You’re on the way to work, feeling pretty great that you’re going to be on time for once. You did your stretches this morning. You had a healthy breakfast. You’re so together today that you’re listening to Morning Edition like an actual adult, educating yourself on the affairs of the day, doing your part to create a more informed public. The sunlight glows approvingly on the road before you.
Then during the break, one of those condescending “Share the Road” PSA’s comes on. Annoyed, you start flipping through your radio presets. How informed does the public really have to be anyway? You find a top 40 station, (or if you’re a middle-aged white guy, the classic rock station (or if you don’t like either of those, whatever your personal favorite kind of awful music is)). All right! This song is your jam. You speed up as you round a bend on the road.
No sooner have you reached the appropriate 15 MPH over the speed limit than you’re forced to hit the brakes. Not fifty feet ahead of you after the road straightens, right in the middle of your lane, is a bicyclist. You lean into your horn, but the bicycle just keeps trundling along. You can feel precious seconds of pre-nine-AM desk time (that could have been used to play Candy Crush) slipping away from you as your car crawls forward behind this chump.
Now your very sensible instinct is probably to swerve towards the curb after you pass the next parked car, roll down the window, and pass the bicyclist on the right while hollering in their face. Big mistake. As you pass, your opponent has just time to reach over their shoulder into their backpack, pull out a printed copy of the state Transportation Code, bookmarked to the section on the regulation and operation of bicycles, and toss it through your open window. Next time, you won’t be humiliated that way, because you’ll be forearmed with our official…
Guide To Telling Off Bicyclists, the Science Way
In a bygone time, your faulty approach was actually the best known method for frustrated motorists to express their rage. But research into the psychology of bicyclists has come a long way in the last decade, and a number of best practices have evolved, which we summarize here for your benefit.
Of course bicyclists don’t belong anywhere near an actual traffic lane. That smooth, level stretch of pavement is for the vehicles that have earned it by consuming good, honest fuel. (Electric cars get a special indulgence for some reason; probably Obama’s idea). Bicycles belong over on the shoulder, with the potholes, debris, and parked cars. The bicycle itself is really just a rolling road hazard, so it fits right in. You might feel that passing on the right is a great power move to put the bicyclist in his place by showing them that you can drive over there just fine.
But the reality is counter-intuitive here. Think of the symbolism. If you pass on the right, you’re effectively saying, “I’m here to be your right-hand man, Mr. Bicyclist, sir. What can I do for you today?” Not a very strong message, is it? Flip this dynamic on its head by passing on the left. You’re the boss.
Don’t Get Cozy
As you realize, bicycling is a serious illness. But did you also know that it’s extremely contagious? We recommend that you keep your distance from any bicyclist you pass on the road, to protect yourself and your loved ones. Research shows that how contagious it is varies from country to country, and even state to state. The safe distance from a bicyclist is recorded in most codes under the terminology of a “passing distance.” Know yours, and stay healthy.
The Ultimate Burn
The uppity creature known as a “bicyclist” is characterized by an inappropriate, pathological desire to be acknowledged as a vehicle. The deepest cut you can inflict is to grind that conceit definitively into the asphalt. But how do you send that message?
Again, this may seem counter-intuitive, but science has shown that the most effective and lasting insult against bicyclists is to petition your local government to install and maintain bike lanes on all major thoroughfares. Think about it: nothing says “stay in your lane” like putting an actual lane on the road.
Thanks for reading, and we hope you have a great time applying these scientific insights, and recovering your rightful position of pre-eminence on the road.