Drivers vs. cyclists: the answer to road peace in our time is “don’t take it personally”

Drivers vs. cyclists: the answer to road peace in our time is “don’t take it personally”

Ah, March 1st. The unofficial beginning of spring in this part of southern Canada, as the thermometer starts to spend more and more time above zero and Torontonians reacquaint themselves with two things they’ve missed lo these many months: sunlight and bicycles. Okay, maybe the city hasn’t missed bicycles that much—last year, the early part of the mayoral race revolved around how much bike lanes were hated (“a lot, or more than anything? Please check one.”). The candidates got to hash out in public what Torontonians had been arguing about in private for so long: how to find peace in the road war. A new article by Tom Vanderbilt in Outside sheds some light on the topic. He proposes that part of the hate-on that each group has for the other is basically psychological.

“We know that merely perceiving someone as an outsider is enough to provoke a whole range of things,” says Ian Walker, a researcher at the University of Bath who specializes in traffic psychology. “All the time, you hear drivers saying things like ‘Cyclists, they’re all running red lights, they’re all riding on sidewalks,’ while completely overlooking the fact that the group they identify with regularly engages in a whole host of negative behaviors as well.”…

“As a couples therapist, I tell people that we take things so personally,” Joe Simonetti says…It’s easy, when a car edges too close or cuts him off, to “go to that paranoid place where they’re just trying to fuck with me. We’re so worried that someone else can steal our sense of self that we fight for it at every turn.” But it could have been just that the driver didn’t see him.

So, soon-to-be stressed road warriors of Toronto: try to think of this as a troubled marriage and follow the advice of couples therapist Simonetti—don’t take these things so personally. It might be hard when a car nearly gives a cyclist the right hook, or when a motorist is stuck in traffic watching cyclists glide by not-quite-effortlessly, but seriously: it’s not personal.

• Rage Against Your Machine [Outside]