Let’s go back to a topic I touched on last week.
You see, I’ve got a very simple rule of thumb:
When someone calls me a jerk, asshole or whatever other insult happens to pass their lips, I generally assume it’s the other person who actually has the problem.
If it happens again, though, I start to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I might be doing something to inspire that. And if it happens a third time, I’m pretty convinced that I just may, in that particular case at least, be what the French would call le trou de cul.*
(Of course, the opposite holds true as well. If I keep encountering people I think are jerks, assholes, et al, it’s a pretty good indication that I’m at least partially to blame.)
Yet there are a significant number of drivers who remain quite convinced that every cyclist they encounter is a flaming rectal orifice.
For instance, I once took part in an online forum in which a number of people went to great lengths to point out the inherent rudeness of cyclists, as well as their willingness to teach us a lesson in vehicular Darwinism by running us off the road. Or worse.
Of course, these comments were met by a similar number of cyclists who argued the counterpoint with equal vehemence, and varying degrees of civility.
But one comment in particular stuck with me.
This person said he couldn’t begin to count the many times that riders had cursed, gestured or spit at him, or actually struck his car with their hands or bike locks. And took that as proof that cyclists are rude, vile and disgusting creatures, unworthy of life — let alone the few feet of roadway we insist on occupying.
So, invoking the above rule of thumb, I inquired just what it was he was doing behind the wheel that would make so many cyclists feel so ticked off. Then suggested that perhaps it wasn’t the cyclists who were actually the problem.
Needless to say, that was the last we heard from him. But clearly, he was not alone in his certainty that cyclists are responsible for all the evil in the world, or at least on the roadways. And that we all have a major attitude problem.
You can find similar comments on countless online discussions of bicycling. Yet in over 30 years as a licensed driver, I have never had a confrontation with an angry cyclist.
Maybe that’s because, as a cyclist, I make a point of driving safely and courteously around other riders. Or maybe just because I go out of my way not to be a jerk behind the wheel.
So if, as a driver, you find yourself having repeated conflicts with angry cyclists, it may be time to consider that perhaps they’re not the problem. And ask yourself what you’re doing, or failing to do, that could be causing, or at least contributing, to it.
Of course, that’s not to say that cyclists are entirely blameless.
Occasional conflicts are to be expected as we all learn to share the road and compete for the same increasingly limited piece of asphalt. But the key word there is occasional.
So if you find yourself having frequent conflicts with angry drivers, maybe it’s time to consider how you might be contributing to the problem. Because in any traffic confrontation, there’s usually at least one asshole involved.
And sometimes it’s me.
Damien Newton wants your input on Streetblog’s questionnaire for the Council District 5 candidates. A Salt Lake City writer applauds cyclists, even while resisting the occasional urge to turn them into hood ornaments. An economist applies game theory to four-way stops. Flying Pigeon suspects the thief who stole one of their bikes was an L.A. Sheriff. Another college newspaper takes on cyclists, and Oregon’s proposed Idaho Stop law. A group in Bend, Oregon suggests that bike safety is a two-way street, involving cyclists and drivers. And finally, last week’s discussion of a New Jersey newspaper editorial about their proposed three-foot law comes full circle, as one of their bloggers quotes yours truly.
*Courtesy of a truly indispensible pocket guide, The Little Book of Essential Foreign Swear Words, by Emma Burgess.