Posted by: kendra | March 17, 2010

Top ten rudest things drivers can do when encountering a cyclist

Douglas, who I met on the very first Morristown Critical Mass ride, posted this on earlier and is letting me re-post it here. I’m still thinking about what my number one would be.

10. Honk their horn as they pass. Just go around, you’re not the only car I’ve seen today… or did you mean to scare me so I crash right in front of you? With my head under your wheel perhaps?

9. Slow down next to us and explain that we should be riding on the sidewalk and not in the road. This is okay if we’re three years old and on a tricycle, but otherwise it’s not only dangerous, it’s illegal

8. When it’s dusk or nighttime and we’re coming up the on the opposite side with headlights and reflectors why click on your high-beams for a better look? We’re trying our best to make our way by and avoid gutters, gravel, rocks, etc in the road, and now we’re blind (thank you very much).

7. Rev their engines as they pass you. As if to prove their manly hundred and something horsepower is superior to your two leg power. Are we really that threatening to your fragile ego?

6. Somehow think that it’s a rule that you HAVE to pass a bicycle on the road if you are in a car. Even if the bicycle is going ten or more MPH over the speed limit downhill around a blind corner….

5. Insist on squeezing you against the edge of the road for fear of crossing the yellow line. Really, it’s okay to go over the line if no one is on the other side. If it was a couple of traffic cones around a pothole you’d go around, but a human being, no way…

4. Yell out the window at the precise moment they go rushing by. I assume that they don’t realize that it really isn’t that startling over the engine and wind noise (especially when this and the horn have been done so many times before). And on this one, I also wonder if they really think we can make out anything they yell. I never have…not a single word in all the rides I have been on.

3. Pass you and then immediately make a right turn as if you ceased to exist just because you passed into their blind spot. I guess this one is okay though, because we cyclists will heal after crashing into a passenger side door, the dented/scratched door panel and broken window will not.

2. Decide to make a left into their driveway right in front of you because they know they can just make it (barely). This saves them all the time it would take you to safely ride past their driveway. If they would think for a second they’d realize that it’s barely a moment and an opportunity for a nice gesture, possibly a wave or a smile… But it seems that a second to think is too much to spare when stressfully commuting home.

1. After hitting you head-on and acting as if it was your fault somehow even though they were turning left and you were coming up the other side of the road in plain sight… Saying “I didn’t see you” as if that makes everything OK and is a legitimate excuse for hitting someone on a bicycle head-on with a van. If you’ve read this far and love cycling, comment with your #1…

Thanks for reading this, I really needed to get this off my chest. These are all unfortunately written with the voice of experience (way too much experience…).

Update March 19: Welcome Streetsblog Readers!



  1. #4: I already told Douglas, but when people yell at me like this and I can’t understand them, I just go with thinking that they just yelled something like “you are awesome!” and it doesn’t make me mad.

    I don’t know if this is my #1, and I hesitate to include it, because I think drivers are trying to be NICE when they do this. I appreciate the effort! Anyhow, drivers (esp in the last week when it was raining all the time), will stop and try to wave me across to turn in front of them. I don’t want to do that, because the guy behind THEM is probably going to think “whatthe!” and pass them on the right and hit me.

    I also think drivers don’t realize it is sometimes hard to see them inside their car, while they can see me clearly. I can’t really see their wild hand motions or hear them yelling what I imagine is something like “GOGOGO!”

    Anyhow, if this is what you do when you drive, thanks for thinking of me, but really it’s ok, I’ll just wait.

  2. Yeah, I know what ya mean when someone waves you ahead, usually at a turn… sometimes if it seems unsafe I’ll just smile and shake my head no thanks.

    On my rude list would be the – speed up to try and pass me to beat me to the stop sign/red light.

    I think people are mostly courteous and I almost always feel safe & in control even when drivers do the darndest things.

  3. My #1.

    Make you breath their pollution as they ride passed you. I suppose this one is hard for motorists to avoid, but it is the worst thing about commuting to work on a bicycle for me in NYC.

  4. uh…that’s supposed to be breathe. typos are my favorite sport

  5. […] on Pittsburgh bike parking plan. Portland Transport links to a model for electric bikesharing. And Morristown Pedal Pushers has the top 10 rudest things drivers do when encountering […]

  6. Motorcycle riders who squeeze you, or cut into the bike lane so they can idle in front of you, or blast their throttle when they are right next to you. Really, we’re cousins on the vulnerability tree, I wonder why they’re not more aware of the stress they cause.

