Unfortunately, there is a major downside to being a cyclist. An arsehole on a bike is just an arsehole on a bike, and is only a danger to himself, or perhaps the unfortunate pedestrian he happens to arsehole in the direction of (yes, I did just use ‘arsehole’ as a verb). An arsehole in a car, on the other hand, is a lethal weapon when he arseholes directly towards a cyclist. One such arsehole (noun) made a pretty decent attempt at killing me on my cycle home from work this evening when he arseholed (verb) his car at me on Riseholme Road in Lincoln.
I consider myself a pretty sensible and safety conscious cyclist. I never jump red lights. I always signal (though admittedly the type of signal I give you depends on whether you’ve just arseholed towards me). I thank courteous drivers. I use cycle lanes when they aren’t full of parked cars. I wear a high-vis jacket with an excess of reflective trim, and bought the brightest, most noticeable front and rear lights I could find.
Given the last couple of points, I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume that other people using the roads, if they’re paying the slightest bit of attention to what they’re doing, should at the absolute minimum notice my presence on the road. But no, not the arsehole I was unfortunate enough to encounter on Riseholme Road this evening.
Here’s a diagram you can look at while I attempt to convey my fury in writing. I do love a good diagram.
Riseholme Road is a long, wide, straight, and flat road. There are street lights along its entire length. Tonight at 8pm it was dark and the road was wet, but it wasn’t raining. I was cycling north along Riseholme Road, with both lights on, tucked well in to the left-hand side of the road.
As I reached point ‘A’ I noticed a car waiting at the junction. There were no other cars coming in either direction. As I approached point ‘B’, he suddenly decided to accelerate quickly out of the junction, crossing the opposite lane, the central lane for anyone wanting to turn off Riseholme into the road he’d just left, and finally straight at me and my bike as he turned to start heading north. This all took two, maybe three seconds. All that stopped me smashing straight into the side of his car as he cut right into my path at a 45 degree angle was a quick reaction to grab my brakes and a foot or so of spare space to my left, between me and the kerb, that I was able to swerve into.
The braking and swerving were very quickly followed by a torrent of expletives bellowed at the top of my voice, an immediate red mist, and 30 seconds of furious pedalling in a futile attempt to catch up with him and…I have no idea what I’d have done.
There was no traffic (other than me) coming in either direction, so nothing to cause him to rush out of the junction in the way he did, and it would have been impossible to fail to notice me coming had he been paying attention and checked before he pulled out. Even if he’d been impatient and wanted to pull out as I was passing, the lack of anything coming in the opposite direction and the extra width created by the lane for turning right off Riseholme Road meant he could have done so and stayed well away from me, taking the blue line instead of his idiotic red one.
So there are two possible conclusions I can draw from the way this particular arsehole arseholed towards me. Either he wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to what he was doing, and rushed out of the junction because he hadn’t checked either direction properly (if at all), and had no idea I was there. Or, more worryingly, he was well aware of my presence, waited at the junction without pulling out when he could have done, and then purposefully drove straight at me before driving off.
The possibility that the second of these scenarios is what occurred this evening is the scariest thing about cycling. No matter how safe, sensible, and visible a cyclist you are, there will always be someone on the road who has a grudge against cyclists, and is probably in a rush to be somewhere else. This person only remembers the cyclists he sees jumping red lights, and if he thinks you’re holding him up he’ll wind down his window and subject you to a torrent of abuse. This abuse will almost certainly include the phrase ‘I pay my FUCKING ROAD TAX!’. This is a topic I won’t stray into now, if ever, as it has been done to death on countless cycling blogs and is an argument of such monumental idiocy that it is barely worth acknowledging.
As a cyclist who uses bikes for commuting as well as leisure and fitness, whenever I’m on the roads I get a definite feeling that cyclists and drivers are in conflict with one another in this country. Too many cyclists assume they have the right to ignore the rules that everyone else is following, and too many drivers think of cyclists as second-class road users who are lower down in the pecking order because they ‘don’t pay road tax’.
Bizarrely, when I’ve cycled in France I’ve found French drivers to be far more considerate, courteous and respectful towards cyclists than those I encounter here. Having driven a lot in France, and been less than impressed with the way drivers act towards other drivers, I was expecting the French part of my London to Paris trip to be the more problematic. However, by the time I got to Paris I hadn’t encountered a single near miss or impatient motorist, and felt safe on the roads at all times, even in the chaos of central Paris.
So what’s the answer, and why does there seem to be such animosity between cyclists and drivers in the UK? I have no idea! All I do know is that it’s probably a very good thing that I failed to catch up with the arsehole who arseholed his car towards me this evening, and writing a blog entry was far more constructive than suddenly realising I’d picked a fight with someone much bigger than me who wasn’t wearing Lycra leggings and silly shoes.