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8 Perfect Retorts for Dealing with Abusive Drivers

Cyclist and motorist

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Road rage is like a two-part documentary. Stay with us here…

The first episode is a scene setter based on a bad decision – from a driver or cyclist, we hasten to add. The second, the follow-up episode, is the most important part of the whole series, with a bad reaction taking center stage. 

While we can’t stop you from watching the first episode, we can certainly suggest something that will promptly wrap up the second episode. Here, we have eight simple yet brilliant retorts for cyclists dealing with abusive drivers – because, ultimately, there is little to be gained from getting into an argument with a driver. 

A simple piece of verbal jiu-jitsu can ensure you stay in control and de-escalate the situation.

Commit all these to memory, but pay special attention to the first two and, most definitely, the last. 


1. “Oh, Hello! *Waves* How Are You?”

Cyclist friendly greeting

What’s more friendly than a cheery wave and a “Hello, how are you?”. Arguably, nothing diffuses a potentially tense situation quicker than this everyday greeting. Interactions or incidents between driver and cyclist can quickly boil over, so this simple phrase can disarm a pent-up driver quicker than you can say, “hydraulic disc brakes.”

Delivery is also important here too. Make it bright and breezy, not stern, and said through gritted teeth. Plus, with the added benefit of friendly hand motion, abusive drivers will be like putty in your hands. Then there’s that open question, ‘How are you?’ – a question that no angry driver will expect. 

Done correctly, this retort can easily put someone completely out of their stride. Use it!


2. The Silent Treatment

ignore vehicle

Let’s be clear: this retort isn’t about creating more issues between drivers and cyclists. If there’s one thing the world doesn’t need, it’s more conflict on our roads. Especially when there seems to be an ever more tribal element when it comes to drivers and cyclists. Strange, really, when you consider that many cyclists today are also car owners and drivers. Indeed, research conducted by the National Travel Survey in the UK indicated that 83% of cyclists are car owners – 1% more than the number of non-cyclists who own cars. So now you know!

But simply not saying anything as a cyclist and not reacting when a driver has accused you of something can easily prevent a potentially nasty situation.

It’s funny, isn’t it?  Even the most mild-mannered of people seem to become different beasts when they’re sat behind the wheel of a car. Behavior that just wouldn’t be tolerated in normal day-to-day living somehow becomes part of the norm when driving the car.

A raised fist, a verbal volley, maybe even an obscene gesture – these kinds of actions wouldn’t fly in an office, a shop, or a restaurant, so why should they be on the roads? Perhaps it’s the transient nature of driving a car, perhaps it’s the simple act of being cocooned inside a metal box – whatever it is, being a cyclist and staying silent in a moment of road rage is, in our books, the perfect retort. Zip, stum, hush!


3. “Thank You”

Thank you

Most road rage incidents are minor skirmishes, and those that do escalate into something more grave – such as bodily assault – will covered by criminal law. A quick “thank you” in the face of someone bristling with rage may rile them even more, but staying calm and not reacting, even if you are in the right, will ensure this potentially dangerous situation goes no further.


4. “Have a Nice Day”

Have a nice day

This one’s best if you experience something abusive as the driver flies past you. Okay, uttering it under your breath isn’t going to mean the driver will hear it, but hey, it should leave you feeling like you’re the much better person in all of this.


5. Thumbs Up

THUMBS UP

Up until now, our cyclist’s retorts to abusive drivers have been based on verbal (or non-verbal) reactions. And so, here’s an entirely action-based response on our list for the first time. Something that doesn’t require shouting at the top of your voice as the driver sails into the distance. Something that doesn’t rely on yelling across three lanes of heavy traffic as the driving assailant heads off down an intersection.

A simple thumbs up is as good as any spoken repose in our books, and whilst its irony may well be lost on the driver, its positive intentions will leave you feeling like you’ve reached the moral high ground.

If the driver sees you deliver the thumbs-up message, we’ll even offer you bonus points if you embellish it with the cheesiest of cheesy grins or maybe even an ironic wink.


6. “I Love You!”

I love you

Okay, okay, this one is a bit left of field, but declaring your undying love for someone could easily flummox a somewhat angry human being so much that they really don’t know what to do next. In reality, this one is perhaps the hardest on our list to actually dish out. If you snapped at the driver rather than came out with this, we certainly wouldn’t blame you!


7. Count to Ten

Count to ten

This action can prevent you, not the driver, from seeing red. And it will certainly be familiar to all the parents out there. Pausing and counting to 10 can be an effective technique for managing anger, as it highlights the importance of two key factors: time and distraction. 

By counting to ten, we allow ourselves the necessary time to delay our response while simultaneously providing a distraction from the situation that is causing us to feel angry. Counting can be so absorbing that it helps prevent us from dwelling on the problem and exacerbating our anger further.


8. “Nice Car!” 

Nice car

Well, well, if there’s nothing an irate driver loves more than themselves, it’s probably their ‘pride and joy’ that they are driving around in. And whilst this reaction won’t resonate with someone driving a 10-year-old clapped-up banger, it may well make them stop, think, and prevent a further volley of expletives. 

And if you have your own specialist verbal jiu-jitsu move to de-escalate a situation, please share it in the comments!

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