deputy asks me if I want a “written report” made – I thank him and decline the offer.
    Had blowhard/coward/bully NOT stood down his charge at me with the “Liscence/registration/insurance PLEASE!” demand, then I would have followed it with the “RETIRED Cherry Hill NJ POLICE OFFICER – threatening me is ASSAULT and touching me is BATTERY! Think CAREFULLY before you say or do ANYTHING!” ploy. If that had failed then I’m fighting a bigger/stronger person: worst case scenario.
    The “retired/out of state/police officer” thing really gives them questions in their head and I believe that this will disuade/disorient the cowards enough to get control of a VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. Their next move will be to VERBALLY challenge me – I’m ready: (show me a badge!). “Sure – I’ll show it to the police when they get here! I advise YOU to not be anywhere NEAR me when they arrive!”.

    I agree with all above posts that allude to be confident in HOW you bicycle. If you look timid then it invites attack. Cowards look for fearful targets. My advice is to be CONFIDENT in all you do (not fearless – that’s stupid).

    One more bit, then a funny story, then I’m over and out…

    I keep referring to motorists that get hostile for no reason as “cowards”…
    I always noticed that I (almost) universally get attacked when there’s MILES of clear road ahead – in other words, when they know I can’t catch them. I tested my theory:
    I agree that it’s very difficult to hear what these cowards yell when they drive by you. It’s even harder for them to hear anything that is yelled back at them….it’s gotta be short and sweet for them to hear. I yell back “PUSSY !!!!!”. I’ve been doing this since late 1994.
    About a dozen times the car that I yell “PUSSY!” back at will stop up ahead to confront me. EACH and EVERY time they stop, they do it a few hundred yards up the road. My move is to HAUL-ASS to them as fast as I can! EACH and EVERY time that car is GONE by the time I get there. [Remember, the operational theory is that only a coward would get hostile while they were perfectly safe - miles of escape route in front of them]. So… I further theorize that in those few moments that I’m hauling ass to catch them, that they are thinking things like:
    Oh, maybe he WASN’T 145 pounds….maybe he was 245 pounds!
    He’s probably a katate expert!
    He’s got a gun!
    …You know, things that would justify running from the fight that they just started.
    I assure all of you that I’m a decrepit 145-lb man with 90 seconds of fight in me before I collapse and am defenseless. My belief is that APPEARING confident will ward off predatory behavior. Bottom line: have SOME plan ready.

    Now to the funny story!
    I’m pedaling down a residential/neighborhood street and this car passes me very slowly, and close. The coward in the passenger seat says to me very conversationally “There are sidewalks you know.”
    Without any emotion in my face whatsoever, I very casually made “the finger” with my left hand, looked him dead in the eyes, and put the finger about 3 feet from his face – all dead-pan, no anger, no emotion, no nothing.
    Immediately he puts the angry-face on and makes like this motion with his body like he’s about to make a move on me. Naturally, I’m thinking ok, here we go!
    So while he’s doing this he sneaks a look at the driver next to him, he see’s that the driver has NOT seen me give him the blatent finger, and he shrinks back into his seat, safe in the knowledge that only he and I know he’s a coward. His buddy doesn’t.

  89. Jimbo says:

    I have only had to do this twice. I was actually nicked by a SUV and the lady stayed next to me yelling. She was rich you could tell. I threw a 4 inch metal bolt and shattered her panel window and dipped out. Pretty much same thing happened again a couple of days later.

  90. Brian says:

    Fear is a natural reaction to being threatened. Retaliating relieves the immediate anger / fear, but what can be done for long term change? Getting the plate, getting witnesses or cops involved, putting effort into changing driver education, licensing laws and penalties for aggressive drivers – these are the more effective acts to take, and they may also save your life in case the person behind the wheel blows their top and crushes you.

    my 2 cents.

