I saw an ad for UpRide, a site where cyclists can upload bikecam videos of safety failures. The ad contained some dramatic footage. The site may be run by Cycliq, a manufacturer of bikecams. The stated intent is to aid in infrastructure planning and criminal prosecution. Sounds like a good thing, right?
The ad was on Facebook, and attached to it was a storm of comments, all evidently from anti-cyclists. Their presence is a little sad, and a little infuriating, but they do help to make the case that the cycling community needs tools to counteract this kind of malevolence.
I checked out the site. The videos I found there were not so dramatic. Some passing too close. Some general violation of traffic laws or just unsafe driving. Frankly, stuff that happens around me every time I ride on the road. Unless I was looking at the cherry picked videos that UpRide uses to promote themselves, I didn’t find any road rage or actual collisions. When I looked for “crash” videos, the only one in my area was of a rider all alone whose bike slipped out from underneath them when crossing through water. There were some egregious videos, but I had to hunt for them.
Also, I should note that many of the videos offered evidence of bad behavior on the part of the cyclists, as well. I don’t want to blame the victim, but others will, and videos like this are not useful if anti-cyclists can point out imperfect riders and imply that they earned or deserved their trouble.
My Own Experience
[I should probably move this and the next section to its own post.]
I live in an area were cycling infrastructure is not great, and attitudes among drivers toward cyclists is probably skewed toward ignorance and intolerance. Still, my experience when riding on the road hasn’t been that bad. Close passes are common, but rarely any that make me feel endangered. I get honked* at occasionally, but maybe a third of those are from people who incorrectly believe they are doing me a favor. I get cat calls occasionally, especially in warmer weather, and not because I am mistaken for a woman. Bad driving occurs, in ways that I encounter just as often when I’m driving as when I’m cycling, and my usual defensive riding has kept me out of trouble.
The Experience of Others
There are basically three kinds of problems with drivers that are serious.
Drivers who don’t see cyclists. When you read about serious collisions between cyclists and vehicles, most of them contain an explanation that the driver hadn’t seen the cyclist. This happens because the drivers aren’t looking for cyclists; they are only looking for other vehicles.
A couple months ago, a construction worker waved a cement truck into the road in front of me. Even before I had come to a full stop in front of him, he was apologizing, explaining that he “didn’t see” me. This despite the fact that I was wearing a fluorescent red jacket and had a flashing 1000 lumen headlight on my bike.
Bad cycling infrastructure. In my opinion, much bicycling infrastructure actually puts cyclists in more danger. Door zone bike lakes are the worst such example. Bike lanes full of dangerous debris is another problem. In all of these cases, I would prefer to share the road with vehicles than ride in these lanes.
There are some really nice off-street bike trails around here, but they have been fit among existing vehicle infrastructure. Necessarily, a street or highway must be crossed. Some of these crossings are very dangerous.
Road rage. Many drivers believe that bicycles have no business sharing the road. Some drivers (and evidently even some police) actually believe it is illegal for bicycles to be on the road. Many drivers feel flustered and challenged by traffic situations involving bicycles. All of these motivations have a tendency evoke anger and hostility toward cyclists.
This anger is exhibited many ways. Honking* is common. Intentionally close passing is another. Both are dangerous. Verbal abuse is less common, but it happens. Objects are thrown. I have experienced all of these. In rare cases, vehicular assault in the form of drivers forcing cyclists off the road, bumping them, ramming them, or outright running them down. I consider myself fortune that no one has gone that far against me.
(* Honking is much louder and more disturbing to an exposed cyclist than it is to a person inside another vehicle. Car horns are necessarily loud. Whether a driver intends it or not, honking is an aggressive action to a cyclist. Startling a cyclist puts them at risk of losing their balance, which is quite dangerous while in proximity to moving vehicles.)