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Palm Beach Bicycle Accident Attorneys Explore Psychology of Bicycle Rage

Not long ago, a video surfaced that quickly went viral. It depicted a motorcycle rider in Southern California plowing into a group of bicyclists along Mulholland Drive, sending the cyclists flying.

As frightening as the video is, our Palm Beach bicycle accident attorneys find the notes made in the “comments” section even scarier. One wrote, “I think about doing this all the time…” Another, “You have no idea how much I love this video.” The headline referenced joy in watching the bicycle riders get “demolished.”

Also recently, a number of other videos have surfaced in which bicyclists have captured motorists in the midst of expletive-laden rants directed at the cyclist solely for having the nerve to share the road.

Why is there so much rage toward bicyclists? It’s a particularly legitimate question in Florida, which has among the highest number of bicyclist fatalities in the country. It’s especially relevant during spring, when more cyclists are taking to the road, and more people are inclined to take up the activity.

While it’s true that there may be some cyclists who are discourteous of those with whom they share the road (see this piece by Slate contributor Jim Saksa), the reality is that much of it has to do with what some economists refer to as the “affect heuristic.” Essentially, this is the theory that holds that humans often make judgments based largely upon their emotions, as opposed to their logic.

If a driver encounters one cyclist who fails to follow the rules of the road, dangerously weaves in and out of traffic, making illegal left turns and is generally careless with his or her own safety, he or she may then adopt the conclusion that all bicyclists are this way – even in the face of facts, statistics and arguments that directly counter this view. Such encounters can be emotionally-charged events, which means that people remember the one bad encounter they had with a cyclist more vividly than the 10 previous instances that were uneventful.

This theory is illustrated by the fact that most people when polled will tell you that tornadoes kill more people than asthma – despite the fact that asthma actually results in 20 times more deaths than tornadoes.

With cyclists, there is an “otherness” stereotype that is perpetuated by the fact that a relatively small (but growing) percent of people regularly cycle. The belief that bicyclists are a constant and erratic hazard is not lessened by the overwhelming majority of cyclists who largely practice respectful, safe riding.

One of the best ways to combat this mindset is getting drivers to recognize it – and the fact that it isn’t logical.

It also helps to reduce the number of negative bicycle-vs-car encounters by riding defensively and obeying all traffic laws. Keep the following tips in mind:
–Know and respect your bicycle’s capability and your own skill.
–Ride in a single file line with traffic – not against it. Be wary of opening car doors, soft shoulders, broken glass, sewer gratings and other debris.
–Cross intersections with care and use extra caution when making a turn.
–Always make sure you are seen by wearing bright or reflective clothing.
–Before entering traffic, stop, look both ways and then left again and over your shoulder to make sure the coast is clear.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
The psychology of why cyclists enrage car drivers, Feb. 12, 2013, By Tom Stafford, BBC Future

More Blog Entries:
Broward Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety a Worthy Goal of Safe Streets Act, March 27, 2014, Palm Beach Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog

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