“Only reason I won’t cycle is I am too 5h1t scared to do so.”
(as can be found within a matter of minutes on any cycling twitter timeline)
- Is this just about infra?
- Can it be fixed by enforcement alone?
- Do we need more education?
- Or …
Is this actually a mental health issue?
And if so:
Cars? A society addicted to cars? Drivers? Bad drivers?
- A small number of extremely dangerous drivers?
Cars and Mental Health Drivers and Mental Health Bad Drivers and Mental Health
Psychotic Drivers and Mental Health
Traffic and Mental Health
We understand “traffic offences” are really traffic crimes, increasingly known as “road crimes”. In other words, the criminality is individual, not societal, although society tolerates it.
As I define (and tweet about it) in the absence of a better definition:
Traffic Anxiety (n)
A fear of traffic, in particular of acts of dangerous and aggressive driving, and bullying of vulnerable road users – especially cyclists.
“Traffic anxiety” is listed as a phobia which can be managed through counselling – most practitioners appear to be in the USA. This definition relates, much more literally to a fear of traffic jams, fear of being late etc.
Core mental health issues caused by traffic & bad driving
- Noise, air pollution and worries about this (this is a general traffic issue)
- Mental recover from actual crashes (this is separate topic of itself)
- “Will I die” – this is the main issue I want to talk about.
- Single point stresses – ie cars driven fast / erratically / fire cracker exhausts etc – past window when at home. Threat is from the noise, not the worry about being hit.
- Fear of automobiles or riding in one.
As a child with motorphobia, she used to grab her father’s hand at the slightest sound of an approaching vehicle.
Ideas with beers – 2nd of February 2021
At traffic anxiety
“A brief introduction to issues about mental health, cycling and other forms of transport”
Mental health and cycling
Mental health, cycling and recent issues relating to the equality act
What I’m going to try and talk about:
- The core issues relating to mental health and transport, and particular active travel.
- Why I think these are often ignored
- Stating the glaringly obvious
- Labels versus day-to-day living – specifically – bipolar, ADHD, autistic spectrum, general anxiety and specifically –
- What I am defining as traffic anxiety and why this doesn’t exist in any psychological definitions that I know of
- Motor phobia (vehophobia) – broadly, fear of vehicles and generally fear of road vehicles – why I think this definition is partially useful but also very unhelpful
- traffic anxiety as understood, largely in the USA – fear of traffic jams
- how we can relate this to what is much better understood – fear of flying
- who am I to talk about any of this?
What I’m going to try and avoid:
- Specific details about cycle lanes, LTN design features, things like traffic islands and the problems they cause (this is covered each week through other IWB presentations)
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) – I’m not in a position to talk about this, even if it’s clearly an issue in relation to mental health aspects of crash recovery.
Who am I to talk about this?
Broadly speaking, there is very little research that I am aware of which specifically covers the mental health aspects of traffic and dangerous driving, although I think that this is an emerging field, and in particular I would credit Dr Rachel Aldred at the University of Westminster and also Robin mas Munda in Toronto for starting some work in this field.
Whilst there is far more research data on the harmful impact of traffic in terms of air pollution and in terms of actual injury collisions, I think it’s reasonable to say there is general understanding that having to deal with traffic is stressful, but this is largely something that can be filed under “common sense”, and research is still extremely limited.
Furthermore, much of this research focuses on the problems of sitting in traffic – in other words what many of us would define as a partially self-inflicted wound – yes, you are stressed because you are in traffic, but you are also partly the cause of that traffic, however essential you perceive your journey to beat.
Injury collisions are also relatively easy to measure – even if there is no question that there is massive underreporting for slight injuries, I think it’s fair to say that Ks I figures in the UK are reasonably accurate, and these usually also ascertain a cause for each crash.
Traffic -related stress is much harder to deal with – it is a condition which is generally caused by many people rather than a specific driver, and unless there is an injury incident, it’s very hard to directly point the finger at one person.
