On a bicycle or in a car, road rage is ugly

Bryna Hallam

I was caught in the fringes of a cyclist-on-driver rage last week. The incident that sparked it seemed pretty minor. Three cyclists (including me) were riding on the right-hand edge of a lane, between a straight-through lane and a turning lane.

The driver behind us honked, I don’t know why. Maybe she was confused about what we were doing. Maybe she was just letting us know that she was there. Maybe she really wanted to make the light and we were in her way. The honk didn't seem angry, but maybe it was.

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We all stopped at the light. One of the other cyclists went up to the driver’s window to let her know that we were allowed in the lane. He yelled, his points about rules quickly descending into racist, sexist commentary. As far as I could tell, the driver didn’t respond.

The tirade continued at the next intersection, ending with something like: “That’s why they don’t let woman drive where you’re from.” It was uncalled for, uncomfortable and ugly, not to mention full of assumptions. The driver seemed shaken. I wished I had said more.

Road rage incidents always seem to me like the real-world equivalent of the sniping, trolling comments on websites, generally made as you speed past one thing onto the next. They leave me feeling a little bit dirty by association and saddened for humanity.

I’ll likely never know what actually sparked the yelling — road rage hardly ever seems to be about the incident itself, but about something else.

A comment the yelling cyclist made at a previous light suggested that his wife had almost been hit by a turning vehicle earlier. Maybe the adrenaline was still flowing. Maybe he had lost his job and was worried about his next mortgage payment.

I don’t know, but the whole thing was a reminder to take it easy. Consider this my takeaway: Chill out. Take a moment to smile and wave to those you pass. When frustrated, take a deep breath, curse under your breath if need be. We’re all in this together. No need to make it more difficult than it is.

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