Accidents can happen when cyclists and drivers don’t share the road.
If you regularly ride a bicycle to school or work, you may have been on the receiving end of some rude comments from car drivers. Or, while riding in the family car, some of those comments may have even come from someone you know! It is true that some bicyclists run stop signs, ride between lines of stopped cars, and mosey down city streets far below the speed limit. The verbal abuse that some drivers hurl their way, however, seems out of proportion to these violations. Why is that?
A British blogger says that cyclists annoy motorists because drivers view cyclists’ behavior as an offense to the moral order. What makes driving a moral activity is the fact that, collectively, we only survive the perils of the road because most drivers play by the rules—staying in one’s own lane, signaling turns, obeying yield signs, and so on. Many bicyclists, however, violate those very rules, indulging in actions that are out-of-bounds for motorists—and “getting away with it!”
The conflict between drivers and cyclists reflects the “free rider problem”: this phenomenon, known to economics and politics, exists when some people who refuse to contribute to a common goal nevertheless reap the benefits available to all. An example is people failing to pay their taxes but still making use of the roads and utilities paid for by tax revenue. As a society becomes more complex, the free rider problem can become worse.
Psychologists conducted an experiment aimed at determining how the socially destructive “free rider problem” gets resolved in people’s interactions. They found that the common emotion of anger directed toward cheaters has the effect of promoting cooperation among the overall group. It appears that anger can motivate individuals to overcome their short-term self-interest in favor of cooperation.
Image credit: © Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images
The Psychology of Why Cyclists Enrage Car Drivers
The author connects the “free rider problem” and bicycling.
(Source: BBC, February 12, 2013)
Free Rider Problem
Read more about the economic and political phenomenon mentioned in the main article.
(Source: Wikipedia; accessed February 28, 2013)
Bicycling Renaissance in North America? An Update and Re-Appraisal of Cycling Tends and Policies
This paper reviews trends in cycling topics and profiles cycling issues in nine major cities.
(Source: Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, March 29, 2011)
The Free Rider Problem
Explore the free rider problem through many examples and applications.
(Source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, first published May 21, 2003)