When I talk about traffic anxiety and the stresses that I experienced going out on a day-to-day basis, I should be clear to point out that I think that these anxieties are deep rooted and I think that I could trace them back to certainly quite a young age, and even if I wouldn’t say that I had anything I would now define as traffic anxiety when I was at school age, I certainly had a fear of what I would call contact sport and really disliked ball games, especially the one with the oval ball that we invented here and Warwickshire (didn’t we have a perfectly good game of football to begin with)? Warwickshire wrists, no respect for the rules et cetera
I think that what I’m trying to define here as traffic anxiety is quite distinct from post-traumatic stress disorder which I definitely think is a very major issue by and of itself, and not just from people who have been injured in crashes but also from people who have had very stressful close shaves.
Although I have had the following labels given to me at some point by professionals who are qualified to do so, and although I’m always cautious because giving a long list of labels might imply that my general mental health condition is more serious, and I don’t think that’s the case, because I think that all of these conditions are Venn diagrams and does to a certain extent I fall between them, however, I can still say in terms of legal definitions of mental health and disability I either am or have, depending on which you prefer:
- Bipolar (by far the most serious in terms of life risk, but also not something that I associate with the traffic anxiety that I really want to focus on) – correction – that’s not true – the 2016
- autism spectrum disorder – sometimes labelled with the a word but I would rather not
- general anxiety
- specific anxiety – i.e. what I have defined as traffic anxiety
What do I think traffic anxiety means?
If I could write a definition or suggest a definition for a medical text?
Traffic anxiety (N)
Any form of anxiety which specifically relates to fear of motor vehicles in general or in particular fear of dangerous driving or of aggressive driving or of aggression from drivers, especially when this fear is directed at a vulnerable road user, for example but not exclusively, a cyclist.
What is motor phobia
Motor phobia is essentially defined as a fear of motor vehicles, and this does extend very much to fear of being harmed by motor vehicles. It is distinct from a fear of travel by car.
I don’t believe I have any particular fear of travel by car, as long as I have reasonable trust in the driver. If I have any sense of this fear that I would simply asked the driver to stop and I would get out – and I have done that a very small number of times.
Nor do either of these fears relate to “car sickness” – that is a form of physical motion sickness, and it is something that I’ve experienced as a passenger when travelling by car on very winding Scottish roads, but I’ve also driven on similar roads and not experienced it – I think this is because when driving, it’s much easier to respond to curves in the road.
Am I a driver myself?
I passed my driving test in 1998 and surrendered my driving licence on medical grounds in 2012. I never particularly enjoyed driving and I certainly would not have tolerated any work situation which required me to commute and sit in traffic daily, but I also have very little recollection of ever being fearful driving – in fact I have driven in a number of countries which other people would consider very dangerous to driving, and I probably experienced a huge sense of relief from getting back to the airport and returning the hire car, but the main reason why I’m in no rush to try and get my driving licence back is that I just don’t know how I would respond to the sort of idiotic driving I witness every few minutes when I’m out walking or cycling.
The DVLA require drivers to stop for a period of 6 months following a major manic episode, but I I am well outside this period, and my bipolar has been reasonably stable for around 10 years now – typically experiencing a mild but still disruptive episode every 12 months or so.
Hang on – wouldn’t they take an issue with that? Have a look.
Am I anti-car?
No, I’m anti-anti-car! I think that the whole war on cars mentality is simply pointless. We know that there are better ways of managing traffic and dealing with dangerous drivers but instead we just keep ignoring them.
I don’t hate cars but I’ve never particularly loved them either, I just think they are very overrated. They are also extremely inefficient machines for doing most of the jobs that they do, and I think this is why urban planners end up treating the car like a spoilt playground brat.
But apart from minor problems like killing people, forcing everyone to breathe in toxic fumes and tearing communities apart, the car is actually quite a good machine.
Specific issues with mental health:
By condition and mode?
- Negative impact of general noise – affects everyone and really affects people far more when they are at home or possibly in certain workplaces brackets hence (hence bewilderment at the rather bizarre comments that transport is only about what happens when people move)
- specific negative impact – noisy vehicles going past residential properties; noisy vehicles in the street (when walking, cycling, waiting for the bus et cetera)
- negative impact of air pollution (can this be quantified as a mental health issue – probably not)
- community severance – this has been researched with the well circulated diagrams about connections on different street types, so I’m not going to elaborate on that.