  91. Richard Beck says:

    The larger/heavier the vehicle the more harm it can cause. Thus, the bigger the vehicle the more responsibility the operator has to control it in all situations. … The old way of “I am bigger than you so you better get out of my way because I can’t stop fast” must end. If you cannot stop that fast then don’t go that fast. … There are laws forbiding using a vehicle aggresivly, the horn is an integeral part of a car. Blasting a car horn immediately next to a cyclist IS aggressive driving and pure bully behavior.

  92. steve says:

    Comments from aggressive drivers while cycling means you are being seen by motorists and that’s a good thing. As long as you’re following good cycling habits the more you’re “seen” the better. Report all incidents to your city board members in attempts to fix problem areas or roads.

  93. brent says:

    and keep remembering: “honk honk” translates to “myyyyyyy GOD your arse looks good!”

  94. [...] So today I got out for a 70 km ride with some friends. I haven’t been cycling much lately, aside from my daily 10 km commute. I have noticed a sharp rise in angry drivers now that the school season is back in and there is simply more volume, and less space on the roads. Since the death of the courier a few weeks back I have been more cautious and have tried to be more understanding of the challenges that we all face commuting to work (cars and bikes alike). Similar advice is being given over at commutebybike.com. [...]

  95. Shanny Hill says:

    Thanks for the article Tim. Its an obvious point, but one we should keep reminding ourselves of. Though I do think the article is somewhat flawed, as I do believe there are appropriate situations when offensive and not defensive ridinbg are necessary.

    If we are always passive, the cars would inevitibly take more and more liberties with us.

    I have just posted a related article of my adventures today, and the interesting comments passing drivers shared with us…
    http://notacyclingblog.com/?p=40

  96. BIKEmpowered says:

    Further thoughts – waving works. When they honk, give them a “I hear you, and will do my best to not bother you but in the mealtime take it easy” wave. That is – not giving the finger, but not giving a “I’m scared of you” wave. If you can glance back to get eye contact (and read the license plate too) so much the better.

  97. firedude says:

    I’ve been thinking of installing a small battery pump into a water bottle filled with brake fluid…
    When someone cuts me off, I hit a small switch on the handlebar and they get a nice splash of paint peeling brake fluid on the side of their car… If I ever get caught, I’ll claim it was to help identify the person who was assaulting me with their vehicle and threatening my safety.

  98. plh says:

    Maybe drivers in Rhode Island are just nicer than others, but I have very little trouble with aggression. Inattention is another matter. I commute partially along a bike route that has a light & walk signal where it crosses a major road. I always use this device, but I have to be sure that the drivers actually see it and stop. I’ve seen cops cruise through it on the red, for C’s sake!
    My liberal heart hates to admit this but I find that driver inattention is more prevalent in depressed areas. One just has to ride defensively. Sometimes in the more affluent areas, drivers are almost too solicitous. I often find myself wishing they would just go already, so as not to close the gap. But I wave politely & go. Cyclists should encourage politeness.
    Cyclists should also observe red lights & other traffic safety devices. When driving I see a lot of loony cyclists cutting across lanes of traffic, blasting through red lights, etc. Could some of the aggression reported in the comments here be a reaction to this sort of behavior?
    There is a certain type of teenage boy who thinks it’s funny to scream or squawk something in an effort to alarm me. I never give them the satisfaction of the slightest reaction.
    Then there are the ignorant who call out for me to get on the sidewalk. I’m tempted to get a t shirt with the relevant statute printed on the back. But the probably couldn’t read it. Ignorance is ignorance.
    That’s all for now. Ride safe & have fun with it.

  99. Ken says:

    Oh, I have no doubt that some of the aggression comes from drivers having bad experiences with cyclists who do not follow the rules of the road. When I drive there’s been a few times when I’ve wanted to lean out the window and yell at a cyclist who is riding like they have a death wish, causing all sorts of trouble for drivers. Drivers see that and assume we all bike that way.

