How do you deal with aggressive drivers?

We can all spot an aggressive driver a mile off. Revving the engine, driving up too close to the back wheel and generally being a nuisance.

I’ll never forget the approach of my friend Godwyns. When he spots an aggressive driver, he will tend to pull up in front of the car at the next light and when the light goes green, he will wait there. This tends to make drivers very mad and I wouldn’t recommend it!

My approach varies. Some times I will claim the lane because if I fear that the aggressive driver is going to attempt a stupid overtaking then it’s worth me forcing them to stay back. Other times I’ll just move to the side and let them pass.

What do you do with an aggressive driver “on your six”?

Quick thanks to reader Iain for being the inspiration for this post

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58 Responses to How do you deal with aggressive drivers?

  1. Matthew 11/02/2011 at 9:25 am #

    Don’t think any cyclists around Manchester would stop and wait at lights – most of them go through while its red.. Grr!

  2. thereverent 11/02/2011 at 9:41 am #

    I’d generally try and claim the lane. That way if the driver overtakes too close you have some space to escape into. If you pull over to the left and they overtake closely you have no space to do anything.
    If they are getting too close to my back wheel, I will slow down. That way any collision will be at a slower speed.

    • thereverent 11/02/2011 at 11:24 am #

      I also cycle with a helmet camera so any incident will be filmed and will appear on youtube with the regestration plate in the title. If it is serious enough I’ll also report it to roadsafe.

  3. SG 11/02/2011 at 10:03 am #

    Pull them from their car and beat them to a bloody pulp with my saddle. ;o)

    • Mark Culmer 11/02/2011 at 10:15 am #

      I would generally use one of the CO2 gas cylinders I carry with me.

      Place in large ‘gob’ of spouting driver as he is ranting about ‘why ‘avent you got tax for that bike OR you shouldnt be on the road’ and see bad driver expand and drift off in to space.

      I would then move his car on to a red route, phone the ticket people and have his car impounded.

    • PKR 11/02/2011 at 10:48 am #

      SG – don’t use the saddle, use your D-lock. Doesn’t require any difficult removal, heavier, harder to damage and if you have a chunky one it can be really good to swing. If you use the saddle you have to make your get away on a blood and gunk sodden seat, not nice.

  4. Dave Escandell 11/02/2011 at 10:14 am #

    I always take a primary position for defensive reasons as others have already said. I also appreciate that this annoys some motorists for some reason so ensure that I cycle considerately. If i’ve held people up to ensure that I’m as safe as I can be, I always acknowledge them with a thanks.

    There’s pelnty of cyclists on my commute. So I work on the possibility that If I don’t cycle considerately, the next cyclist along gets an even more agressive driver to deal with!

    That said, other hand gestures have also been used too.

  5. lucy 11/02/2011 at 10:17 am #

    Just turn round give them a smile and a wave to thank them for being patient, (even though they are not) I tend to think a less aggressive response usually calms people down.

    • dels 11/02/2011 at 6:46 pm #

      I’m with you, Lucy. I have been using the “catch more bees with honey” theory lately and it works a charm. I wave and say “thank you” even when I know that I am actually in the right. In the end I get quite a lot of smiles in return.

      Although if I spot someone being particularly aggressive, I will just pull of the road and let them get on with it. Me versus a car? I know who is going to win.

    • idavid 11/02/2011 at 7:16 pm #

      Agree with Lucy and dels. It’s survival of the biggest, so why play that game?

  6. Murray 11/02/2011 at 10:21 am #

    If I think that a driver is being aggressive to the point of being potentially dangerous I take out my phone and photograph the driver and the number plate. Most drivers realise that they are being an arsehole but just don’t care. If they think that you are about to take photographs to identify them in a report to the police they usually scarper pretty quick.

