One reason for the conflicts between cyclists and motorists is a simple misunderstanding of what cyclists really are. Cyclists, of course, think of themselves as drivers. They get to share the road with other vehicles because they too are using a vehicle. Yes, it’s smaller than a compact car and takes body power instead of gasoline, but it’s still a vehicle.
Motorists, on the other hand, think of cyclists as pedestrians. They mentally group them in with people walking or running on the sidewalk. Since the cyclist is physically visible in a way that a driver is not, this fit feels natural. That’s why you get drivers who say things like “bicycles do not belong on the road.”
These problems may not have existed in the past, when the roads were used by carts, horses and all other means of transportation. Everything was slower — a bike was one of the fastest ways to get around — and it was clear that even wheeled vehicles still needed some sort of live power — a person, a horse, a mule, etc. Bikes did not seem all that much different.
As cars have quickly taken over the roads in the past 100 years, though, that mindset has completely been lost. Many drivers do not see the road as something they need to share. They don’t think about how new cars are and how roads, historically speaking, have provided a path for everyone. Instead, they think that the roads are for cars and that everyone else needs to get out of their way.
The problems with this mindset
There are clearly a number of problems with this mindset, starting with the misclassification of cyclists as pedestrians. The biggest issue, though, is that drivers who do not feel like they should have to share the road are far quicker to become angry and have conflicts with cyclists.
If a driver was behind a car that was going too slowly, for instance, he or she would never try to pass the car in the same lane. If they get stuck behind a bike, though, drivers do this all of the time. They refuse to wait until there is clear space to pass and try to push their way through, forcing the bike to the side of the road or possibly running it off of the road entirely.
Quite simply, drivers often don’t think of cyclists as human beings in another vehicle. They think of them as annoying obstacles in their way. This mindset is wrong, and it leads to accidents and injuries.
If you get hit by an aggressive driver who does not share the road, you need to know what legal options you have.