Road Rage and Aggressive Driving:
Steering Clear of Highway Warfare
An elderly driver peeved
that another driver honked at him hurled his prescription
bottle at the honker, then smashed his knees with his car
when the man got out.
An enraged bicyclist, after
being knocked off his bike by a car, pulled out a handgun
and shot the driver to death.
The expression "road rage" was
introduced into the public vocabulary by the popular media. Though
there has been no agreed-upon definition, people use the phrase to
refer to an extreme state of anger that often precipitates
aggressive behavior, sometimes restricted to words and gestures,
sometimes as assault and battery. A variety of factors have been
named to account for the increase in aggressiveness between drivers,
such as traffic congestion, feeling endangered, being insulted,
frustration, time pressure, fatigue, competitiveness, and lapses in
An eyewitness description of New
Delhi road users:
"When traveling in India a few
years ago, I was blown away by the sort of highway travel that I
experienced there. While traveling by bus on the highway from
Dehra Dun to New Delhi, I quickly noticed that buses, trucks,
bicycles, and all sorts of other vehicles were barreling down a
narrow piece of pavement in both directions. When the bus I was
on wanted to pass another, or if a truck approached from the
other direction, the driver would honk the horn like hell until,
miraculously to me, a path cleared for the bus to pass.
While this driving technique-the
constant blasting of horns-was obnoxious and terrifying to me,
it was acceptable and standard behavior in that country, or at
least on that expanse of highway. In fact, most trucks had
signs-decoratively painted on the tailgates-stating, "Horn
Please," which I took to mean something like, "Honk with
impunity to let me know you're behind me." There is no doubt
that road rage and aggressive driving are worldwide phenomena,
rooted in cultural ideology."
We personalize incidents to the point
"This wasn't rush hour, but
there were quite a few cars on the road. Since there were no
bike lanes designated, we rode along the right-hand lane as the
law states that we are to do. All of a sudden this lady in her
car right behind us starts honking. She didn't honk just once.
No--she honked three or four times. This really pissed me off. I
scowled and told my sister to just keep going. Then when we
pulled off the main street to make a turn, I glared at the woman
as she passed by. She glared at me also and I really wished that
I could just yank her out of her car and slap her silly. I
wanted to say to her "Are you stupid? The law states that when
there isn't a designated bike lane and ample room on the side of
the road, bicyclists are to use the right-hand lane!" (Young
woman's Driving Log)
Anger plus self righteousness is the
classic recipe for road rage. However, it's important to recognize
that road rage is expressed in different ways by different drivers.
Our research over the years has yielded a number of distinct road
rage personalities. They range from aggressive moralists, to those
obsessed with defeating the clock, to the passive aggressive, and
the outright murderous. The lesson to be drawn from these types is
that through our shared culture, we each may harbor some of these
irrational mental habits.1 Our research has uncovered three
different types of road rage. Each type represents particular
It's not only drivers who feel free
to express their anger on the roads:
"A bicyclist enraged at being
knocked off his bike by a car outside Washington DC. got up,
pulled out a handgun and shot the driver to death, police said.
The bicyclist killed 19-year-old college student, with a single
shot in the head. He ran off on foot but was caught 10 minutes
The road rage legend suggests that
it's mostly confined to men. Not so. In Ohio, a young mother of two
was jockeying for position on a highway with a pregnant woman. She
ended up slamming on her brakes on purpose to show her rage, and the
pregnant woman hit a pole and went flying. She lost the baby. The
mother of two was sentenced to over a year in prison for vehicular
manslaughter of the fetus. (See the analysis of this road rage
tragedy in Chapter 5)
A bicyclist bumped a car by mistake
and avoided getting into a potential road rage incident by applying
a successful de-escalating strategy
"I made a bone head mistake
yesterday at a stop light, trying to squeeze between a Jeep and
the curb. Caught my pedal on the curb and fell against the Jeep,
just the handle bar end touched and I have plastic ends. So I
thought no big deal. Light changed and I went on my way. Well
the driver chased me down for a little "talk." I stayed calm
told him I was sorry, that I had made a mistake and agreed that
yes there was a scuff on his door. Said I believed the scuff
would buff out, said I would stay if he wanted to call the
police, and fill out an accident report. Also informed him that
I had no insurance. He calmed down said he wanted me to see what
I had done. I said yes I see and I apologize. O.K., he drove
off. Close one! I felt great and experienced a rush of success
with the positive approach." (Young man)
This bicyclist made emotionally
intelligent choices that neutralized a conflict, but another
bicyclist sits in jail for being oppositional and giving in to his
A bicyclist enraged at being knocked
off his bike by a car outside Washington D.C. got up, pulled out a
handgun and shot the driver to death, police said. The bicyclist
killed a 19-year-old woman, a college student, with a single shot in
the head. He ran off on foot but was caught 10 minutes later, a
Maryland police statement said. "It was senseless... He wasn't even
hurt. He was just mad,'' said an eyewitness….Police said the
suspect, a 26-year old man, had been charged with first degree
murder and remanded in custody. The victim's father said his
daughter had been headed for class when she was killed. "She was
such a peaceable person,''..."I just want to say, my baby is an
angel...It's unbelievable. Why, why, why?''
Middle School: Focus on Cognitive
Age-appropriate review of the
affective skills and their extension to these cognitive skills with
sensorimotor demonstrations. Students will learn:
What principles are safest for children as
passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
more aware of
habits of thinking while
walking or riding.
objective judgment about
intelligence as drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
critically analyze driving incidents (scenario
analysis) by focusing on identifying choice-points (how to
prevent or break the chain of errors that leads to catastrophe).
human rights of all drivers.
passengers' rights (their
convenience, comfort, and safety).
rights (why they must have the right of way).
acknowledge the rights of bicycle riders and how to behave near
acknowledge the rights of
truck drivers, the need
for truck deliveries, and how to behave near them.
group discussions on the
importance of civility in public behavior (respecting mutual
rights, inalienable rights, fairness, character, community,
able to defend the ideal of
in public places
recognize the benefits and rewards of being
supportive and positive.
activities as passengers
activities as pedestrians and other road uses
The Highway Safety Act of 1996
authorizes the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), through its
separate agencies of the National Highway and Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA),
to fund traffic improvement programs implemented by state and local
governments, including funding safety improvements in the areas of
occupant protection, emergency medical services, police traffic
services, roadway safety, impaired driving, speed control,
motorcycle safety, traffic records, and pedestrian and bicycle
Bicycle advocacy groups want more
restrictions on the movement of cars, which drivers oppose.
Controversy surrounding the issue is inevitable since the parties
involved protect contrary interests, and because it is amounts to
speed control, traffic calming tends to set opposing lines between
- Motorists in transit vs. local
- Drivers vs. bicyclists · Drivers
- Bicyclists vs. pedestrians ·
Private vs. commercial drivers
- 4-wheel drivers vs. truckers
Authorities set speed limits
according to traffic engineering studies. They find that the best
way to ascertain the appropriate speed limit for a stretch of road,
is to survey the speed of free flowing traffic, and to set the speed
limit at the 85th percentile. This is the speed exceeded by 15
percent of the vehicles.8 This practice minimizes accident risk and
maximizes motorist compliance. The NMA argues that instead of
following this approach, current speed limits are based on political
Mr. Pavelka, I
received a copy of Bicycling magazine containing your wonderful
feature story on road rage. Thanks for putting in DrDriving's Web
address!! I've already had some responses from people who read your
In case you are
interested, I have written a review of your article--my impressions
and comments on your topics, and it is
I'd be glad to hear your reactions.
Take care and drive with Aloha spirit! **DrDriving**
Magazine's Feature Article
May 1998 issue Reviewed by Dr. Leon James
Bicycling magazine's May 1988 issue contains a major article on Road
Rage, sub-titled: The Enemy Within by Ed Pavelka, and with
awesome artwork by Cliff Nielsen. When Pavelka interviewed me back
in January, I realized that I need to keep informing myself about
driver-cyclists relations on the road. Here is how he described his
assignment to me:
For an upcoming feature article I am
researching Road Rage as it impacts
bicycle riders. It seems that more and more cyclists are
experiencing aggression and hostility from motorists. I have
come across your name several times in
my research, which has turned up plenty of information about
motorist vs. motorist confrontations, but really nothing about
motorist vs. cyclist confrontations.
I hope you can speak with me
about how Road Rage puts cyclists at risk. Why might a cyclist
or a group of cyclists light the fuse of susceptible drivers?
What's the mindset of these drivers toward the vulnerable, easy
mark that cyclists represent? What should cyclists do (or not
do) to protect themselves against aggressive incidents that
could escalate into something worse? From your understanding of
Road Rage, is it becoming riskier to be out there on a bike?
Your thoughts on these issues
are very important to this article.
these sample comments indicate, there has developed a political
division between drivers and cyclists sharing the same road. Each
group identifies with itself and sees the other as the enemy. Ed
Pavelka's take in the road rage article is that "the enemy is
within," as he put it on the cover: "When road rage strikes you
(p.76)" so we need to focus on both issues:
(1) aggressiveness and hostility between
drivers and cyclists
(2) aggressiveness and hostility
within drivers and within cyclists
The first issue is highly political
and needs to be understood in terms of civic activism and and social
confrontation between user groups. The second issue is psychological
article starts with this side bar comment:
"They hate you. You hate them. What
drives ordinary people to mindless violence? The debate over who
rules the road."
- aggressive tactics
- flashing headlights
- weaving through traffic
- passing on the right
- running stop signs
- running lights
- shouting threats
- flipping the bird
- laying on your horns
- cutting off 'the enemy'
- perceiving others as getting in the way
- keeping up a confrontational attitude
- wild swervers threatening cyclists
- revving engines
- shouting insultingly
- gesturing menacingly
- throwing beer cans or other objects
I love Pavelka's
list above! Not the drivers behaving badly, but the
descriptive and accurate list of their social crimes. It is a
list of traits belonging to every driver's repertoire or inventory
of driving habits. In many years of studying driver behavior, I have
yet to find a driver who never experiences aggressiveness or
hostility towards other road users such as cyclists, pedestrians,
other drivers, or officials and regulations. Anger is no doubt the
most common form of emotion we use to settle accounts with each
other in our daily exchanges. The mini-relationships we experience
with thousands of other road users every year, only last a few
seconds or so, yet they are very significant, very important,
influencing your fate, your future, your self-respect, your
pocketbook, and your morality.
My wife Diane, known affectionately
in the family as "Dr. Driving's doctor," and who rides with me every
day, frequently has to tell me, "Fix your face, Leon" or "Wave to
that man who let you in. Wave now. Go ahead, wave, Leon." What a
simple, civilized request--yet Leon feels the resistance within him.
"It's too late now" he says lamely, annoyed at her enthusiasm for
this stranger who hardly took notice of him (he thought to himself),
or who would block the left lane so he would have to get around him.
Annoyance. That's the mood he was in. Finally he waves, convinced
the other is no longer involved. Suddenly, Diane speaks out
triumphantly, "See, he waved back." Leon feels ashamed of his
resistance. Against his own inclination, he feels an inner glow of
happiness. He is surprised. Where did that come from? He is pleased.
Now he tells himself that he's going to continue his efforts to
reform his driving personality. Good: his Dr. Driving is back, and
What are "a cyclist's visceral
reaction" to a being sideswiped by a driver? Pavelka's list:
- the urge to fight back
Pavelka quotes me as saying that
"Driving and habitual road rage have become virtually inseparable"
(p.78) and backs me up with what Time magazine describes as "the
most comprehensive national survey on driving behavior so far." This
survey was done by EPIC_MRA, a Michigan based firm. Their data
indicate that non-fatal road rage incidents have increased 51% in
this decade and 80% of motorists report they are angry "most or all
of the time" (figure summaries cited by Pavelka, p.78).
Pavelka further quotes me on the
"negative psychology between drivers and cyclists." Certainly the
evidence is there, as indicated by the postings I quote above. "Bad
attitude turns into bad behavior", says Pavelka (p. 80). His theory
is that stressed out people at work and home get into their
anonymous cockpits, and vent their anger and insecurity against
hapless strangers. Other causes, according to Pavelka:
- people think they own the road
- roads are congested
- drivers are in a rush all the time
- crazed drivers are willing to use the car
as a weapon
- cyclists are easy targets
- attitude of drivers that cyclists don't
belong on public roads
- false belief that cyclists are illegal
Pavelka quotes me on what to do when
you get into one of these hostile exchanges--by mistake--and you
realize your mistake and you just want to back out of it. Writes
"Apologizing is unfair when
you didn't do anything wrong" says Dr. James. "But right and
wrong is no longer applicable to the situation. There is an
emergency going on. And during an emergency you must go by the
priority of what can cause the greatest disaster."
O.K., I don't remember saying that,
but I don't deny it. It sounds accurate to me now. Pavelka backs up
my words with those of Dr. Nerenberg, a California road rage
therapist who has been in the media this past year, usually
alongside with me: "Indeed an apology is what 65% of road ragers say
they want." I saw Dr. Nerenberg on
Leeza the other day, and at one point he flashed a sign that
said "Sorry." I asked my students in traffic psychology what they
would do if a driver flashed the Sorry sign when they're mad at that
driver. "It would make me more mad" was a common answer!! Well,
perhaps it depends on what the signs say....
Now here is, in my opinion, Pavelka's
"Let's be honest--we can't
divvy up the world neatly into motorists and cyclists. Most
cyclists spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a car.
