(Updated) Urban Cyclist “Strategies” for Dealing with Motorists

Background Reading


The question was posed:

Has anyone found it neccessary to kick a car door to get drivers attention?
Maybe, knock a window?
Last week on Chicago Ave I had a Taxi on my tail who then kept crowding into my lane.
I had to fold his mirror  after 3 rd time.
When he tried to squish me I booted his Taxi , pulled over to sidewalk and stopped, He sped off.

— peter moormann

In came the responses:

Reply by Mike Zumwalt on Saturday
A tap on the window, mirror, hood, trunk or a HEY!!! usually do it for me.

Reply by Jeff Schneider on Saturday
I have had to slap a body panel to get a driver’s attention back from the phone to the street. But I think if you have already made them aware of your presence with a love tap, and they are still acting irrationally/endangering you, a better strategy than pounding or kicking their car (which I think just makes them angrier and nuttier) is to put some distance between yourself and them. You can usually slow down or stop and let them pass.

Gun Bike

Gun Bike

Reply by Joe Guzzardo on Sunday
Never had any problems with my custom made tandem. Surprisingly, I found riding shotgun (stoker) to be much more fun than being the captain. The look on driver’s faces as we pass them is priceless.

This represents a needless escalation of the discussion towards the “deadly aggressive“. But it is highly reminiscent of the kind of “gallows humor” that members of this forum railed against when done on the air by ESPN radio personalities. What makes it OK for ChainLinkers to engage in this sort of thing but wrong for others? It smacks of a Double Standard.

Reply by Sara on Sunday
I slapped a passenger side window of a car for almost running me over once.
Jerk then caught up to me down the road and threw his drink at me with a, “GET OF THE FUCKING ROAD”. Needless to say, I do not bother with them anymore.

Reply by JM 6.5 on Sunday
+1. I’ve found that trying to get the attention of an @$$ho1e to tell them that they’re driving like an @$$ho1e does not stop them from behaving like an @$$ho1e even more so.

Reply by Joe Guzzardo on Sunday
That’s battery. You should have gotten the license plate number and called the police. If we let motorists get away with this kind of behavior, then we’re condoning and further encouraging it.

This is one of the ironies of ChainLink discussions. The very folks demonstrating verbal bravado turn suddenly intolerant of the “real thing“.

Reply by El Dorado on Sunday
In todays society I would not resort to kicking a car. They could have a weapon and come out swinging! Or turn their car into a weapon and run you over. Bike riders are very vulnerable on the street. It’s why I like to wear my headphones so I cannot hear if the driver starts yelling at me.

Reply by Juan 2-8 mi. yesterday
I used to slap body panels, not any more after having this one dummy chase me down onto the side walk to mow me down and get out of his car to try and beat on me some more.
Never got his plate # as he sped off when he realized people started to come out to watch.

Reply by peter moormann yesterday
Drivers tend to be very sensitive about their steel cages, right?

Let’s suppose that pedestrians in the Castro District in California who knew about the death of a pedestrian at the hands of a cyclist were to take the same attitudes towards bicyclists. And so the very next time a Chicago cyclist on Damen failed to honor the Zebra Crosswalk protocol they turned and lunged at the cyclist, knocking him to the ground, his bike skidding across the frozen street to be run over by a snow plow? Would that be something that cyclists would in general applaud as just retribution?

Reply by El Dorado yesterday
And when you do manage to get their license plate number, so what? What are the police really going to do?? It’s best to brush off the situation.

Reply by Mike Schwab yesterday
A light tap with a coin on glass sounds very loud on the other side.

What does a “light tap” on the Bern helmet of an Urban Cyclist sound like when a motorist decides to warm him about swerving back and forth between cars on Milwaukee Avenue?

Reply by Jeff Schneider yesterday
I slapped the hood of a car while walking in a crosswalk . A driver waiting at the red light was so engrossed in her texting that she didn’t notice her car was about to roll over me. She was annoyed with me. I wonder what she thought I should do?

Would this cyclist turned pedestrian agree with slapping the handlebars of an errant cyclist who failed to behave in a crosswalk?