  7. Having children’s toys thrown at you while riding in Bay Ridge/Bensohurst,” Thanks I have been trying to find a spiderman action figure on ebay for years, jerk!”

  8. I like the orange cone analogy (#5). When you think of it that way, it’s pretty crazy. Why do people think it’s OK to attempt to kill a person on a bike?

    When a driver talking on his cell hit me, I got the, “I didn’t see you” response. Well, duh you didn’t see me. Unless, of course, your goal in life is to kill people.

    Thanks for the list.

  9. Yell at the cyclist, “I’m in a car you idiot!” as they proceed to do any number of stupid aggro-driver things people can do in a car.

    Yes, I am a aware of that fact. I also realize I could be maimed by your 4,000 pound vehicle. I hope you realize this too.

  10. You forgot to add this to the one about turning left into a driveway right in front of you: “… and then just as they are about to pull into the driveway, hit the brakes and proceed ever-so-slowly over the tiny bump in the pavement where they would have bottomed out the car since they are driving too fast anyway, thereby making the cyclist severely slow or stop and wait for them.”

  11. Refusing to get out of your BMW or Hummer and fight like a man after getting caught at the light. Pussies.

  12. People that buzz by in very close proximity. Not only rude but highly dangerous.

  13. Get on the local sports radio talk show and advocate that drivers run down bikers

  14. I love how here in NYC there is a certain segment of the population (usually driving 500hp corvettes etc-suffering from Napolean syndrome) rev their engines, pass by me really closely- and I mean by a hairsbreadth- and then yell out some obscenity- the lastest one was a comment on my biking gloves, that happen to be purple. Usually i give them a thumbs up, he of course thought I was giving the birdie and he tried to smash me against a parked car. Luckily I have wide handlebars on my hybrid which protected me and left a nice shiny SCRATCH on the roofline of his vette. Asshole!

  15. Squeeze past you on a narrow country road, and then stop immediately to give way to a car coming the other way.

  16. […] in the Willamette River; cause of death undetermined pending an autopsy. A great list of the top 10 rudest things a driver can do when encountering a cyclist. Bike Radar looks at why Florida is the nation’s most […]

  17. I love the people that take the time out of their busy days, and between bites of their Big Macs, curse at you and proceed to inform you that it is their road, paid by their taxes. I’ve had all sorts of things thrown at me at stop lights… But then there are the hero drivers. I had a truck driver start throwing stuff including a full x large orange soda at a guy that was throwing candy wrapers and french fries at me.

  18. My favorite is the “Yeller” or “Honker” who fails to realize that they’re coming up on a stoplight or stop sign. Then to see the look on their face when I pull up next to them and knock on their window.

  19. Yes! The yellers are almost always chickenshits!

  20. Maybe not #1, but be overly cautious at a 4-way stop & after I’ve already gone into a T-stand insisting I go despite having the right of way and me waving them through.

    Maybe #1 is argue against bike lanes with the false concern over my safety.

  21. #1 Having cowardly appointed leaders who placate to death, destruction, pollution, and debt rather than lead us into walking and bicycling. With things like laws which protect us, funding which improves infrastructure, and someone who isn’t afraid to stand up to the motorist and let them know of their privilege by taking it away.

  22. Brilliant post. I love the sarcasm – very well done!

    What about pedestrians on a bike path? In my city they are clearly marked. I just pedalled my guts out to get up that hill, and half way up you want ME to stop while you do the ‘shall we dance’ dodge?

    By the way, “we cyclists will heal after crashing into a passenger side door, the dented/scratched door panel and broken window will not” really made me laugh! It’s sad, but true how people think.

    Oddly enough, when a motorist gets out of the car and mounts a bike, they are a cyclist. Why can’t they think like cyclists when they get back in the car?

  23. have to agree with kendra, cars giving up their right-of-way to you when you don’t have it annoys the hell out of me… they stop in the middle of the road and impede traffic to let me cross… they don’t realize that I’m a vehicle and I have to wait for traffic to clear just like everybody else…

    I rarely let them give me the right away, as I don’t want them suddenly hitting the gas and hitting me and then claiming that I was at fault… so many times I have to just sit there until they get mad that I won’t accept their kindness and continue on their way like they should…

  24. I like the comment about thinking like a cyclist when the get back in the car. I remember doing a cm ride and this guys was cursing out all the bikes. The funny thing was, he had a bike rack on his car.

