Road Rage Advice: Keep Your Cool

Road rage caught on video in Portland, Ore. Click on photo to watch.

Road rage incidents against cyclists are headline news, and it’s no surprise. When a motorist attacks a cyclist, there’s carnage.

Some bike-car incidents are deliberate. What amazes me is how many cyclists fight back. That’s like a Jeep attacking an M1 Abrams tank.

I’ve experienced my share of road rage – who hasn’t? – and my reaction is to not react. Don’t give the finger, don’t give the Italian salute, don’t key the car (I’ve fantasized about that one). Sometimes I’ll smile and wave like I know the driver, mostly when I get the “buzz.” Drivers do this to get a reaction.

I know a cyclist who’s less accommodating under attack. Once, after a nasty incident, he boldly rode up to the car and broke off the antenna! A furious pursuit ensued. He barely escaped in a residential neighborhood.

Unsympathetic police
You’d think the police would lend a sympathetic ear. Read the SFGate report and you’ll be aghast at what happens to cyclists who report road rage. Some police refused to so much as take a report, and some blamed it on the cyclist.

When drivers are nailed, they’re often let off with minor punishment. However, that wasn’t the case in Los Angeles recently when a driver deliberately slammed on his brakes and sent a cyclist through the car’s rear window, causing serious injury.

A jury found the driver guilty of six felonies, and he got five years behind bars. NPR covered the incident in a news report. Lance Armstrong has some interesting comments on road rage in this interview.

Road rage and culture
University of Hawaii’s Dr. Leon James, an expert on road-rage psychology, testified that road rage is the outcome of a world with more stress, more frustration, more anger, more hostility, and more traffic.

That’s part of the equation, but I think it’s also cultural. I’ve been to the Philippines enough times to know road rage is not always the result of crowding. Manila’s roads are jammed and I’ve never seen road rage, haven’t even seen a wreck. Filipino cyclists jockey with cars, jeepneys, and motorbikes at close quarters daily.

I know of an American who lived in Manila for five years. He had a driver, but one day decided he could handle it. After a short drive he gave up and had to take a stress pill.

You may be wondering just how dangerous our roads are compared to other countries. I’ll let you in on the most dangerous countries in my next entry.

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