Dealing with Road Rage

This morning I was able to leave earlier for my commute, and I was excited about getting to work earlier than normal. What I didn’t realize is that I was about to meet a whole new group of auto commuters. A half hour makes a big difference on who you see! Usually I have a friendly crowd of parents dropping their kids off at the elementary school; however, today I rode among the high school car commuters.

I was riding down a snowy street when I noticed a pickup approaching from behind. I got over as far right as I could, so he would have plenty of room to pass. But instead of giving me room, he purposely tried to force me into the snow bank! I could see him looking in his mirrors, making sure he got as close as possible without actually hitting me. Luckily I stayed on my bike and didn’t give him or his buddy the satisfaction of an accident.

Before I could think of what to do, they were gone from sight. I had a camera handy, but they were going too fast to get it out in time. I was glad I didn’t catch up with them, because an altercation with two young kids isn’t what I need on my way to work.

It’s hard to turn the other cheek with attempted murder. What do you all think would be the best way to handle this situation? It seems like it may be a good idea to keep a pen and paper handy to record a license plate. Does anyone keep a little “self defense” handy?

Another lesson learned here was that altering the time of your commute can make a huge difference. It might be wise to experiment with different times, and pick the best one if you survive!

Sign up for our Adventure-Packed Newsletter

Get our latest touring, commuting and family cycling posts and sales delivered to your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

0 thoughts on “Dealing with Road Rage”

  1. Dwainedibbly says:

    Get the license plate number & call the police next time.

  2. Jeff Moser says:

    That seems like the best advice. Violence might not work out in your favor! Does it ever? Let the police handle that part. Besides, I think a visit from the cops at school or at home would be a lot better lesson than me shaking my fist at them.

    Controlling your emotions and not letting them see you react may disappoint the aggressor too.

  3. Printenv says:

    This is a silly idea that I have had for a while. I don’t know if it is really that feasible or not. But I would love to have a small helmet/bike cam that would record my entire bike commute. Then, if anything happened I would have video documentation of everything. Thing is, I don’t know how much room is available for recording on one of those devices or if the quality would be good enough to be able to later gather the data needed from it.

  4. Jeff P says:

    Here are some options:

    1. Catch the vehicle (if you can), and apologize for riding your bicycle too close to his car. Then ask if he has any constructive criticism that would help you stay out of his way.

    2. Catch the vehicle (if you can), and politely hand him an application to join the military.

    3. Form a commuter-commando-unit. Send out commuter decoys. Then pounce on the driver when he takes the bait.

    4. If you’re unable to get a description of the vehicle, then blow it off. Don’t let an encounter like that ruin your whole day.

    Think of what you could do different. We shouldn’t have to, but we’re the little guy.

    As for violence, carry Bear Spray. You never know when some physco will want to confront you.

  5. Mark Evans says:

    I had the exact same thing happen to me recently. The only difference was that before the car could drive away, it had to stop at a red light. I made it clear to the driver that I was unhappy about their behavior, and the women apologized – clearly she wasn’t even aware that what she had done was dangerous.

  6. Ghost Rider says:

    As tempting as it is to smash out windows with U-locks, pull drivers from their cars and beat them senseless or other violent acts, Jeff P.’s #4 (above) is spot-on — don’t let an encounter like that ruin your day, even if it means swallowing your pride. I know, I know…it’s really hard to turn the other cheek, but we ARE the little guy out there!

    Violence breeds more violence, and we won’t be winning any “hearts and minds” among motorists if we resort to acting like vigilantes.

  7. Jeff Moser says:

    I rode over to the bike shop today and picked up my new messenger bag. I told my story, and then this other guy starts telling us of the days he spent as a bicycle messenger in New York City. He had some pretty crazy stories about traffic altercations that ended in violence and property destruction. It made me forget what I was complaining about!

    Thanks for the tips!

  8. Mike B. says:

    Jeff P.- Why does the behavior described above qualify the bad actors for military service? As a former marine and a cyclist getting ready to become a daily commuter , I would expect to find very few young people brave enough and patriotic enough to join the military wasting their time and energy commiting irresponsible acts like the one posted here. Like wise people say – If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier.

  9. ScottG says:

    This is something I’ve encountered a couple of times while riding recreationally in addition to commuting. At one time I did mange to get the license plate number of a car (I carry a pencil and a few folded 3×5 index cards in my camelback) and considered writing the person a letter, but cooled off later and just decided to let it go.

    One thing I did notice happen was I got really, really anxious when going through that particular intersection where my life was threatened deliberately. That lasted for a few weeks and actually made me hesitant to ride for a while!

    Dangers from cars (especially when it’s clear it’s deliberate) are the single biggest problem I face when riding. I’d love to hear more stories and suggestions on how to deal with aggressive drivers on this blog.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Where I live drivers are almost all courteous and give me plenty of room when passing.

