Today I rode to work, nothing unusual about that, I’ve been doing it for many years across various different locations. I have been commuting to my current job for 3 and a half years. It is only 4 miles each way, so on average it’s between 11 and 14 minutes, wind dependant!
Yet today what struck me was how vulnerable we are as cyclists.
Don’t get me wrong I have had a few close calls, I have been over 2 car bonnets, I’ve had a car door open on me and stopped me dead. Plus, in July I was left hooked, a car overtook me whilst I was cruising at 18mph and immediately turned left. He hit me with his passenger door, I had no time to react. I ended up on the floor, shoulder in agony. 7 months on I am still having physio treatment. The driver, well he got 3 points a hefty fine for driving with undue care and attention.
So, why was today any different? I had turned left at the roundabout into a slight incline over a railway bridge, The majority of the bridge is double white lines, a 30mph road. Yet the car behind was so close to my wheel I wouldn’t be able to fit my fist in between it and the bumper. It unnerves me, I am suddenly concentrating on the car behind and not what I am doing.
My thoughts are; do I pull over, let them past? The road is narrow and there are oncoming cars. I know the road will widen shortly into a roundabout where I will turn right. I’m hoping the driver pulls back or overtake before I reach the roundabout. Sadly the oncoming cars are aplenty. No chance this car will overtake.
I grit my teeth and look behind, he’s still close so I indicate. He pulls back a little. Luckily the roundabout isn’t clear, I stop at the give way and look behind me. I ask and gesticulate to move back from my back wheel. He gives me the finger.
In hindsight I should have let him go ahead. But the adrenalin is running, I set off from the roundabout again with the guy behind me. Again the road is busy so he can’t overtake. I’m riding at 19mph now, looking over my shoulder he’s still there, close as ever. I wave my hand back, he beeps his horn and revs the engine. My mind is racing, do I stop? Do I carry on? I’m shaking.
There are some traffic lights ahead and I’ve made my decision stop let him go. It’s my life and clearly he has no interest in it at all. Sadly they go red, I have no choice but to stop.
My head says look ahead, my heart however wants to say something. I step back and through the passenger window say “please give me more space, you’re too close”.
The window comes down, he leans over and shouts “I’m late for work, you’re stopping me. You have no right to be on the road, you don’t pay road tax. “ Him uttering those words sealed the deal, he’s an idiot and although my brain is spinning a thousand times and wanting to tell him what an idiot I think he is I laugh and let him go ahead of me.
A search on Twitter for “cyclists” will give you plenty of tweets from people who say about cyclists not paying road tax. Really? In this day and age do people not know it hasn’t existed since 1937!
But ultimately what makes a person drive so badly near to a vulnerable human being? Does he not know that I am son, a brother, an uncle, a fiancé and a father. Does he not know that within a split second he can wipe me out. Why does he treat another human with such contempt? Just because he is his driving and I’m on a bike what makes him better than me? It doesn’t that’s what. He is too wrapped up in his own world to worry about anyone else. A very sad state of affairs.
I’ve ridden since and I will continue to ride. I ride to get to work, I ride to keep fit and I ride because it is my hobby. I ride over 130miles a week. I can’t let the actions of one person put me off. But in those few minutes, I feared the worse.
About the Author: Howard Crompton is a secondary school teacher of Outdoor Education. He can be found riding the hills of the South Downs on either his road or mountain bike. Howard has ridden John O Groats to Lands End on a full suspension MTB pulling a trailer of camping kit in 11 days. He´s also guided on charity events from London to Paris, 10 times. Ridden London to Geneva. Worked on a BBC’s Sport Relief event as a bike guide. Howard reviews cycling kit and leads the Twitter page UKCycleChat. He rides around 6000miles a year and has completed a variety of triathlon distances including Ironman UK.