  7. Dunc 11/02/2011 at 10:28 am #

    laugh

  8. Tim 11/02/2011 at 10:38 am #

    Ignore no eye contact and allow to pass. As a small fellah I learnt early on never to get into fights I wasn’t sure I could win. The problem is you never know when you are going to meet the complete nutter high on drugs and with a knife or iron bar.

    • Garmon 11/02/2011 at 12:27 pm #

      Come on Tim – if we took that approach to life then nobody would ever challenge anyone about anything. If someone is driving dangerously they should be told that they are a danger. Many are bad/inconsiderate drivers rather than purposefully dangerous, and are more likely to have more awareness of the needs of the next cyclist they see if the first one has pointed out that cyclists need more than 2 inches of road space, and that we have as much right as any other vehicle to be on the road. The chances of someone getting out of their comfortable metal cage to attack a mere cyclist with a ‘knife or iron bar’ must be so low as to be not worth contemplating.

      • Phil Russell 11/02/2011 at 6:04 pm #

        Garmon,
        You’re right & wrong, surely…..yes, dangerous drivers need rebuking, but quite a few drivers WILL slam on the brakes and jump out to confront others, And by the way, a sure way to make them do it is to show the raised middle-finger—-and my advice is just don’t do that. I speak as a cyclist and driver, and the finger
        invariably brings on Red Mist Syndrome. So I tend to keep things verbal, like “Oy! If you drive like that, you’ll NEVER pass yer test!” Toodle-oo.
        P.R.

  9. Jon 11/02/2011 at 10:57 am #

    Last weekend I approached a queue for a red light and filtered as far forward as I could safely, then cut in between two waiting cars so the car behind would not be able to push past. The car in front was the last to get through on amber and so I dutifully stopped at the red light.

    But the driver of the car behind went crazy, continuously beeping the horn, even getting out and shouting at me to get out of the way. I looked at her, amused and puzzled, pointing out that I’d stopped at a red light. The lights went green again and I cycled off giving a friendly wave, to which I received a rude gesture in return.

    I hope the extra minute on her journey didn’t make her late…

    I bet if I had gone through on red she’d be forever moaning about cyclists jumping red lights. Us cyclists just can’t win!

    • Dunc 11/02/2011 at 11:12 am #

      ha! brilliant.

    • Ben 11/02/2011 at 12:26 pm #

      ‘The car in front was the last to get through on amber and so I dutifully stopped at the red light.’

      I have no idea what this means, very confusing. Don’t really understand your story

      • Jon 11/02/2011 at 3:49 pm #

        I don’t really understand what part is not clear…

        ‘The car in front’: The car in front of me.

        ‘was the last to get through on amber’: was the last car able to get through the traffic lights once they had changed from green to amber, before turning red.

        ‘and so I dutifully stopped at the red light’: so I stopped at a red light as I have a legal duty to do.

        • Ben 11/02/2011 at 4:06 pm #

          oh, so you were in her way shen she wanted to jump through the light just as it was turning. Well, she’s a cow.

          Personally I let most of the irritation of other drivers drift over me, don’t want it to ruin my journey. Mostly I’ve changed my work route to take in so many quiet back streets that bad drivers aren’t much of an issue.

  10. Greg R 11/02/2011 at 11:13 am #

    I just carry on. It’s their problem not mine. If they threaten me I just un-clip my right foot and stomp off their wing mirror. Then cycle off. Tra-la-la.

  11. Scott 11/02/2011 at 11:15 am #

    I have tried everything including the wait in front thing where I will usually point out the difference between then being in their way and previously just cycling along the road – in one instance of this where a driver had been revving his engine – hooting his horn along the road to the side of the Dorchester Hotel – narrow and restricted in width – he actually got out his car – a Jaguar penis shaped thing – to tell me that me cycling in front of him was clearly illegal – so I “discussed this point with him during 3 or 4 green/red cycles on the lights – what was really funny when I finally got bored and cycled off was the sound of him revving his extension and REVERSING into the BMW M5 that was behind him and that contained a driver who had made a threat to kill during my discussions with driver No1… oh how I laughed…

    priceless

    mostly however I ameliorate my frustration not with direct action – removing wing mirrors or any of the other methods used by cyclists – I shout a bit in the moment to let them know I am upset then I take a photo of their number plate so I dont forget and go fill out the roadsafe form online… it makes me feel better and after I hit send – I forget about them and smile…