    However, my parents live in a suburb of a major city in the area. Whereas here the asshole driver is the exception to the rule, there the asshole is the rule and the courteous driver is the exception. Drivers will run you into the curb 9 times out of 10. Here, I shrug off the assholes, but when I go back to visit my parents I stick a wrist-rocket slingshot in my back pocket and a handful of ball bearings in my vest. From the saddle, I can hit a car about 100

  11. Anonymous says:

    …feet away. Damn tab key.

  12. Jeff P says:

    Mike-B- I apologize for offending you and our brave soldiers. My remark was a lame attempt at humor in regards to a serious situation.

    As a former Army serviceman, I believe military service is the only way (for some) to learn respect & discipline for others.

    And good luck when you start commuting.

  13. Hayduke says:

    Simply memorize his license plate number and turn t in to the appropriate constabulary.

  14. Spenny says:

    Printenv – My little brother has a helmet cam for snowboarding, with a one gig SD card you can record like 30 min at a decent quality.

  15. DanC says:

    Remember folks who try this BS are not bright and if you ride the same time and place you can get the license number and description. Get a police report on file.

  16. Jeff Moser says:

    Carson City is a small town, and there are only a couple streets out of that neighborhood. I think you’re right. He’d probably be at the same place at the same time tomorrow.

    …if I can get myself moving that early!

  17. denis says:

    My experience is that the police aren’t interested in ‘near misses’ unless there is concrete evidence of bad behaviour or malicious intent. Simply reporting dangerous or antisocial actions by a driver won’t be met by more than polite pretense of interest unless you can back it up. I use a helmet camera to record my commute, then delete the (generally) uninteresting video when I get to work/home. I have, however, passed a video clip to the police on one occasion. They were quite prepared to follow this up, and called on the miscreant and reminded him of the need to share the road safely. I think that the message got through!

  18. enrique says:

    People who do stupid shit like that assume there are no repercussions for their behavior. I agree with the others — license plate number, phone call.

    Carrying a concealed weapon is not a bad idea, for self defense.

  19. Dingbat says:

    One point of law: if someone runs you off the road, and you go down, they are still responsible for your injuries/property damage. There doesn’t have to be contact for there to be responsibility.


  20. jason (sd) says:

    I don’t pull over any more “so he would have plenty of room to pass”. Some one once said be predictable (stay in a straight line), and always give yourself room for evasive action.
    I chase down whenever I can. If they apologize I let it drop. If they don’t I call the cops. Lots of laws could come into play: failure to yield, improper passing, and assault with a deadly weapon…
    At least in my state if you are willing to sign a statement and show up in court, the police have to fallow up. I have not been to court yet.

  21. joel says:

    Something that always comes to mind for me when I read stories like this and the mandatory recommendations for violent retribution that always follow is a lesson I learned playing water polo in high school: it is ALWAYS the guy who fights BACK that gets caught, NEVER the instigator. Case in point: These guys were too close and it sounds like they were trying to at least scare if not knock you off the road, that sucks but at least you weren’t hurt. Let’s say you did smash a window or shoot them with a ball bearing from a wrist rocket, they have an obvious (by the damage) claim of assault where all you have is your story that they crowded you. Who is going to win? Do cops really care if you report that you were crowded off the road, not likely, but if it happens more than a couple of times with the same vehicle hopefully they’d do something.

    I will say that I’ve never been subjected to intentional provocation like this. I’ve had to deal with idiots on the road and people who just don’t notice the bike, but not anyone who seemed to be trying to hurt or scare me. If I rode through an area or at a time where this did happen (and there wasn’t a reasonable alternate route) I think I’d go with a helmet cam to record the ride, just in case.

  22. Marrock says:

    To borrow a great line from a bad movie: “Have you ever been karmically bitchslapped by a six-armed goddess?”

  23. Smudgemo says:

    You should probably take more of the lane instead of less. At least then you have more room to move over when you get squeezed.

    If they are kids on the way to school, I’d call the cops and describe it exactly as it happened, then I’d go to the school and complain to the admin. When I was in HS, they didn’t really want anyone to drive and were happy to take away parking spots from the kids for bad behavior. That might be more effective than the cops unless the kid is under 18 and the parents get a call.

  24. david p. says:

    i know of a guy who has a magnet on his bike with 1/2″ bb’s attached to it. someone does something, they end up with a broken window.

    i’m not advocating this, especially because in many instances they don’t know what they’ve done wrong. it’s like punishing a dog for crapping in your house 5 minutes after they’ve done it. they have no idea what they did.

    motorists, like dogs… need training. they need to know, immediately what they’ve done wrong. i would suggest, telling them how their behavior negatively influenced you. hopefully, this will sober them up. if they are arrogant, feel free to react as your temperament dictates.

    i would also state that riding predictably, and taking the lane when necessary can prevent many unnecessary conflicts.

