It's beginning. clueless adults with dazed-and-confused looks on their faces, children throwing tantrums and wishing their parents would just leave already... I speak of course, about the beginning of the fall semester. Along with the influx of something like twenty-thousand kids (I can say that, because many of them are ten years younger than I am) comes the heightened risks of commuting through town. Boulder, compared to a place like Manhattan, is bike-commuter heaven; many wide concrete paths wind through and around the perimeter of town, have painted lane markers and pass either under or over major roads. Bicycle-car interactions are minimized, but just as dangerous are the behaviours of uninitiated riders on the bike-paths. I have several friends who have suffered injury (broken collarbones, torn ankle ligaments, concussions) because of kids not knowing the rules of the paths, or just lacking common sense. I myself have found that some kids just home in on you like heat-seeking missiles; swerving directly into your lane, slamming on brakes in front of you, ultimately just doing everything in their power to bring about a head-on collision. That is why, this year, I feel very comfortable riding my 35 pound free-ride/downhill bike around town; it's a version of the compact-car/SUV crash model - The bigger vehicle wins. As the actual new-student arrival date approaches, I may start wearing my full-face helmet and body armor too... that way when some unwitting, unaware, foolish child swerves into my lane of the path I can offer a verbal warning but I am no longer going to swerve off the path, or risk my own injury to save them from the embarrassment of learning a lesson the hard way.
I regularly offer friendly advice to drivers in town... like when they pull in front of me across a bike-path I may whistle sharply and say, "hey, watch out for the bike path" or "please don't block the path". I generally assume that if a driver doesn't have a bike-rack on their car they don't know any better, so there's no need to curse and yell at them... most of the time. There are occasions when I wish I had something like a balloon full of honey or oil that I could lob, but maybe some of these magnets would be better.
It seems like biker/driver tensions are gaining momentum, but personally I just think more people are hearing about it... I have always been yelled at and harassed by drivers, regardless of where I was riding or what I was doing. Check out some good articles on the subject...
From BikesnobNYC, about a cop that should be strapped to a rusty bike-rack naked and flogged with an old inner-tube: NYPD assaults cyclist
...Or this one about the misadventures of commuting in a big city, And finally this from a more reputable source: The NY Times on Moving Targets.