Monday, October 13, 2008

You give me road rage

Road rage seems to be something of a perennial topic on Yellow Brick Road. Well yesterday was another incident for the record. I was riding along Ramsay St in Haberfield at around 6pm on my way home from Uni. As I was riding, a man in orange sports ute rego BCR18W cut me off at high speed with barely a foot or two between us. As he passed, the driver stuck his finger up at me, clearly enjoying this action. As is almost always the case, I caught up to him one minute later at the lights but I kept well away. Anyone who rides a lot knows that there are certain drivers that seem to be more likely to cause trouble than others and while it is prejudicial to judge a person by their car, this phenomena has been studied in the 2002 article Drivers’ perceptions of cyclists.

When prompted, all the professional drivers, regardless of whether they were carrying goods or passengers, tended to be less accepting of cyclists’ presence on the roads they were using. They felt their livelihood was being interfered with – particularly if they were held up by a cycle, which was obviously slower than other vehicles, within their lane. It was reported that being caught behind a cyclist added further to the pressure on their work schedules. ... These respondents tended to be of the opinion that cyclists should not be on the road at all.
... professional drivers and some male domestic drivers tended to blame the cyclist for not knowing what he was meant to do, apparently through a lack of proper training and the absence of any obligatory cycling test. These groups also felt that cyclists were not responsible for the consequences of their actions, as they did not pay insurance and were generally free from enforcement, and so did not care about their behaviour.
When the drivers were placed under test situations in a driving simulator, the researchers found a relationship between the size of the professional drivers vehicle and the amount of consideration they gave to cyclists.
Analysis by driver type reveals some subtle differences in driving behaviour. Professional drivers of larger vehicles were more likely than other drivers to say that they would act more cautiously (86% reported they would slow down and wait behind the cyclist). The responses of professional drivers of smaller vehicles, in contrast, indicated this group was slightly less likely than other drivers to act cautiously...
In other words, while this would suggest that buses typically slow down, drivers of smaller vehicles such as utes, small vans and cabs are less likely to concede speed or give space to cyclists.

While it’s harsh of me to stereotype and pathologise anyone who drivers a ute as a potential cycle-hater, I do see a strong correlation between utes and a lot of cultural ideas about power and masculinity. One just has to think of the ads that are used to sell utes:

But then again, ads rarely live up to reality.


Treadly and Me said...

I find it hard to generalise about professional drivers. I've found some to be truly professional and responsible, and then others utterly clueless. That's just the normal difference between individuals, I guess.

As to the apparent difference between drivers of larger and smaller commercial vehicles, I wonder if this could be related to the extra training required to get endorsement to drive a larger vehicle?

I always thought that second ute ad was hilarious, but probably not in a way that the car company would appreciate.

Adrian said...

Generalisations are always limited, but we can look at evidence to see how some driver characteristics such as gender or car type emerge repeatedly as more risky. I guess thats what insurance companies do. Tom Vanderbilt has a great chapter on dangerous driver profiling entitled: "Why You Shouldn't Drive with a Beer-Drinking Divorced Doctor Named Fred on Super Bowl Sunday in a Pickup Truck in Rural Montana"