Maybe Cyclists Are Just Jerks? Stef Hanson. Chief. March 6, 2013 Natalie Garonzi 35 There is no ‘cool’ way to set the scene. I was listening to talkback radio last week day whilst driving to Bunning’s Warehouse. In my defence, I can barely tolerate hearing my uncontrollable urge to crack naff jokes all day, so spending my time in the car listening to someone else forced to do it on FM is my personal hell. Tangent – How good is Bunning’s?! It smells of timber, has power tools and an endless stream of hairy tradies with those little bootie covers on their shoes AND a $1 *sausage sanga on the way out. [*apologies to those triathletes offended by my early mention of carbs] Praise Jesus! I digress. The open-phone topic they were having on talk-back was heated. It involved lots of yelling and tutting, harrumphing and sanctimonious “how dare yous”. I figured someone must have called the station and said something to the startling effect of “Hitler was right…” They didn’t. Someone called and said “cyclists shouldn’t be allowed to ride on roads that don’t have bike lanes.” A humorously moronic statement he justified by saying “they don’t pay registration,” without even once considering the minor, but imperative issue that, even if we did what he wanted – the roads with bike lanes don’t link up leaving the commuter/cyclist to cyclocross their way across the city riding on the permissible streets and getting off and walking to the next main street that has bike lanes. Funny idiot. His diatribe was followed by a succession of angry “anti-cyclites” who like to remind the listeners that they pay their taxes and rates and shouldn’t have to drive slower on roads they paid for. “How dare they ride two abreast. I don’t care that it’s legal!” I wasn’t biting and was giggling smugly to myself when I reached a set of traffic lights. A cyclist pulled up next to me, slowed his roll, looked both ways and then proceed to run the red. URGH!! Idiot!!!! Then I thought about it. Some cyclists are just jerks. Ol’ mate who just ran the red light. Pack riders three or four abreast in single lane streets. Those who head up one way streets the wrong way. Don’t even get me started about the idiot woman I saw a few days ago slo-mo zombie riding down the footpath of my local strip, people stepping out of her way all around her with no helmet on while fricken TEXTING! (Oh, how I wished a brisk Darwinian end upon her.) But, what about jerk pedestrians?! They’re everywhere! Jaywalking or running out in front of cars or bikes without looking. Walking impossibly slowly with four other mothers pushing prams and taking up entire footpaths. And then, of course, jerk drivers are a daily malaise. Tail-gating, perpetual lane-changing, those apparently allergic to indicating. Speeding. The dude that honks you if you haven’t accelerated at warp speed a nano-second after a traffic light has turned green. It appears to me that if you have the ability to be mobile. You have the ability to be a jerk. Me included. There is this thing called the ‘affect heuristic’ which is like a psychological shortcut that allows people to make swift and efficient decisions based mostly on emotions, without having to do all the hard work of thinking critically and applying rational thought. This instinct is nifty and served us well back in the ‘African savannah’ days, but hasn’t quite devolved enough to not be kicking in on a Saturday morning drive. Let me explain. At some point in our lives driving in a busy city with lots of cars and people and moving stuff – a cyclist, or a motorcyclist, perhaps even a pedestrian has popped out in front of you causing a potentially near-fatal incident and scaring the bejeezus out of you. You. Freak. Out. Adrenalin pumps through your body. You are angry and terrified and relieved all at the same time. This overwhelmingly visceral response is stored somewhere in your delightfully complex brain and stored incase you ever need to jump into action again. These events stand out far more than the uninteresting but pleasant “oh look, there is a wonderful, considerate cyclist riding next to me and not affecting me in the slightest. Let me commit this to memory so next time I see a cyclist I get the same pleasant feeling and remember to enjoy the experience.” No. That stuff is meaningless to your survival and gets dumped by your memory. But have a minor irritation kick in on the road by a cyclist you didn’t expect and the affect heuristic kicks in and all those emotions come flooding back to help you survive/not accidentally kill someone. Over-reaction ensues. Also, there is the inbuilt “otherness” that comes naturally in life and therefore, also in forms of transportation. Some people have no idea how anyone could ever force themselves to go for a run, let alone actually enjoy doing it. Other people see nothing odd about driving 500m to quickly grab a 20 pack of nuggets (*cough* my housemate), can feel a world apart from those that cycle. Not just weekend warriors, but those that commute daily. In the same way that some people would think “All Green voters are hippies” or “All priests are…” Well, you get the gist. Sometimes it’s easy to reduce people, not just races or religious groups, but sporting types or people who dress differently into cultural stereotypes. Creating an ‘Us Vs Them’ milieu. It’s not and should never be ‘Cyclists Vs Motorists’… it’s ‘Jerks are everywhere. Please, everyone, try to be considerate when you’re mobile and watch out for your fellow humans. Thxbai.’ Oh, god. I’m doing it again. I’m getting all “love thy neighbour” on you. What is wrong with me. I fear I might start feeling feelings soon. I’m gonna go yell abuse at kittens. That’ll learn’em. I’m all ‘ard n’junk. Not soft and lovie dovie. Hey, and did you see how I wrote a contentious header on the article and I wasn’t really saying Cyclists are jerks. See what I did there!!! Jeez, I’m all tricky and controversial!!! See ya’s next time Witsuppers!!!!!! 35 Responses Janus March 7, 2013 Where the hell do you get this stuff? Effect Huristic? Trust you to go there. That was very fascinating though and I really love reading these. Thanks so much for the psychology lesson Nat i’l make sure I remember the nice cyclist i dont notice next time. lol Reply Garonzatron March 8, 2013 Hands in the air big sucker for geeking out over “why” people act the way they do and what drives them and all that sociological swottery. And here I get to mix my mutual loves. THanks for taking the time respond!!! Reply Rob March 7, 2013 I won’t make the same mistake as last time, I agree with everything you say :) but i actually agree here. just because bikes are slower doesnt mean they should cop all the abuse and they have rights to the roads as much as cars. We actually need more bikes on the road but the infrastructure needs to be better to accomodate both. well said. Reply Garonzatron March 8, 2013 Ha! I like your vibe, Rob. And full marks for getting back ont he horse (ieep! bad pun but well worth it!) Agreed. As the number of cyclists increase at a rapid rate and the petrol prices rise, the infrastructure and forethought to incorporate daily commuters AND weekend warriors need to be considered – and quickly. Thanks for your input. And mostly for agreeing! ;) Reply Amiee March 7, 2013 I only read these to learn new words. I learned about 7 today. LOL!!!!!! Another great one nat! Reply Garonzatron March 8, 2013 Awww, no! Now I feel like a right knob! The next article will only be the word ‘farts’ written 1000 times. But thanks anyway!!! *queef* Reply Seb March 7, 2013 Sorry, but I disagree. I live in Hampton in Melbourne and Beach Rd on a Saturday morning is terrifying. And I say this as a social cyclist. I realize its a shared road and a popular bike route but these huge packs of 15 or 20 or sometimes even 30 shouldn’t be allowed. Its a 2 lane multi-directional street and while a lot of cyclists are very considerate some are erratic and it’s terrifying. I AM in a big car and I can kill you easily and it will be my fault no matter how carefully i’m driving. Cyclists and Motorists should be able to share the road but I think there should be laws on inner city streets limiting pack sizes. Reply Garonzatron March 8, 2013 Thanks for your well articulated comment, Seb. And I agree with you. Whilst it’s terrifying for a cyclist (what with them NOT having a big car around them to protect them) – It’s also terrifying for a motorist who might be being a very courteous driver but have a jerk cyclist OR perhaps a group of novices who may be less confident and more ignorant of the road rules. Beach Rd is polarising stretch. Whist I truly believe it can be shared, I do think there is merit in your suggestion of limiting pack sizes or separating them in to 2 smaller packs (for example). And also in the education of novice cyclists on the nuances of HOW to share the roads with both other cyclists and motorists alike. Love to get your feedback on this, Chief?! Reply Captain Feathersword March 7, 2013 I stopped after the mention of a sausage sanga. CARBS!! Disgusting! I bet it was in that cheap white bread too. How VERY dare you… Also, I miss you fool. x Reply Erin March 7, 2013 Forever learning new things with you Nat. I love that there is a scientific reason to it and that everyone is a jerk in the end. i guess we all have to try harder. all the time. I’m exhausted already! NAT FOR PRIME MINISTER! Reply Garonzatron March 8, 2013 Jerks unite!! I like the idea of relaxing in the fact that we are all jerks and can ALL make an effort to be a little better. As for the Nat for PM thing,.. Lady… you is DRUNK!! Ha, thanks for commenting as usual!! Reply Ambo March 8, 2013 Jerks are jerks, regardless of their mode of transportation. The cyclist that runs red lights is the same driver who is on his/her mobile phone whilst drifting into the lane next to him/her. They are jerks to other cyclists, other drivers, other pedestrians, they are just jerks. I work in road safety and i get to see the worst of the worst of road users in Adelaide. Somedays i think with what i know of the road users out there i dont know how i put my life at such a risk attempting to share the road with them. On my bike or in my car. I think from both sides of the coin this is one of those issues where all that, be the change you want to see in other people, or something like that, comes in to play. I cannot control what other cyclists or driver’s or pedestrians do. But i can make sure that i am not the jerk cyclist that pushes the buttons of the jerk driver by doing something just plain stupid, or the cyclist that scares the living crap out of the courteous driver by doing something stupid. You know, maybe all it will mean is that i can feel all high and mighty atop my liv/giant Avail that i am the best and most courteous road user in all of Radelaide, but if someone copies my attitude instead of that of the jerks then that’s surely a win for road safety. And that’s my self righteous rant for the day! Reply Jocelyn May 7, 2013 Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all people you actually realize what you are speaking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also seek advice from my web site =). 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