Dispassionately examine your riding styles, and if you find
yourself constantly itching to strike back in traffic, get some
OK, hold on just a minute Mr.
Pavelka! Since all 177 million drivers are at risk in terms of
falling for aggressiveness sometimes, and most of them pretty
frequently, it would be hopeless if we all had to get professional
help!! Millions of drivers and cyclists and pedestrians--millions
every day--find themselves "constantly itching to strike back in
traffic." And if not "constantly" then frequently. So we need a plan
that is available now to all these millions who want to change
themselves--that's when Dr. Driving comes into the picture,
inner power tools you use on
I thank Mr. Pavelka for his generous
article. His ending sentence is something we all need to take to
"The onus of good
citizenship rests squarely on the shoulders of anyone who uses
the road--be it on two wheels or four."
(Or 8 and 16...not to forget the
Cliff Nielsen attempted to capture
the essence of road rage as the enemy within. His full page
painting, or creation, depicts a fiendish face surrounded by a dark
halo with the words "steel belted radial." The background of the
picture is the body made of hellish scenes with fiery smoke and dark
monsters lurking about, a kind of spiritual geography of many
infernal societies or cities, all coalescing together into the shape
of this road warrior daemon. The foreground was the greenish cruel
face, whose forehead was open, laying bare the contents of the
brain: a gun. Also in the foreground, the heart, depicted as a red
bloody mountain spewing out fiery bellows and smoke.
So there you have it folks! The
Road Warrior within is not a pretty
sight. Fortunately, we also possess a Dr. Driving who is well
equipped with inner power tools to drive the daemon out, to bottle
the genie of aggressiveness, to smash the hidden traps of
retaliation, vengeance, and cynicism.
Dr. Leon James is
for Bicycling Magazine by Doug
Donaldson in 2000.
Dr. James -- I am a writer for BICYCLING
Magazine at Rodale Press in Pennsylvania. BICYCLING s the
world's largest cycling publication with about 1.8 million readers
For an upcoming feature article I am research
Road Rage as it impacts bicycle riders. It seems that more and
more cyclists are experiencing aggression and hostility from
motorists. I have come across your name several times in my
research, which has turned up plenty of information about
motorist vs. motorist confrontations, but really nothing about
motorist vs. cyclist confrontations.
I hope you can speak with me about how
Road Rage puts cyclists at risk. Why might a cyclist or a group
of cyclists light the fuse of susceptible drivers? What's the
mindset of these drivers toward the vulnerable, easy mark that
cyclists represent? What should cyclists do (or not do) to
protect themselves against aggressive incidents that could
escalate into something worse? From your understanding of Road
Rage, is it becoming riskier to be out there on a bike?
Your thoughts on these issues are very
important to this article. I'm on deadline (of course) so if you
could call me at your convenience today or Friday I would record
your comments and advice.
Here's a reader of that article who
wrote to me this note:
Date: Fri, 20 Mar 1998 21:15:43 -1000
Subject: Comments on your site
I read about your site in the May
1998 issue of Bicycling magazine and am impressed with its content.
I am a 33 year old bicycle rider and driver from Massachusetts. I
work at home and don't have to drive very often. For this I am
I, like at least one other
respondent, find many drivers to be without manners. Rudeness and
selfishness rule the road. Over my eighteen years behind the wheel I
believe both have increased alarmingly.
One factor which I believe causes
road rage and confrontations in general, is basic street design and
layout of intersections. I live and grew up in Massachusetts but
lived in the state of Washington for 5 years during my years in
college. The street layouts for the 2 states are quite different in
In WA, the majority of streets meet
at intersections at 90 degrees. Most busy stoplights have a seperate
lane and light cycle for left turns. Many of these intersections
have multiple lanes, clearly marked by signs near the signals, which
indicate left, straight or right. There are many 4 way stops,
especially through residential neighborhoods.
This is not the case in MA. Many
intersections in MA meet at angles which bring blind spots of
various car models into play, and you rarely find a separate lane
and/or light cycle for left turners. There are a high number of
intersections where it is difficult to tell which street across the
intersection is a continuation of the one you were on or if you are
actually making a turn. There are fewer 4 way stops and multi lane
intersections. Turning lanes are not clearly marked.
I n my experience I found MA drivers
to be much more rude and aggressive than the drivers of WA. One
example I have seen increasing over the last few years in MA is left
turners not yielding the right of way. This behavior is nearly
universal in MA. At most intersections which have a signal, but no
left turn light cycle, the first (and often second and third) driver
will try to beat the oncoming traffic as soon as the light turns
green. I cannot see how anyone could think they have the right of
way in this situation, but this is becoming the norm.
There are obviously other factors
which differ between the states. There is a higher population per
square mile in MA and the "East Coast" rat race effect on stress is
quite evident. These obviously contribute to aggression as well, but
I feel the road design in MA causes more confrontation and confusion
then that of WA.
I mention this factor most in
discussions about aggressive driving mainly because I feel this is
the least noticed. Two other areas I feel need improvement are
education and enforcement. Its too easy to get a license and the
police need to enforce other traffic laws besides speeding, but both
of those are discussions for another day.
Thank you for taking the time to read
my lengthy post, and again, I complement you on your site and your
A similar issue was raised by an
Date: Thu, 7 Nov 1996 10:01:29 -1000
Subject: Driving Story
Hello Dr. Driving!
My story is bicycle related. I live
in Madison, WI. So do about 100,000 bikers. I was headed to work, on
a one way street, during a SNOWSTORM. I was cut off by someone who
blew off a stop sign. That's right, someone was riding a BICYCLE IN
THE SNOWSTORM. I beeped to let them know that I was having trouble
stopping in time, sure that I was going to hit them. They flipped ME
off, cut off the driver in the next lane, who came within 2 INCHES
of hitting ME (always better to hit a car than a bike, right?). The
other driver also beeped, and got the same treatment I did. The
biker then scooted down a different street. Scariest part was HE WAS
NOT WEARING A HELMET!
I have come to the conclusion that
the major problem with traffic (re: Pedestrians, drivers, bikers) is
that no one HAS ANY MANNERS ANYMORE. Also, I am taking on a life
time project - I want bikes accountable for their actions since,
especially here in Madtown, bikes are being used more and more for
daily commuting (they are VEHICLES, TOO). I WANT THEM PLATED. They
come zooming up from behind ON THE SIDEWALK and don't bother to say
"on your left", though that is partly irrelevant as it is ILLEGAL TO
RIDE A BIKE IN A BUSINESS AREA: DOWNTOWN MADISON. The way I see it
is that I would rather be pissed at a stupid car driver. At least if
they screw up and there is an accident, you hit car first, not
Thanks for letting me vent. Keep up
the good work!
Roaming around in electronic
discussion groups gave me some idea of the magnitude of the problem
and its seriousness. Here's a selection that I found on Dr.
Driving's site. Read these over, following which you'll find my
discussion of the road rage article in Bicycling magazine.
Did you know that...
than 46,000 pedalcyclists have died in traffic crashes in the
United States since 1932 — the first year in which estimates of
pedalcyclist fatalities were recorded.
See more government
This is from:
I was “bike rage” incarnate.
You’ve been there, too; admit it. Bike rage is a common
occurrence, and quite predictable, according to road rage guru Leon
James. The University of Hawaii professor of psychology has spent
decades examining how commuting on city roads is so efficient at
producing tension, anxiety, and anger – in drivers as well as
cyclists. James’ theories should be enough to turn the most
self-righteous door-smackers among us into pavement pacifists, for
our own good.
For starters, the driving experience primes car drivers for
They are conditioned by popular culture to see cars as symbols of
freedom, yet city driving is a slow-motion trap that subjects
drivers to constant restrictions on their movement. Drivers are
thwarted from enjoying the promise of motion by traffic lights, by
congestion – and yes, by cyclists – and they suffer the natural but
impossible desire to escape and move forward. All this while being
strapped to their seats! That’s where the frustration begins. But
drivers carry with them a load of cultural baggage that gets them
even more cranked.
“The symbolic portrayal of the car has tied it to individual
freedom and self-esteem, promoting a mental attitude of
defensiveness and territoriality,” James wrote in his seminal essay,
Driving Is Stressful.” The car is an extension of self, he goes
on to explain, so drivers take threats to the integrity of their
vehicles personally. This renders the commute exhausting since the
threat of accidents, scratches, or bumps is constant. Drivers may be
encased in reinforced metal, but they never lose that sense of
This potent cocktail of physiological stress and negative
emotions – from fear and helplessness to resentment – needs only the
trigger of confrontation to be transformed into outright rage.
Road rage is nothing new. But it seems rage between cyclists and
drivers is increasingly common. Reports pepper nightly newscasts
across the continent. One shocking case erupted in Portland last
summer. After a cyclist allegedly kicked the side of his car, a
46-year-old driver then pursued him around a corner and ran him
down. The cyclist bounced onto the hood and smashed into the
windshield. The driver wasn’t finished. He struck two cars and then
another cyclist before stopping. He later told police that he was
frustrated that the cyclist wasn’t “sharing the road.”
Bike rage can be just as ugly: last November, after being cut off
by a driver just after morning rush hour in Toronto, a cyclist
caught up to the car, reached inside the window, and stabbed the
driver in the face and neck with a screwdriver.
These scenes may be horrific but they feel strangely familiar.
James insists that it is common for drivers to imagine scenes of
violence and retribution during the course of their commutes. It
makes sense for the same to be true of cyclists, whose sense of
vulnerability goes beyond the threat of scratched paint. We risk
life and limb at every encounter. Who can blame us for harbouring
Our speed and manoeuvrability enables us to lash out and retreat
– think of the classic U-lock bash-and-run. Some cyclists consider
such attacks acts of driver education. That’s how I explained it in
an email to James, anyway. He warned me to take a chill pill.
He pointed out that road confrontations usually don’t produce
anything but heightened anger – coupled with escalating retribution
– in both parties. I suppose my Pathfinder showdown proved as much.
I spent the morning quivering with adrenaline, unable to get work
done, imagining what could have been.
This kind of road rage is a symptom of the corrosive effect that
modern commuting has on urban culture. Aggressive streets are not
just dangerous, they change the way we feel and the way we treat
each other, even when we’re not commuting.
Some cyclists – myself included – bemoan the fact that so many
fools, asses, and daydreamers are operating cars in North American
cities. We personalize the problem. James, however, reminded me to
blame the road, not the drivers. On another day, that jerk driver is
a timid cyclist, and vice-versa. It’s the experience of driving that
turned my Pathfinder foe into a monster – and yes, it was the
experience of cycling surrounded by thousands of pounds of metal
that did the same to me.
What drivers need, James says, is a lifelong program of education
that would start in grade one; educating kids about human rights and
community spirit. And what about us cyclists? We need to keep in
mind that drivers are vulnerable people who happen to have a deadly
weapon at their disposal. Then we need to change the streets. “Use
political methods to gain what you want,” he counselled.
James may be an incurable driver, but I know he’s right. If I
want real change, I’ve got to ease up on the outrage and channel my
frustration into urban design activism. Call the city’s traffic
department, paint a bike lane, write a letter, vote, keep riding,
breathe, feel the sheer joy of movement in every commute. And let
that joy flow out through an open smile.
If you’re out there, Pathfinder guy, I really don’t think you are
fat. I feel your pain. And I’m sorry.
To read more of Dr. Leon James’ ideas, visit
The above is from:
Legally Speaking with Bob Mionske - Summer of rage
my last Legally Speaking column, "Bikes vs. Cars," I recounted
some of this summer’s more egregious road rage incidents between
motorists and cyclists, all of which happened in rapid-fire
succession over a period of several weeks. As I noted in
conclusion, although these stories may have seemed like “a new
kind of road rage,” as Newsweek put it, for seasoned cyclists,
the stories were more an indication that the daily violence
cyclists encounter had finally managed to capture the attention
of the public-at-large.
But more importantly, I observed that the larger questions
remained unasked, and unanswered in the media: Why are cyclists
the daily targets of road violence, and what can cyclists do to
change that reality? This week, we’re going to look for some
answers as to why these road rage incidents occurred, and next
week, we’ll continue with a discussion of how anger becomes road
rage, and strategies for changing the cycling environment for
As I observed in the last column, it would be tempting to say
it’s just the summer heat, but we know that isn’t true. For
example, recall that in "Attack of the abominable snow (plow)
man," cyclist Jeff Frings wrote in to describe his battle with
Milwaukee officialdom after a snow plow operator buzzed him on
December 15. Nevertheless, there are additional factors that
come into play in the summer, which may have made road rage —
especially road rage involving cyclists — manifest more
frequently this summer.
First, as the weather turns fair, more fair-weather cyclists
come out to ride. Add in record gas prices this summer, and even
more people than usual are dusting off the bikes hanging in
their garages, with a thought to putting less of their
hard-earned money in the gas tank. Those two factors mean that
there are more people riding bikes this summer, and thus, more
opportunities for the negative encounters we’re all aware of.
Throw in the usual alcohol consumption when the temperatures
rise, and the roads are ripe for conflict.
But why does it seem that that conflict so often directed at
cyclists? There’s no simple, single answer to that question;
it’s a complex issue. Still, there are answers to the question.
One answer is that we notice the conflict because we’re on our
bikes. If we were driving, we’d probably still notice aggression
against us, but it wouldn’t be anti-cyclist aggression; it would
just be some jerk being aggressive. But when we’re on our bikes,
the aggression directed at us becomes anti-cyclist. That’s
because, according to Social Identity theory, drivers see other
drivers as part of their “in-group,” and see cyclists as an
“out-group,” to be discriminated against.
