Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Motorists' Sense of Entitlement


Yup. It's that time again. Time for the perennial patent pending Desegregated Cyclist anti-motorist rant.

Speaking as a person who has received training as a cycling safety instructor, speaking as a person who knows the laws and rules of the road and puts them into practice every day without fail, and speaking as a person who has been commuting by bike for over 30 years, I have to say it's getting ridiculous for cyclists out on the road these days. Motorists seem to be getting far worse - I estimate 90% or more don't have a clue as to their responsibilities or even the rules of the road (and they talk about "scofflaw cyclists" as if motorists never speed, never talk on the cellphone while driving, never drink, never run red lights or stop signs, etc., etc., etc.). With that overwhelming ignorance comes a sense of entitlement a mile wide and an arrogance that often seems to lead to violence.

I find 90% of motorists to be disgusting and frightening (by which I do NOT mean they frighten me by honking or buzzing me - I mean that they don't practice the rules of the road because they don't know them, nor do they care to know them, which means they pose a real danger to cyclists on the road). That's something I would never have thought 20 years ago, but today's motorists appear to be a different breed: they seem to have no consideration for other road users, and they seem to act as if the road is their private property rather than a facility that exists for everyone to use, no matter what vehicle they choose to use on it.

The problem, I think, is that there is nowhere near the same respect for cycling that there was 30 years ago. Today's motorists don't have a grounding in cycling culture - many did not commute to school by bike when they were kids and many now view bicycles as mere toys rather than transportation, so they view cyclists as errant children rather than equals on the road. The prevailing attitude is that cyclists are joyriders, whereas the reality is that we are engaged in the very same commuter activities as motorists. The only difference is that when cyclists disobey the rules, they aren't driving a 2-ton chunk of metal that can easily kill. That difference is why motorists should be held to a higher standard. I think the fact that they are, all too often, NOT held to a higher standard is shameful.

13 comments:

  1. Perhaps it is time to consider a move? Most motorists I encounter are polite and try to be careful even though most do not realize how easy it really is to pass a cyclist operating safely and legally.

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  2. "...Today's motorists don't have a grounding in cycling culture..."

    That might be part of it, Ian. My theory is that in addition to cycling having become less common as transportation, cycling as transportation is now being equated to separate but equal by the facility advocates. We now have an official Apartheid problem with cycling.

    Plus, many folks have a chip on his or her shoulder these days. Since a cyclist is "different", we are an easy target for misdirected raging at the machine. For that matter, if you read a lot of the cycling subculture stuff (Streetsblog, etc), cyclists consider motorists the enemy. In a world of Fox News vs. MSNBC, everyone is the enemy. Perhaps it is time to move to somewhere that has not lost its mind.

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  3. More likely, a few "bad apples" have distorted things. "Dr Steve" prescribes reading and implementing http://dfwptp.blogspot.com/2009/06/experimental-cycling-1-interactions.html for a couple of days with emphasis on how many stressful versus non stressful interactions there are. Alternately, go to dfwptp.etc and search "interactions." Call me if neither of these help.

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  4. Surrender? LOL. I'm not going to move simply because my area's motorists are a bunch of jerks. I don't think it would send a healthy message if I gave up my local roads to those idiots. I was bullied as a school kid, so I'll be damned if I'm going to let the bullies win now I'm an adult.

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  5. I just found your blog and I really enjoy reading it.
    I too am a commuting cyclist. I am frustrated by the ignorance of the motor vehicle public and their apparent willingness to endanger my safety.
    Just yesterday, I was right hooked by a driver in a town center I ride through. I was in the middle of the right lane. This driver passed me. Half the car was in my lane and half in the left lane. The driver then made a right in front of me! Fortunately, it was a near miss.
    I just don't understand how these people continue to have a license.

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  6. There may also be an affect following from the general stress of our times -- economical and political. Combine that with the disconnectedness that being trapped in a machine causes, and I think you get something like the attitude you're experiencing.

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  7. This is getting a bit of buzz on Facebook (on a page I cannot reply to for some reason) so I've added a little bit of clarification to a sentence that is getting misunderstood.

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  8. While I agree that motorists seem to be getting more hostile, it's still nowhere close to 90%. It FEELS like that sometimes but when I actually pay attention to how many motorists go by me without issue, it's still less than 1% that are actually a problem.

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  9. One of the funniest things ever said to me on a bike goes to your point that bicycles are treated as toys. I was waiting at a stop light and a man with his son (who look to be 9/10 years old) says to me "why don't you get off the road and do something that adults do, like bowl or hunt". When I stopped laughing I looked at his son in the passenger seat and said your dad must make you proud. Poor kid was so embarrassed by his fathers actions. I just waved and said good day.

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  10. Since this blog post was posted to Facebook, there's been a bit of misunderstanding about my meaning when I said I thought motorists were disgusting and frightening. My point was not about them being hostile - it was about them being incompetent and willfully ignorant. I estimate that 90% of them don't know how to drive properly, safely or legally and don't care to learn. In fact I'd say more than 90% routinely speed. So it's not about bullying - it's about lawbreaking and incompetence.

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  11. Just tossing out an idea here, but how much of a factor could it be that actually taking a driving test, even just a written one, seems be experienced, at best, only every ten years? When I moved to Colorado I received a driver's license was good for ten years, and when it expired, to my surprise (and a little horror), they just handed me another one that was good for another decade. The photo on my license is now so old that in it I still have hair.

    Is this typical? Is it true that many, if not most, drivers haven't had to study for a driving test in a decade or more? If the typical driver isn't required to regularly prove they know the traffic laws, why should they bother respecting those laws?

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  12. I think it's a big factor. I'm sure that there are many drivers on the road who haven't taken a driving test in decades. If it were up to me, I'd make it mandatory to get retested at least every 5 years. IIRC, pilots have to be retested every year, and they kill far fewer people than motorists, so I think there should be at least some effort to get drivers retested, if only after they're involved in an accident.

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  13. agreed - as a motorist and a cyclist I am regularly amazed at the amount of times motorists ignore the common road rules - thus making it slightly scary for cyclists to share the same road. 90% sounds like a good estimate... however, courtesy towards cyclists since the introduction of the 1m rule in Queensland, have brought some awareness to cyclists rights. I regularly 'take' my lane in areas where there is not room for a cyclist and I feel this right is being accepted a little more often than in the past. Cyclists need to get out there and by being on the road, expose more drivers to our rights - tho' it does get the adrenalin pumping sometimes!

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