  100. brent says:

    “driver inattention is more prevalent in depressed areas”

    har har har… if you even have this thought then you’re not as liberal as you thought you were :-)

    (but I know what you mean)

  101. Ray says:

    I agree with the author that the ideal response involves picturing what the driver expects and doing something else (e.g. holding your line and ignoring them). For instance, I have worked on training myself to wave and say “thanks!” in response to comments such as “get a car!” I figure this won’t make them want to drive their car into me but will frustrate their attempt to belittle or otherwise bring me down a notch. If my acting skills are good enough, they will instead think I mistook their unkind words for some sort of encouragement! It also cures any possible anger on my part by seeing the look on their faces or thinking about their confusion or frustration about how their plan backfired.

  102. [...] Bicycle fendersThe Slacker's Guide to Bike CommutingA Guide to a Simple Bike CommuteTop 5 Reasons to Claim the Lane (and why it's safer)Commuting 101: How to react to aggressive or angry drivers [...]

  103. Rob says:

    It’s not really about the road rage for me . It’s the car load of teenagers (gangs) who get a thrill chucking beer bottles at your head, or bashing you from behind with a bat, or popping paintballs or even worse, bullets.I have 4 blocks on my route to get through, at night, on my commute, and every night might be my last. I’m thinking of turning off my lights, but the road is usually full of glass.

  104. Paul says:

    @Rob: That sounds really really bad! I ride through some skeevy areas but never have any problems like that, in fact, none at all. I’ve even people help me with flats.
    Any point involving the police in your area? Short of that, sounds like you need more than Kevlar tires…
    Can you take a different route? Adding I few miles may add years to your life, & I am not referring to the fitness benefits!

  105. brent says:

    erm… it sounds like it’s not the bike riding, per se, that’s the dangerous element in this equation.

  106. Johnny says:

    I’ve tried many different things in these situations. I’ve gotten into arguments with drivers, had them try to hit me, run me off the road, yell & scream. My newest idea is to get an irate driver who stops to calm down and think. It’s really quite hard to do and presents an interesting challenge.

    The thing is, yelling at them just doesn’t work. Banging on their car doesn’t work. If they stop they want to yell at someone and you just happen to present an opportunity for that outlet. The fact is they’re mad at something else in their life and you just happen to be in their way.

    Try this and see what happens… “Hi I’m Johnny, sorry you are upset.” They will probably keep yelling and drive off once they see you are not going to engage with them.

  107. Sonia says:

    I agree with the author that the ideal response involves picturing what the driver expects and doing something else (e.g. holding your line and ignoring them). For instance, I have worked on training myself to wave and say “thanks!” in response to comments such as “get a car!” I figure this won’t make them want to drive their car into me but will frustrate their attempt to belittle or otherwise bring me down a notch. research paper

  108. Todd says:

    Good article, thanks. I’m starting a new job where I’ll be commuting, and I try to think of the drivers’ point of view, and choose a route that cars will not follow for long.

  109. Corie says:

    Just found your site after a car ran me off the side of the road. Couldn’t believe that not one of the six cars behind him stopped to help me after being harrassed into a drainage ditch on the side of the road. I want justice!!

  110. Steve says:

    To me the last thing you want to do is make an aggressive driver more so by yelling back at them or hitting their vehicle ect. I live in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Not exactly a town known for its bike-paths. I was pedaling along a busy street one day when a passenger in a large pickup truck barked like a dog VERY loudly. I caught up to him at the next light and just looked at him…did NOT say a word, but the look I gave him was the same look a first-grade teacher would’ve gave a student who just wet his pants. The guy still barked, but much softer. Then I caught up with them at the NEXT light and gave the same look. He just looked at me, but the embarrassment on his face said it all! The driver looked straight ahead, with the same look of shame. Chalk this down as an archive moment!!

  111. Ryan says:

    I have been bike riding to work for the past 10 years or so. i am much healthier now than then.

    Over the ten years there has been some real doozies, once got hit by a car in the Sam’s Club parking lot. Rich white lady in White Escalade… Neither of us had a stop sign and she ended up hitting the back tire of my bike. I was flung from my bicycle into the pavement and suffered a concussion and 2 broken ribs. Hired me a good lawyer and he got me money from Sams Club (negligible for not having clear stop signs).

