Cycling on the roads is a really dangerous and tough thing. It’s especially dangerous when it’s dark. Even moreso when you’re in rush hour. At this time of year I have to add all those together and I get a big wad of danger delivered on a platter to me.
I was having a discussion with a friend at work and listed the worst road offenders for being ignorant, inconsiderate and downright dangerous when a bicycle is involved. I made this list based on the past few months of returning to cycling, and also the last week or so of returning to full road cycling – mainly due to the dark canal path not being too viable for cycling.
So I made the list, and coming home tonight I added to it in my head, here we go.
Baby on Board
What’s interesting here is that the general vehicles includes white vans, they aren’t that bad compared to these other vehicles and I’d definitely say Buses are way more considerate than most on the road.
So BMW and Audi cars are the worst offenders. When I notice a car that has just cut me up, lept in front of me or driven within an inch of me is driven by a woman or carrying a Baby on Board sticker I’m amazed. Don’t they have kids that have bikes? Would they be upset if their son or daughter was cut up by a car and knocked over? I wonder in such circumstances would they remember all the cyclists they try and knock over day to day?
Okay, so there are generalisations there. I know Lee drives his BMW very well and I’m sure gives loads of consideration to other road users, particularly cyclists. Yet this is a reflection of what I’ve actually witnessed on the roads myself as a cyclist, these are the categories of vehicles that have been the most inconsiderate and dangerous towards me. Oh, and do not be in any doubt that I do not use the word dangerous in a melodramatic way, that’s fact, I really do mean dangerous.
So much so that I’ve decided to reclaim my position on the road, and I’ve very much moved across to cycle more firmly in the centre of my lane, if I don’t cars will try and squeeze by, and no matter how far into the side I go they’ll always come close.
That didn’t work today though, quite a few times I was cut up and narrowly missed, and the worst offender was just as I cycled across the lights past the University on the way to Greenbank. Right behind me a black Sierra speeds up and pushes towards my back wheel, I’m not exaggerating when I say he was about two inches to my right. I decided to pull over a bit and defend my lane just as he decided to floor it and leap past me, still with only that two inch gap.
Well here’s to you Mr G280 UGE, let’s hope someone does that to one of your children in an attempt to show how manly and annoyed they are, then speeds by. Let’s just hope they can handle their bike and stay upright, and not fall over in the path of the next vehicle.
Why don’t you all just think about the cyclist in front of you. Here are some thoughts, and I shall swap he\she throughout for those sex equalitists among you!
- He may not be able to indicate – it’s difficult keeping a bike on the road without wobbling, concentrating on other drivers, working your gears and brakes, and trying to avoid being knocked over.
- She may turn suddenly – you cannot hold your arm out all the way to, and round, a junction. There’s stability, braking and the turning manoeuvre to carry out, and with both hands.
- He needs room – to indicate (an extended arm space at least), to give them confidence and therefore stability, to turn, etc.
- She may wobble and weave on the road – there are potholes, sunken drains, glass, wind, car drafts, all these things to contend with.
- He needs room to brake – a bike does not stop very fast.
- She needs room in front – a bike can continue moving forward, cutting straight in front of them is not good, she cannot brake in time, nor can she manoeuvre around you quickly.
Have a think of some of these next time you are on the road, and remember something one of my neighbours didn’t, that cyclist might be your neighbour. Hey, they might be your workmate arriving at work, senior to you at work even, and they are always someone elses child.
I thought of two other guidelines for drivers when approaching cyclists
- Look ahead of cyclists – if there’s a parked car ahead and you’re passing them leave enough room alongside the car as well. They have to overtake it and can’t just suddenly stop because you’ve overtaken and squashed them between you and the parked car!
- Don’t take the apex – when a cyclist is coming up to a left turn and you’re overtaking them, don’t pull in and take the apex of the curve. They’re still moving forwards and you’re cutting them up and forcing them off the road is not proving your F1 skills.
Two incidents happened this morning that have made me mad enough to write about them, and the more I think about this post the more I think I’ll just keep adding to it and putting up registrations of vehicles that really cause me danger and that I can remember!
The first was incredible since it was coming out of the very place I live. Not five metres from the junction out of our estate I heard a vehicle racing behind me. Bear in mind this is along a narrow road with cars parked on one side where kids play daily. Just before the junction is a hidden entrance to the left, that’s where all the site traffic drives in and out, and it was just at this point the silver Mercedes raced past me to try and beat me to the junction.
Well he didn’t, obviously, and he ended up driving alongside me, sitting on the right hand side of the junction (that’s the wrong side of the road for all you non-left hand side of the road drivers). I was on the correct side of the road getting ready to turn, luckily I wasn’t turning right and fighting him for position on the road, and luckily there was no traffic trying to enter the estate to find it blocked by an overbearing idiot in his silver Mercedes living in Greenbank Village. I just wish I’d managed to get his number plate or his house, I’d go and pay him a house visit.
The second was a dark blue VW type estate family car with a registration something along the lines of SM54 JVZ. I was cycling to the junction with Colinton Road from Merchants Golf Course, the lights were red, and no traffic in the turning right lane, so I cycled down to the junction to sit in the red cycle box (this is an area on many junctions for cyclists to move through the traffic and sit safely at the front of the queue). Unfortunately the lights changed as I was passing this car and they started to move, so I powered down and pulled infront of them. That resulted in a huge horn blowing incident, them racing round the front of me and braking in front.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking already, but let’s just rewind a few moments to before the junction. I was cycling alongside Merchants Golf Course, and for anyone who knows that means a narrow road, blind hills and corners, and it was at one of these combined blind hill-corner sections that a car passed me as another vehicle was coming towards it on the opposite side. “Close” I thought, but then another car followed it, the very same VW. It pulled out from behind me and sped past on this blind hill combined corner, he couldn’t see a thing. Faced with an oncoming vehicle he pulled in and cut me up dangerously close. All I could do was wave my hand.
Obviously there must be some great satisfaction for him to sound off his horn from behind to a cyclist. It must have made him feel really big, and having conveniently forgotten his attempt to kill himself, the other driver and me, he felt the need to blast his horn and try and scare me off my bike. Perhaps the thought never crossed his mind that I was the same cyclist he’d attempted to kill, or that I had done nothing wrong to the point of having to cut in. Perhaps if he’d eased off his accelerator and let me back in he might be feeling better about himself…and that was just the cycle in today.
…and lo and behold it wasn’t the last attempted murder of the day. On the way home I was cycling up to the first big roundabout on Calder Road which has three lanes leading to the roundabout. The lights were at red with a couple of cars stopped. I was about three metres from the rear of the stationary car when another vehicle on my right hand side tries to overtake and pull in front of me in the lane. He was so unsuccessful that his front bumper was in line with my front wheel, yet he was still pointed into my lane trying to cut me off and force me across the road.
So when the lights went to green I cycled forward and he pulled forward continuing driving into my lane alongside me, he just sped up, cut right in front and off! Now he can’t say that he didn’t see me because he was alongside me trying to force me off the road.