Reply by Skip Montanaro 12mi yesterday
I recently read Flirting with Disaster: Why Accidents Are Rarely Accidental. I think the author would call near misses (such as when the driver threw his drink at Sara), a “weak signal,” something not to be ignored. Calling the police about such incidents may well prevent a more tragic incident involving the same driver in the future. All the more important if the driver was a cabbie. While the police might not do much about specific incidents, it’s my understanding that these reports pile up against cabbies (someone please correct me if I’m wrong).

Reply by J.P. yesterday
Considering they sit inside a deadly weapon with no hesitation to unleash it on us with a tap of their right foot, I would tread very, very lightly.

It’s not just motorists whom you might have to be concerned with. Any pedestrian or motorist who judged your on bike behavior to be “annoying” could interfere with your forward progress. Being pulled from your bike or having a walking stick shoved into your front spokes while illegally riding through a Zebra Crosswalk might change your idea about who exactly is the one wielding a “deadly weapon“.

Reply by Jeff Schneider yesterday
Or in other words, discretion is the better part of valor. Quite true.

Reply by El Dorado yesterday
My experience with calling the Chicago police has always left me frustrated. The truth is they are not likely to go after someone even if you give dispatch a description and/or license plate. They don’t even come out for burglaries. They take the report over the phone. Perhaps if you stated that they pointed a gun at you then you would get a response. But I think that might be illegal and lead to charges against you.

Reply by Tricolor yesterday
Consider what you would do if you were also in a car. Hit the other car out of spite? Or get away from a stupid/dangerous situation as quick as possible? Everyone can fall prey to their ego no matter how they’re traveling.

Reply by Homebuilt yesterday
When people pass way too close a few times I reach out as they pass again to see if I can get them. If I touch the car, obviously they’re way too close. I got a mirror to fold back once.

Reply by Jeff Schneider yesterday
Haven’t we all wanted to do this at one time or another?

I keep wondering how soon I will get a news alert on my iPhone that someone has decided to dispense a bit of “street justice” that ends up requiring a ghost bike ceremony.

Reply by DanGer 8.2mi on Tuesday
I had a car right hook me. My wheel left large circular scratches in the door. The driver parked and never noticed. Dummy.

Reply by Andy J (9.2 miles) on Tuesday
Instead of kicking, I’m considering getting something “scratchy” to put in my handlebar ends…just so there will be a “reminder” of the right/left hook or lack of a 3 foot buffer.
I’m all talk, but surprised I haven’t seen anything marketed toward this purpose.

Reply by Juan 2-8 mi. on Tuesday
Yes, it is an extension of their own physical bodies. I would see some pull over just to wipe the grime off their fancy wheels.

Reply by ChiBikeGeek yesterday
A colleague of mine calls this fantasy device the “Shanks-A-Million”. Notionally, it’s a self-retracting metal spike on a wire spool that mounts on your headset, which you can draw out to exactly a 3.5 foot radius. If you can use it, they’re too close.

Reply by Haddon yesterday
I think in the armed, hand gun carry permit Chicago I will completely abstain from any car kicking / scratching at all.

Amen! It is in threads like these that you get to see two things about Urban Cyclists:

  • They can be as aggressive and as irrational as any Tea Party GOPer who is asked about anything having to do with Barack Obama. This is (at least for me) evidence that the inner spirits of these two groups (Tea Partiers and Urban Cyclists) are very much the same. They might be on different sides of a given issue but if they were ever to gain ultimate control of our society they would indeed be brutal bastards.

  • The Cycling Advocate groups like Active Transportation Alliance condone this kind of behavior. I make this assertion based on the fact that when they are against a given activity Ron Burke trots out his little keyboard and writes a nastygram to show how much he disdains that behavior. He is fearful of having to write such a missive about this thread and its contents or having one of his minions do the same. They are in essence cowards where this kind of talk is concerned.

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 21 hours ago
As tempting as it may be to try to teach them a lesson, it’s best just to give them distance and let them be idiots. Who knows what those crazy idiots will do. I’ve been screamed at; honked at; chased; swerved into; and in one case a man blocked me off, got out of his car, and tried to “bro intimidate” me by walking closer to me and staring me down.

It’s not worth provoking someone who is already angry, irrational, and operating a deadly vehicle.

