How To Reduce Road Rage When You Are Riding
You've lost the moment you let someone you don't know influence your emotions. Or a more positive way to look at it: As soon as somebody else loses control of their emotions and allows their ego to take the metaphorical wheel, you have just won. In my daily rides, I get the opportunity to see all sorts of unique and interesting driving techniques. People cut me off, pull out in front of me, or veer into my lane daily. In my mind, I'm thinking, "Good. Better me than someone else." You've likely seen road rage videos or motorcyclists fighting for their lane, punching mirrors, or even crashing because being right was more important than being smart. They jeopardize their safety and ruin the reputation of bikers for the rest of us, all to make sure some stranger knew that they had made a mistake. It doesn't matter if they're driving cars, motorcycles, or if they are pedestrians. When you're riding a motorcycle, if your ego dictates how you respond to these people's ignorance, negligence, or hostility, not only are you victimizing yourself, but you are creating more victims in the process.
I started this one off a little bit negatively on purpose. It should go without saying that mixing ego with public roadways is never a good idea, and on top of being dangerous, it makes the rest of us look bad when we see it online. However, this topic comes up for me because, among other things, any crashes or fatalities caused by retaliation while riding is 100% preventable. This is why any advice I give newer riders always starts with "Only control what you can control."
Let me describe some everyday situations where this can make you a better rider:
- The driver next to you is on their phone while driving.
- Someone merges into your lane a little too close for comfort.
- A sleepy shift worker trying to make it home is completely zoned out and can't stay in their lane.
- A driver realizes they need to turn last minute and isn't in the right lane–but you are.
- Another motorcyclist or Honda Civic sees your sick bike and politely asks you to race when the light turns green.
This part of it is just the mindset. Your motivation to become a safer and more skilled rider has to come from you. Your pledge to be a SMART Rider and set the example for how a motorcyclist should act must be at the forefront of your mind. Even when it’s hot outside, you’re exhausted, and a driver traveling faster than you decides to share your lane, missing you by a foot or two, and continues. This happened to me on my ride into the office today from three different vehicles. It’s irritating, but it happens, and life goes on. Now that I’m off the motorcycle, I have decompressed and can think back clearly. If I had fought for my lane, chased them down to make sure that they knew I didn’t appreciate that, or instigated a fight, I would have given them control over whether I made it home today.
Naturally, this will spark the questions, "What can I control, and where do I draw a line in the sand so I don’t become a pushover?" Each person is going to differ on what is important to them. My line in the sand is farther than most. I can forgive and tolerate quite a bit of negligence or ignorance, especially on the road. All I want to do in traffic is arrive at my destination safely, so I put my ego aside, leave early, and take my time. I draw my line when I notice a risk of loss of life due to violence rather than carelessness or ignorance. Otherwise, I don’t try to control other people and don’t allow them to frustrate me. Step one was to decide and list out what was important to me. Roadway drama isn’t on that list, and it’s incredible how much more brain power I could focus on what is important when I took back that control. Taking a step back, taking a breath, and not getting tangled up in other people’s daily drama will help your mentality while riding and your ability to focus on completing life goals simultaneously.
You only have control over your thoughts and your actions. It's that simple. This idea takes all the stress away from what anybody else is or isn’t doing correctly and gives you one single task to focus your attention on. If you react ‘on impulse’ to someone merging into your lane by fighting for that lane, you can’t blame that person for your actions. That driver who scared you isn’t worth your energy at that moment. Control your thoughts, focus on what’s important to you, and choose to act in a way that supports what you value. Next time you find yourself in the position to react to somebody else’s recklessness on the road, let them go, and you’ll immediately replace ego with healthy pride.