  25. […] intentionally run off the road and even hit is certainly on my top 10 list of rude things drivers can do to […]

  26. Here you go: Be a big time radio personality, rant about bikes on the road, and incite listeners to run them off the road like ESPN sports commentator Ton Kornheiser did.

    Follow that up with Cherry Hill, New Jersey resident Dan Levy (same link above) who says, “It’s just a joke!” Since you’re in New Jersey, maybe you can throw a brick through his window and say it’s just a joke. Think you could get away with it?

  27. #N+1: Drivers who blame you for slowing them down and causing them to be late. Yes, it’s *my* fault you’re late for work, not a) your poor planning, or b) the thousands of other cars on the road.

  28. As a pizza delivery driver who spends A LOT of time in his car, I can tell you that the drivers who do those sorts of things to cyclists also often do the same or equivalent to other drivers. Assholes and idiots are assholes and idiots to pretty much everyone.

    The waving someone across even though you have the right of way thing drives me crazy. I can’t tell you how many accidents or near accidents I’ve seen or been in because someone with the right-of-way stopped for someone waiting to turn left and the car behind them whipped around to pass them on the right.

    Improper horn use is another huge pet peeve. Horns should only ever be used to alert someone to something, usually danger–for example, if you’re backing from a parking spot with an obstructed view of the street you honk your horn to alert other people to your presence, or you honk if someone begins changing lanes without checking their blind spot and is in danger of hitting you. Horns are NOT something you use to express your frustration or say hi to a friend.

    For my part, I do my best to be aware of what other people are doing around me (be they cyclists, pedestrians or motorists), and observe the rules of right of way. If more people did this, the roads would be MUCH safer for everybody.

  29. The pedestrians on the bike paths are lethal. Especially the ones that feel that you can stop on a dime for their stupid unleashed dogs (that have no survival instincts) or better yet – how about the leashes that go across the path?

  30. […] intentionally run off the road and even hit is certainly on my top 10 list of rude things drivers can do to […]

  31. #4 (speed up to pass you only to take a right turn just in front of you, so that you have to brake or stop completely) is the worst.

    Another: fellow cyclists who pass silently and fast close on your left. Heaven forbid you were about to move slightly left! Crash!

    Lastly: Pedestrians who don’t bother to glance up from their beloved crosswalk. “Hey, I’m here in a crosswalk and therefore protected!” Really, because you’re crossing on a red and I’m. about 6′ from hitting your non-observant a**, but I guess I’ll skid to a stop instead.

  32. See what happens when the big blogs pic up your story. They muddle up the comments! (Cool!)

    Anyway you missed two big ones.

    – Purposely pass as close as possible to “teach you a lesson for daring to be on the road”

    – Throw things or spit at you as they pass and hit you

    Also the heavy throttle and downshifting is usually simply the result of an automatic transmission downshifting as the driver just gives it a little more throttle to pass. I usually don’t take offense to this unless it is VERY blatant.

  33. Top peeve, easy that’s bike salmon!
    Buy a freakin’ clue Fred!
    I will not swerve into the lane when it is you who are on the wrong side of the road.

  34. mmm… we’re all ‘drivers’ out there if we’re sharing space on the road. Good drivers, bad drivers, ugly drivers.
    Bicycle renegades get me agitated. In town the other day, I saw a racing cyclist on the sidewalk cause there were 2 cars waiting at a red and the fella did’nt wanna wait behind the cars or even undertake on the decent shoulder. No, he got on the sidewalk and into the crosswalk as the light changed. Dork!
    Ya know what those 2 cars think of him as they had to pass him? And the folks on the sidewalk he zipped by?

  35. what people never ever ever ever seem to realize, in regard to the sidewalk comment, is that in Japan, where cycling enjoys extremely high popularity, EVERYBODY rides their bicycles on the sidewalks and it works perfectly there. In fact when I was there and I commented on this to my friend, he acted as if it were just common sense. I don’t understand why that isn’t the policy here. And in fact many of the sidewalks in the suburban areas where I was witnessing this were in worse shape than here! Maybe what we need is a major policy change…

  36. Gotta say I love #6. I noticed that way back when I first starting biking in the city. Drivers want to feel they are progressing faster in a car, even if I am steadily going faster than cars in light traffic that is stopping periodically at stop signs.