And in order to justify that discrimination, the in-group
will catalog the negative, anti-social behavior of members of
the out-group as stereotypical behavior of the out-group; this
“stereotypical” anti-social behavior is then identified as the
reason that the out-group is discriminated against. In the case
of anti-cyclist rhetoric, this means that “scofflaw cyclists”
are presented as the reason underlying the discrimination
against all cyclists.
Of course, most, perhaps even all, motorists are also
scofflaws; no anti-cyclist motorist has ever proposed, however,
that motorists be discriminated against as a class until the
scofflaws amongst them are brought into line. This is classic
social identity behavior; the anti-social transgressions of the
out-group are viewed as “more serious” than the anti-social
transgressions of the in-group, and therefore, the
discrimination against the out-group is justified. Note,
however, that social identity theory cuts both ways — cyclists
view other cyclists as the in-group, and view the anti-social
transgressions of motorists — the out-group — as more serious,
and therefore, more deserving of societal attention.
And, given the potential for lethal outcomes when motorists
behave poorly, cyclists do have the upper hand in that argument.
The end result, however, is an endless round of excuse-making
and finger-pointing from both sides, rather than honest
introspection and dialogue aimed at resolving tensions.
Another facet of that problem — noticing the aggression
because we’re on our bikes — is that we tend to remember the
negative encounters. As with virtually everything in life, our
experiences in the road environment can be graphed as a bell
curve, with the vast majority of road encounters falling in the
middle of the curve — not overtly positive, but not overtly
negative, either. At the ends of that bell curve are the
relatively few positive encounters, where one traveler goes out
of their way to be nice to us, and the relatively few negative
encounters, in which another traveler goes out of their way to
be aggressive towards us.
Human psychology being what it is, we tend to remember the
relatively few negative encounters more than we remember the
vast majority of neutral encounters. Think about it for a moment
— you’re out on a ride, most drivers are neutral to your
presence on the road, one driver goes out of her way to
accommodate your presence on the road, and one driver goes out
of his way to be a jerk to you (yes, most aggressive drivers are
male). When your ride is over, which driver[s] do you tell other
But if, according to bell curve dynamics, most encounters
will be neutral, why does it seem that there are so many
unpleasant encounters? One reason is that as more people are
crowding onto the road, both on bikes and in cars, there are
more opportunities for negative encounters. However, not taking
any other factors into account, the overall distribution of the
curve should remain the same. It’s possible, however, that as
more people are crowding onto the roadway, the collective level
of stress rises, and that skews the distribution of the curve
towards the negative end of the curve. It’s also possible that
regional cultural differences will affect the distribution of
the curve, with regions that are more culturally accepting of
bicycles seeing more positive than negative encounters, and
regions that are not culturally accepting of bicycles seeing
more negative than positive encounters.
Another reason that aggression is directed towards cyclists
is because we’re all competing for a limited resource — space on
the road. Ecologists tell us that when two species compete for
the same limited resource, one species will always out-compete
the other species, and exclude it from the resource. We can see
something similar to this competitive exclusion principle on the
roadway, with motorists and cyclists competing for the same
limited (and shrinking) resource. Where motorists and cyclists
must compete with each other for the same space, conflict often
erupts, as the more aggressive amongst the motorists attempt to
use force to exclude us from the resource.
And as in nature, we also see attempts to share the
resource through partitioning of the resource — motorists are
allocated one part of the roadway, and cyclists are allocated
another part of the roadway. But why is the competition for a
limited resource one between cyclists and motorists, rather than
between motorists, or one against all? As any student of road
rage can tell you, it isn’t; competition for space does occur
between all users of the road. But to the extent that the
competition is between motorists and cyclists, the
in-group/out-group nature of the competition stems from both
social identity theory and something akin to the competitive
But is that really all that road rage is — in-groups and
out-groups behaving badly towards each other? No. According to
Dr. Leon James, author of "Road
Rage and Aggressive Driving," road rage is principally about
anger. What’s more, road rage is far more extensive a phenomenon
than we often realize — we all recognize the July incidents as
road rage incidents, but road rage isn’t limited to the type of
violent encounters — what Dr. James terms “epic road rage”
incidents — we read about this summer. It also includes some of
the negative types of interactions many, perhaps most of us,
have participated in, including interactions that we may not
even recognize as road rage. One thing that’s striking about Dr.
James’ research is that while he’s writing principally about
motorist-on-motorist interactions, it’s obvious to anybody
familiar with “bikes vs. cars” road rage incidents that his
observations on the various types of road rage apply equally to
cyclists as well as motorists.
What drives that anger? In his article "Bike Rage," Charles
Montgomery writes [T]he driving experience primes car drivers
for meltdowns. They are conditioned by popular culture to see
cars as symbols of freedom, yet city driving is a slow-motion
trap that subjects drivers to constant restrictions on their
movement. Drivers are thwarted from enjoying the promise of
motion by traffic lights, by congestion – and yes, by cyclists –
and they suffer the natural but impossible desire to escape and
move forward. All this while being strapped to their seats!
Tethered to their freedom machines, their escape being thwarted
at every turn, drivers daily suffer through this grueling
feeling of inescapable restriction.
And who is to blame? Everybody else who is blocking their
escape. Mostly, that means other drivers, but increasingly, it
means cyclists. You know, the out-group. Frustratingly
slow-moving, and yet paradoxically, traveling faster than any
“freedom machine” trapped in urban traffic. And worst of all,
piloted by cyclists: Smug. Self-righteous. Arrogant, even, as
they blast through red lights while everybody else waits their
turn. The only thing worse than watching one of these scofflaws
flippantly ignoring the rules everybody else is bound by is
being stuck behind one of them when — or rather, if — the road
ever opens up. Surely, drivers complain, is it any wonder that
their wrath is turned upon cyclists?
In fact, there are numerous factors influencing driver anger;
Dr. James identifies fifteen
sources of driver
• Restriction: “Being prevented from moving forward when you
expect to arouses frustration, and along with it anxiety and an
intense desire to escape the restriction. This anxiety prompts
drivers to perform risky or aggressive maneuvers to get away or
• Regulation: Regulation of driving “feels like an imposition
and arouses a rebellious streak in many, which then prompts them
to disregard whatever regulations seem wrong or inconvenient.”
• Lack of personal control: The “lack of personal control
over traffic events is frustrating and often leads to venting
anger on whoever is around.”
• Being put in danger: “Hair-raising close calls and hostile
incidents” result in “physiological stress, along with many
negative emotions — fear, resentment, rage, a sense of
helplessness, and a depressed mood.”
• Venting: Vented anger “is felt as an energizing rush. This
seductive feeling is short-lived, and is accompanied by a stream
of anger-inspiring thoughts that impair judgment and tempt us
into rash and dangerous actions.”
• Unpredictability: “Streets and highways create an
environment of drama, danger, and uncertainty.”
Dr. James is clearly discussing driver anger, it’s obvious
that these sources of anger are applicable to motorists and
cyclists alike. But anger itself isn’t road rage — it’s when the
anger is vented in one of several specific ways that it becomes
transformed into road rage. And as we saw in July, road rage
isn’t a phenomenon limited to just motorists or just cyclists —
it’s a phenomenon that is often, but not always, an encounter
between two road-ragers, who may be engaging in the same type of
road rage with each other, or who may be engaging in completely
different types of road rage with each other. Next column, we’ll
explore how anger becomes manifested as road rage, and what we
can do to transform the cycling environment from confrontational
Motorcyclists and Aggressiveness
By Shojiro Niwa
This paper presents a survey of 52 motorcyclists, who were asked complete the
flow questionnaire, the Driving Behaviour Questionnaire (DBQ) (Lawton et al,
1997), and the Aggression Questionnaire (Buss and Perry, 1992). The results show
that motorcycling can be seen as a ‘flow’ experience, which might be inspired by
speeding. Factor analysis revealed three factors; speeding and dangerous
driving, interpersonally aggressive violations and highway code violations.
There are numerous relationship between a driving behaviour of motorcyclists,
the number of active accident and their personality characteristic, aggression.
Younger riders were more aggressive than older riders, which contributes to more
dangerous driving relative to aggressive violations on the road.
The US Department of Transportation has awarded the TEA-21
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Grant (Section 1212 (o)) to
the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research
Center (HSRC). The Chapel Hill-based HSRC has established a
team of subcontractors and consultants, including the
Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, to work
cooperatively with the various agencies of the USDOT,
bicycle and pedestrian coordinators, the advocacy community
and others to provide a broad range of technical assistance
resources (publications, fact sheets, training courses web
site etc.), and a clearinghouse. The contract started on
June 1 and products (e.g. a toll-free phone number, web site
etc.) are expected to be announced at the annual meeting of
State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinators, September 15-16
in Madison, Wisconsin.
original NHTSA newsletter here
My story is bicycle related.
I live in Madison, WI. So do about 100,000 bikers. I was headed
to work, on a one way street, during a SNOWSTORM. I was cut off
by someone who blew off a stop sign. That's right, someone was
riding a BICYCLE IN THE SNOWSTORM. I beeped to let them know
that I was having trouble stopping in time, sure that I was
going to hit them. They flipped ME off, cut off the driver in
the next lane, who came within 2 INCHES of hitting ME (always
better to hit a car than a bike, right?). The other driver also
beeped, and got the same treatment I did. The biker then scooted
down a different street. Scariest part was HE WAS NOT WEARING A
I have come to the
conclusion that the major problem with traffic (re: Pedestrians,
drivers, bikers) is that no one HAS ANY MANNERS ANYMORE.
Also, I am taking on a
life time project - I want bikes accountable for their actions
since, especially here in Madtown, bikes are being used more and
more for daily commuting (they are VEHICLES, TOO). I WANT THEM
PLATED. They come zooming up from behind ON THE SIDEWALK and
don't bother to say "on your left", though that is partly
irrelevant as it is ILLEGAL TO RIDE A BIKE IN A BUSINESS AREA:
The way I see it is that I
would rather be pissed at a stupid car driver. At least if they
screw up and there is an accident, you hit car first, not stupid
Thanks for letting me
vent. Keep up the good work!
those of you that are throwing pebbles, marbles and other stuff back at drivers are making
a big mistake, IMHO. They may not catch up to you, but their rage toward motorcyclists in
general may cause some innocent person to be hurt or killed at some future date. Just
ignore them and hopefully they will go away. When I am riding my motorcycle I like to
think of myself as an ambassador for motorcycling in general. And that's one reason why I
do not plan to replace my stock muffler with an after-market muffler.
found it here
My Journey Back to Life
It is such an all-American story. A lanky kid from Plano, Texas, is raised by a feisty,
single parent who sacrifices for her son, who becomes one of our country's greatest
athletes. Given that background, it is understandable why Armstrong was able to channel
his boundless energy toward athletic endeavors. By his senior year in high school, he was
already a professional triathlete and was training with the U.S. Olympic cycling
developmental team. In 1993, Armstrong secured a position in the... read more
The Race of His Life
by Kristin Armstrong, Ken Call (Illustrator)
A truly inspirational story of Lance Armstrong, the 1999 and 2000 Tour de France
champion from Austin, Texas who overcame cancer to become the number one cyclist in the
world! The book follows his athletic career from childhood success at triathlons to the
Tour de France.
Build the Strength, Skills, and Confidence to Ride As Far As You Want
by Ed Burke, Ed
Pavelka, Edmund R., Ph.D. Burke
A renowned expert on bicycling training joins a celebrated cycling writer to create the
first book devoted to long-distance cycling The century, or 100 mile bike race, is the
most popular distance even with thousands of these races occurring in the country each
year. And to date, nothing this extensive or practical has ever been published on cycling
events from 30 to 3,000 miles. It includes the latest in cycling technology, bikes,
clothing, accessories, components and shoes on the market for long-distance cycling.
Road Rage in Japan
Driver admits killing of window-tapping cyclist
Police in Japan have arrested a delivery driver who they say has admitted to knocking down
and killing a cyclist because he kept tapping on his window.
Makoto Tsujianai, a university professor in Tokyo, is believed to have been cycling to
work in heavy traffic when he was mown down.
The suspect told police that each time he stopped his car, the academic rode by and tapped
on his window before cycling off again.
He told officers that he eventually lost his temper with Mr Tsujianai and had no option
but to hurt him, reports the Mainichi Daily News.
By Shojiro Niwa
This paper presents a survey of 52
motorcyclists, who were asked complete the flow questionnaire, the Driving Behaviour
Questionnaire (DBQ) (Lawton et al, 1997), and the Aggression Questionnaire (Buss and
Perry, 1992). The results show that motorcycling can be seen as a flow
experience, which might be inspired by speeding. Factor analysis revealed three factors;
speeding and dangerous driving, interpersonally aggressive violations and highway code
violations. There are numerous relationship between a driving behaviour of motorcyclists,
the number of active accident and their personality characteristic, aggression. Younger
riders were more aggressive than older riders, which contributes to more dangerous driving
relative to aggressive violations on the road.
Table 1 shows that percentage of respondents who either agreed or strongly agreed for
each items (see appendices) that motorcycling had. In terms of the balance between skill
and challenge, motorcyclists preferred an equal relationship between skill and demand
(81%), followed by a relationship between higher demand and lower skill (51%).
A relationship between lower demand and higher skill (46%) is the least preference.