- Fear that somebody is actually going to kill me – this is really something that is experienced far more by cyclist than anyone else, but which can still very much be an issue with pedestrians, and that is a particular issue for pedestrians with physical movement difficulties, especially for example when crossing the road or when having to move out into the road from the pavement because of obstructions to a wheelchair, hand cycle, mobility scooter or similar. I am only going to comment however on fear as I see it because it’s not my place to comment on how these problems might be experienced by someone in a wheelchair.
- Sense of disconnect – if my brother can just get in his car to drive anywhere he wants, why is it so difficult for me to go anywhere, even if I can actually plan a trip so that the vast majority of it is away from road danger?
- Problems with planning a journey – I do have very serious issues relating to the difficulty I have in actually getting out of the house in the first place, always running late, leaving behind key items like travel passes, missing connections even if I arrive at the stop/station with plenty of time, and also with actually following the route as I set out or intended. However, in terms of what I want to talk about here, I want to differentiate between what I would call internal problems – in other words, if I can’t find my keys before leaving the house, then there is only one person who is responsible for them not being where they should be by the front door – and that is me, and although I can have Canon do pre-covert have family members come round and help me with this sort of stuff, it’s not an equality issue in the same way that failure to provide a safe cycle route is, because there is nothing that I honestly believe any counsel or even any care worker or anyone else could do to assist me in getting to that point where I move from essentially my own personal and private business into the public domain.
- However, the unnecessary traffic noise that I even have to deal with when dictating this presentation – this to me absolutely is an equality issue and I think it’s really important to point out that the most important beneficiaries of low traffic neighbourhoods when they are done properly never were cyclist in the first place I think we all know that – the real beneficiary comes from actually having peace and quiet on residential neighbourhoods being what they are designed to be.
- Needless to say – we mustn’t dismiss the issue that by closing off rat runs, there is always going to be this initial displacement onto the main roads, and I think we should understand that a general and constant traffic noise is a mental health issue just as the occasional rat running car driving at insanely silly speeds and making a ridiculously amount of noise set against the quiet background is.
I should also say that I am trying to differentiate between what I would call traffic anxiety or essentially the mental health impacts of traffic as a public health issue because this really does affect large amounts of people, even if it is generally not documented, and some of the issues which I have to deal with because they are ultimately more personal, but which I cannot detach from this wider problem.
So – literally – there we go, as I dictate this, a car has gone past the window at an apparently reasonable speed and then gone down to the bottom Street and I have just heard multiple beeps. I don’t know who was beeping at who or why, but I know almost for certain that nobody was in any real danger and that the usage of the horn was entirely inappropriate – as it almost always is.
This irritates me because it’s unnecessary – just as I get extremely irritated when the local firecracker exhaust Panzer goes past, but I’m never going to be bothered by buses and trucks, even if I can hear both quite often. Now you might say – well I should still be bothered by trucks because their unnecessary because they might well be carrying really light loads or because they are simply just carrying consumer junk that we don’t need – really, no, I have no idea what each truck is carrying or where it is going and I’m not going to get bothered about that kind of detail, but I do get extremely bothered when one selfish driver has decided to make what I’m sure are illegal modifications that mean their car makes 100 times as much noise as a bus which is probably carrying 20 times as many people.
And I think this is a point that I’m just going to throw out for more discussion because I don’t know how many other people experience this, other than the fact that I do quite often read Twitter threads on similar veins.
In determining eligibility for PIP, the DWP consider that you have a problem with mobility if a typical journey takes 50% or longer when compared to the same person making that journey without a disability, or if you are frequently unable to complete your journey as planned, or if you are simply unable to make your journey at all.
Whilst all of the above apply to me on a day-to-day basis, the legal descriptors make no consideration for the extent to which a sense of stress or exacerbated anger is felt after the completion of each journey, and this is one of the biggest reasons why I cycle so little at the moment.
I know that I might be able to reach places in 20 minutes that will take one hour to walk, and I also know that I can incorporate loops on a cycle journey to the shops that include going through parks and other green space, and I know that many journeys are reasonably stressfree, but I also know that one even relatively minor incident could spark be into a sense of absolute rage that I might not be able to express at the time – other than a few shouts at the driver who is now long since left the scene, such that I then return home absolutely fuming and I don’t even get to put shopping away and frozen food away before ranting for 3 or 4 hours on social media – often in ways which are generally unhelpful.
