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Are cycling conflicts a cultural issue?

Drivers and cyclists often come into conflict. Sometimes it’s road rage. Sometimes it’s a car accident. Sometimes cyclists feel unsafe and relate stories of near misses where it was clear that drivers did not take their safety seriously.

There are many potential reasons for this, but the perspective offered by one cycling expert was simple: Perhaps it was a cultural difference.

Common bike use

The first thing that the expert noted, after riding their bike in France, was that people in Europe seemed to use their bikes more often. They did not just use them as a hobby or a way to get exercise. They rode them to work. They rode them to school. Men, women and children all rode. A trip to the store in America often means piling into a massive SUV or a pickup truck. In Europe, it may mean hopping on a bike with a basket or a backpack.

European culture centered around bikes. Frequent use meant that drivers understood bikers and sympathized with cyclists. You did not have a big gulf between the two groups, some giant divide where many drivers have only rarely ridden bikes. This led to:

  • More patience
  • Less road rage
  • More empathy
  • Less honking
  • More road sharing
  • Less aggressive driving

It changed the mindset of the two groups. That made it safer for cyclists, no matter what the physical roads looked like.

Better infrastructure

The physical roads matter too. The expert also noted that the road systems in Europe catered to cyclists. They had more bike lanes. They had dedicated bike paths. Roads tended to be smaller and more narrow. That may sound like a bad thing, but it often cut down on speeding drivers and puts their speed far closer to what a cyclist can do on a bike.

The problem in America is that most of the roads were revamped after the invention of the automobile. They were designed with cars in mind. They cater to high traffic volumes and fast speeds. Bikes are legally allowed to share the road, but the roads are not always friendly to those bikes. This can create more conflicts with drivers, and that can lead to accidents.

Your rights

Understanding why European cyclists feel safer and why American cyclists have these issues is only half of the battle. Without significant changes, cyclists are going to get injured in avoidable accidents. When that happens, it’s important for you to know what legal rights you have to financial compensation.