    Once got myself assaulted/robbed. Was coming home from work real late and my commute goes through some rough neighborhoods – poor Mexican tiny little houses type of neighborhoods where the crime is just insane. It was after dark – maybe 9 pm in the summer, and these three Mexican kids jumped out of a car with guns and went through my backpack. We have a lot of Mexican gangs in the nearby city and the kids that live in that subdivision were doing a gang initiation. They pistol whipped me, stole everything, including my necklace, shoes, backpack (nothing of value in there), and my bike. Since at the time I did not have a bike, I simply walked to the next house and rang the doorbell. No one answered. So I went to the next house. I tried to explain my situation to the lady but she was Spanish speaking and did not understand me but could see something was wrong. She gave me her first aid stuff in her bathroom and drove me to the police station. The police were nice enough to drive me home, but they never caught the guys. Oh well. Life goes on. Im just thankful they didn’t kill me.

    Honestly, though, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Biking has been the most rewarding decision I have ever made and despite these 2 incidents they are spread apart over 10 years of every day biking and I am sure are worse than most people will ever experience. I deal with crazy commuters all the time, but I just wave back to them when they honk, yell, or whatever. A wave and a smile is very disarming.

  112. Rick says:

    My cycling shoes have metal clips over the toes and on the outside corner of the heels (keeps them from wearing off when walking).

    Perfect for pushing myself away from people squeezing me. The could not only hear the bad scratch they get on their car (cause they don’t pay attention), but will see the marks for as long as they own the car.

  113. Joel says:

    After reading so many horror stories, I am REALLY lucky so far. My company started to offer incentives to use public transportation a few months ago and I jumped on it. Tuned up the old cheapo bicycle (I need to lock it at the bus terminal on a standard bike rack) and started commuting.

    Thank God I have no war stories to tell. I keep a very low profile. I have everything to lose considering that my bike weighs forty pounds, I weigh about 220 pounds (and losing weight I might add :)), and my back pack might weigh another twenty pounds. Does not take a math or physics major to calculate that my total mass of about 300 pounds is of no threat to any vehicle on the road.

    If someone is crazy enough to yell, cut you off, or abuse you in any way, they are crazy enough to have a gun or run you off the road. I have used this philosophy in the past to teach my daughter how to drive a car. In most cases, they are ignorant and lack any type of insurance so it is a lose, lose, and one more time, lose situation.

    Most people have cellphones with cameras. If possible, snap a picture of the car (even if it is in the distance) and talk with your local police department. Do not hit the panic button but try to convey your concern about the driver’s aggressive behavior and how they might hurt a child if they were riding a bike. That is my concern. I am a fully compliant rider with lights, reflectors, helmet, and proper adherence to motor vehicle laws. If they have heartache with me, there are going to be more problems down the road with other riders. What ever you do, do not aggressively confront the offenders without notifying the police first. For those of you that notify the police and they blow you off, document the incidents and write letters to your local officials to cover your riding butts. If something happens to you at that point, there is going to be a lot of explaining to do. Complaints to police, follow up letters to your councilmen (or women), and an accident just the way you complained about it in the past.

    They do not want it if you document it.

  114. kevin says:

    Don’t take aggressive drivers too personally. Most times they cut-off or argue with other motorist as well. For as many a-holes as there are out there, I’ve encountered a ton of incredibly courteous drivers that are considerate of my right to the road. Thanks to this silently majority that make my commute safe and enjoyable.

  115. Barbara Fish Hoek South Africa says:

    We( My husband and I) cycle often from Fish Hoek, we are very fortunate to live in a cycle friendly City. There is the odd inconsiderate drive but hey, We think they are just envious.
    If somebody show us a rude sign or honk unnecessary we just wave and smile.Some advice. Cycle single file,keep left. Enjoy your cycling and Remember one smack of a vehicle could damage one for Life.

  116. Phil (Australia) says:

    I commute by bike in Melbourne, Australia. At 3.5 million people and spread 40 kilometres each way from the CBD it is very much a car city.