  37. Two things, when a driver sees you from two or three blocks away and they start trying to pass you from a quarter mile away. You hear them, know they’re not behind you yet. They’re slamming on the gas to catch up to you, only to either attempt to squeeze in front of you at a stop sign, and make you slam on your brakes, or they slam on their brakes behind you, roll through the stop sign with you and try to pass you in the intersection (illegal), or, they pull up next to you in the oncoming traffic lane and pull through the intersection with you and try again to pass you in the intersection (still illegal). Just wait to pass me until you’re F’in behind me already!

    Second, I love the lady who waited behind me for 5 seconds while an oncoming car passed by, then she honked as she passed and yelled at me “You need to share the road, dear!” Apparently share the road means I get out of her way wherever she is on the road instead of don’t run other people off the road.

    I’m gonna say the number 1 rude thing, if we’re just saying rude and not criminal, is the asshole who gets behind you, lays on his horn, yells at you, and tries to run you off the road, even though there is perfectly good and clear lane to the left of him and he could save himself the trouble if he would just change lanes to pass.

  38. After hearing that I have a legal right to be on the road, telling me that “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”.

  39. Can i legally pass a cyclist on a double yellow?

    • Yes! and here the technical mumbo-jumbo to back that up…

      Overtaking and Passing a Vehicle
      (Sections 316.083, 316.085, F.S.)

      The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. A driver overtaking a bicycle must maintain a horizontal clearance of at least 3 feet [§316.083]. Three feet is a minimum “safe distance” for passing a cyclist under typical urban conditions; when the passing vehicle is large, towing a trailer, or traveling at much higher speed, greater lateral clearance is needed.

      To pass a cyclist with safe clearance, it may be necessary for a motorist to enter (at least partially) the next lane, when and where it is safe to do so.

      No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless the left side is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit passing to be made without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. In every event an overtaking vehicle must return to an authorized lane of travel as soon as practicable and, in the event the passing movement involves the use of a lane authorized for vehicles approaching from the opposite direction, before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle [§316.085].

      The Double Yellow Line: The prohibition of passing in a no-passing zone does not apply when an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway [§316.0875(3)]. Thus, when a cyclist is traveling so slowly as to constitute an “obstruction,” a motorist may cross the center line in a no-passing zone to pass the cyclist if the way is clear to do so, i.e., when it can be seen that any oncoming traffic is far enough ahead that the motorist could finish passing before coming within 200 feet of an oncoming vehicle.

      About 1 percent of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes involve motorists who misjudge the width or length necessary to pass a cyclist. Close passing causes some cyclists to “hug the curb,” or ride on the sidewalk, where crash risk actually increases

  40. #3. My biggest bugbear (after badly maintained roads) is cyclists use of the road being hindered by short sighted or blinkered motorists.

    In the UK, we have an ongoing problem of narrow roads, but to make matters worse, local councils seem intent in maintaining the problem, by restricting the size of lanes on roads where the proportions are more generous. ‘Cycle lanes’ appear & disappear without due regard for the challenge this creates for all road users, not least cyclists. Lane discipline appears to be a big enough of a challenge, without the lanes themselves flexing their size & shape every few hundred yards.

    Parked cars line many Bristol streets, as residences lack off road parking. Whilst cyclists don’t take up much space, but they do take sufficient room on the road to obstruct vehicles that wish to pass them. I know we’re entitled to be there, but in the arguments between one road user and another, we’ve lost sight of the cause & effect of such arguments. I am very concerned by the frustration demonstrated by vehicles so determined to drive at a speed which suits them (ignoring the speed limits that apply to us all), driving too close behind me, accelerating dangerously to pass me (thanks for the exhaust fumes!), then having to pull in ahead of a line of parked cars because oncoming traffic obliges them to wait. The problem in this instance, is that frequently they pull in so close to the first vehicle in the line of parked cars, that they obstruct the passage of that slow moving cyclist, who in the space of ten seconds has caught up with them. Now the cyclist is obliged to wait because the driver CANNOT think beyond the ten yards in front of them, ignoring what is to the left of them, indifferent to what is behind them, and begrudgingly aware of what is to the right of them.

    The UK has grown used to these restrictions, or at least have adapted an attitude towards them; they will pass other vehicles with cm or mm to spare without holding their breath. Passing cars may clip wing mirrors, but as this is perceived of as no matter to sweat over, the driver’s perception of cyclists is twofold: you are sharing the road with me, therefore the rules for ‘us’ are the same, and if I am surrounded by noise reducing, crash absorbing, airbag deploying, anti-lock braking vehicle, why aren’t you?