The results of the present study have shown that motorcycling can be explained as
pleasure as 96% of the subjects stated. The study tried to find out motorcycling as a
flow experience in terms of 8 dimensions. The most important characteristics
of flow experience (the equal relationship between skill and demand, and
intrinsically rewarding experience) were confirmed by over 80% of the subjects. For the
most characteristics in various conditions, over 50% of the motorcyclists confirmed the
statement of flow experience, however, one of the unique characteristics for
flow experience, lack of self-consciousness, could not be confirmed. This
might be an indication that motorcyclists need to keep self-consciousness to enjoy
motorcycling. 64% of the subjects answered that they pursued speed in
motorcycling. This factor should be taken into account for additional dimension of
flow experience in motorcycling. If speed factor were not
important, majority of the subjects (80%) would not have racer or sport type motorcycles.
The results of the Driving Behaviour Questionnaire have revealed that, as expected,
speeding on the motorway or country road is the most common violation among motorcyclists.
In addition, 64% of the motorcyclists stated that they pursued speed as fast
as they could go. Five of the top six violations were categorised as speeding and
aggressive driving behaviour.
- Chesham, D.J., Rutter, D.R., and Quine, L. (1993). Motorcycling safety research-A review
of the social and behavioural literature. Social science & Medicine, 37, 3, 419-429.
- Clarke, J.A., and Langley, J.D. (1995). Disablement resulting from motorcycle crashes.
Disability and Rehabilitation, 17, 7, 377-385.
- Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Beyond Boredom and Anxiety. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
- Colburn, N., Meyer, R.D., Wrigley, M., and Bradley, E.L. (1993). Should motorcycles be
operated within the legal alcohol limit as automobiles? Journal of trauma-injury infection
and critical care, 35, 2, 183-186.
- Jackson, C., and Wilson, G.D. (1993). Notes and shorter communication: Mad, bad or sad?
The personality of bikers. Personality and Individual difference, 14, 1, 243- 245.
- Mannering, F.L., and Grodsky, L.L. (1995). Statistical analysis of motorcyclists
perceived accident risk. Accident analysis and prevention, 27, 1, 21-31.
- Preusser, D.F., Williams, A.F., and Ulmer, R.G. (1995). Analysis of fatal motorcycle
crashes: Crashing typing. Accident analysis and prevention, 27, 6, 845-851.
- Robertson, S.A., and Minter, A. (1996). A study of some anthropometric characteristics
of motorcycle riders. Applied Ergonomics, 27, 4, 223-229.
- Rothe, J., and Cooper, P. (1987). Motorcyclists: Image and reality. Vancouver: Insurance
Corporation of British Columbia.
The following statements concern your ways of acting in different situations. Please
express your agreement or disagreement with the following statements.
1 - Strongly disagree 2 - disagree 3 - Neither agree or disagree 4 - Agree 5 - Strongly
1. I feel enjoyment when I ride on the motor in a traffic jam.
1 2 3 4 5
2. I feel enjoyment when I ride on the motor on the road, where the demands are above
1 2 3 4 5
see entire paper here
The first automobile crash in the United States occurred in New York City in 1896, when
a motor vehicle collided with a pedalcycle rider (Famous First Facts, by Joseph Kane).
More than 46,000 pedalcyclists have died in traffic crashes in the United States since
1932 the first year in which estimates of pedalcyclist fatalities were recorded.
The 350 pedalcyclists killed in 1932 accounted for 1.3 percent of the 27,979 persons
who died in traffic crashes that year. In 1999, 750 pedalcyclists were killed and an
additional 51,000 were injured in traffic crashes.
Pedalcyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities, and
pedalcyclists made up 2 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes during the
The number of pedalcyclist fatalities in 1999 was 10 percent lower than the 832
fatalities reported in 1989. The highest number of pedalcyclist fatalities ever recorded
in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) was 1,003 in 1975.
In 1989, the average age of pedalcyclists killed in traffic crashes was 24.4 years; in
1999 the average age of those killed was 32.4 years, and the average age of those injured
was 23.5 years.
Pedalcyclists accounted for 13 percent of all nonmotorist traffic fatalities in 1999.
Pedestrians accounted for 85 percent, and the remaining 3 percent were skateboard riders,
roller skaters, etc. The 750 pedalcyclist deaths in 1999 accounted for 2 percent of
all traffic fatalities during the year.
Figure 1. Trends in Pedalcyclist and Total Traffic Fatalities, 1989-1999
In 1999, 2,472 motorcyclists were killed and an additional 50,000 were injured in
traffic crashes in the United States 8 percent more than the 2,294 motorcyclist
fatalities and 2 percent more than the 49,000 motorcyclist injuries reported in 1998.
More than 100,000 motorcyclists have died in traffic crashes since the enactment of the
Highway Safety and National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.
Table 1. Motorcyclist Fatalities and Injuries and Fatality and Injury Rates, 1989-1999
Subject: A Topic for Psychology
For the last few years I have been fascinated with what has now been coined "road
rage." I am a bicyclists and without knowing am probably the focus of many a rageful
driver. I am very interested in the personality differences acquired when a person goes
inside of a car. They change, they aren't as responsible for their actions. I begin to
wonder if it isn't something to be investigated by both phsychologists and sociologists.
Please keep me informed of any new information on this topic. I work for a university
Pennsylvania Man Kills Dirt Biker Over Noise
Post-Gazette reports that John Bereznak of Beaverdale, Pennsylvania on Saturday shot and
killed a young dirt biker who was biking on the mounds of coal from an abandoned strip
mine about 200 yards from Bereznak's house. Bereznak had complained about noise from the
dirt bikers for several years, and once had thrown a shovel at a dirt biker while ranting
about noise. He also was suspected by the town's dirt bikers of installing tar paper
seeded with nails around the abandoned mine area. Bereznak later killed himself.
The article reports that the shooting occurred at the old No. 4 Logan Co. Mine, which
has been abandoned for about 40 years and is now owned by Cooney Brothers Inc. The company
owns thousands of acres of mines in the area. For about five years, the article says, dirt
bikers have used the irregular mounds of coal at the mine for dirt bike tracks and jumps.
According to the article, Bereznak was a 70-year-old retired miner. On Saturday shortly
after 4 p.m., Bereznak took his .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol from his Jefferson
Avenue home to confront the dirt bikers. There were seven teen-agers at the abandoned
mine, the article says, six of whom later told police that Bereznak watched the bikers
silently for a few minutes before walking towards them. Robert Custer, age 17, was sitting
on his dirt bike about to ride up a mound of coal the teens call "KTM" after the
make of the first dirt bike that made it to the top, the article reports. Bereznak stopped
about eight feet from Custer, pulled out his gun from behind his shirt, and fired at
Custer's chest. After the teen fell, Bereznak fired two more shots at the biker. He then
returned to his home and shot himself.
The article reports that people in this village of 1,000 residents still were numb
yesterday from the violence of the previous day. Custer's family and two teens who
witnessed the shooting would not comment, the article says.
According to Paul Bonfanti, police chief in Summerhill, which includes Beaverdale,
"I guess he [Bereznak] just flipped." Bonfanti said that Bereznak and a few
other residents who lived near the mine had complained occasionally about the noise from
the bikes. A few years ago, after receiving several complaints, a police officer cited a
dirt biker for disorderly conduct, but the citation was tossed out by a district justice
when the residents who had complained refused to testify. Subsequently, the teen's parents
sued the township and won. Since then there haven't been any more citations issued,
Bonfanti said, and police tend to ignore the dirt bikers.
A rage for every taste
You can forget road rage. Road rage is for amateurs. When people swerve in front of me
at roundabouts or race away at traffic lights, I merely give an aloof but withering
glance, which they never see because their eyes are peering towards that distant horizon
which they plan to reach at least three seconds before I do. Anyone who is prepared to
risk their life, or even their wing mirror, to achieve that goal deserves our pity rather
than our rage.
But I do suffer from other kinds of rage. I get a serious attack of pavement rage
whenever I encounter a cyclist, helmet thrust forward, charging down the pavement at
ramming speed, scattering schoolchil-dren and little old ladies. Cyclists are always
telling us how non-polluting and healthful is their chosen mode of transport. So why do
they willingly risk maiming the rest of us?
Pavement rage also occurs when I'm walking the children to school along a road where
the traffic moves very slowly. Some people, usually young men, like to wind down the
window, crank up the music and send heavy metal reverberating at a volume which would make
even Liam Gallagher murmur: "I say, old man, steady on!" In my ideal fantasy
world, I'd approach the offending car, reach inside my jacket and pull out a magnet so
powerful that the music on the tape would be permanently erased.
Even the most humdrum activities can increase the potential for rage. I was waiting to
buy a railway ticket in the traditional queue of around 20 people, idly wondering whether
they would all be served before my train left, and why 50 per cent of customers ask,
"Can you tell me what platform it is?" so the clerk has to look it up, even
though the electric destination indicators above the concourse list everything they could
possibly need to know. Suddenly a woman with a bossy upper-class voice swept past us all,
announcing, "Do you mind? I have a train to catch!"
There are an awful lot of thoughtless people about. On a train I once boldly asked some
young neanderthal to take his muddy boots off the seat in front. He didn't demur, but gave
me a long and mystified look. For what purpose, you could almost see him wonder, would the
railway company have put a padded bench there except as a footrest?
Smokers can be another source of rage. Before I quit smoking, I promised myself I'd
never become an anti-smoking bore. If anyone wants to light up in our house, we don't
complainwe bring them matches, ashtrays, roller machines...But that doesn't mean I'm
happy sharing my anniversary dinner in a fancy restaurant with people who think it's fine
to puff away and let the smoke drift over the food which the chef has spent hours cooking
(and I'll have to spend hours working to pay for).
Yes, the reasons for rage are everywhere. You just have to know where to look.
Date: 10 Sep 1997 15:53:57 -0700
Newsgroups: misc.activism.progressive, misc.transport.urban-transit, rec.bicycles.soc,
alt.activism, ba.transportation, ba.bicycles
Subject: ACTION: "Free The Bay Bridge Six" Flyer
Free The Bay Bridge Six!
CYCLISTS ARRESTED ON THE BAY BRIDGE
REPOST TO ALL LISTS
6 cyclists were arrested at 10AM this morning on the Bay Bridge. What would normally be a
citation for a misdemeanor traffic infraction has now been trumped up to FELONY CONSPIRACY
CHARGES for blocking traffic. They were actually moving for the entire ride across the
bridge. Bail for all 6 cyclists is many thousands of dollars.
Cyclists are being singled out and persecuted for their political beliefs for what are
in actuality legal actions, or minor vehicle code violations.
Please help these cyclists now. We need every phone call, fax, and email possible as
soon as you can help.
1. Call the following and complain about the illegal arrest of the cyclists, the bogus
charges against them, and the harassment of ALL cyclists in San Francisco following July
25th's Critical Mass ride.
CALL NOW!!! (numbers given here)
Thanks for your help.
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 00:17:34 GMT
Newsgroups: misc.transport.urban-transit, rec.bicycles.soc, ba.transportation, ba.bicycles
Subject: Re: ACTION: "Free The Bay Bridge Six" Flyer
Free The Bay Bridge Six!
How is riding a bike on the freeway, which is illegal according to the California Vehicle
Code, a "legal action"?
When it comes right down to it, these 6 cyclists broke the law, and by doing it en
masse, they conspired to break the law (maybe not to block traffic, but they were
practicing civil disobedience, which is by definition against the law).
Please help these cyclists now. We need every phone call, fax,
and email possible as soon as you can help.
1. Call the following and complain about the illegal arrest of
the cyclists, the bogus charges against them, and the harassment
of ALL cyclists in San Francisco following July 25th's Critical
I haven't been harrassed since the July Critical Mass. Yes, we should support the cyclists
who were arrested ... but, their arrest isn't illegal, the charges are not completely
bogus, and harassment is not as widespread as you would make it seem.
2. Support your fellow cyclists by meeting at 6:00 PM, Justin
Herman Plaza, San Francisco, for a legal, law abiding ride to
the Hall of (In) Justice, 850 Bryant Street, San Francisco
TONIGHT 9/10/97 in support of the Bay Bridge cyclists who have
been unfairly charged, and to protest the harassment of cyclists
by the CHP and the San Francisco Police Department. Call your
friends and encourage them to come.
Oh please ... if anything, this needs to go to and be fought out in court. Trying to
get the charges dropped won't change anything. Turning it into a court case, that can be
appealed and appealed and appealed is the way to get change.
The riders who conspired to cross the bridge shouldn't have done so unless they were
willing to face any charges that might be brought against them. You've got to be willing
to do jail time if you're going to commit an act of civil disobedience. Henry David
Thoreau knew this. Mohatma Gandhi knew this. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this. Nelson
Mandela knew this. Rosa Parks knew this.
Of course we need access to the Bay Bridge, and hopefully this case will bring enough
attention to the cause so that our needs are addressed in the
redesigned/retrofitted/rebuilt Bay Bridge.
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 19:30:31 GMT
Newsgroups: misc.transport.urban-transit, rec.bicycles.soc, ba.transportation, ba.bicycles
Subject: Re: ACTION: "Free The Bay Bridge Six" Flyer
I haven't been harrassed since the July Critical Mass. Yes, we should
support the cyclists who were arrested ... but, their arrest isn't illegal,
the charges are not completely bogus, and harassment is not as widespread
as you would make it seem.
If the cyclists were going at the same speed as, or faster than,
automobile traffic on the bridge, then they cannot possibly be
Actually, IMO, if they were travelling (on a road where bicycles were otherwise allowed)
at a speed slower than that of the rest of traffic, and if there is more than one lane in
the direction of travel, then they are not blocking traffic, but are traffic.