  12. Bluenose 11/02/2011 at 11:20 am #

    I treat aggresive drivers like all other drivers, with care, but make sure thay see me. I don’t move over and keep my line and space. Agressive drivers are usually just as agressive to other drivers in most cases, the thing I don’t like which is different than driving a car is that they blow their horn expecting you to get out of the way into the gutter.

    If this happens I must admit I do tend to move slightly to towards the middle of the road to make sure they don’t try and squeeze past, and if they do I have the room to get out of the way.

  13. AdamS 11/02/2011 at 11:23 am #

    I can honestly say I don’t encounter aggressive drivers very often round SW London. It’s usually just the inconsiderate or incompetent ones, who tend to get a glare from me but not a lot else.

    Occasionally I have attempted to gesticulate or shout at them but quickly realise the futility of this approach. Zen riding seems to be the best option for me (i.e. play it safe and ignore everyone else’s bad habits)

  14. PaulM 11/02/2011 at 11:36 am #

    I likewise don’t meet many aggressive (as in road rage) drivers, but plenty of pushy ones. The latter I just stand my ground, take the lane and make them wait as long (which means preferably as short) as necessary, then move over. I hope I can distinguish the all mouth and no trousers type from the truly pathological.

    The former, well it would be no consolation to my widow that he got a 2 year ban for “causing death by careless driving” so I get out of their way immediately, even if that means stopping and stepping onto the pavement. I don’t waste time photographing him (it is always him) or taking his number – you know for a dead cert that the Metplod will do absolutely f-all about it even if you have film and a signed confession.

  15. Mike Smith 11/02/2011 at 11:37 am #

    In a previous life as a, dare I say it, cab driver (not London), I learned that a very effective way to make them stop and think is simply….blow them a kiss!

    It’s even more effective now that I am in my late fifties, and when I’m on a long ride, dressed in lycra!

    They are so concerned at what other people might think that they just shut up and fade away.

    Other than that, what everyone else said, subject always to picking the SAFEST way of dealing with any given situation.

  16. chris 11/02/2011 at 11:38 am #

    Stupidity and short-sightedness is far more common – and remembering the cliche about not attributing to malice what is better explained by Incompetence – I tend to act in a very condescending or patronising manner, rather than being outright rude.

    “If you could see from in there what I can see from up here, I don’t think you’d have done that”

    Or treating them like a child:

    “Would you have done that if I were a policeman/a child/**your child**” (the latter only really works if it’s a Chelsea tractor with child seats in the back.)

    Of course, the best one was with the open-topped Jag with pale leather seats and I threatened to upend my bottle of Ribena (actually just water) over it. His face went white and he went quiet and I went happily on my way.

  17. Ed Gerstner 11/02/2011 at 12:03 pm #

    I’ve found that one of the most effectively responses is to demonstrably (that is, theatrically… like a mime!) take down their number plate.

    In the olden days I used to keep a pad and pen in my pannier for just this purpose. These days I find the camera on my phone does just as well.

    You gotta do this as a red light, of course. But once you do, their behaviour tends to calm dramatically.

    For more (and perhaps more contentious) thoughts on this, I wrote a fuller piece At War With The Mororist – http://waronthemotorist.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/i-see-red/

  18. Dave 11/02/2011 at 12:30 pm #

    This morning im cycling down Craven hill road near Padddington and a motorist in a 3 series BMW is approaching from the left to cross the road that i am cycling down. he continues to sail over the junction slowly while looking directly at me. At this point i stare right at him, and ask what the F*** he is doing. He basically tried to stare me out into stopping in front. He did eventually stop the stupid twat. This has happened rarely in my 3 years of cycling to work but ill always have a go at the motorist if they insist on driving like a madmen with no respect for riders.

