Why do Cars Honk at Cyclists?

OK, readers!  Another question asked anonymously via formspring.  I love getting questions!!!  Here it is:

so i don’t get it — why do cars honk at cyclists? i’ve seen this happen a few times in the past month.

Yea.  I don’t really get it either.  Sometimes cars honk at cyclists from behind because they’re about to pass as a courtesy.  They’re just letting you know they’re back there and are about to pass you.  Or because they’re behind a cyclist and they don’t appreciate that they have to slow down or change lanes to pass.  Or because they’re behind a cyclist and are unable to pass and have to drive 15 mph and don’t understand why the cyclist is right in the middle of a general purpose lane instead of on a sidewalk or trail where they’re “supposed” to be.  Whatevs.  I don’t get it either.

Then sometimes they honk because it’s a carfull of teenagers and they think it’s funny.  What they don’t realize is that it’s only funny if they also roll down their window, hang their entire upper body out the window, and shout something nonsensical at the cyclist.  Then it’s funny because it’s totally absurd.

Mostly, though, people just honk because they’re cranky.  Wouldn’t you be if you had to drive a car???  Yeesh. I would be.

Ok, peeps!  Ask me anything!!!

13 comments to Why do Cars Honk at Cyclists?

  • Well, maybe I can provide some insight. Every day on my ride home, I have to go up a steep, windy hill. There is a bicyclist there every day in the rode going less than 5 mph because the road is so steep. There is a perfectly good and unused sidewalk not 10 feet away from him, but he insists on being in the road. So, inevitably, there is a long line of cars piled up behind him, unable to pass. I hear people honking at him every day. You can say they are just cranky at being in a car, but I think it is more that they are cranky that a selfish bicylist is making 10-15 people go 5mph up a hill every single day, just because he doesn't feel like bicyclists should have to use the sidewalk. As an added benefit, bicyclists doing that type of thing lower the non-bicyclist public's opinion of bicyclists everywhere. Win win!!

  • @Scott – that does sound annoying. It's always frustrating when people in front of us slow us down – whether that person is on a bike or in a car. It's frustrating when I'm in a crowded hallway and can walk as quickly as I'd like to. I get cranky when I'm on my bike and I can't ride as fast as I'd like to because all the cars are in the way (this happens regularly on congested urban streets). I get frustrated when I'm on my bike and I encounter one of the bottlenecks on the trail system and have to slow down to wait for little kids on tricycles and all the spandex warriors to get out of my way so I can get on with my leisurely bike ride.

  • If you cannot go the the speed limit and you are holding up traffic, car or bike, you should pull over and let the others pass. If there is an alternative spot where a biker could go they should use that instead so as not to impede the flow of traffic.

    It's just common sense and courtesy.

  • @Bill Roehl – I agree that it is common courtesy for all roadway users to do everything possible to stay out of each others way and to not cause other people unnecessary delay. If there is an equally safe & efficient place where a biker can go that does not cause delay to others, they should def go there. I agree.

    That being said, it's not always as easy as saying, "if there's a sidewalk next to the road, use that instead." Many sidewalks or sidepaths impose significant costs on the cyclist in terms of ride quality, delay, and safety. And while it's not optimal for drivers to bear the full burden of these costs, it's also not optimal for cyclists to assume the full burden of the costs, either.

  • If you were holding me and a line of cars up on a hill I promise you that the safest place for you to be would be on the sidewalk–preferably traveling the other direction so as to avoid my kicking your ass for being stupid.

  • Oh Snap! Things are starting to heat up in here!

  • sorry – i didn't see a spot for my name… 🙂
    i just thought the cars were being rude – but then again, honking to let the cyclist know that you are behind them is kinda dumb.
    i just pray for the cyclists and try to be very mindful of them!

    ps did i really start a fight with you and bill? 🙂

  • @marlamuppets – no worries about the anonymous question. anonymous is not a problem.

    And yes, you really started a fight between me and Bill. Bill and I were BFFF's until you came along. You've destroyed our friendship. I hope it was worth it.

  • Praveen

    You know what you guys, you guys are morons. a biker has the same goddam rights on a road just like any other vehicle. It is illegal to ride in the sidewalks in many places (check the link below)…

    So for f$ck sake, be more courteous to the cyclists…


  • Dave

    Praveen is right.Cyclists should have the same rights as motorists.Bill you are a dumbass.You think a cyclist should get out of your way of your reckless driving?Ever heard of cyclists riding with the traffic law???

  • Dave

    Pay no attention to the haters!!!!

  • Dave

    Reuben do you drive a car?

    Judging by your comments you act like you do.