Therefore as a general rule, if I’m considering a one hour cycle ride, I will always consider that is probably on average going to be at least one hour on top of that, especially of course if I have any videos to look at and possibly report.
I’ve been given very good advice from my consultant which is essentially to try and ignore as much bad driving as I possibly can, and my bath are reporting dangerous driving incidents is now set very deep – the driving has to be so bad that I know with almost certainty that they are going to get prosecuted for the offence, and usually there has to be a large malicious element in the driving, so I’m very unlikely just to report a close pass or someone pulling out carelessly in front of me.
This is also why I am now trying to set aside some time to develop road crime dot org as a portal for reviewing the kind of response to bad driving videos and comparing one police force with another. This is a separate project for which I hope to be able to give a presentation at some stage, but the reasons for doing this are very much because it feels like an offset for all the dangerous driving videos that I’m otherwise not submitting and of course for the fact that I cycle so little anyway.
This is also why I am ultimately somewhat hopeful for the future, even with all the negativity that we are currently having to deal with.
I think a very major leap forward will be this idea that new cars fitted with GPS speed limitations will become like rolling speed humps, and I also think that quite quickly, any driver who makes a decision to override these devices is going to expose themselves to a massively increased chance of being found at fault in any collision, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if insurers will very quickly start threatening to avoid all first party claims if the speed limit is have been bypassed, just as they do if the driver has been over the drink drive limit.
This is far more significant than the much longer term prospect of stage V self driving cars, and it could be a really massive game changer towards the idea of essentially normalising safe driving across the vast majority of the population and finally getting the social disgust that we need towards any aspect of road criminality.
Because I honestly think that if I felt that I could go out on a day-to-day basis knowing that the kind of aggressive behaviour that is almost a certainty when I go out at the moment is far less likely, then I think I would not just be able to cycle again without having to think about it so much, but I would probably also start driving again, and then I would essentially revert back to how I would have probably seen myself prior to 2007 as somebody who is absolutely fanatical about all modes of transport because I’m passionate about cities and about human scale places and because I know we have massive environmental problems to deal with, but ultimately I would be an occasional car driver, a regular train user, someone who was quite happy walking along the time, somebody who may be did or didn’t fly somewhere or take a car ferry once each year, and you know what – yes maybe I’d title 3 times a week but it would just be a nonissue as it always should be.
And to this end – although I think that both safe cycle paths and the conversion of every sidestreet to a safe low traffic neighbourhood are both fundamentally important, I am essentially a cyclist with enough experience that I would personally be able to manage on most roads which had neither of these treatments, if only the council rolled out the 20 mph limits that were promised in 2014, and there were enough drivers who were automatically restricted to this speed such that I didn’t worry about being tail dated every time anyone appeared behind.
Video cameras really aren’t the solution to any road safety problem, other than giving people who experienced direct road crime incidents the assurance that action is being taken.
In purely selfish terms, the most important things to me right now are rapid rollout of 20 mph limits so that they are ready when the first speed limited cars hit the market in no more than about one year from now, and simply any kind of knowledge that road crime policing is taken seriously right across each force – and of course I say that living in Coventry which is in the West Midlands, which is one of the best police forces that we have.
So I need to be careful how I say this – and as I say this – there goes another prat plans – to me personally right now I would say that my priority is actually about 80% policing and speed limits and enforcement and education and new-car technology and 20% infrastructure.
However what we need to do as a whole in order to enable mass cycling is the other way round – 80% infrastructure and 20% enforcement and education. But let’s not forget this difference. In terms of traffic and mental health and in terms of what I think is one of the biggest reasons why most people won’t cycle – it is the very small number of frankly psychopathic drivers who I think are putting people off far more than the much more general problem of traffic noise and air pollution and congestion and so on.
Not only do I think it’s important to make this distinction – because I think in terms of pretty much everything else relating to physical health and the desire to actually cycle and be able to breathe at the same time and of course I post Covid response and actually avoiding where injuries occur most often, then we need to do infrastructure and in particular we need to make sure that the new cycle path we put in have the best possible junctions (as per last week).