    If i get badly cut up in heavy traffic or basically something that could have killed me I will occasionally react. I have twice banged on the roof of the car as I pass them. The key is to ensure you can escape by filtering through traffic.

  19. jonny 11/02/2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Last time I got an earful at the lights I shouted to the van driver to “stop F******* flirting with me, i’m not that way inclined”. He soon shut up. :-P

  20. Bdave262000 11/02/2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Pull your kegs down and do a big steaming S**t on their bonnet.

  21. Gaz 11/02/2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Film them, name them and shame them on youtube and occasionally pass them onto the police.

    • thereverent 11/02/2011 at 2:23 pm #

      I was reading an article this week about how car insurers are paying out in claims more than they take in premiums (hence why premiums are rising fast).
      It can’t be long before they catch on to the idea of searching YouTube to find drivers who haven’t claimed, but are more likely to claim as they drive badly, and hence put their premiums up.
      That would have quite an effect to the phase “search for your numberplate on youtube”.

      • Andreas 11/02/2011 at 2:30 pm #

        There must be a site online where you can report bad drivers with the number plates? Surely then insurance companies might chase things like that up..

        • Nicole 12/02/2011 at 9:46 am #

          There is. It’s a blog run by an extremely witty woman and it’s called 101 Wankers. Check it out. Priceless!

        • Tim 12/02/2011 at 9:58 am #

          http://101wankers.tumblr.com/

        • Nicole 12/02/2011 at 7:50 pm #

          Thanks Tim. You’re obviously not the Luddite that I am! Don’t know how to do that. The Shame…

        • Tim 13/02/2011 at 12:19 am #

          Andreas, you need roadsafe. I believe it was Gaz who originally directed me to it …

  22. Will 11/02/2011 at 1:35 pm #

    stand my ground, ride confidently, and gesture that they need to back off (politely).

    2 broad possible reactions:

    1. they chill out and realise that you won’t be intimidated.

    2. they get even more angry, in which case, depending on my mood, I’ll either laugh at them, or completely lose it, jump on their bonnet, tear off my shirt and offer them out for a good old fashion ruck! ;-)

    I usually find that if you’re polite and happy you will be met with similar good will, even from taxi drivers….I’d be in a bad mood if I had to drive in London.

  23. Corin 11/02/2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Fight ‘em

  24. ali l-p 11/02/2011 at 1:48 pm #

    I once had a man revving and driving closely behind me. When we got to the lights he pulled up alongside and opened the passenger window and leaned across. Before he had a chance to speak I said “next time I have a man that far up my bottom I want to either be married to him or he better be driving a ferrari”

    I think this post may get deleted…but he was left speechless and changed his driving after that.

  25. Dave Escandell 11/02/2011 at 4:50 pm #

    ali l-p

    I was waiting for a punchline from you something like……………. ”and then just as i finished my rant, i realised it was my dad”

  26. Ed H-B 11/02/2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Cycle faster!

  27. Paul R 11/02/2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Where I Iive – Gosport, Hants – most of the drivers are actually ok, and this includes bus drivers, cabbies etc. It might be that in general I am quite lucky when Im out on the bikes. However, It seems to me that when Im driving my car I spot more incidents of bad and aggressive driving. I knew a cyclist once who carried around a load of eggs in his bar bag, and would lob one at a car that was being a nuiscance – difficult to clean off, particulalry from a windscreen or a warm bonnet!!