The problem here is, that they are NOT considered traffic because under the law, they
are not permitted there in the first place.
Cyclists should be *encouraged* to use the Bay Bridge, until such time as the BART
strike is over.
And that IS legally possible... but not without the proper legal actions occuring
first. A quick grep of an old copy of the CVC brings up one section bearing relevance. I
do believe there are further sections of relevance in the Streets and Highways code.
=23330. Except where a special permit has been obtained from the
=Department of Transportation under the provisions of Article 6
=(commencing with Section 35780) of Chapter 5 of Division 15, none of
=the following shall be permitted on any vehicular crossing:
= (a) Animals while being led or driven, even though tethered or
= (b) Bicycles or motorized bicycles, unless the department by signs
=indicates that either bicycles or motorized bicycles, or both, are
=permitted upon all or any portion of the vehicular crossing.
= (c) Vehicles having a total width of vehicle or load exceeding 102
= (d) Vehicles carrying items prohibited by regulations promulgated
=by the Department of Transportation.
The relevant portion being:
(b) Bicycles or motorized bicycles, unless the department by signs indicates that
either bicycles or motorized bicycles, or both, are permitted upon all or any portion of
the vehicular crossing.
(Unless one wants to try for an individual permit mentioned in the main part of this
section, and detailed in section 35780.)
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 13:32:04 -0700
Newsgroups: misc.transport.urban-transit, rec.bicycles.soc, ba.transportation, ba.bicycles
Subject: Re: ACTION: "Free The Bay Bridge Six" Flyer
Cyclists should be *encouraged* to use the Bay Bridge, until such time as the BART
strike is over.
Cyclists should stay off the freeway -- pedestrians should stay off the freeway. This
is dangerous, however fast it's going. Do the cyclists really think biking on the freeway
nonsense is getting them any sympathy? It's just irresponsible.
Date: 12 Sep 1997 05:15:05 GMT
Newsgroups: misc.transport.urban-transit, rec.bicycles.soc, ba.transportation, ba.bicycles
Subject: Re: ACTION: "Free The Bay Bridge Six" Flyer
CVC 21960 states that bicyclists can only be prohibited from a freeway, or portion
thereof, by order, ordinance, or resolution for that particular freeway. For the
prohibition to be effective there must appropriate signs on the freeway and the approaches
Bicyclists are allowed on all freeways in California except where appropriate signs
The fact that the highway department in California has a policy to prohibit bicyclists
from all freeways unless there is no alternate route is another matter. It certainly has
NO basis in law or safety considerations.
CVC 23330 prohibits bicyclists from vehicular crossings unless they are signed to
Perhaps you sould be more careful in your research next time.
A worse problem is law enforcement
personnel who don't know the law and refuse to learn
Today in the Chicago Tribune, I saw a newspaper article about a planned bicycle ride in
downtown San Francisco organised by "Critical Mass", a group of bicyclists who
deliberately snarl traffic.
What these people do is they ride bicycles en masse during rush hour and the goal is
"create frustration for motorists and give them a taste of what cyclists say they
expierence every day".
What the bicyclists are complaining about is how they have to compete with cars for the
use of the road, and the dangers they face. Now, here's a question I have to ask: If it's
so bloody dangerous, why do they still ride bicycles? Some cyclists have scars from their
lost encounters with cars. Well, if the buggers weren't in the street with such flimsy
bikes, maybe they wouldn't get hurt! Can it be that these idiota are showing the
"logic" so many conservatives describe liberals as having? Common sense dictates
that if something is too dangerous, you don't do it!!!! (Sounds like "personal
What this boils down to is that bicyclists know BLOODY (more ways than one!) well thet
the odds don't favour them. Yet, they keep the riding up. It's like the case of a skydiver
who, after surviving a fall where the chute didn't open complaining about losing an
argument with the planet... and getting in a plane to jump again.
If these people can't afford to drive - a legitimate reason - then they should take the
Bus. That's what public transport is for. Does anyone moan and whigne when they are
driving and lose an argument with a truck? No. Trucks are bigger. It's a fact of life.
Cars are bigger than a flimsy bicycle. Deal with it or get off the street. If I had it my
way, the bicycle would be outlawed on busy streets in the first place. Bicycles have no
place on a street with 2-tonne vehicles going 30 MPH or faster.
If these "critical mass" idiots ever drop their bicycle in front of my car,
I'll get out and throw the piece od shit onto the sidewalk where it belongs.
If you grep up "critical mass" and "bicyclists" and read
rec.bicycles.*, you'll discover discussions of violence toward drivers. For example, some
of these cretins advocate carrying spray paint to use on the windshields to ruin the
driver's ability to see where he's going! Others advocate packing heat.
What we need are "fighter cars" to deal with these cretins. How about new
options for 1998? How about "Ben Hur" hub caps, a PA microphone, dual "Red
Baron" machine guns, and heat-seeking missiles? Don't forget the SuperJoltTM outside
door handles to shock the shit out of skitching bicycle messengers? Don't forget the
bulletproof glass and Kevlar lining in the doors.
The National Bicycling and Walking Study report discusses numerous benefits that can
result from increasing bicycling and walking in our society in place of motorized
transportation. Such benefits include improved personal health and fitness, a cleaner
environment from reduced auto emissions, reduced congestion, reduced dependence on foreign
oil, and many others. However, U.S. society has primarily focused on providing roadways to
accommodate more and faster motor vehicle traffic, and many improvements are needed for
bicyclists and pedestrians.
In an increasingly congested county that is a magnet for bicycle enthusiasts and
promotes bikes as an alternative mode of transportation, most agree there needs to be a
dialogue on safety.
While police statistics would suggest that Marin County has become a slightly safer
place for cyclists over the past five years, bicyclists nevertheless are concerned.
Joe Louis of Mill Valley has been riding for 15 years in Marin. He senses there is a
new, dangerous climate on the streets and roads in Marin.
Statistics can tell you only so much; there is road rage out there, he
said. There is a lot of hostility, more than ever. Drivers think that the road is
only for them and they are annoyed when we are driving. They are driving lethal
original article here
From: Judy DeMocker <email@example.com>
To: Leon James <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: San Francisco Examiner
So any theories on why bicyclists get targeted for hostile or aggressive behavior more
than, say, pedestrians do? As a cyclist, I've been honked at, cut off, threatened verbally
and physically, with apparently no regard to the fact that I'm *human* or that I have
equal rights and protection under the law to share the roads. At least the public
recognizes that pedestrians are blameless--there's no excuse for hitting one. It's a
subtly different story for a bicyclist, especially if you're talking to SF cops.
For motorists, what happens in them that they cannot recognize their bad behavior or
the consequences of it? Clearly some cognitive functions are being suspended, and for
quite some time. Apparently the driver of the semi truck was entirely unremorseful that he
ran Chris over and killed him, and was still challenging people to a fight.
And, what are the triggers for this sort of rage? You say it's learned behavior from
childhood-- What activates it? And it's hard to believe that it's not redirected rage, or
that the source of it is monkey see, monkey do. Is road rage just a socially sanctioned
way of dumping repressed emotions?
Date: Tue, 5 Dec 2000 09:32:58 -1000
From: Leon James <email@example.com>
To: Judy DeMocker firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: more answers for you
Regarding motorists vs. bicyclists. We discuss this opposition in our book. What's
amazing is that this opposition is purely role bound rather than person bound since the
majority of cyclists who are victims of drivers' aggressiveness are themselves regular
drivers when they drive, that is, pretty hostile and aggressive against cyclists. We have
no statistics on this unfortunately, but you can take it as our prediction if such data
There is here a role conflict between how we act and feel when driving a car and how we
act and feel when riding a bicycle.
Our analysis of the behavior of drivers and bicycle riders shows that (a) they are the
same people (at different times), and (b) they are naturally aggressive in both roles.
What, you say, aggressive bicyclists? Yes, we say, if you define aggressive in the sense
that we think it's important, which is that being aggressive on public roads is to impose
on others your own level of preferred risk or danger. For instance, the driver who side
swipes a bicyclist is being aggressive by deliberately exposing the cyclist to additional
danger and annoyance. Similarly, that same aggressive driver a few hours later will ride
the bike and act aggressively against drivers. How? Just observe them and you'll see. They
don't act as if they're aware of the driver's needs, perhaps impatience and emotional
disturbance. Some do, but many don't. Some do sometimes, but not at other times. Etc.
All of this goes back to childhood, as we said, both for how culture teaches us to
drive or to ride a bicycle. The warfare going on between motorists and cyclists is set up
for us by society. For example there are citizen groups that oppose each other across
driver-cyclist role conflicts (like your famous Critical Mass movement that spread across
the world--see our site for bicycling issues-- http://DrDriving.org/bicycling.html
> For motorists, what happens in them that they cannot recognize their bad
> behavior or the consequences of it? Clearly some cognitive functions are
> being suspended, and for quite some time. Apparently the driver of the semi
> truck was entirely unremorseful that he ran Chris over and killed him, and
> was still challenging people to a fight.
This is a process we call "cognitive dissonance" in our field of social
psychology. In order to defend and protect his own self-esteem, the perpetrator has to
inhibit feelings of remorse and instead, reinforces the self-serving explanations about
how he is not to blame for what happened. So denying guilt or remorse for these horrendous
actions are ways our culture teaches us to protect ourselves from excessive guilt and
anxiety. But we must point out that our culture also teaches us the opposite, namely that
we should feel remorse and guilt and that we should repent and apologize and try to make
restitutions, and above all, try to prevent it from happening again.
And in this respect our book is a kind of a call to consciousness for our society, just
as it happened to us as a couple, being recovered road ragers ourselves (though in
different ways for Leon and Diane--see our book). And so it's important for all of us 177
million licensed US drivers to monitor our thoughts and emotions behind the wheel, or as
bicyclicle riders, and as pedestrians and passengers. We are the same people who use the
public roads, alternating roles.
One way to go as a society is to keep increasing and strengthening the warfare,
politically and phyisically, meanwhile pretending that we are not the same people (our
book also deals with traffic calming, and how it sets up warfare situations--literally,
with pedestrians barricading the streets!). But another way is to heed the wake up call
and let's all start self-witnessing ourselves as road users--What our thoughts and
emotions are , and do we approve, or should we start reconditioning ourselves and become
supportive drivers, supportive bicyclists, supportive pedestrians?
It's not easy, but it can be done, and by doing it we strengthen community and society,
and mutually make our lives better. Our book goes into the exercises we can all do, day by
day, like keeping a Road Diary about what makes us mad or how we think of others, whether
cruelly or with compassion, and how we act. For instance, Diane often has to tell Leon,
Fix your face! Drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists need to remember that their face is a
signboard on which they communicate frienship or hostility. The way we drive is
contagious--and also the way we ride a bicycle, or walk across the street, or wait in a
bank line. We can act like we ignore people, or we can act like we despise them, or we can
act like we respect and like them. We do this with our facial expression, our body
movements, our accommodating acts, or else by our facial hostility and oppositional acts
(like closing the gap so the car can't enter your lane, or following a bicyclist too
close, or approaching pedestrians too fast, or slowing down in the pedestrian lane when
walking, ignoring the waiting driver).
> And, what are the triggers for this sort of rage? You say it's learned
> behavior from childhood-- What activates it? And it's hard to believe that
> it's not redirected rage, or that the source of it is monkey see, monkey
> do. Is road rage just a socially sanctioned way of dumping repressed emotions?
Yes. When we visited Florida some time ago we witnessed shopping cart rage--people
ramming each other when they felt their way was blocked due to inattention or lack of
consideration. People sue each other all the time. Neighbors kill each other or do other
mischief to each other. Workplace rage has become a huge problem. So it's the age of rage
for sure. We think this offers a tremendous opportunity to unite as a community by
overcoming these culturally transmitted divisive methods of relating. Each of us must
decide whether we want to act with civility or with scowls.
Leon James and Diane Nahl
This article quotes Leon James
When good drivers go bad
For bicyclists and pedestrians, hitting the road
can be a deadly experience
By Judy DeMocker
Special to the _Examiner_
On the night of Nov. 17, Christopher Robertson was riding his bicycle on 4th Street in the
South of Market area of San Francisco. He was riding with 15 friends in a funeral
procession for bike messener Joseph Woods, who was shot and killed in his Mission Street
apartment earlier in Novermber. According to the traditions of S.F. bicycle messenger
commuity, when a messenger dies, his fellows take the bike on a ceremonial ride to Mission
Rock and throw it in San Francisco Bay. That night, however, Chris Robertson never made it
to the water's edge.
According to eyewitness Ron Salkin, it all happened very quickly.
A tractor-trailer came up behind the procession. Enraged that the group was occupying the
lane, Salkin said, the driver began weaving from one side of the road to the other,
blowing his horn repeatedly. Then the driver pulled alongside the group, shouting at them.
He threw a wooden block at the cyclists, trying to hit them. He swerved into the group,
crushing Chris under the right front wheel of his rig, Salkin said. Robertson died.
``You didn't even have to turn around; you could feel that this guy was going off --
laying on his horn, gunning his engine,'' said Salkin, who works as a bicycle messenger at
the Black Dog Delivery Service. ``If he had been trying to get around us, I presume he
would have sped up. There was no oncoming traffic. He could easily have passed us.''
