Although I don't own a car anymore, the Scientist does, and I borrow it about once a week or so to do big grocery runs/ errands. I also go out to job sites in the suburbs about once a week by zipcar.
Recently the Scientist and I went up to Maine for the day and it made me think about how bicycling in traffic has influenced how I drive.
Now the Scientist is a great driver- very careful, not aggressive, but I found myself a nervous wreck, to the point that I was disturbing his driving.
Part of it is that as a biker you are always on your guard for drivers coming into your path without warning, so I have this ingrained sense of hyper vigilance, that people might swerve into our lane without signalling. I'm always watching the wheels to anticipate someone's turning.
I find I have a strong physical reaction to being in someone's blind spot. As a cyclist, I try to avoid at all costs being in the blind spot of a moving car. The consequences of being turned or veered into are just so extreme when you're on a bike that I've found I'm paranoid and extremely anxious being in a blind spot, even when I'm in a car.
Not only do I have the experience of constantly feeling like people don't see me when I'm driving, but because of the bike/ transportation websites I'm reading these days, I'm always getting vicarious reinforcement of the dangers of a bike/ car collision.
I think that when I drive now, I'm a lot more non confrontational. Not that I was ever aggressive, but now, if I see someone driving erratically, or if in order to pass someone I'll have to dart in and out of traffic, I find now that I'll just slow down, give them a lot of space, let them get ahead of me so that I don't have to worry about them, stay in the slow lane a couple more minutes to allow a generous passing interval. Also I find errand running errands in the car really draining, more so than I used to, much more so than when I run errands on the bike.
Some of my behavior is probably good- I'm very good about checking to my right before making a right turn in case a bike has come up behind me, and it probably is better to go slower and stay out of blind spots. However, the Scientist thinks that my hyperconsciousness is possibly a problem. Not only does it make me a total Nervous Nellie (which is obnoxious and distracting) when he's driving, but he's worried that I might actually get in a wreck from overreaction to a perceived threat. For example, I worry that someone is veering into my lane and slam on the brakes when someone's tailgating and get rear ended.
I try to keep reminding myself that our new car is designed with all kinds of safety features, and that helps a bit, but seriously, I'm wondering if I'm going to need to do some kind of cognitive behavior therapy to relieve this anxiety.
I hope someone's out there, because I'd love to hear other cyclists thoughts.