Reply by El Dorado 20 hours ago
Kicking a persons car is like poking an aggressive Pit Bull with a stick. Eventually it is going to bite. I wonder how many people here on chainlink actually drive also?

Reply by Jeff Schneider 17 hours ago
I drive a lot, of necessity. I don’t have conflicts with cyclists, because I slow down and give them plenty of room to maneuver. I’ve never had a conflict with a cyclist (though some drivers get impatient with me when I yield for pedestrians or change lanes to pass a cyclist).

I love this sort of excuse that cyclists like to give so as to avoid criticism of the fact that they find it convenient to drive a car when they parade themselves before this group as practical cyclists. Unless you are delivering farm tractors on the flatbed of a big rig you can do most anything that a delivery van or car drivers needs to do on a bicycle. So please don’t start with the lame excuse that you do it only out of necessity.

Having said that, I drive because it is far more convenient to do so that to take a bike if the distance is much beyond a few miles. I ride to breakfast and luncheon on weekends but outside of day trips on bicycle I see no reason to get sweaty and grimy and chew up hours of time pedaling when I don’t have to.

If you do however take the time to ride your bike in commuting situations then fine. But we do not need to hear your self-serving comments about how wonderful you are and how bad everyone else is that has not taken up bicycle commuting. And unless you have also decided to give up eating meat, then please don’t give me that lame bit about how you are out to “save the planet“! Poppycock!

I’ll bet after a slog home from work these same planet savers turn on their air conditioning full bore to cool off. So much for saving the planet.

Reply by Dean Bekken 8 hours ago
Kick smash and yell… it’s the only thing that gets their attention. If they get “nuttier” on you — endanger your safety — invite them to exit their vehicle for a discussion. Then slam their door on them as they are exiting, or throw the bike on them and pummel happily away!

Reply by WalkThroughWater 1 hour ago
I do my best to not react negatively against the horrible drivers. A very loud “HEY!” has worked well to get the attention of inattentive drivers. A smile and a wave really throws off the aggressive ones trying to provoke a reaction. In our battle against the monsters lets not become monsters ourselves.


Doesn’t a discussion like this seem counterintuitive on a forum that allegedly espouses the notion that cycling is “safe“? There are not enough buckets of green paint and yards of PVC piping to entice folks to ride on streets where discussions like this seem “normal“. A few scant years ago ESPN’s Waddle and Silvie engaged in the kind of “on air” talk that this thread represents.

The response was vastly different than that displayed here. For the most part the membership has been either docile or non-involved. Listen to what ViLDa had to say back then when he was still going by the handle, Gabe:

This is the message Ron Burke should be driving home with Urban Cyclists.

This is the message Ron Burke should be driving home with Urban Cyclists.

While listening to to the Waddle and Silvy Show from 9 to 1 pm on 06/07/11 on ESPN radio I got to hear how fun it would be if they intentionally doored cyclists and how sometimes that would just feel great. This went on for about 20 minutes.

Well I didn’t think that would be great. And as some may know I’m vocal. 😉 So I tried  tweeting with Silvy @WaddleandSilvy for those that tweet and he said that the best course of action would be to send an e-mail to:waddleandsilvy@espnchicago.com

The Apology we got on 06/08/11 was a joke. Happened 45 minutes into the show and was terrible.

At the bottom of Espn.com there is also a Contact Us that goes to corporate vs the address above that is only read by the show hosts. We need to get on this!

If you wanna hear the comments they have a podcast http://espn.go.com/espnradio/player?rd=1#/podcenter/?callsign=WMVPA… . and it happens about 2 hours 14 minutes into the show if memory serves. Started out with making fun of spandex shorts and then went on to murder.

In light of the fact that ESPN already had Tony Kornheiser voice his opinions on cyclists I doubt they are looking for more trouble so it would be a good time to get the message out. Watch out for us! Dooring Can KILL us! etc…

And Here is a list of sponsors of Waddle and Silvy: They should hear about our  displeasure as well!

Performance Bikes!!! Harris Bank, Golfsmith, Jimmy Johns (they do bike deliveries, hello!), John Chico’s Men’s Wear, Triton College, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, Ameristar, Home Depot, Johnsonville, Gerber Collision & Glass, Studio 41 Remodelling,