  28. John 11/02/2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Give yourself space so you can move somewhere if you get really forced to, never take for granted you have the right of way, that gets you out of a lot of problems and when you do end up with someone trying to turn right in front of you I just stop close to them and hold both hands out and say where are you going?
    Or my other favourite is just to shake my head at them and say nothing. They know they are in the wrong and you know it and if they didn’t think they were they will be wondering what was it I did wrong?.
    I was in a car of friend of mine a couple of years ago and she turned right in front of a cyclist at a junction, I was horrified and felt embarrassed about being in the car with her, why did you do that I asked – what? was the reply – turning right infront of the guy on the bike – I didn’t know it applied to bikes was her honest answer! She is a better driver after our chat!!

    John

  29. Peter 12/02/2011 at 12:21 am #

    I challenge them, but I do it smiling. Generally anyhow. if they’re stroppy I could always accelerate off in a direction they can’t

    I had a discussion with a car driver this morning who beeped at me for being “in the middle of the road” aka left lane with empty right lane (Marylebone).

    I approached it with my usual “its a road. I’m a road user” line, but was thinking afterwards of a better approach:
    “How nice of you to be concerned. You obviously thought I’d be safer where you couldn’t see me” :)

    Not all beeps are aggression. It helps if you assume they all aren’t.

  30. John Benson 12/02/2011 at 1:35 am #

    As a non-driving cyclist, I’d like to say that I think the vast majority of drivers are very polite. There is the odd idiot out there but for every one, I’ve seen an equal number of such cyclists. When I see cyclists behaving like this it makes my blood boil even more than any aggressive driver ever has done – we are the smallest thing on the road & therefore should not be trying to piss anyone off. That said, I’m not a meek cyclist who shimmies up to the pavement & worries. I tend to gesture in a neutral way, hands out in front of me, palms upturned & an expression that says ‘Come on’! That’s about it.

    I’m currently on a long tour having gone through Alaska, Canada, USA, Mexico, Belize & Guatemala. I can honestly say that UK drivers are amongst the politest I’ve come across. I’ve also cycled in The Middle East, Spain, France, Southern Africa, India & China … I think.

  31. Nicole 12/02/2011 at 9:55 am #

    As a woman, the easiest option is to smile. It just seems to disarm them completely. I can’t say that they all calm down, but most of them stop the revving and the pushing. I also have to say that in all my years of cycling I’ve only come accross one aggressive woman driver. It happened to me a couple of weeks ago on High Street Ken. She was driving a Porsche Cayenne (really, need I say more) and revving and pushing so I turned a gave her my best friendly smile. As I did so she just manoevered around me and if I hadn’t jumped the bike out if the way she’d have knocked me out of the way and onto the pavement. I couldn’t beleive it. She just rode over me. What can you do. And at times like that, I’m so f**king mad I haven’t the sense to get my phone out and take the number.

  32. Labour Cyclist 13/02/2011 at 8:13 am #

    I sometimes pretend that my iPod is really a police radio and ostentatiously read their number plate into my sleeve, mouthing the word “Sarge” afterwards. In my yellow fluorescent jacket, there is a slight chance someone drives off wondering.

  33. Knit Nurse 13/02/2011 at 2:34 pm #

    It’s not big and it’s not clever. But at the time it felt so good! http://theknitnursechronicles.blogspot.com/2009/09/cyclist-heckling.html

  34. Sam 13/02/2011 at 10:03 pm #

    Just before Christmas I was cycling down a narrow one way street. I found a dumper truck revving his engine a foot of my back wheel. I stopped pedalling and slowed to a stop, he lowered his window and I told him that their wasn’t room on my parcel rack for him and his van. We exchanged pleasantries for about 30 seconds, he shouted and swore, I was polite if a tad patronising. I then pulled into the side letting him and the other car though, having held him up for far longer than I would have by cycling. It also keep him from running me over if I’d had to swerve round a pothole.

  35. Patrick 14/02/2011 at 10:47 pm #

    I liked Corin’s advice best.