The truck driver was traveling to Casey's Office Moving and Services Inc., two blocks from
the scene of the accident. So far no charges have been filed against the truck driver, who
was released on $15,000 bail. The District Attorney's office is investigating the incident
and plans to announce the results of its findings in the next week or two, according to
Fred Gardner, public information officer for the D.A.'s office. Gardner declined to
comment on how the investigation was going, or what charges the DA's office is
The death of Robertson has sparked widespread concern in the city, from bicycle activists,
Department of Parkng and Traffic officials, and the mayor's office. And it's brought to
the fore public safety issues for bicyclists and pedestrians alike: mainly, that they're
tired of being on the losing end of the battle for San Francisco's streets. At a rally
last week at the Hall of Justice building, bicycle commuters, activists, and messengers
aired their complaints about careless drivers and an unsympathetic police force.
``I'm sick and tired of getting harassed by motorists, and feeling like I'm not allowed to
be on the streets. Drivers don't understand that bicyclists have the same rights as cars
to use the roads,'' said Ginger Williamson, a bicycle commuter who was also a friend of
Robertson's. ``I'm tired of having drivers cut in front of me, shake their fists at me,
honk at me, when I'm not doing anything wrong.''
Others voiced complaints of being harassed by police and threatened with citations, even
when they were following rules of safe riding set out in the California Drivers' Handbook.
According to that pamphlet, bicyclists may occupy the lane, they may move into the road to
avoid debris or to make a left-hand turn.
``I got pulled over by a police car that told me I was weaving from lane to lane. I
wasn't. Then they told me that 70 to 80 percent of the time, injury accidents are the
bicyclist's fault.'' said another speaker at Friday's rally. ``So basically they're
blaming bicyclists for what is happening to them on the streets.''
Playing the who's to blame game
Too often, activist groups claim, the police do not take bicycle injuries and fatalities
seriously. There is only one case on the books this year in which a driver was charged
with a crime, attempted murder. That case was a Nov. 4 incident in which a motorist forced
a cyclist into a parked car on Mission Street, seriously injuring her.
``We're aware of the problem,'' said Lt. Lawrence Minasian of the S.F. Police Department.
``It's especially bad in the South of Market area.''
Criminal charges are hard to bring against automobile drivers, however, because proving
intent is much more difficult than when a gun or knife is used as a deadly weapon.
``It's very hard to establish intent in these cases. One person's going to say, `he did it
on purpose,' and the other's going to say, `no I didn't,''' said Inspector Mike Mahoney of
the Hit and Run Division of the San Francisco Police Department. ``Unless you can somehow
show that some sort of altercation happened beforehand, or that there was a relationship
between the people involved, it's very difficult to prove intent. People don't usually get
in their cars and say, `I'm going to go run someone down today.'''
But some members of the police force have already made up their minds as to who was at
fault on the night of Nov. 17, weeks before the investigation was completed.
``Do you mean the case where the bicyclist swerved in front of the truck and got run
over?'' said Sgt. Bosch, also of the Hit and Run division. ``What about the road rage of
bicycle drivers? I can't tell you how many cases I've seen of pedestrians getting knocked
down by bicyclists, and the number of broken hips when they hit the ground. The problem is
there's no licensing of management of particularly bicycle messengers.''
According to the Hit and Run Division database, which tracks pedestrian fatalities and
criminal cases involving traffic accidents, there has been only one case reported this
year of a cyclist hitting a pedestrian.
This `Blame the Victim' attitude is often heard in the police department. According to one
officer at the Hall of Justice rally, it is bicyclists, not drivers, who cause accidents
on city streets. Bike messengers in particular don't have much credibility with police,
since they are often seen as riding aggressively and flaunting traffic rules. ``Bike
messengers, with the way they conduct themselves, not obeying traffic lights and pulling
out in front of people, are causing a lot of accidents,'' said Minasian. ``There's another
side to this story.''
It's true that cyclists, like pedestrians, sometimes cause the accident that injures them.
More often, though, it's the driver's mistake that leaves a bicyclist or pedestrian lying
on the pavement. According to statistics kept by the California Highway Patrol over the
last five years, automobile drivers were at fault an average of 55 percent of the time in
injury accidents involving a bicycle.
The police department's blame-the-biker attitude has bicycle activists seeing red. By
stigmatizing the community of bicycle messengers, police are overlooking the estimated
25,000 peole who ride their bicycles to work each year, and the even greater number of
cycling enthusiasts who ride on evenings and weekends for pleasure. The entire spectrum of
the city's bicyclists is getting shortchanged, according to one bicycle advocate.
``We have encountered that attitude, and it's more than an attitude. It's prejudice. And
it affects the quality of the police work,'' said Dave Snyder, executive director of the
S.F. Bicycle Coalition. ``Whenever they get into a situation where they didn't see what
happened, police officers assume the bicycle rider was at fault.''
Bicycle Coalition frustrated
Snyder said that police are not following their own procedures for deaing with traffic
collisions. The Bicycle Coalition has dozens of cases on file in which police refused to
file accident reports. Without those reports, injury accidents do not get entered in the
police database and cannot be investigated by the District Attorney's office.
``I'm frustrated with it, really frustrated, and I don't have much hope of it getting any
better,'' Snyder said. ``How can we work on making bicycling safer, if three out of four
times a motorist hits a bicyclist, it doesn't get entered into the public record?''
The good news is that bicycling in the city is safer now than ever before, according to
Snyder. Bicyclist fatalities are fairly rare: two last year, three the year before, and
one this year, according to the Medical Examiner's office. Pedestrian deaths are also
fairly stable, hovering around 30 per year. So far this year, 28 people have been struck
and killed in San Francisco streets, according to police data. the biggest spike in
pedestrian deaths occurred in 1997, when 41 pedestrians were killed in a 12-month period.
For bicycles, injuries are on the rise, however. Last year 431 bicyclists were injured in
accidents with cars.
``It's safer out there than it had been in previous years, though it's still probably
10 times more dangerous than it ought to be,'' said S.F. Bicycle Coalition's Snyder.
``Bikers are smarter, safer, and car drivers are more used to seeing them on the
Statistics can be misleading, however. No agency has measured the incidents of road rage
on San Francisco streets. The Police Department does not compile data on what percentage
of traffic collisions are intentional, or how often those cases are prosecuted and drivers
convicted. For instance, there was no record in the Hit and Run database of the 1998
beating of attorney Peter Rittling by an irate motorist while participating in
Bike-to-Work day. What is easily measured is the degree of hostility that cyclists
experience when they take to the roadways.
``I've noticed drivers getting less and less patient, and more and more aggressive,'' said
Eric Murphy, a legal assistant at a downtwon law firm who has ridden his bicycle on city
streets for nine years.
``I can't ride any distance at all anymore without seenig some kind of driver stupidity:
people blowing throuh stop signs, cutting in front of me in the lane, and being
inattentive, talking on cell phones.''
The reasons for driver hostility are not hard to find
Streets are more congested, and travel times are slower, especially in the South of Market
area. According to the Congestion Management report filed biannually by the County
Transportation Authority, travel speed dropped 40 percent on Mission Street near the
Embarcadero between 1997, and 1999, the same location where Rittling first encountered the
driver who spat on him, and later beat him in 1998.
Impatience and the holiday season, according to a researcher of the road rage phenomenon,
are two factors that can set off drivers.
``Most motorists drive around every day in an emotionally impaired state,'' said Dr. Leon
James, Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii and co-author of Road Rage and
Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare, in an e-mail interview. James also
publishes the Web site www.DrDriving.org. According to James, the holiday season increases
stress on drivers, much as congestion, construction, and gridlock traffic do. More stress
can raise the level of hostility and create additional opportunities for confrontations
Civility as a civic response
The city has done a good deal to raise awareness of pedestrian safety. It has installed
cameras to catch red-light runners. It has implemented traffic-calming measures in Duboce
Triangle and other neighborhoods to slow traffic down and make fat turns more difficult.
And it's established a Pedestrian Safety Task Force that facilitates communication between
government agencies and senior citizen, disabled, and environmental groups.
But even with educationa advertising campaigns, city officials say that the problem is not
going to go away.
``San Francisco is off the charts on pedestrian injury,'' said Michael Radetsky, health
educator at the Public Health Department and member of the Pedestrian Safety Task Force.
``What we're trying to do is get people to associate human frailty with what happens when
you race through the intersection.''
Bicycle activists are hoping for a similar level of commitment from government agencies
and City Hall to address issues of bicyclist safety. The mayor's office announced Dec. 1
its ``Share the Road'' public education campaign to help raise driver awareness of
bicyclist rights through signs and advertising. Under the program, the Department of
Parking and Traffic will spend $230,000 to raise public awareness of bicycle safety
issues. The mayor's office is not known for siding with bicyclists, however. In July 1997,
Mayor Brown supported the arrest of more than 250 cyclists during a Critical Mass
demonstration, calling for convictions that would lead to jail time for participants.
But for bicycle advocates, something is better than nothing, and they'll take what they
``Of course it's not enough,'' said cyclist Murphy, ``but it's a step in the right
By IRA DREYFUSS
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- There was the driver who pulled a gun on him, and the driver who ran
a pickup truck onto a sidewalk after him, Christopher Scott recalled.
And this was only while Scott, a bicycle commuter in Washington, was doing his four
miles between his home and his job.
''Things do get a little hairy,'' said Scott, 25, who works in the membership
department at the League of American Bicyclists.
Things are too hairy, say officials of the bikers' organization. Road rage isn't simply
driver against driver -- it's driver against cyclist, too. And the bike group officials
want government officials, as well as drivers, to pay more attention to the risks that
The association cited the fatal shooting May 5 of a 32-year-old Lakewood, Colo.,
cyclist by the driver of a pickup truck in what Denver police describe as a case of road
''It's an almost weekly occurrence'' to get some kind of abuse, Scott said. A driver
pulled a gun last summer after being unable to pass him on a crowded street, he said. And
in the same area, another man drove his pickup onto the sidewalk and started to chase him,
Scott said. In both cases, ''I clicked into full gear and got out,'' he said.
''Road rage is a growing and dangerous phenomenon,'' the league's executive director,
Elissa Margolin, said in a statement. Drivers and cyclists as well must learn to share the
road, she said.
The federal government also is concerned, but has no data on how large the problem may
be or whether it is growing, said Rosalyn G. Millman, acting director of the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Being out of emotional control is not regularly
singled out on police accident reports, she said.
For now, the agency is trying to distinguish between road rage and ''aggressive
driving,'' Millman said. The safety administration considers aggressive driving to be a
combination of unsafe driving behaviors, such as speeding and weaving in and out of
traffic, she said. That's less violent than road rage, which would mean ''criminal
behavior -- using the car as a weapon -- or using a weapon from a vehicle,'' Millman said.
Although the agency has been concerned primarily with driver-against-driver activity,
''clearly someone on a bike is very exposed. They don't have the protection of the metal,
like someone in a car would,'' Millman said.
Stopping road rage is up to both the driver and the cyclist, because the activity is an
interaction, said psychologist Leon James of the University of Hawaii. ''Both have traffic
emotions that they cannot keep under control because they are not trained to do so,'' he
For the cyclist, this involves not demanding a share of the road when the driver
refuses to give it, said James, who has interviewed drivers and had them carry tape
recorders to capture their emotional reactions to traffic.
''The prime directive is to retain control over the situation,'' James said. Once the
cyclist shows anger, the situation is out of the cyclist's control, because ''the cyclist
doesn't know how the driver will respond,'' he said.
Drivers must realize that ''there are roadway bullies, and any of us can turn into a
bully,'' James said. ''All of us drivers have a bias to feel we have priority over the
road. It's a territorial competition where the driver feels that the cyclist should not be
there, in the way of the car.''
Drivers should acknowledge when their emotions become a problem, figure out exactly
what triggers their outbursts and start to put locks on those triggers, James said.
The safety administration advises those who are confronted by aggressive drivers to
make every attempt to get out of their way, to avoid challenging them, to avoid eye
contact and not to return any gestures. Later, report the driver's vehicle description and
license plate number to police, the agency said. The agency is working with state and
local officials to develop programs against aggressive driving.
And cyclists should always wear helmets. ''That's the most effective safety device we
have,'' Millman said.
Web posted Wednesday, May 17, 2000
The Bicycle Federation of America
Confessions of an Agressive
NORBA--National Off Road
Two-Lane Roads Newsletter -- A nostalgic backroads
Bicyclist Rights--The Voice of
Bicyclists in Maine
Oregon Bicyclist's Manual
Evolution of a Bicyclist
HeadWize - Article: A
Bicyclist'S Sense Of Hearing: How Important?
FHWA Study Tour for Pedestrian
and Bicyclist Safety in England, Germany, and The Netherlands (1994)
See Text of Berkeley Initiative for Cyclists Bill of
Vol. 4, No. 4, 998, Newsletter of
the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.
Debate on Auto-Bike Issues
Bicyclist, Skater, and
Pedestrian Safety AAA Links
Cyber Ciclery--Internet Bicycling Hub
Prevention: Motorcycle Safety
Pedestrians, Bicycles, &
People: Injury Prevention: Motorcycle Safety: Research
People: Injury Prevention: Motorcycle Safety: Rider Training
Motorc ycle Traffic Safety Facts
Pedestrians, Bicycles, &
American Motorcyclists Association-AMA
Guide to Cycling
WELCOME to our site on
A 17-year-old motorist driving home from the gym slammed into a group of bicyclists,
killing one and injuring four others, authorities said.
