(Mindless) Respect, Mostly

Keri at Commute Orlando is looking for some data on what proportion of drivers are naughty and nice regarding routine encounters with cyclists. He links to a tally kept by Andrew Hartsock:

At the end of close to a month, I had eight Nice entries and one Mean one. Seven of the eight on the Nice side of the ledger were drivers letting me go out of turn at an intersection. The eighth was a man letting me turn in front of him out of a private drive…

Now, there’s no way of knowing how many interactions with cars I had over that span, but surely it numbers in the thousands. If I meet 15 cars each leg of my commute and commute two legs twice a day, five days a week, that’s 300 a week. I figure each of those numbers is way low, but let’s say there were 1,000 encounters with autos.

One meanie in 1,000 interactions works out not to 1 percent, as I’d guessed, but one-tenth of a percent — and a whole bunch of neutral encounters that were neither mean nor nice but simply operators of two vehicles coexisting peacefully.

So Keri wants to know who else has kept score. You may wish to help. Here are the questions:

What percentage of drivers would you guess are:

  1. deliberately mean
  2. unconscious
  3. attentive and cooperative
  4. readily courteous

I have not kept track in any formal way. My sense is that Hartsock’s tally is fairly typical of what I encounter in Springfield. As I have said before, I’ve found Springfield drivers to be respectful. What I mean by that: The majority appear to treat me like #3, just another vehicle on the road — neither overly courteous nor openly resentful.

Now I say “appear” above because it’s difficult to say just how many fall into category #2, unconscious. I’m just about finished reading Traffic, by Tom Vanderbilt. His research suggests that the vast majority of drivers fall into category #2 as simple matter of everyday driving. Scary. I plan to write reaction (not a review) to the book soon on Carbon Trace.

Keri says: “Mindless-driver moves used to make up the majority of the conflicts I experienced, but I find them pretty rare since I altered my riding position to the left.” Exactly. Move left. Be visible. The mindless driver, which may indeed be most drivers, are far more likely to see you if you claim your share of the road.

“Mindless” and “unconscious” do not suggest that drivers are uncooperative or disrespectful regarding their encounters with bicycles. Although one could make a case that mindlessness is profound disrespect for the awesome power and responsibility of driving a 2-ton contraption around crowded streets. We’ll go there another time. For now I will chalk up the dearth of  nasty encounters to respect — even if that respect enters a driver’s consciousness at the last moment.

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Comments 1

  1. fred_dot_u wrote:

    I’ve recently suggested, in a yahoo group post, that moving into view of drivers makes the driver’s job easier, therefore less stressful and more likely to be accomodating to cyclists. I didn’t use those precise words and now I’m hoping that my thoughts came across as above.

    I’m happy to see that others are experiencing the same results. We are part of the road user group and more readily accepted when we operate as such. This is just another example of how things can and do work.

    Posted 06 Dec 2008 at 10:55 am