Thick Skin

It’s not good to honk at a cyclist because, well, it’s startlingly loud:

Thick Skin

I can understand the need to communicate, but horns don’t do the trick. But even when some folks use their words, they don’t really do much better…

Thick Skin
So when find myself the target of horns or yells, I simply don’t respond.

Thick Skin

They’re not looking for a reasonable conversation. And engaging with them might make it worse. I don’t really want to see how unreasonable things could go.

After all, does this ever happen?

Thick Skin
So I try to let it go.

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52 Responses to “Thick Skin”

  • My favorite line is “Can you tell me about any resources where I can learn more?” LOL! Yeah, I’ve had conversations that are the exact opposite of this one. One time it was a conversation with no words…it was just a Big Gulp flying towards my head. We didn’t talk much after that.

    It’s very difficult to deal with impatient drivers who use their horn. You have the best policy, though…just let it go. Awesome work with the illustrations.

    • Anónimo Anónimez

      The same thing holds true in Madrid (Spain). I have sometimes tried to talk to drivers, but they were always rude and often threatened me.

  • Bob Kastigar

    If they made the horn as loud inside the car as outside things would be better.

  • Great article!

    For some reason, the honking and the bad driving have been increasing lately on my commute. Freaking annoying!

  • Duna

    Except for the ‘Can you tell me about any resources where I can learn more?’, the last situation HAS actually happened to me! He was very profusely apologetic. So there is some hope…maybe?

  • Ignoring them is good advice. Nothing positive is going to come out of an exchange. The oddest, most startling, most disturbing thing I ever had anyone yell at me was the “N” word. Odd, because I could hardly be more white. Startling, because I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do with the intended insult. And disturbing, because I had to wonder what kind of mind has that insult at the tip of the tongue, ready for any occasion, even an entirely inappropriate one?

    • Christy

      Strangest thing…I had that exact same thing happen, and thought the exact same thing. Hilariously, there was a neighbor (who happens to be black) out watering his lawn and heard it and he first said O…K…??, then looked at me. He started cracking up. Glad he could find humor in the whole thing! :)

  • I have a zero engagement policy with aggressive honkers. I am deaf to their horns. Bid them good day and ride on. They have nothing for me, and I have nothing for them. Honkers=non-entities.

  • bluebullet

    There’s a well-used truck parked around the corner from me that has a bumper sticker: “Horn broken. Watch for finger.”

    It always makes me smile, maybe because of the obvious truth of it. Wouldn’t it be better if all cars just came with that sticker and no horn?

  • I’ve never got the ‘Nice butt’ comment but most of the rest, especially ‘Get onto the sidewalk’ are regular classics. It’s a small wonder over half the riders we counted at two Dot intersections were ‘Sidewalkers.’ They’re only doing what they’re told!

  • Amanda

    I’m working hard to be NICER to people that drive like idiots on my commute, but this is really challenging.

    Recently, a city driver in a mini trash truck was in a hurry and swerved into empty parallel spots to make a right, nearly taking out a cyclist. Of course, he was completely oblivious, so when I stopped at the red light beside him, I nicely said, “Hey buddy, watch for bikes,” he spewed a bunch of angry mumbo-jumbo that could have easily been, “I hate my life so I’m going to take it out on you!”

    There is only so much we can do!

  • Jeff C

    “Can you move out of the road so I can turn right?”

    Problem: This illustration is obviously of Springfield St at Cambridge St and, if I’m not mistaken, there is a no right on red for cars at that light no?

    • Nicole

      Problem: you’re assuming that drivers actually pay attention to those no turn on red signs. :)

    • miz_bonnt

      Happened to me at at red on Waltham St. at Harrison Avenue – woman honked, “excuse me!” “excuse me, I want to turn right and I don’t want to hit you”. When I refused to move and she finally was able to go she says, “you’re a bicyclist!”.
      Oh really? Thanks for letting me know!!

    • donna

      I had one tell me she had the right to turn! She was angry that I wouldn’t move out of her way. She didn’t seem to get that I was blocking her way because I was attempting to trigger the lights so I could proceed by standing on the sensors on the road for that very purpose. She didn’t seem to understand that whoever gets to the stop/curb/light first has the “right” and not the cyclist or driver behind them.

