…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
That’s the sound a motorist heard on the back of their car today, moments after they pulled out of a side road ahead of me.
I was cycling along, between 20-25mph, they arrived at the junction to my right (we drive/ride on the left here), they saw me, and they pulled out.
Everything was fine with me at this point – I’ve had motorists do this before and I always “assume” that because they’ve seen me, and the road ahead of us is clear, that they’ll pull out only to the middle so we can both carry on our way – I live in the countryside and irate motorists are few and far between. A few times now though motorists have left me either with no room (forcing me to go onto a grass verge on one occasion), or on this occasion I was close enough to rap my knuckle on the back of their car (whilst maintaining my speed) to politely illustrate how little room they left me.
It wasn’t an angry knock. In fact I didn’t feel particularly at risk or irate by the lack of space, I just had a moment to decide “I want to make this point,” and so I did. I’ve heard (and seen through the likes of Youtube) other cyclists getting up in the face of motorists when in close situations such as this, but I decided to stop Following one fellow cyclist blogger recently because he posted a video of himself being cut up and then having a go at the motorist – I tried to think of something positive to leave as a comment while at the same time asking him to consider his reaction, but I couldn’t.
If I can make each motorist that does something risky like this to me think a little more about other road users, then great, but trying to belittle another road users is not a positive way to do this – it shouldn’t be an “us vs. them” campaign – and in the case of cyclists I think it makes us all look bad if we aren’t careful about how we address other road users – we’re all human beings. I can understand that if we suddenly have a serious shock or are knocked off our bike and injured then how we react may be different to my case, but how we do react says a lot about ourselves, and for this I can appreciate that I’m perhaps more passive than some.
Some cyclists call for space in the region of 1.5M, and wear cycling shirts illustrating this, but personally I think this is excessive – there is a distance I feel safe with, but this is flexible – it’s relative to our speeds, and the conditions; having six inches between my shoulder and a car’s wing mirror passing me at 60mph in windy conditions is not something I want to experience again; but I feel equally frustrated by motorists failing to pass, and holding up other motorists, simply because they refuse/lack the confidence to nip past when I think there is plenty of room to do so (but not 1.5M).
I’m really not sure why motorists pull out in front of me though. I’m convinced they see me but I sincerely believe they pull out and give me no room because in the brief moment that they do see me, they simply see “a bicycle” and their brain fails to judge my approaching speed – once out into the road they see a clear path ahead of them and fail then to think where the bike is now that they effectively cut up. I find it fun to fill their rear-view mirror with bicycle in the hope that they will glance in it and see just how close I am (inches away at times).
Failing to think ahead, coupled with this lack of consideration for a cyclist’s speed is a similar issue. I often have motorists pass (or try to pass) me when approaching a junction – they think they will arrive with plenty of time to make the turn without affecting me, but instead they get in my way (I find a bike can usually brake later and take a junction at at a higher speed due to having a better view of the road). Earlier this week I was motoring along at 25-30mph on my bike with a helpful wind behind me, and a motorist behind me decided to pass just before we reached a roundabout, for which he had to slow down for, but I didn’t need to, that was until he positioned his car in my path. Then he was in my way all down the road which had a 30mph speed limit, he was seemingly trying to accelerate hard to gain some distance between us but failing to make much progress because he had to keep his speed steady due to first a railway crossing and then parked cars. We then arrived at traffic lights together – I was tempted on this occasion to sarcastically tap on his side window and wave at him whilst we both sat at the junction, but I didn’t – I guess I felt a little more confident today.