My recent article on bad cyclist manners, and how we need to police our own behavior first, seems to have struck a nerve. I posted links to the article on several Facebook sites, and wow, the comments started flowing in.
For the most part, I was happy to see that the majority of commenters agreed with me. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what the response would be, given the sensitivity of the subject. Here are a few representative examples of those who agreed:
These comments reflect what I feel. Of course, others disagree and believe that the blame mostly (or completely) resides with the drivers:
This comment by Brandon Howlett has a lot of truth in it. Very often—maybe the majority of the time—our bad behavior is the result of a dangerous or aggressive move by a driver. Here’s how one commenter suggested responding:
I would argue that shouting, screaming, yelling, cussing out, flipping off, and otherwise “fighting fire with fire,” as Andreas recommends, does nothing constructive, and can only make things worse.
Of course our natural reaction—and I’m absolutely including myself in this—is to do exactly that. We get angry and react viscerally. But doing the old anger-management standby of stopping and counting to 10 actually works. If we can do that when we’re mistreated by a driver, there’s a chance for a good outcome.
Look at it this way—how likely is the driver to understand their mistake if we’re screaming at them? I’d say pretty much zero. But if we hold our anger and our tongues (and fingers), we might have a chance to mention to them (at a stoplight, for instance), that they did something dangerous. Often, of course, that’s not possible, as the driver is usually long gone.
However, if we simply resist the urge to lash out, the driver won’t have a further negative reaction to us—and future interactions with cyclists have a chance of being less harsh. If we’re carpet F-bombing the driver, they’ll file it away under “Another reason to hate cyclists,” and the next interaction has a much greater chance of being a bad one.
Maybe our non-aggressive reaction doesn’t give us the catharsis we want, but it’s the only option with even a slight chance of leading to a positive outcome. In my mind, it’s worth the effort.
And, like everything, if we practice this technique, it will eventually take hold, and we’ll find ourselves not getting as angry, as filled with rage, as we do now. So it’ll have the additional benefit of helping us be more calm and controlled. In current business parlance, that’s called a win-win.
So the next time a driver passes too close or shakes a fist or questions your parentage, try counting to 10, and responding with kindness instead of fighting fire with fire. It’s a good way to avoid getting burned.
Editor’s Note: Here’s the original article.