The driver, identified by sheriff's deputies as Jordan Lampos, was making a right turn
off Lakeview Canyon Road about 8:30 a.m. Saturday when he became distracted, and his
full-size Chevy pickup truck crashed into bicyclists who had stopped on a sidewalk, said
Deputy Wayne Encinas, a Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman.
Mehran Delaveri, who was changing a flat tire on his bike, was killed, Encinas said.
Four other bicyclists were injured. Two were taken to Los Robles Regional Medical
Center in Thousand Oaks. One who suffered spinal injuries was in serious condition, and
the other was treated for minor injuries and released.
Another victim was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center with a broken leg, and the fourth
was treated at the scene for minor injuries.
Lampos, who was not arrested, was released into his parents' custody. The case was
under investigation, said Detective Robert Evans.
Delavari, 35, of Los Angeles' West Hills area, was a researcher at the pharmaceutical
company Amgen. He was married and had two small children, a boy and a girl.
Westlake Village is about 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Police may also interpret body language to your advantage or disadvantage.
Body Language (the second signal)
Use assertive re-positioning to correct a body-language-signal when needed. For
example, you're looking to the right with your helmet also turned to the right. You then
look forward and see a car planing to pull out of a side street on the right.
Understanding body language on the motorcycle, you realize you've sent a signal indicating
you will be turning right (by turning your helmet to the right). Correct the initial
signal by assertively moving into the helmet straight ahead, torso leaned forward, and
elbows spread position to indicate you are going straight.
Subject: Re: pednet: Raving, insane bureaucrat
From: email@example.com (John Williams)
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 1997
I watched that hearing last night on C-Span [Congressional Hearings on aggressive Driving]
but this comment must have come before I tuned in. Interestingly enough, in response to
questions from Rep. Sue Kelly (R, NY), whose son bicycles 10 miles to work each day,
Martinez said that encouraging alternative transportation modes (specifically mentioning
walking and bicycling) could help reduce the problem and he discussed some of the things
the administration supports in that arena. He suggested it would help if we didn't
"force everyone into a car".
When Kelly asked if he thought congestion was the cause of road rage, he suggested it
was one of three causes, the others being an increase in bad behavior among drivers (my
notes say "an escalating situation" but I think that was his point), and a
decrease in enforcement of traffic laws.
There were a number of other interesting points brought out in various people's
testimony. Dr. Allan Williams of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety advocated for
increased use of red light cameras, showing some photos of violators and, in one case, a
crash as it happened; he also alluded to a survey that showed widespread support for the
use of such technology among the public. He mentioned studies from Australia suggesting a
1/3 reduction in either red-light running or red-light running related crashes (my notes
on this point, alas, are unclear). He also made the point, with respect to increased
congestion, that we've got 50% more vehicles on the road than we had 20 years ago.
David Snyder, Asst. General counsel of the American Insurance Institute, suggested
support for increased safety funding and for Senate Bill 708, the "Deadly Driver
Reduction Act," which sounds intriguing (!) although I don't have any info on it.
Davis Willis, prez of the AAA Fdn. for Traffic Safety, mentioned a study on the topic
by Meisel (?) consultants that they had funded. Robert Read (? can't read my own
writing!), traffic division commander for Fairfax Co. (VA) P.D., mentioned a new
"vehicular maiming" offense on their books that they are just starting to ticket
people for; he also mentioned a "smooth operator" program they're conducting to
encourage less aggressive behavior.
Dr. Arnold Nerenberg of Whittier Mental Health Services distinguished between road rage
and aggressive driving. Discussing the latter, he said that someone could be driving fast,
weaving back and forth from lane to lane but not be in a rage at all. However, some of the
lawful drivers that such a person would pass or cut off might well end up in such a state
Dr. Leon James, a psychology prof from Univ. of Hawaii, mentioned that he's got a web
site on the subject of road rage (he didn't give the address!). He said he'd either
started or was proposing the start of an organization called Children Against Road Rage,
which he suggested would be patterned after the SADD group. He also mentioned a "New
Driver's Ed" program that he was promoting that would focus on instilling what he
called "emotional intelligence" in new drivers so they wouldn't go wild behind
the wheel. He advocated encouraging an "attitude of latitude."
There were also some folks from the "Citizens Against Speed and Aggressive
Driving" who advocated, among other things, slowing down traffic. One recounted the
experience of driving into D.C. with her mom and being hit head on by an out-of-control
driver who had been speeding and weaving and came over a raised median. Her mom died and
the driver got off with a minimal penalty.
Steve Horn (R, Calif.) made an interesting comment about car companies that advertise
their products showing aggressive driving and speed. He said he boycotts such companies.
While some folks suggested a link between road rage and congestion, I don't remember
that being the main point, by any means. They tended to focus on behavior, attitudes, and
Interesting hearing and I found myself taking lots of notes...
HELP ENGINEER TRAFFIC CONGESTION
I appreciate that the Chronicle did a story on bicycles, and perhaps someof the bias in
that article stems from how unfamiliar drivers are with bicycles. I would suggest using a
reporter who bicycles for
transportation, uses transit, and drives, for the most fair perspective.
Again and again, we see that because motor vehicles have recently risen to dominance,
many people do not see the big picture. True long-term planning principles elude even some
of those who are supposed to be experts, so a newspaper columnist banging out a story
(basically for entertainment, or for some other political gain, since the primary
audience, motorists, generally doesn't understand and really wants some entertainment
rather than the truth) is not likely to bother with rigorously addressing the issues.
Scapegoating bicyclists and assuming the role of the special interests which pay your
salaries and brought us all these traffic nightmares is much easier. Obviously, that's
paltry consolation! The article, like many other inaccurate articles about bicycle
ransportation in the Chronicle over the past 2 years (especially since July 25th 1997),
was damaging and incites more animosity towards us on the roads, and serves corrupt
interests. I don't know if you think you're being "conservative" by sabotaging
bicycle transportation (how ironic!), or if you get a kick out of the increased motorist
violence we experience when people are led to resent bicyclists. It's already bad enough
out there. But whatever the reason, it's inexcusable and unacceptable. I have repeatedly
written you detailed analyses of your articles and invited you to contact me before doing
the same again. At least you contacted me this time...
So again, I'll let you know what you did wrong. Next time, how about run the article by
me first for a critique? Here is a fairly comprehensive list of things that were incorrect
in your article. Again, some of them you may have missed through your lack of
understanding and ignorance. Some of them you may have missed because you believed the
authorities you interviewed who abuse their power, and you weren't capable of seeing or
investigating beyond their power (falacy of authority). But all of them are inexcusably
wrong and part of a pattern of misinformation and bias. And overall I would perchance a
guess that your advertising lifeblood is the car-only industry, and that like the San Jose
Mercury News, you are unable or unwilling to tell the truth in the face of their
But here goes. Pieces of your article are in double-quotes. In the order of the
1) The title.
"Caltrans Laments High Cost of Bike Lanes on Bridges Million-dollar paths used
only by a handful of Bay Area commuters" How can you ascribe a feeling to an agency?
Is this because they like money so much, that they lament that no one would give them an
overpriced job to do? Sounds more like you're personalizing a vicious and discriminatory
agency out of control, to build public sympathy for them.
2) The comparison with the Dumbarton Bridge.
"When the Dumbarton Bridge was built in 1982, Caltrans added a bicycle lane at a
cost of $9 million." It would be helpful to have percentages here. What was the cost
of the entire bridge? What fraction of the bridge was the bicycle access? Did anyone
contest their figures then? Did you get a second opinion on this number? Would a different
design have been significantly less expensive (most likely!). Did you research the fact
that Caltrans has recently illegally removed the most direct bicycle access to the bridge
on the east end? And that it's rather difficult for new riders to find the bridge? And
that the Dumbarton Express bus is frequently full and bumping bicyclists? Why not?
"On an average weekday, 55 people pedal along it."
Where did this figure come from? The last Caltrans figure I heard of was over 100. I've
been told this number was counted on a rainy day in February, just for anti-bicycle
misinformation articles like yours. How can that figure possibly indicate the true value
to society of equal access? And what about when 100's of riders cross in group rides? Why
was there no comparison in the article to the Golden Gate Bridge which YOUR PAPER reported
has been counted with 3500 riders in a single a day? What about in ten years, twenty
years, or the 150-year life of the bridge? Why no mention of the rapidly accelerating rate
of bicycle use correlated with better equipment, better support, and slowly connecting
bike routes (of which a bridge is a major obstacle)? Why no discussion of when there's
better land use in the future , so people live closer? I guarantee you that will happen at
this rate. What about if gas prices go through the roof? Why no discussion of bicycle
access as an investment in the future?
"The Benicia Bridge will get a $3 million bike lane when a new span opens in
2003." Ditto. Also, they're bike >>paths<< not lanes. Bike lanes have a
stripe, not a wall, separating them from motor traffic. For your information, it costs
about $300/mile to stripe a bike lane, cute little pictures included. (In case Caltrans
told you it was $300 Billion, for instance).
3) Bicycle shuttles.
"Right now, 20 people a day use the bicycle shuttle bus that runs [on the
Benicia]." Where does it pick up? Does it bump riders like the Bay Bridge does? Does
anyone know about it? How convenient is it to destinations? Do they move the pick-up point
without notice like they do the Bay Bridge shuttle? How much does it cost? How many
cyclists live in that area compared to the San Mateo area? What is the comparison of
distance between population centers? What is the comparison of routes to get to the
shuttle? Did Caltrans cut the service drastically without notice like they did on the Bay
Bridge? Again, it's an auto-only world, so bike useage is complex and special to each
case. The MTC admits they have no way to study bicycle usage (see below).
4) Bay Bridge east span.
"The cost will be $50 million, and while no one knows how many cyclists will use
it, none of them will be commuting to San Francisco because the bike lane will end
mid-Bay." Gee, that's forward-thinking. Access to the west span is essentially a
given -- we're meeting with CT about the design at this time, and Governor Wilson signed
AB2038 which found the funds for it. It's actually all but a done deal. Everyone agrees
that a path which goes only halfway across is stupid. And the west span is so
bike-friendly you couldn't keep us off the roadway without building a path."Restripe
it, cover the grates, change the signs, and LET US ON!" Note that the west span used
to have six car lanes on top. There's certainly ample room for five car lanes and a small
bike lane (see elsewhere for more on this idea).
3) Bias in a nutshell: "Bicycle commuters: the few, the proud, the
a) THE FEW. Have you taken a look at Market Street during the rush hours anytime
recently? Or are your smog-covered glasses acting up again? There's practically a critical
mass there every day, continuously, during evening and morning rush hours -- more bikes
than cars at many times! But enough of that, how many people use it is inconsequential.
Would you build a building without a fire escape? Yet how many people use it most days of
the year? How many people use it during a crisis? Similarly, how many people would use a
path during a crisis (e.g., BART strike, earthquake, projected severe congestion, etc.).
How will usage change over the next 150 years of the bridge's life? Do you also argue that
there should be head counts before installing wheelchair ramps and elevators?
b) THE PROUD. Damn straight! But also humble, and sacrificing and suffering for trying
to do the sensible, sustainable, humane, environmentally sound, and healthy thing in the
face of a very harsh car-only culture which has been allowed to take over like the cancer
c) THE EXPENSIVE. That's a joke! First off, we get only 0.5% of the Regional
Transportation Plan funds, and that's for both bikes *and* pedestrians. Yet we make up (by
low estimates) 11% of trips -- while other more civilized countries have up to 60% bicycle
rates. And on top of that, we suffer 25% of the traffic fatalities. Don't talk to us about
who's expensive!!!! Think of how much we save society by bicycling instead of driving.
Think of the enormous subsidy and suffering for the automobile. A vietnam war in American
casualties each year, and then again from the air pollution. Congestion. Lost time.
Destruction of families and neighborhoods. Expensive road upkeep. Hundreds of billions to
subsidize oil interests in the Persian Gulf. Lowered life expectancy. I could go on and
on. A recent major study showed that the cost of gasoline should be at least $6-$16 by
conservative estimates (the range is because some costs are variable or have a range of
estimates). This doesn't count many priceless losses caused by motor vehicle use. Did your
paper cover this fact? Gee, I thought not!
4) "kids on pogo sticks" -- No comment. Maybe Wildermuth read the BCLU
ordinance when he was poking around at http://www.xinet.com/bike/, and that's great -- the
point was to show the breadth of people who are nonmotorized travelers and inject a little
humor and humanity. But here in this hostile, biased context, it serves to ridicule the
legitimacy of bicycle transportation.
5) Caltrans promotes alternative transportation!? "But for the state Department of
Transportation, it is not that easy. Despite years of promoting mass transit, ride-sharing
and a hodgepodge of other plans designed to ease the crush of traffic on California
highways, most commuters still want to use their own cars to get to work." THAT'S A
LAUGH! Caltrans (Cartrance) claims to be the DOT but the "O" stands for
"Opposing". Witness the recent wrangle over the Transbay Terminal ramps. CT
wanted to cripple the bus service and get out of running the Terminal, which they keep in
the shoddiest shape possible.
Look at the way they treated the hordes of bicycle commuters using their Bay Bridge
shuttle when they cut service by more than half without notice, jeopardizing people's jobs
and leaving them stuck in the East Bay, late to work. They did the same thing with tow
service to the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, a service that is free to motorists and, like
so many other things, subsidized by bicycle riders.
