Thursday, September 3, 2009

Does Motorist Road Rage Against Cyclists Never End?

Yesterday I came across two stories describing extremely disturbing examples of road rage against cyclists. Thanks to BikePortland and Cyclicious for covering the incidents.

The first happened in Portland during the afternoon. Apparently a motorist in an SUV and cyclists got into an argument in a parking lot. The driver then proceeded to back his vehicle into the cyclist, a man in his fifties, at approximately 40 mph. "After impact the the victim appeared to be stuck to the back of the SUV." The cyclist was taken to the hospital in critical condition with his condition improving since the incident.

The second story I came across didn't end so well for the cyclist. Canadian politician Michael Bryant was arrested on on Tuesday for criminal negligence in the death of a cyclist. Witnesses say that Mr. Bryant and bicycle messenger were involved in a collision. When Mr. Bryant tried to flee the scene, the cyclist grabbed on to the driver side door and wouldn't let go. The car then accelerated and tried to knock the cyclist off the car by running into lampposts and mailboxes. Eventually he succeeded and the cyclist fell off after which he was taken to the hospital and died shortly after arriving.

These are both sad examples of how utterly unequally matched cyclists and motorists are. If a cyclist ever got pissed off and rammed an SUV the poor cyclist would probably walk away with a few broken bones.

These are WTF kind of moments. What is it that is causing all this road rage against cyclists? I can't believe that people on bicycles are behaving so badly as to warrant a lot of this behavior. And I also can't believe that these motorists are truly as big a set of assholes as these incidents seem to portray them as. I think its more to do with the situation society has built for itself in terms of our urban environment - we must really suck at providing a healthy urban environment that produces well adjusted adults.

These two incidents are just as bad as the man who shot at a cyclist for riding with his family on a busy street a few months back. In the end there is NO rational explanation for this kind of behavior other than that these people really need to get out of their cars more often.

I'm a big believer that cars kill communities; whether they be communities of people or wildlife, the car is not a force that brings people and places together, but divides them. Cars compete for a limited amount of road space usually at high speeds and a limited number of parking spots. This situation isn't conducive to cooperative community building, but I guess it is the American way; fighting to appropriate a limited resource, CAPITALISTIC social engineering at its best. The infrastructure needed to support cars even destroys whole neighborhoods, especially when building freeways, just so that better off suburbanites can get to their downtown office jobs a little faster.

When people get out of the car and walk or bike, they have time to appreciate their surroundings, they can meet their neighbors and have an in depth conversation, and generally interact with the world from a totally different perspective than from the protected-electronic cockpit of a car. But thats just the opinion of one carfree asshole, I'm sure a bunch of motorist assholes would wholly disagree with me and be willing to back over me to prove it.


Anonymous said...

While I agree with the sentiment of the post and certainly the North Carolina story of the father that was shot is one of the more bizarre driver rage stories I have ever seen, I would add that two lessons should be learned here.

First,in the case of the parking lot incident, often it is just best to walk or ride away from these people. Escalating a situation with an outraged driver will rarely end in a good result for the bike rider - regardless of the "rightness" of your position - i.e. "I have the same right to use the roads as cars/drivers do" will not win the hearts of an outraged driver.

Second, if involved in an accident with a motorist, get as much info as you can and then call the police. Never, never attempt to chase down someone or hang on to a moving vehicle that is fleeing the accident scene. As seen, it could very well get you killed.

At the end of the day I would rather end my ride at home alive and well in the arms of my family rather than in a hospital or morgue.

Rantwick said...

These kinds of wild events have had me shaking my head alot lately. It would seem that if you are hot-tempered, cycling is a bad idea. I must believe, however, that as bad as these things are, they are still very statistically rare, and are being magnified to the point of seeming common, thanks in part to Internet communities like the ones we both inhabit and enjoy. Thanks for the good post.

CarFree Stupidity said...

I agree that these types of issues are blown out of proportion with respect to reality. The media, including hacks like me and you Mr. Rant, feed on this stuff. The world seems to run on drama and conflict; who wants to read about a boring and successfull bike commute?

John in NH said...

there is no such thing as a boring commute ;) yes I dont find myself running into cars or cars running into me, but I have had close calls with trucks and cars who pass just a bit too close, or cut me off without signalling. Yes news happens when somebody dies, things change when somebody dies (hopefully) its a shame we are so bent on reactive rather then proactive, things would be a whole lot better. However I find myself getting angry when I am behind the wheel, usually pissed at other drivers, but its not useful, however I cant help it. On a bike it does not happen, I feel sorry actually, and shake my head at the stupidity.

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