  25. brian says:

    First of all, it is good to hear you escaped this incident unscathed. Secondly, I want to tag onto smudego and jason (sd) comments about taking the lane. Typically by making yourself more prominant you have more fall back room if they decide to pinch you.
    However, I must say these kids are D_CK’s and should get their @$$ kicked for doing this.
    There, I feel better now.
    Unfortunately, there is little repercussion for behaviour like this and all you can do is be on your guard.
    Be safe!

  26. kaz kougar says:

    I keep, the local PD and Sheriff’s numbers in my cell and In the few situations I have had with motorists, I have reported them. The last time the operator asked if I wanted to sign a formal complaint (I reported the license number) but using my better judgement I simply replied, “No, the guy seemed like a hostile redneck and I don’t want him coming after me or my family so I just want you to make a record of this call in case he ever does do something nuts, it is known that he has a history of recklessness.”
    In your case, teenagers are f’ing crazy and since it is a small town you may find yourself the victim of an unpredictible and possibly brutal retaliation if you were to report them and they did get caught. I’d say in your case that I’d probably just let it go but if it happens again, I’d definitely notify the authorities, if that doesn’t work then find out where they live and slash all four tires on their car, they won’t mess with any cyclists for at least a day or so, most likely longer since they’re teenagers.
    Pepper spray is handy to have at all times, you never know when you may need it for dogs, motorists or anyone.

  27. Jeff Moser says:

    I’m not sure I’d recognize the truck if I saw it again. Just an old mini truck that a typical kid would drive. Taking the lane in this case was not an option, since the street was severely constricted from the snow. I would’ve held someone up for a few blocks if I didn’t pull over.

    The snow has melted a lot since the incident, and I was able to take my shortcut once again. This bypasses this section. Plus I left later and missed all the High School traffic.

    I was talking to one of my friends about what he does in these situations, and he says he calls the cops anonymously after the incident. His tip is to embellish the story a little bit. Maybe say they looked like gang members, it looked like they had a beer in their hand, etc. It might be the only way for the police to take you seriously!

    This has been a fun discussion. Thanks for all the comments!

  28. galvo says:

    i have been trying to start a grass root movement to have dashcam to record dangerous driving situations,
    as far as a bike cam the 79 one i have just did a write up about may work. i also used a Oregon scientific 99 cam attached to my bike , i have some videos linked to the site to show theie test clips

  29. galvo says: is th eblog i started to specailize in dash cams, i m working with a couple other people to put up a bike /ped cam sight

  30. DanC says:

    Dealing with “road rage” while cycling can be tricky, especially if the adrenaline is pumping.

    Highly recommend chapter 5 of Bob Mionske’s Bicycling and the Law: “Cyclist Harassment and What you can do about it”, over 50 pages of good sound legal advice. A little Bike Education will also go a long way, probably need to “control or use the full lane”, see “Passing Thoughts — Bikes and Cars Sharing the Road”:


  31. mike says:

    When you have the best of intention — leaving that wider space in between: these motor vehicle drivers will take away as much as they can. As the smaller size your body length be, the more trouble they give. Remember the “pussy” game — in school? Now they/motor vehicle drivers are doing that on the road. Car (bigger & heavier) against bike. And with the motor vehicles paying fees for the state dmv, the cops will be biggots against us cyclists. When those cars wreck our bikes.

  32. Juan says:

    I’ve had more than my share of this type of behavior…..yelling, swerving, things being thrown, etc.. I got in the habit of mentally taking plate numbers as cars passed me, even if they didn’t do anything, for practice. It became such a routine, that I didn’t even think about it anymore, but if someone did have an altercation with me, I wouldn’t be flustered and forget to get the plate number. Many times people are overcome by the emotions of a situtation, that they can’t function the way they’d like. Not sure if this helps, but I feel better prepared if (when?) it happens again.

  33. Brian Lacy says:

    I teach my students to try hare to never react in ager or fear, but to strive to show friendliness (not backing down though) outwardly, while in inwardly noting all details including license plate and potential witnesses. The best way to change others is to use sugar – not be appeasing or to act sarcastically, but to show how our way is more fun and peace-making. It’s amazing how disorienting it is to the bully.

  34. Brian Lacy says:

    I teach my students to not react in anger or fear, but to strive to show firm friendliness (not backing down though) outwardly, while in inwardly noting all details including license plate and potential witnesses. The best way to change others is to use sugar – not be appeasing or to act sarcastically, but to show how our way is more fun and peace-making. It’s amazing how disorienting it is to the bully.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


20% off ALL Ortlieb Bag Closeouts! Shop Closeouts

Scroll to Top