Chris Davis is a bike messenger in car-centric Houston. He's been called every epithet in the book, had motorists wait behind him, revving their engines, sometimes coming within inches of his wheels.
He rides approximately 20 miles per day through the downtown area. He's been hit before. Now, Davis, like many other cyclists, is thinking about buying a helmet cam to record such incidents and, also, for a more macabre reason.
"In the event that I am killed, somebody will have something to go on," Davis tells KHOU-TV.
It's hard to compare road-rage statistics, because various government entities and advocacy groups have different definitions and laws regarding road rage. It's also often measured as driver-on-driver incidents, although driver-on-cyclist episodes are occuring more often.
One city, Houston, says that there have been over 900 road rage incidents reported in its metro-area in the last five years, enough to get city officials' attention on how to curb incidents. In the Detroit metro-area, earlier this year, electronic signs over highways urged drivers to avoid road rage.
The public is used to car-on-car road rage. But cycling groups are reporting an increase in incidents of car versus bike. The causes are many, including an increase in cycling as a hobby, as well as many cities going greener and trying to accommodate cyclists by constructing bike lanes on streets that give cyclists a greater feeling of empowerment and entitlement of the streets. The trouble is that drivers are still getting used to sharing the road with sometimes great numbers of bikes.
There is blame to share
AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley, a cycling enthusiast, says that there is an uneasy and often mysteriously aggressive relationship between vehicle drivers and cyclists. "There are drivers who give a wide margin of clearance to cyclists, and others who for some reason feel that cyclists don't belong on the road at all with cars and so don't give an inch and even try to come as close to the cyclist as possible without hitting him or her." At the same time, says Kiley, "I have seen and ridden with plenty of bikers, and especially bike messengers, who ride like daredevils in urban centers on bikes that even have had the brakes intentionally taken off on purpose for reasons unknown to me, so some of the fault lies with the cyclists."
At least anecdotally, members of BikeTexas.org say they feel an increasing level of hostility directed at them on the roads. BikeHouston.org offers free defensive cycling classes to cyclists. But that only solves half the problem. Davis wants motorists to experience what it feels like to be on the receiving end of their rants and hostile driving.
"Get a bike and ride a mile in my shoes," he tells the news outlet. "I would just like them to bike a mile in our shoes."