    • Ethan Fleming

      Just this morning I had a driver yell at me because I made a left turn hand signal and didn’t let her pass me before turning left. She saw the hand signal, what did she think was going to happen?

    • “Can you move out of the road so I can turn right?”

      Answer: “I didn’t realize it was your private road. Since I was here first, can you wait there just a minute while I go straight?”

  • Like everyone else, I’ve gotten any number of rude or obnoxious comments or aggressive horns, but I also get the occasional “nice legs!” so it all balances out in the end.

  • OK, bikeyface, I need your advice. I’m curious about what the best way to have handled the following situation would have been:

    I was riding my bike home at about 2:30 in the afternoon. I was riding in a bike lane on a street that’s not particularly busy when a car drove by with the passenger leaning out the window yelling, “Get a Skateboard!”

    That was two years ago, and I’m still baffled.

  • Peter Bennett

    I always think to myself, if they honk, at least that means they have seen you!

  • Moopheus

    The weirdest one for me was the passenger of a monster SUV asking me to “skooch over to the right some more so we could share the road.” The thought “get a smaller car so we could share the planet” occurred to me, but I didn’t say it.

    Among the rudeness and a-holery, occasionally someone actually thanks me for stopping at a light.

  • liz

    I actually had one of those conversations once.

    I had accidentally cut off a car at an intersection becuase it appeared to be turning. When we got to the next red light, I pulled up and calmly apologized and explained what happened, and the driver, who had been angry, totally calmed down and it was actually a pretty pleasant experience. And I think he even gained some respect & awareness of cyclists!

    ps love Bluebullet’s comment. I need that bumper sticker for my bike.

  • Janice

    Drivers Ed focuses too much on just cars & motorcycles. Should be more mandatory education of driving laws in regards to bicycles. Pass all of it or your license is denied.

    • Yes Janice! Every state should legislate the DMV to include focus on bicycles since they have been ‘vehicles’ since 1990. Thank you

  • Ethan Fleming

    A perfect expression of how crazy some drivers really are.

  • Nicolas

    I actually had that last frame happen to me. A driver passed me while yelling “You’re supposed to SHARE the road, not TAKE IT UP” then speed off to stop at a red light. He still had his window down, so three seconds later I calmly explained that I can’t NOT take the lane because the lanes are too small for cars AND me to occupy, so in order for cars to pass me safely (especially with the 3′ passing law), I need to assert my position in the middle of the lane. He said “Oh. I didn’t know there was a 3′ passing law.”

    Then the light turned green, I said have a great one, and I never had any problems from him again. Even saw him on my commute nearly every day after that.

    Granted, this is one instance in an entire year of the frames before that.

  • Don

    I don’t trust aggressive drivers (honkers, revvers, …); so, when I hear them, I typically move left to ensure I won’t be trapped and won’t be brushed. At one 90 degree sharp turn, I always move into the travel lane because there’s no way for a car to see on-coming traffic and ensure they leave me enough room as I corner (steep lean). Most cars have no problem (it’s all of 3 seconds) but occasionally one will try to go around me by going in the on-coming traffic lane. Almost always, I pass them a few seconds later as their car’s nose is in the rear of the same one they’d have been in anyway.

    Motorists need to remember they’re operating a dangerous weapon. Cyclists need to be visible and predictable.

  • Steve R.

    Had one of those situations just yesterday when commuting by bike for only the second time.

    I was at a light, waiting to go straight at an intersection with a turn lane to my right. I was far enough up that the right turning vehicles could safely get by and I was giving them a little wave to indicate I was aware of them and they could come up on my right and turn. One guy blows by and yells out the window “Your not supposed to be there!”

    Oh really? I should stay to the right edge of the turn-only lane so he can right hook me? Must be a new traffic law.

Trackbacks & Pings

  • Changing Lanes says:

    […] based cycling comic, posted a comic on the relationship between drivers and cyclists.  A honk is not the way to express yourself – to paraphrase the comic’s message. […]

  • Bekka, aka Bikeyface | Cycle Style Boston says:

    […] the city. Topics range from the rules of the road to gender representation in cycling advocacy to pastries, portraying the magical world that cyclists get to inhabit while drivers and MBTA riders get to […]

  • Bells & Whistles | says:

    […] do not use their horns like they do on the east coast. Out east, they use their horns to “communicate.” They don’t honk at you to go, they honk to make sure you’re ready to go. Or they could […]

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