6) Biased, outdated census: "``About 1 percent of the people bike to work,
according to the last census,'' said Steve Heminger ... ``So the amount we spend on bikes
is still rather small compared to what we spend on cars and mass transit''". Steve
"Highway to Hell" Heminger should know better than to use the Census
"figures" -- he's been corrected enough times! The Census was inaccurate in
describing usage for multiple reasons:
a) It only measured work trips. Many people live far away and use cars, bus, or BART to
get to work. But around town, they use bikes. Many people are students, or unemployed, or
moms (which really is a big job!) or otherwise didn't consider themselves
"employed" yet they use bicycles a great deal. So a vast percentage of bicycle
trips didn't get counted.
b) It only measured "most-miles mode" work trips. In short, if you bike two
miles to BART and then ride 5 miles to San Francisco for work, you didn't bike to work by
the census. That trip disappears. You took BART.
c) It was conducted during one of the rainiest weeks of the year. Many people bike to
work when it's a nice day, and take other modes when it's raining a lot. A lot of people
get into the swing of regular biking when the weather becomes more reliable.
d) It was done ten years ago!!! Think of how the advent of the mountain bicycle, and
the rise of the excellent event, "Critical Mass", have encouraged people to take
up bicycling as a healthy, liberating, cost-efficient, empowering, and yes, *sexy*, mode
of travel. There has been a TREMENDOUS increase in the number of trips by bicycle and this
trend is not likely to reverse. Even the Chronicle has noted that there's just a darned
lot of bicycle stuff going on these days -- be consistent!
7) Funds should be spent on projected use and basic needs, not on catch-22 existing
usage "figures". For instance, if we suffer 25% of fatalities, shouldn't
something be done for *basic safety* after 40-plus years of subsidizing car-only
facilities which endanger our lives? Fair is fair! And if we don't have basic access
(e.g., to bridges, or BART, or office buildings) which would help make a complete and
reliable system -- and allow many more people to choose bicycling, as it becomes more
reliable -- isn't it worth the relatively tiny cost, if it precipitates more bicycling all
MTC admits that they have *NO* way to project bicycle usage. They have no bicycle
models. They have no bicycle coordinator. Neither does Caltrans. We're being cut out of
the picture. While more enlightened cities around the world have very high rates of
bicycling, all they can say is "no one bicycles so we don't provide for
bicycling". Well some cities in the Bay Area are better than others. Berkeley, Albany
and Palo Alto, for instance, have relatively high numbers of bicycle commuters (5, 7, and
45%!) by the 1990 census, despite how inacurate that document was (see above). There are
cities in Eurpoe which have up to 60% of trips by bicycle -- this came after they revamped
their cities during the oil shortage of the early 70's. So if we provide the
infrastructure we will get the bicycle trips. Most of those trips would have been car
trips. Most car trips are under 5 miles. A third are under one mile!!! The potential is
enormous. We have bicycle advocates and regular riders in their 70's and 80's so don't say
it's "only for the young" -- au contraire, it keeps one young! And for those
with special needs, personalized bicycles are very available now. People who are worried
about falling down can ride very fast tricycles. People with back problems may prefer
upright handlebars, or a sit-down recumbent. People now have many seats to choose from
which makes the ride much more comfortable for men and women both. Bicycle technology
keeps getting better and better, more easy, more pleasant, more reliable.
We should be encouraging rather than discouraging bicycle use. Kind of like, if you
want to eat, plant seeds in your garden. Right now there's a "Safe Routes to School
Bill" which Carole Migden needs to support. It used to be that a *majority* of kids
biked to schools. But as our neighborhoods become congested, spread-out suburbs, parents
no longer feel safe letting their kids bike to school. So kids are deprived of that
critical independence and ability to get to events, resources, etc. Their development is
being severely damaged -- not to mention that their parents are stuck in traffic more
hours out of the day and have even less time to spend with them.
Another problem is that there isn't training for use of bicycles. 80% of bicycle theft
is easily prevented. And 20% of people who's bikes are stolen never try again. Most
serious accidents happen in the first 3 months of learning to ride -- we teach driving
education why not bicycling education? It's a life skill! If you don't learn when you're
young, most people won't pick it up again later in life. (However, there is a group in
Berkeley which teaches elderly folks to ride).
8) RULES AND LOOPHOLES: I'm not sure what attorney you contacted who gave you the
opinion that "various state rules call for paths for bikes and pedestrians to be
included in any plans for bridge construction" but the idea that "there is a
loophole big enough to drive a tractor-trailer through: Those paths only have to be built
if they are ``economically and physically feasible''" is quite remarkable. There is
no such "loophole" in the following *law*:
888.2. The department shall also incorporate nonmotorized transportation facilities in
the design of freeways on the state highway system along corridors where nonmotorized
facilities do not exist, upon a finding that the facilities would conform to the
California Recreational Trails System Plan specified in Section 5070.7 of the Public
Resources Code or upon a finding, following a public hearing, that the facilities would
conform to the master plans of local agencies for the development of nonmotorized
facilities and would not duplicate existing or proposed routes, and that community
interests would be enhanced by the construction of the facilities.
I suppose you would argue that community interests would not be enhanced? If you got
your "legal" knowledge from MTC then it's no surprise that you were wrong --
they've been misrepresenting the facts for some time. If your article had dealt with the
truly big issues of congestion, you might have been able to talk about how this illegal
bridge betrays the voters by not providing congestion relief.
9) MONEY MATTERS TO CALTRANS?
"It is the money that matters for Caltrans officials, who believe bridge bike
paths take too much of it for use by too few people."
It is true that Caltrans may not understand bicycles to be legitimate transportation.
But they have repeatedly stated for years, and have for this bridge, that, "We will
build as much bridge as the Bay Area will pay for." Caltrans wants money. There is
another issue here, however, one which may be difficult to prove, but it's that of the
lucrative car-only interests which want everyone to be forced to drive. When a bicyclist
is freed from owning a motorcar, that's an average $6500/year that isn't going into their
industry. Given the way the car-only interests bought up and destroyed our wonderful
public resource, the cable car networks from all over this country (which allowed the Bay
Bridge to carry twice as many people per day back in the 1940's), and given the way
Caltrans/MTC continues to say no one bicycles when the proof is everywhere that they're
wrong, it's clear that there is an ongoing campaign to make sure that no one bicycles.
10) BAY BRIDGE COSTS.
"It would cost about $160 million for a bicycle path across the entire Bay Bridge,
said Caltrans spokesman Greg Bayol." Caltrans' most recent public figures were: $50M
for east span (but would be $33M if it were 12-foot wide instead of 15.5-foot wide, they
say), plus $65M for west span path (could be MUCH cheaper if not cantilevered and
over-built to hold cars and trucks). So Caltrans lied to you -- or they have some brand
new even more outrageously overestimated super-huge figures. Of great interest: bear in
mind that CT/MTC chose that 15.5-foot, $50M path over a 12-foot path. The 12-foot path was
around $33M. Those extra 3.5 feet, if we can believe their estimates, cost $17M. So give
me a break, that's $17M, I'd gladly give up a few feet on the Bay Bridge to have equal
access on the San Mateo! The funding structure doesn't allow it, but, again, keep these
costs in perspective -- 88 BILLION is being spent on transportation in the current
Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), bicycles and pedestrians get less than 0.5% of that.
Also of interest, Greg Bayol (who gave you the figures) was "musize="3led" by
Caltrans after he got in a nasty shouting match with a local state Assembly member on talk
radio, over Caltrans' causing congestion for motor cars. Bayol's job is to fight for
Caltrans in the public eye. He's paid to make them look good -- and here it looks clear to
me that "making Caltrans look good" involves making us look bad, with
11) SAN MATEO BRIDGE COSTS.
"A similar path on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge would be about $150
million." Of course, they have refused to study much cheaper options and have
dramatically inflated their earlier estimates. The 5-mile portion jumped from $10M to
$50M, essentially overnight! The earlier figure was based on a study. The new figure is
"admittedly not based on any study" says Caltrans.
"The bike lane that will be built on the new Carquinez Bridge will cost $60
million". That's absolutely inconceivable. I'm not familiar with the project but I
bet that's a very incorrect figure.
13) CAN EXISTING BRIDGES ALLOW BICYCLES ON THE DECK?
"That is not going to happen, said Bayol. Like every other part of a bridge or
freeway, bicycle lanes have to be engineered for maximum safety, and that takes time and
This is false on its face. If motor roadways had to be engineered for maximum safety,
they wouldn't be built at all. All over the Bay Area there are design exceptions granted.
And all over the Bay Area bicycles are allowed on portions of freeway, in particular when
it concurs with Caltrans policy calling for the consideration of bicycle access whenever
there is no reasonable alternate route. The Highway Design Manual, Caltrans' bible,
specifically call for that. The Antioch toll bridge has 5-feet of shoulder on a freeway
toll crossing. It allows bicycles and pedestrians. What's the difference? Other shoulders
are even wider! Freeway shoulders are safer to bike on than city streets! This was proven
conclusively by a recent study hosted by Caltrans. So there's no excuse to keep us off --
and that's why we feel so justified when we say they are corrupt. Are you with them in
that corruption, or on the side of truth and the public interest?
14) "Caltrans' stand on bike lanes has the backing of business groups, government
agencies and commuters who would rather see the pavement reserved for cars, especially if
disputes with cyclists are going to slow new road construction."
Well, Caltrans resisted us for more than two years on this bridge and now that they
want everyone to jump on their poorly designed project, they're using the same
misinformation you are perpetuating to make it sound like *WE* are holding up the process.
"Too expensive" -- "No one would use it"
-- "We desperately need that lane for safety and congestion relief". All
15) The lone angry driver-man from the public: ``I have had it with the folks who are
pushing the bike lane agenda that dominates and stalls every road building project in the
state,'' Robert Vicari of San Francisco said in a letter to the development commission.
``I own two bicycles, enjoy recreational biking, . . . am 66 years old and still hold a
job. I also commute 34 miles a day and you can bet your sweet a -- I don't intend to use a
bike to get there.'' While admittedly he writes a compelling personal statement, I have to
wonder who put him up to it. He's so selfish. No one is asking him to commute by bicycle,
just to allow others to do so. He clearly indicates that even at 66 years of age he can do
it. I guess he's also fed up with the Americans with Disabilities Act? How about with
building codes that force people to make buildings safe and complete and *in compliance
with law*? I guess he's against fire extinguishers and fire escapes since "nobody's
building burns down"?
More importantly, this (again, misled by Caltrans misinformation) is just one letter.
BCDC received over 1,000 letters and cards in support of bicycle access to the San Mateo
Bridge!!! Only when CT got desperate to get their permit (after about ten years of slowly
working on this project) did the Johnny-come-lately naysayers show up to back them.
16) FEW FRIENDS FROM CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE:
"Bicycle advocates' efforts at civil disobedience have won them few friends. When
Meggs and 16 other cyclists were arrested last September for pedaling across the bridge
and tying up traffic during the morning commute, not many of the hands waving outside the
cars were giving signs of solidarity."
Gee, it sounds like you were there! Well we have the video showing lots of support. To
the extent that anyone wasn't supportive, it may be because of the erroneous and
hate-instigating false reporting in the mass media!!! How can you claim that the group
tied up traffic? The CHP tied up traffic when they falsely arrested us. How can you claim
that it was civil disobedience? What law do you claim we broke? I'm willing to bet it's
unconstitutional! Why not complain about the CHP, who failed in their duty to facilitate
efficient traffic flow? IN THE BIG PICTURE:
1) SCOPE OF THE ISSUE!
This is supposed to be a commuter chronicle, right? Well the commuters are losing here.
Their new lane is not about congestion relief. They're still going to be stuck in traffic,
even Caltrans admits that. More people will try driving because of the extra lane, and
switch back from transit -- just what the car-only lobby wants. Neighborhoods and offramps
can't handle the increased throughput so we'll be seeing more and more congestion on
surface streets and at exit points. Air pollution will increase and it's right upwind from
the primary EPA non-attainment zone. The only bus service is being cut in August. No HOV
lane. No comprehensive study of rail as demanded by law. We all lose with this new
2) THE REAL MONEY WASTE.
The Cypress (un)freeway was also shoved through by Caltrans. At $1.375 BILLION dollars
it was the most expensive freeway ever built. You could buy more than 13.75 MILLION
bicycles for that and give them to people throughout California. Which would be more in
the public interest? You could build a dandy rail system throughout the East Bay, to
replace the ones destroyed for the car-only monopoly. You could fund schools, house
homeless, train people for jobs, clean up the environment, and revitalize business
districts and neighborhoods instead of tearing them out and cutting them to pieces (the
Cypress razed a big strip of classic redwood victorian houses). The HOV lanes from
Hercules to the Bay Bridge cost $355 Million and Caltrans went back on their deal to keep
them open maximally, hurting car pooling and bus use. And how many people use them per
hour? BART's proposed extension to Warm Springs has been shown to be a $170/ride subsidy.
You could buy those Warm Springsiens a nice house and a Mercedes Benz for that..get some
perspective on what projects are *really* costing these days and what their *real*
long-term benefit is before assuming the position of the jerks who brought us all this
For once, I'm going to follow up on you folks until you issue a SIGNIFICANT correction.
The Motorcycling Safety Foundation
advocates a formula for safe following distance that works for any speed: The Two-second
Rule Under normal, dry and sunlit road conditions, pass a landmark like a sign or pole two
seconds or more after the vehicle immediately in front of you has passed this same
landmark. Increase time for inclement road conditions. The driver doesn't have to try to
calculate car lengths with this method. Keep up the good work! I really appreciate the
information that your page provides that goes beyond the technical aspects of the art of