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The “Get The Fuck Out of My Way” Attitude 8

BMW SUV

BMW SUV – Courtesy of Curtis Perry

A few days ago, an article was posted by a bicyclist into the Craigslist “rants and raves” section. The poster highlighted a road rage incident in which an angry driver in a blue BMW SUV screamed and honked at the bicyclist to get out of the way, in order to save a few seconds.

Here are a few key comments from the article that resonated with me:

And then you were making a right-hand turn immediately ahead and had to stop right in front of me and wait to turn because of other people, on foot, being in the way. Obviously annoying for you, but this gave me a good chance to inform you that I was not going to drive INTO the parked cars as you rolled up your window, continuing to yell, “fuck off and get the fuck out of my way!”. Happily for you, the people on the street moved out of the way and then you squealed around the corner and headed north, presumably fuming at the injustice done to you, sitting in your vehicle, having to slow behind a person on a bike who was going at a different speed for a few seconds.

Imagine being in line at the grocery store and, feeling that the person in front of you was taking too long to get out their money, standing directly behind them while yelling at them to fuck off. That would be really, really weird! And it happens to me as a person who travels by bicycle all of the time.

Look: I am a friggin rule follower extraordinaire, a goody-two-shoes, and a people pleaser. There is literally nothing I can do that makes people madder than just riding my bike the way I am supposed to. I feel bad and scared doing something I love and have the right to do, something that is good for the roads, the planet, and the cardiovascular system. It fucking sucks. Your attitude is terrible.

Read the full post here.

This post reminded me that I have been living absent of road rage for more than two months here in China. Despite the fact that I ride my bicycle here every single day, I have not encountered a single road rage incident, nor have I had any angry drivers pass me in a way that makes me feel at all uncomfortable.

This can be partially attributed to the fact that bicyclists have separated infrastructure here in China. Extremely wide bike lines with curb/tree separation from motor vehicle traffic. So bicyclists aren’t constantly annoyed by drivers passing too closely, and drivers aren’t constantly annoyed by having to slow down for a few seconds to move past a bicyclist.

But the deep-seated animosity that I have lived with for so long in North America between drivers and bicyclists actually prevents any progress from being made. Drivers are angry at having to share the road with bicyclists, but refuse to give up any space to create infrastructure that would prevent the very situation that they resent.

Properly-built bicycle infrastructure will reduce the tension and potential conflict between drivers and bicyclists, and eventually the animosity will subside. In places where there is an understanding that both bicyclists and motorists have a place on our roads, tension and resentment is reduced – and in the case of the Chinese city I am living in, it is nonexistent.

Unfortunately, in many cities in North America there is a bizarre widespread belief that bicyclists are a nuisance for drivers and have no right to be on the roads. This notion is perpetuated by the media, and the result is that otherwise sane people feel justified in acting like sociopaths when they are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. This anti-social behaviour would not be tolerated in any other situation in our culture except behind the wheel of a car.

The more time I spend abroad, the more perplexed I am by the ridiculousness of it all. Let’s just fix it already.

James D. Schwartz is the Editor of The Urban Country and is based in Toronto, Canada. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

i share the road

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  • crank

    I did have perhaps a couple of ‘uncomfortable’ moments in one of China’s more car-choked cities (can’t remember for sure which one) but certainly nothing on the scale of my time in Canada, U.S. or Madmaxland (Australia – the worst by far). I had a blast riding around Beijing though… have fun :0)

  • crank

    Oh yeah, and perhaps on return you’ll notice how many of our cyclists (and sometimes pedestrians!) have the ‘get the fuck out of my way’ attitude. I think we migrate our car culture over to our bike culture to some degree – proving the value of our bike, proving how fast we are, must-get-there-as-fast-as-possible, etc etc.

  • qatzelok

    Road rage and dangerous lack of civility are just symptoms of a bigger problem. The bigger problem is that most North Americans spend hours of each day driving by ugly industrial parks and sound barriers. This has them feeling very stressed out and ripped off by life.

    Remember that it’s not YOU that they’re ranting against: it’s their own crappy commute.

    • Har Davids

      Maybe this lack of civility is an attitude that prevails in many of today’s societys. No matter the circumstances, everybody has to get the fuck out of the way, because they’re wasting precious seconds of your life! It can’t just be something that is activated by getting into a car. I do that some of my time, the rest I walk or cycle, and I don’t think it really affects my behaviour.

    • munke

      I love the phrase, ‘you’re not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic’.
      It’s nice to be on the bike :)

  • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

    Great article as always. I couldn’t agree with you more. You must be loving the road rage free riding over there…..sounds great. For me it’s been more of a case that I’m the one with road rage. People drive like morons here in Grenada and don’t respect cyclists. They never get mad at me…..but I sure do get mad at them.

  • bostonbybike

    Just a few weeks ago I was called an a**hole for “slowing down” one guy in a black SUV, while riding my bike. It took him a few seconds to pass by me. Must have been painful.

    They are starting to rebuild the main street in my town now, making it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Of course, we heard many voices from motorists that would ideally like to ban bikes from the main street because “they don’t share the road” and “they block us”. But when they heard the suggestion that one traffic lane can be removed and bike lanes can be installed in that place to move bicycles out of their way – they screamed “we won’t allow for taking our lanes away”!

  • Dan

    I find these are the types of drivers I don’t like when I am in my car (although rarer these days) either. The only thing we can do, on a daily basis, is when we drive our cars, go extremely slow and block other traffic for the bicycles we do see. This sends a message that the cyclists are welcome and protects them from idiot motorists. I always do, even if it annoys other drivers, I could care less. Then again, I live in a place where drivers are mostly courteous to each other.