All of the data I have seen on cyclist collisions shows that the biggest risk factor comes from junctions and generally from driver carelessness at junctions. However I think by far the biggest fear factor comes from aggressive driving and in particular in my experience it’s nearly always the same thing every time – it is male drivers aged 30 to 50 who are typically driving older German diesels – and this is exactly what I have found every time I’ve looked up the car registration on the DVLA – and these are also very common very commonly the sort of drivers who might shout at you to “pay road tax” when they haven’t actually paid their own VD!
I find it amazing that we have been so good at creating some of the world’s best loved non-road crime dramas, and in fact, the whole concept of criminal investigation could quite possibly be traced back to Sherlock Holmes – yet we simply don’t seem to have any kind of concept whatsoever of looking at the criminal mentality behind what I would call deliberately and consciously dangerous driving – something that is quite different to mere careless negligence which might result in speeding 5 to 10 mph over the limit, which gives so many drivers the temptation to text in traffic (I’m not condoning it am just saying that we all know it happens) and which might result in that bald tyre going for a couple of months before it’s replaced – this is negligence and it might be conscience and of course this all needs to be dealt with, but it is not borne out of malice, and I know from once having to successfully defend a criminal damage charge for moving an obstruction to a pathway, I know that in criminal law we have this concept of mens rea – essentially is the mind made up is the is there an intent to do harm, because I don’t think most drivers think that way for a minute, and I don’t think that most drivers are a problem in terms of what I see as a traffic anxiety issue.
I think there is a small minority – yes we know that according to various surveys around 70% of drivers speed at certain given point and we know that probably at least half drivers half of drivers text during traffic at some point during any given month, but I think it’s only about 20% who would ever do things like tailgate a cyclist or pass very close, and of this, there is a much smaller fraction who will simply beep and harass and read every single time, or who are probably always on their phone where ever they go, or who get drunk and drive home practically every night – and this is a criminal element which needs to be treated with the sort of criminal investigation and dare I say it deductive reasoning that we are so good at both in terms of our fictitious crime dramas but also in terms of how we actually investigate other violent crime violent crimes, and in particular, gruesome though it is, how the UK has one of the best murder clean up rates of any country.
I think that’s enough!
Vehophobia: the fear of driving.
- Amaxophobia, Motorphobia – fear of automobiles (branch of ochophobia)
- Armamachophobia – fear of tanks (branch of ochophobia)
- BMWphobia – fear of BMW (branch of ochophobia)
- Gelandelimophobia – fear of SUVs (branch of ochophobia)
HonestlySpeaking • 5 years ago
Most of the women in the US cause most accidents since many of them tailgate so much when there is no need to do that at all to begin with, and many of them really have a very serious problem which they do this on spite to cause trouble.
Chinese highways are growing busier and busier, leading many to buy SUVs to protect themselves against road rage accidents
A study released by Sanford C. Bernstein today claims that the reason we’ve seen such a surge in SUV purchases in China is large due to an overwhelming fear of road rage. Bloomberg reports that SUV registrations have shot up a mind-blowing 48% just in the first quarter of 2015; in fact, SUV sales account for more than a quarter of all purchases in that time period.
Of course, lower gas prices and crappy roads outside of the most populated Chinese cities are contributing factors to the rise in SUV ownership, but overwhelmingly, it seems people feel safer when behind the wheel of an SUV when a crazy person decides to jump out of his car and try to beat the crap out of them.
Road rage is becoming a very serious problem in China as the number of drivers continues to grow. In the last decade, Chinese drivers have increased ten-fold, and busy traffic and poor road conditions have led to many with low patience to do some crazy, stupid things. In fact, after a viral video surfaced online, showing a driver dragging a woman from her car and kicking her in the face, Chinese officials issued a statement urging drivers to act civilized.
But, because bad boys don’t make it a habit to listen to what officials have to say, it makes sense that these scared drivers are investing in SUVs. They might not offer much more protection from the craziness of the world, but at least drivers are seated a few inches higher.
News Source: Bloomberg
The News Wheel is a digital auto magazine providing readers with a fresh perspective on the latest car news. We’re located in the heart of America (Dayton, Ohio) and our goal is to deliver an entertaining and informative perspective on what’s trending in the automotive world. See more articles from The News Wheel.