I have a few ideas about this. One is that cars are inherently dehumanizing, and drivers forget that a few thousand pounds of metal can do real damage.
But I think there’s something else going on, too. People who never bike think that biking is incredibly dangerous and/or stupid. They somehow get the idea that the person on the bike is increasing *their* risk as drivers. I know that makes little sense, but bear with me on this one. I work with a lot of people who never bike. If they encounter a cyclist on their daily commute, they feel compelled to tell me about it. They’ll say, “I saw a guy — and he was riding right in the road! I mean, the trail is right there, so why is he putting his life in danger?”
It’s as if they see the cyclist, and think, “Oh, no! Danger! This guy is nuts. Why is he even on a bike in the first place. Why does he have to be on a bike near ME? What a jerk for putting me in this awful situation!” It doesn’t take much for that anxiety to spill over into anger.
Maybe part of solution is to make it clear that a bike is a viable means of transportation for a grown-up. I have trouble convincing people that my husband commutes on his bike year-round. They say, “But not in the winter, right?” and “What does he do whan it rains?” and (my personal favorite) “You both work. Can’t you afford a second car?”
Maybe we need a campaign called “I ride a bike” that profiles all the different sorts of people who ride. Or talk about getting to work or the grocery store — mundane stuff that shows cyclists aren’t wackos, but just plain old people who need to buy food.
I’m rambling, too. But I, too, have been thinking about this.