Published Somedays

People in the suburbs are the rudest drivers of all ...

(updated: Jul 14, 2014)

I had a thought the other day while riding my bike (I know, that's rare). It was on a Sunday afternoon and I was riding the Porters Neck loop that many cyclists like to do because it is fairly scenic and has low traffic. It’s really convenient for me for a quick ride since I live off of Futch Creek Rd. I usually ride early in the morning, but because of partaking too much in the drinking the night before, could not get my ass out of bed in the morning. When I finally got out on the road, it was hot, and there was a surprising amount of traffic. Well, it shouldn’t be surprising, because where I live in the suburbs you need a car to do just about anything. Usually I might encounter one driver who passes too close, maybe by accident or ignorance; I tend to think that at least a few are done on purpose, because the driver doesn’t think that cyclists should be on the road and will thus not attempt to give one iota of courtesy toward a fellow human being. This day I got passed too close several times and honked at. I do not respond with any reaction to such provocations, because it won’t make any difference.

So I started thinking ... There are three types of areas which people live in. You have the city, the country, and the suburbs in between. So I went back in my head and thought through all the road rides I’ve done in recent years (a lot), and one thing became clear: people in the suburbs are the rudest drivers of all the areas. And it’s fairly easy to explain why.

Folks who live in the city, or at least the central part of the city, have the shortest distances to go for things, and they have the most alternatives. Stuff is close by, often within walking or bicycling distance. Most car trips are only five minutes or less. Buses are also available as well. Bike lanes, sidewalks, crossing lines, and signals are also present. Speed limits are also more reasonable at 25 to 35 mph. People who live there are used to seeing a mix of transportation traffic and other happenings. Since they don’t have to go too far for most things, a small delay is no big deal. I can back this up with my anecdotal evidence of not having any issues in the central areas of Wilmington with drivers.

At the opposite end you have the rural areas. Folks here have long distances to go for things and really no other choice to get there other than in a personal vehicle. It may take an hour just to drive to a major grocery outlet and back. As a result, people have to plan their trips more carefully. You don’t want to go out for supplies and then forget something. You may not make another trip for a month. As a result, a trip is a fairly significant, long duration event. They are going out for the day anyway, so a minor delay is not a problem. A cyclist is something they may not see very often, but roads tend to be long and straight and traffic is pretty much non-existent, so getting around them is no problem. Most of my longer cycling rides head toward the rural areas and I have to say, rude driver incidents are pretty rare.

Which brings me to the suburbs … In the suburbs you are not in the city so stuff is often not close enough to walk or ride to. And even the stuff that may be close (around a mile or less) is not designed to be ridden or walked. The built environment itself is hostile, even without the cars. But the stuff is not too far such that a suburbanite has to plan a trip in advance. As a result, they HAVE to drive to do anything and will not think twice about making multiple trips in a day to get it all done (I am guilty of this myself). If they forget something, no problem, they just get back in their car and off they go. In addition, they are not used to seeing cyclists (outside of their immediate neighborhood), and traffic and higher speeds (45 – 55 mph) makes it inconvenient for them to accommodate a slower moving cyclist. Suburbs are also where many folks go to raise their kids, so they are always ferrying them around to birthday parties and sports, even to the local pool which is often within walking distance. As a result, these people are haggard and late all the time, from an inability and desire to use any other form of transportation other than a personal vehicle, to not performing the necessary planning that a longer drive would enforce. Most incidents of rude drivers in my experience occur in the suburbs.

And it's not that they need to be. The suburbs tend to be the more affluent areas. They have everything -- they are better off than 99% of the rest of the world. So while I have no problem with how anyone chooses to get about, just don't be a dick about it.

That’s my hypothesis anyway. There may be a way to test it quantitatively by looking at some crash data and adjusting for population density, but it’s a long shot and I don’t have the time.



Summer Rest Trail near Wrightsville Beach
Michael on the Summer Rest Trail near Wrightsville Beach.

Filed Under: General Entries > North Carolina > Wilmington


1. Mike said...

I think you have a decent hypothesis here, SBA. But I would have to add something into your equation. The timing factor. I have noticed on my road ventures around ILM and Castle Hayne, that the "rude and inconsiderate driver syndrome" is more obvious in .... .... busy rush hours! No! say it isn't so! A ride to work from home at lunch time could be a very irritating experience, and riding after 5 could be bad (though not quite as bad). I don't DARE ride at the 8am rush, because the drivers are both PO'd AND sleepy. But Sat. am isn't so bad. All in all I think that suburbanites simply hate each other when on the road. Cars, trucks, mopeds and bicycles; no bias. They are all treated equally bad.

Aug 8, 2014 @ 2:31 PM


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