Bicycle vs Car: Can’t we just get along? (I know it’s been said before)

I had an argument with the driver of a blue van yesterday morning.

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I suppose you could fairly state it wasn’t really an argument – because I didn’t actually get a chance to contribute to the altercation.

Here’s the story..

I’m waiting to turn right. There is  a big queue (it’s a busy junction in rush hour) so I’ve used a long stretch of road in which there was no oncoming traffic and ridden down the right hand side (to avoid being squished on the left).

I’ve got to a point just before the junction. A white van is indicating in preparation to turn right – it’s in a line of 3 cars waiting to do so. I position myself in the stream of traffic behind the white van, in front of the blue van. I’m not in any way obstructing the blue van, since it’s in a queue and not going anywhere until the three vehicles in front are able to turn right.. we’re all politely waiting for this grey car to drive past the junction so we can be on our way:

cars

Out of the blue – Mr Blue Man shouts out of his window: “This is why all you cyclists are dying.. look at you! Look at you!” Well.. I look at myself.

Road positioning

I’m in a position between two vehicles – one is in front of me, thus no danger unless if chooses to actually reverse, which would be quite out of character in such a situation. Regardless, I’m slightly to the right of it so I can see it’s wing mirror and should be in view anyway (yea I know, my diagram is not totally accurate).  The other is (being abusive) behind me. I’m fully in view of the blue van so only really likely to be crushed in the event that he’s a total arse, which does now appear to be a probability worth bearing in mind.

Perhaps he refers to some other issue?

I look down at myself as directed. It’s kind of light by now but I’ve taken visibility into account. My front handlebars have a big fat Lezyne light thrusting out about 900lumens. Blue van Dick might argue this is too bright, but I’d say I’m just trying to prevent myself joining “all those cyclists dying” due to incompetent idiots too busy shouting out their windows to try using their eyes. On the rear, I’ve got two red lights – one flashing and one steady. So I’m pretty well lit up.

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What else could it be?

Maybe my clothes aren’t bright enough? Nope – I’m wearing a white gilet and have various reflective patches on my tights and overshoes – so not really much of a valid point there. And even if I wasn’t, a recent study by researchers at Bath and Brunel University has  shown that drivers give the same amount of passing room regardless of dress, anyway (provided the rider doesn’t appear to be a police officer, when they get an extra 5 cm’s)

So what was it really?

Most likely, Mr Blue Man Van Dickish is firstly annoyed that he’s had to wait in the queue, whilst I’ve been able to move safely up the right hand side. Well – my friend – that’s the benefit of getting off your arse, and if I hadn’t done so, the queue would be one car longer. But why so angry and abusive?  It’s likely, at some point Mr Blue Van Dick had, at some point, had a negative experience with a cyclist. Now, rather than seeing that cyclist as a human being on a bike, and me as a completely different human being on a bike, he’s merged us all into one great big ‘nasty cyclist’ category and decided to vent it at me.

The fact that he chose to tie in the tragedies of recent events into the whole offensive package was what annoyed me enough to report the story. This personal attack was nothing particularly special – cyclists get abuse everyday, sometimes it turns dangerous. So why have I laboured over this one stupid little comment thrown from the window of a blue van? Because it should not be common place.

The key arguments that are often used to attack cyclists are often horrendously misinformed and out of date – yet recent reports suggest even MPs aren’t living in the present when it comes to their attitudes to cyclists, so it won’t do any harm to repeat them:

  • Cyclists are not escaping road tax – since road tax does not exist and has not done so since 1937.
  • People pay emissions tax. Bikes produce no emissions. So users do not pay tax on their bicycles.
  •  That being said – the high majority of adult cyclists drive too – so that means they pay EMISSIONS tax and have passed a driving test and don’t need to take another.
  • Though I would also advise wearing a helmet, statistically, a cyclist is less likely to be hit by a car if not wearing one (my argument is that they are more likely to survive should an incident occur).

Every cyclist riding down the road is one less driver in your traffic jam, so it’s worth considering that their method of commuting is actually making every drivers journey easier. Though a driver might need to slow down to wait before overtaking, it’s very common place for the two to meet at the next traffic light or roundabout. All the cyclist is doing is cutting down the time everyone has to wait in that queue by not adding an extra car to the count.

If every cyclist was driven back into their car by impatient road users, the traffic would only be heavier – and you can’t overtake another car in the system the way you can a person on a bike.

I know it’s been said a million times, but it doesn’t seem to be going in, does it?

All cyclists are not the same, and all drivers are not the same. Just because one wobbly-can’t-control-the-bike rider jumped a red light in front of you in your car yesterday, doesn’t give you the right to hand out abuse to the next one innocently waiting at a junction. And no, it’s not ok for cyclists to act irrationally and cause danger to one driver, just because another rubbed them up the wrong way (even though, let’s face it, push comes to shove the cyclist usually comes off worse).

It’s nothing new or novel, I’m not making a big unheard statement, I’m just being rational: can’t we all just be human beings?

There are 3 comments

  1. cyclingwithheels

    Well, it would be nice, wouldn’t it? It does get annoying that some people seem to think that cyclists are responsible for the behaviour of other cyclists. They seem to be able to grasp the fact, for example, that just because one car driver went over the speed limit that doesn’t mean all drivers do that. Yet with cyclists – we’re *all* doing something wrong just because *some* cyclists run red lights. I’ve had some horrible things said to me by drivers and pedestrians over the years, for no fault of my own. Would they really say such things to me – a small, inoffensive woman – if I weren’t on my bike? What makes them think it’s OK just because I am on my bike?

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