    Generally the authorities have been slow to recognise that bikes are a valid form of transport. Apart from the inner suburbs a cyclist has to mix it as best they can on major roads, sometimes, apparently like elsewhere, with some pretty aggressive drivers. They can do all the usual stuff, sideswiping, failing to give way, etc.

    You don’t get anywhere in an altercation with aggressive types, it seems to just reinforce their prejudice. As the header advises just put your head down, keep pedalling and be exactly what they can never be.

    Other than them, the main problem seems to be the stupid mistakes some drivers make. It’s not aggression, just plain stupidity and carelessness. Dooring is a big problem here, which can then escalate to words or worse. No one wins and the driver then assumes all cyclists are road anarchists.

    The only real solution to cyclist vulnerability is to either

    a) Seperate cyclists from motorist. Absolutely impractical in car dominated cities.
    or
    b) Lobby legislators and authorities to rigidly enforce the road rules with regard to safety for less protected road users.

  117. Guest says:

    The first line of this article should be:
    Ask yourself: “Have I done anything wrong?”

    Bad drivers can be bad drivers in cars, on bikes, in boats. The vehicle doesn’t excuse the behavior.

    If you’re biking on a one lane road with no bike lane and a double yellow and it’s hilly, or for whatever reason you can’t keep up with the speed limit, and a line of cars is growing behind you, you’re doing something wrong — whether you’re on a bike or in a car or on roller skates, one person shouldn’t feel the right inconveniencing so many. There are trails suited for bikes which cars should stay off. There are roads suited for cars which bikes should stay off. And there are r

  118. Barney says:

    Unless physically confronted, my advice is to do nothing. The car & driver will *always* have the advantage. As for collisions while riding in traffic, physics says the car will win. The car will win every time. Physics doesn’t give a crap about whether the biker is legally or morally “right”. I’ve learned to stay out of car’s way. Another thing I’ve noticed, and it sounds silly, is I used to get far more yells and insults when I decked out in biker “regalia”. So I don’t wear the $200 biker pants and $200 biker shirt and the $300 biker shoes. I never liked the “rodeo clown on crack” look anyway. Thx.

  119. Rebecca says:

    Gosh, all these stories!

    I only just recently started commuting. Strictly on my college campus, since the only reasonable route to my work requires an interstate.

    Some of the stories I read on here are actually flat out illegal in North Carolina. As a cyclist we are obligated to ride with traffic on the right most side of the road unless we are turning left. So getting in the center of the lane is a way to get a ticket. It is also illegal for a cyclist to ride on sidewalks.

    The law is mute on whether or not cyclists can or cannot ride abreast. However I certainly wouldn’t try it in a high traffic area.

    Still I do my best to be polite when I am in my car or on my bike. I don’t ride in a way that would annoy me in my car, and I do my best to be patient with cyclists on the road. God knows the local riding group can be a real pain in the rear and it insults me because it gives cyclists a bad name. Yes, motorists must share the road, but so too must cyclists. It also irritates me when I see people on bikes riding in an obviously unsafe manner. I’ve actually been cut off before by a woman riding a bike getting trailed by six kids (not wearing helmets and too young/small to legally be in the open road). I’m not kidding! I nearly hit her. And it’s that sort of behavior that boils my blood. I take the time to ride safely on the road and to know my laws, why can’t they?

    Still better to be alive than dead right.

  120. Mark says:

    I completely agree. I’ve had things thrown at me , screamed at, honked at, and tailgated. Let it slide…it’s not worth fighting a car.

  121. Steve V says:

    Yes I also agree, people can be real jerks. The best think you can do is not react and try to ignore them.

  122. Andrew says:

    I feel very fortunate, I cycle 7 miles to work through neighborhoods and busy city streets (midtown Atlanta) and I’ve mostly experienced courtesy, even sometimes a kind of “biker solidarity” from motorists. I think the point about how you carry yourself is very important, and looking the business helps I’m sure. My commuter gear is minimal: hiking fatigues, windbreaker, badass Bern helmet and backpack, I think I can stay pretty safe and visible without all the retina-scarring dayglo and it sends the signal that this is just another day on the way to work for me.

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