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Experts: Drivers' frustration with cyclists is severely misplaced

You cycle to work and back every day, choosing this mode of transportation for many reasons. You like helping to reduce pollution, it helps keep you in shape and you save a lot of money not having to use your own car. It's a personal choice, and it's one you feel passionately about.

Unfortunately, other drivers also seem to feel passionately about your decision, and they're often not on your side. Almost every day you encounter drivers who follow too closely, cut you off and honk their horns. Some make obscene gestures out the windows. As much as you like cycling, you fear that you are eventually going to get into an accident with an irate driver.

What you really wonder, as well, is why this divide even exists. Why do drivers seem so frustrated with you just because you're not in a car? Why can't they think of you as another person who is just trying to live their life?

Slowing down

One reason that aggressive drivers often cite for their behavior is that they get frustrated when a bike slows them down. Even with bike lanes, cars may have to wait for bikes in turn lanes. Plus, not all roads have bike lanes, and cars can essentially get stuck behind bikes on small residential streets, unable to pass.

People tend not to plan ahead. Drivers leave at the last possible second to go to work. Any delay makes them furious, even if they're only stuck behind you for a few seconds.

This is not to excuse their behavior, not by a long shot. But it is important to understand why they feel this way, because experts point out that their feelings are often severely misplaced.

The reality

While one specific driver may have to slow down momentarily because of a bike, far more traffic jams simply happen because of road congestion and related issues. As the population continues to increase, that means more drivers occupying the same space they did 10 or 20 years ago.

"One cyclist actually means one less car," said a doctor who worked on a recent study. "[That means] less congestion and less pollution, which are increasingly important issues in our growing and more densely populated cities."

The reality is that cyclists are helping cities become more efficient. They are taking traffic off of the roads. Drivers may not recognize it, but they're helping with these problems, not causing them.

Your rights

Aggressive driving is a very real problem for cyclists, and it can lead to catastrophic accidents. Those who suffer serious injuries must know exactly what legal options they have to seek financial compensation.

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