  36. Dunc 18/02/2011 at 10:01 am #

    I was riding over Lambeth Bridge on Tuesday night. As I got to the south side, the lights started to change to red. The lights in the middle of the roundabout did so at the same time. There wasn’t much traffic and I was turning right, so was in the middle lane of three. I stopped for the lights. The car behind me started to honk its horn. I turned round to see a black-cab driver gesticulating at me. He seemed to be having a go at me for not jumping the lights. I simply put my cupped hand to my ear, laughed and pointed to the red light. What a moron.

  37. Tony 21/02/2011 at 1:00 pm #

    I do a few things. If they beep whilst I’m holding the lane, I sit up straight, no hands, and give them both of my middle fingers, one over each shoulder. Then I slow down. If I get a chance I also point and laugh when they do overtake or at lights. This heps my blood pressure; I used to let them get to me and my blood would boil, now though I just love the reaction to laughing at them, it makes them go crazy! Ultimately, on a bike they can’t hurt you unless they are complete psychos and actually ram you. If they get out of the car, they’ll never catch you and even if they do…. unfit sardine can losers don’t frighten me.

    Funny thing is I only hold the lane for my own safety or when turning right (just like a car would), and typically the driver would hit a red soon enough so I’m not actually slowing them down.

  38. sam 21/02/2011 at 2:43 pm #

    I’ve dealt with my share of aggressive car/bus/taxi drivers cycling in london. They generally don’t bother me. I’m so used to them by now. But this morn I had to deal with a whole new species: a really aggressive and abusive cyclist! I was so shocked. All I did was overtake him! He hurled abuse at me when he caught up with me at the lights. When I told him to calm down he lost it even more. I generally feel a real affinity and camaraderie with other cyclists. Yet other cyclists just looked on or rolled their eyes. This really upset me, as was so surprised. I cycled rest of journey with concentration in tatters. Surprised i made it to work in one piece.

    Can’t but help feel that he let it rip on me cause I am a small female who was not going to punch him.

    • Todd 21/09/2011 at 2:29 pm #

      Hey there sam,

      My name is Todd and I am conducting a project of the next 7 months on cycling in London. I find your story very funny and very typical of cycling in London. My project is a photo project with sound recorded interviews as well so if you are interested in sharing your story a bit more or other stories please contact me at londoncyclingdiscussion@gmail.com.

      Cheers.

  39. Lucy 22/03/2011 at 10:55 am #

    What about aggressive cyclists, like the one this morning who jumped a red light, nearly knocked me over and then shouted ‘cretin’ at me. Disgusting behaviour and he should be ashamed with himself. Pathetic.

  40. Reg 25/10/2012 at 10:32 am #

    A few years ago I was knocked off my bike in broad daylight by a driver that overtook me and turned left in one manoevre. They didn’t stop until they reached a house, perhaps 200 yards along the street, and went inside. In hindsight I should have persued them but I was running late and needed to get to work and clean myself up. I mention this to emphasise that I am sympathetic to and look out for cyclists on the road when driving. As most of you are aware there are some cyclists that are just beyond helping. This morning when turning right on a green light at the front of a queue (in Tanners Hill, Deptford, London) a cyclist approached and overtook me on the left and cut into my path as I tried to pull away, slowly. I slowed down even more and did not pressurise him in any way. Maybe he felt guilty because he looked back at me. The only response he would have seen from me would have been the surprised look on my face. I said nothing and did not make any gestures at all. Even though I had been accommodating and not aggresive in any way, he saw it fit to raise a middle finger at me. I put it it down to his assumptions, perhaps arrogance. I think he was stupid to have not given me space and the benefit of the doubt but if this is an indication of his typical behaviour towards drivers he must really entice aggression from them. It wouldn’t take long to find a driver that would have been very quickly fuming in my situation. I feel sorry for the lad in that he is courting injury. This can only makes drivers more likely to assume the worst of cyclists attitudes. I encounter dreadful driving every day. There are idiots on four wheels just itching for confrontation with all of us. Please don’t encourage them and try not to pull into the path of vehicles from the left. It’s very rarely me behind the wheel. Good luck to you all.

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