Given the events of this week with myself, Graham Moir and another veteran rider all being run off the road by motorists, I had to write a little bit more on the subject. The local and national papers have been onto this 'cyclists vs motorists' story for a while now but I don't think that anyone has really confronted the fundamental issues on overtaking - patience & space. Let's get one thing straight from the outset - we are all entitled to use the road as a way of getting from A-B. Car drivers, HGV drivers, cyclists, mopeds and even pedestrians. There is no such thing as road tax, it was abolished by Winston Churchill in 1937. The little discs that you (used to) put on your windscreens are vehicle excise duty certificates which are based on emissions, meaning ultra-efficient and electric cars, and cycles, pay nothing.
All of us, as road users, are allowed to drive or cycle at a maximum speed in various zones. This is a maximum speed limit not a speed target, and funnily enough we are allowed to exercise our own free will as to what speed to travel at, up to the limit. As a cyclist I can't travel anywhere near the maximum speed in some zones (which is pretty annoying given all the training I put in). So the frustrating reality is that I won't be travelling at anywhere near 60mph on an A Road in the middle of the countryside. If a car driver wants to travel at 60mph then he or she will have to overtake me. Here is what Transport for London says about how cyclists and road users should behave:
Drivers - Give cyclists room. Keep a safe distance from cyclists and don't attempt to overtake when there is not enough space. Give as much space as you might for another car. Cyclists might use the middle of the lane if they feel it's too narrow for cars to overtake, so hang back if you can't pass safely.
Cyclists - Stay central on narrow roads. Try to ride away from the gutter. If the road is too narrow for vehicles to pass you safely, it might be safer to ride towards the middle of the lane to prevent dangerous overtaking by other vehicles
When I am in my car I should be giving cyclists as much space as I would to overtake a car - and this includes cyclists riding two abreast which is 100% legal and very sensible in some situations. That means that I have to wait for an overtaking opportunity and not try and 'create' one out of nothing.
What's the fundamental difference between waiting to overtake a tractor at 20mph or waiting to overtake a cyclist at 20mph? The fact of the matter is that you know that if you hit the tractor bad things will happen very quickly and the car or you are very likely to come off second best. Cutting up a cyclist on the other hand will almost never result in anything physically bad to happen to you as a driver. It's an asymmetric risk balanced massively in your favour as a motorist. You take that risk over the tractor risk because you are either a coward or a bully.
We all need to exercise a lot more patience and accept that we are all legally entitled road users. I have no more right in my car than I do on my bike. We all make bad decisions at times, I accept that, but what has been most worrying about mine and Graham's incidents this week is that they have both been hit and runs. What type of person thinks it is a reasonable act as a human being (let alone an act within the law) to leave the scene of an accident that you have caused? There is something depressingly wrong with our society if you are willing to leave someone on the deck having collided into them with your vehicle.
I overheard a conversation the other day by the type of entitled motorist who think they own the road saying ' the lanes around here were not made for cyclists'. Actually they were not made for cars either and are totally unsuitable for driving - one single lane with high hedgerows and a 60mph speed limit in most places. In fact they sound far more suitable for cycling than driving if you ask me.
As of next week I will be riding everywhere with a rear view camera on my bike and will report any acts of dangerous driving to the police as well as any acts of irresponsible cycling. When we are on our bikes we too have to abide by the Highway Code and also show some respect and common sense. When you are causing a tailback of cars on a narrow windy road, pull in and let the vehicles by when you get the opportunity. There will always be drivers who hate cyclists but when we are on our bikes we can start to protect ourselves by preventing certain situations from ever occurring.
ABCC Level 3 Coach, Cyclist & Van & Car Driver
To improve we have to keep moving forward