    I think the observation made, that cyclists don’t belong on the road actually has some merit, if only to supply the argument, that if I don’t use the road, where should I cycle the 2/5/10 mile ride to work, etc…? Most road users haven’t thought through this consideration, so focussed are they on their needs. I think that if we acknowledge their frustrations, but demand of them the solution, their thought process may change. Until a solution is found, cyclists will continue to use public highways as directed by the Highway Code, even if the provision of roads and lane markings is inconsistent and/or insufficient. The risk to cyclists using public highways should be restricted to the condition of the weather, not the conduct of other road users (including pedestrians). It is not my intention to obstruct or hinder other road users, but I have a right to use the same roads ‘you’ do, and currently at least, there is no alternative.

  41. […]… […]

    • Just a couple things I’d like to say. I hope the list does not “provoke” anyone (that’s the last thing we need out there). My intention when writing the list was purely to blow off a little steam and hopefully get the point across that as a cyclist although we may get bullied a bit out there, we really have little we can do about it. Simple physics says that the cyclist will lose every time, and a driver who gets emotional and takes even the smallest spiteful action can easily kill or cripple a cyclist in an instant.

      I see a lot of people talking about inconsiderate/reckless cyclists and in hopes of showing my point of view on the “rules of the road” and whatnot I offer two quick scenarios…

      First the cyclist who goes cruising through a red light or stop sign with only a quick glance. He rolls through the intersection at speed and is run over by a truck. In this case it boils down to the cyclist’s own regard for his well being vs. his need to “keep up his precious momentum”. This is completely his fault and no amount of rules or common sense could save this type of rider from himself. He not only kills or hurts himself, but also the driver (at least emotionally), and everyone who hears the story and changes or reinforces their opinion of cyclists in general. This kind of story has and will continue to impact the cycling community when votes or funds are needed, or just simply when people see you out there and their first thought is that it’s dangerous for you to be on the same road with them. Which leads to the inevitable “bikes don’t belong…” arguments and whatnot or the back and fourth finger pointing over the recklessness of drivers vs cyclists. Though there are also dangerous drivers out there, one does not justify the existence of the other and no argument that claims they are equal offenses can possibly be taken seriously.

      The second scenario is the cyclist who stops at the red light, feels that for whatever reason it is safe to go through, and does. Now the car who has stopped behind him gets frustrated that he has to wait while the biker breaks the rules. When he does eventually pass the rider, he squeezes him against the side of the road to show his frustration and intimidate the cyclist. The rider is caught between the car and the guardrail, forced into a gutter and crashes. This time purely and 100 percent the driver’s fault. No matter how they try to phrase it, their version of the story to try to make them seem justified usually boils down to the childlike argument “He started it!…”. With me that crap just sounds like a little brat trying to argue their way out of trouble.

      The driver ALWAYS has to be the more responsible one when encountering others on the road. If only for the simple fact that they have the ability to end or change the lives of the more fragile road users with little or no effort. No amount of “rule breaking” by cyclists gives any driver the right to bully or administer any kind of vigilante justice.

      If there was a confrontation between a guy with a machine gun and a guy with a spitball straw, who holds all the cards in this situation? The gun guy needs to have more thought about the consequences and responsibility of his own actions. Even in the worst case scenario where the spitball guy provokes his own perforation, the action taken is solely the responsibility of the gun guy. How can he justify it? “He started it… or I thought he was going to shoot my eye out…” Whatever the argument, it sounds as ridiculous to me as someone justifying bullying a cyclist because they witnessed a traffic violation.

      Maybe that analogy has a few holes in it, but I hope it’s at least worth my two cents on this.

  42. […]… […]

  43. What about this one: you (the cyclist) approach an intersection and clearly signal your intention to turn left. When your turn comes, you go left, only to have a car drive across right in front of you (causing you to stop abruptly) and then, after they have almost run you over, look out the window, yell ‘B*tch,’ and drive away.

  44. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and the rest of the website is – Review of The Visible Chinese Coin Mystery System (Gimmicks and … also very good.

  45. […] on Pittsburgh bike parking plan. Portland Transport links to a model for electric bikesharing. And Morristown Pedal Pushers has the top 10 rudest things drivers do when encountering […]

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