The Insanity of Impatience

Anyone who’s spent time on the roads (driving any kind of vehicle) has witnessed the insanity of impatient drivers. Saturday, Andy Cline shared a crazy-driver story from his driving trip to Delaware. Being slow, we cyclists are probably treated to their stupid antics more than others. My friends and I were fortunate to have a deputy witness one dingbat driver last fall.

This video caught one of the most reckless things I’ve seen. And from a commercial driver, no less!

Story: Boris Johnson’s ‘near-death experience’ with lorry caught on camera

While this behavior is exceptionally over-the-top, it is fed by the prevailing cultural mindset that individual motorists are entitled to travel at maximum speed and not be inconvenienced by anything or anyone (including other motorists, but especially inferior bicyclists) that might delay them.

What is it going to take to change that?

11 replies
  1. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    I get the impatient motorists that rev their engines and speed up in an attempt to pass me.

    My response is to look back at them for about 5 seconds and if that doesn’t work, I while looking back the second time, extend my arm and point directly at them with my index finger.

    Amazing, they get the picture and act civil! No honks, expletives, etc. as they make the pass when it is finally safe to do so.

    I did, however, have one impatient driver this morning. They gunned the engine and passed me like there was on-coming traffic. I was passed in the “chicken lane” with no traffic either ahead or on-coming.

    We met at the light, where I proceeded to stop in my lane, give a friendly wave, and smile. I then rode up to the Que at the light while the driver had to wait three cars behind me to make their left hand turn.

  2. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    The longer that I live, the higher I continually revise my estimate of the percentage of the human race that has such serious psychiatric and/or moral problems that they pose a grave threat to others. Such people should not be allowed to lay a finger on a car or any other lethal weapon.

    My current estimate is at 30%. Still, that means that 70% of the human race is safe to be with.

  3. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Interesting. I don’t think this incident is really cycling related per se. Look how narrow the lanes are. From what I’ve read, this is fairly typical of British streets. The truck driver took the hump at far too high a speed, which bounced his rear door open. That swinging door snagged the parked car. Same thing could have happened if the left lane had been occupied by other motorists, though I suppose he could have been ticked off because bicyclists were in the roadway (doesn’t seem as likely in Britain).

    So to my eyes, his recklessness was about having an unsecured rear gate and taking the hump at too high a speed.

  4. danc
    danc says:

    I’ll second that Mighk, freak accident. Just happen the Mayor of London and other officials rolled by first.

  5. P.M. Summer
    P.M. Summer says:

    Well, the obvious solution is to ban on-street car-parking, which frees up space for bike lanes, and then ban lorries, because they are, you know, evil.

  6. danc
    danc says:

    From Tom Vanderbilt’s “How We Drive” blog
    “.. irony of this incident occurring while the cycling group were scouting safe cycle routes there are growing worries about the dangers of HGVs [heavy goods vehicles] in London, particularly in east London with the increase in construction traffic for the 2012 Olympics. There have been three women killed by lorries in recent weeks in the capital.”

  7. Keri
    Keri says:

    I think Mighk is right that this may have had nothing to do with the cyclists… so it might be a coincidence, but I wouldn’t call it freak accident. The unwillingness to slow in the curve, on the bump and when passing though a narrow space between a group of cyclists and parked cars is reckless. It would have been reckless speed even if the door hadn’t flown open.

    The unsecured door is no accident either. If I left the fuel cap off a Cessna and took off, the low pressure over the wing would suck out the fuel and I might have to do an emergency landing in a dense urban area putting people on the ground at risk… the FAA/NTSB would not consider that an accident. We need to hold drivers of surface vehicles (especially commercial ones) to those standards of responsibility for their vehicles and their actions.

    During the housing boom, our semi-rural roads were overrun by construction vehicles. The dump truck drivers were some of the most reckless drivers we encountered. Turns out, they get paid by the load.

  8. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    To take the comment thread into a different direction… Keri said:

    “During the housing boom, our semi-rural roads were overrun by construction vehicles. The dump truck drivers were some of the most reckless drivers we encountered. Turns out, they get paid by the load.”

    Because they had a financial incentive to go fast (In order to make more runs in a given period of time.) the commercial drivers pushed the envelope of safety. The more often they did this successfully (No catastrophic experiences) the more commonplace the behavior “felt”.

    The perceived dangerousness of risky behavior becomes less and less.

    This is exactly what has happened to all motorists today! Everyone is careening around in a reckless manner, but it all seems rather normal! Do the speed limit and experience the wrath of the manic pace setters.

    The blood of 40,000 dead flows in the gutters, but it no one is alarmed. Traffic enforcement focuses on “traffic flow” violations and ignores safety violations.

    This comes under the heading of motorist re-education on Keri’s pyramid of bicycle friendly communities, in which she identified this; “Improving safety requires changing the way people behave and view their responsibilities as drivers. We need more traffic enforcement, better traffic justice and a greater sense of citizenship and civility.”

    Another great post, Keri, and the usual high quality comments! Great content makes for a great blog!

  9. Jack
    Jack says:

    During the building and expanding of local highways and feeder roads, our neighborhood streets have been overrun by construction equipment and large speeding trucks. Yes these drivers are typically incentivized subcontractors as my wife and I have literally stood in the middle of the streets to stop this reckless behavior and spoke with the drivers. When we were able to get the police to respond, they refused to stop it saying “it was too hard to monitor”.

    One of my close friends is a prosecutor for the county government. He said the perspective in his office is simply “if you swim with sharks then you will likely die by sharks”.

    As the video clearly shows, the cyclists were simply “lucky” even though they were taking the lane. Not as deadly as 40,000+ pound trucks are SUVs and other motorized vehicles… well at least if they aren’t texting.

    Yes we have learned to tolerate increasingly hostile streets as our motorized vehicles have been designed for more and more speed and higher acceleration abilities. As stated, “traffic enforcement focuses on ‘traffic flow’ violations and ignores safety violations.”

  10. Keri
    Keri says:

    Jack said:
    Yes we have learned to tolerate increasingly hostile streets as our motorized vehicles have been designed for more and more speed and higher acceleration abilities.

    Not only that, passenger vehicles have been designed with better and better safety features, so the enclosed people can feel safer and safer.

    As Mighk said on his blog, the safety-conscious motorist focus is on the impact others have on them, not the impact they have on others. “I need a big car and reinforced side panels and full-curtain airbags to protect myself from all the other drivers!”

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