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Why some drivers get angry at bicyclists

Some drivers are bicyclists themselves and respect cyclists on the roads. Other drivers, however, find cyclists to be a huge nuisance.

Here is a look at a few common theories as to why cyclists are particularly likely to have a driver seeing red.

Lack of “good” experiences

There are more cars than bicycles on the road. Thus, a driver who has a negative experience with a bicyclist might generalize that bad experience to all bicyclists. It is also a fact that negative experiences tend to carry more weight than good experiences. So, a driver who has had five good experiences with a bicyclist could view all bicyclists as negative after only one bad encounter. (Similar principles apply to drivers who have interacted with motorcyclists.)


So what exactly counts as “bad” anyway? It depends on your perspective. For a driver in a hurry to get to work, “bad” could be a bicyclist who forces him or her to slow down. “Bad” could also mean a driver did not see a bicyclist until the last minute—even if it is the driver’s fault.

In other words, a bicyclist could do everything perfectly and a driver might still perceive the encounter as negative. Also, bicycles have more freedom than cars in some ways. For example, a car might have to stop while a bicycle could be able to navigate in tighter spaces. This ability makes some drivers jealous and/or angry.

Fortunately, many drivers are learning how to share the roads with bicyclists, and as more drivers take up cycling or other outdoor hobbies, they have more patience for other forms of transportation.

Lack of education

There is also the fact that many driver education programs do not emphasize the right of other forms of transportation to be on the roads. For example, if a program said up front that cars and bicycles have equal rights to be on the road and taught drivers how to better deal with bicyclists and angry emotions while driving, that could go a long way.

The hostility, whether conscious or subconscious, of drivers toward bicyclists can lead to or exacerbate dangerous accidents. Fortunately, awareness is spreading every day.

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