(or: let’s all just stop being dicks)

Yup, us cyclists are all getting tarred with the same brush. Which is why I make a real effort to be as courteous as I can when I’m out riding. Not just to motorists, but to fellow cyclists too.

We’ve recently experienced somewhat of a Cycling epidemic here in the U.K. As a Nation we first seemed to catch the bug during 2012 when our very own Sir Bradley Wiggins won the Tour De France and Olympic Time Trial. We took to the roads en masse, thousands of ‘new’ riders with little or no real experience of what riding in heavy traffic, country lanes, or in a large group actually involved.

And that’s fine. It’s great to see so many people out on bicycles, but! You can’t expect these new riders to automatically know the etiquette of the Sunday club run, can you? They need educating, and to learn over time.

Just as you can’t expect a country of impatient motorists – who for years have reigned supreme – to instantly welcome with open arms herds of meandering MAMIL’s clogging up their highways. The amount of bicycles you see out and about is a very recent (and brilliant) thing, but motorists simply aren’t used to us in these numbers! And it’s causing some real issues. They need educating, and to learn over time.

We need to move away from Cyclists being seen as a some horrible disease infecting our roads. It’s a mindset that won’t change over night, but with a small dose of common sense and a spoonful of empathy* I believe it will happen.

At the end of the day we’re all just people, out there doing people stuff.

Away from the roads, away from carbon or metal boxes, we seem to get on most of the time. I’m sick of this whole ‘War On The Roads’ bullshit attitude. There’s no war on the roads, just a few idiots ruining it for everybody else. Some ride bikes, some drive cars. Sadly whatever mode of transport, their mouths seem to be louder than the rest of ours.

Yes, some motorists are just arrogant wankers (but remember some of these arrogant wankers also own bicycles). But honestly? I think most are just completely unaware at how dangerous their driving is. In my experience most people aren’t out to get you personally for riding a bike. Not initially at least! They’re just not reading the road correctly. In their mind you’re just an obstacle, a lump at the side of the road that needs to be passed as quickly as possible. At this point, you aren’t even a person to them. You’re just in the way.

I’m sure this is a fairly typical Sunday morning outburst:

The guy that tweeted this might be one of the wankers, I don’t know. It’s just as likely he experienced first hand some of the awful bike riding you also see on the roads. We run red lights. We don’t signal. We weave in-and-out of traffic. We ride down one way streets. We automatically assume all cars are evil and get on the defensive whenever one passes. Worst of all though, we have this ridiculous self-righteous mindset. What’s that all about? It’s as bad as the cliché angry motorist.

As lousy as motorists can be (and I’ve had my run-ins with more arseholes than I care to think about over the years) I’m willing to bet in 7 out of 10 incidents, the driver had no idea there was an issue. It won’t have occurred to them that they passed you too closely, causing you to bang over that pothole. It’s annoying, but do you need to wish death on their entire family and damn them to hell for it? :-). Before you started cycling, did you notice every bump in the road? Did you give cyclists the kind of room you’d expect to be given? I doubt it. I know I didn’t.

What I try to do is take control before there’s even a situation. Take the pothole example: I’m always trying to scan the road in front of me. If I see something coming up (usually a pothole or roadkill if you live around here) I’ll do a quick over-the-shoulder check for traffic and take the lane. I’m not there for long and if anyone gets stuck behind me, I’ll give them a wave of acknowledgement or a thumbs up when I swing back in to let them pass. I find they appreciate it and sometimes even give me a wave back.

The thing I try to remember is; it’s very unlikely a motorist is just out for a fun leisurely drive to take in the fresh air. We’re using the road for pleasure. They just want to get somewhere.

So if I have to do something intentionally that’s going to annoy them to stay safe, I’ll acknowledge it and the situation is often diffused before it even becomes an issue.

The AA has some very good advice for all of us on its website, and it’s well worth reading as a refresher on the Highway code and the rights as motorists and cyclists alike.

“Cyclists have the same rights on the road and as a driver you should remember that you are sharing the road with cyclists.”

I have a few rules of my own I try to follow that mean I ride in a way that’s safe and considerate. It’s mostly common sense, but the number of times I’ve seen minor mistakes escalate to full-blown arguments between cyclists and motorists makes me wonder…

I’ve already written a lot more than I intended to (and probably come across as a bit of a pretentious dick myself at times) although most of this is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, so I’ll keep the lists brief! Check this post of Facebook for the very eloquently written thoughts of some of my friends.


How Not To Annoy Motorists

1. Obey the rules of the road

Don’t run red lights, plough through junctions without looking, or turn without signalling. Use common sense. The rules of the road still apply to you. Set a good example, and give motorists one less thing to bitch about.

2. Assume no one can see you

That doesn’t mean lurk in the shadows! Try to be as seen but ride as if you’re invisible, because to most motorists you are. Be aware of what’s going on around you and No headphones! you’re only asking for trouble.

3. Be polite

If a driver hangs back and waits for a safe place to pass, or gives me a generous amount of room I’ll give them a quick thumbs up and a smile and hope I made them feel good enough about themselves to do the same next time they’re stuck behind a cyclist.

4. Yes, you’re well within your rights to ride two-a-breast
(No, you don’t need to do it all the time!)

If you’re in a large group, sometimes it is safer to ride two-a-breast, but if there’s only two or three of you, just drop into single file for a bit and let the car pass. You’re only going to wind them up if you take up the lane un-necessarily. What’s the point? Once they’ve passed you’re free to enjoy your ride, without worrying about ‘that impatient knob head’ behind you.

5. Don’t assume all motorists are evil

A pip of the horn isn’t necessarily a blast of anger. We just seem to automatically be on the defensive. Some times a motorist just wants to let you know they’re there, or acknowledge you.

“I pipped my horn at a cyclist in Lostock Hall to say “i’m here” only to get a torrent of abuse.”

All it needs is a smile and a wave in return. Either you just thanked a motorist for being thoughtful, or – If you are unlucky enough to have a run in with one of the arseholes – then a smile and a wave will do just as much damage as a tidal wave of cussing and the finger. Try not to rise to any taunts. Enjoy your ride, let them go back to hating their journey and life without letting it ruin your day too.


How Not To Annoy Fellow Cyclists

1. Obey the rules of the road

Don’t run red lights, plough through junctions without looking, or turn without signalling. Use common sense. The rules of the road still apply to you. Set a good example, and give motorists one less thing to bitch about.

2. Know how to ride safely in a group

There’s so much to go over here it could take up all 5 points. I recommend this as a good place to start.

If you’re out with others don’t stop in the middle of the road. I have no idea why cyclists do this, but we do. Would you normally hang around and chat in oncoming traffic? No way. Having a bike between your legs makes no difference!

3. Be polite

I always try and give someone a smile and a nod when I pass them. If I see someone at the side of the road with a puncture I’ll ask if they’re okay, as sooner or later that’s going to be me. Oh, and if you’re going to sit on someone’s wheel, say hello and ask first!

4. Wear a helmet

I’m not interested in a debate. A helmet is going to save your head if you come off. I’ve crashed hard and my helmet split in half at the back. That would’ve been my head. I just don’t see an argument against them and it winds me up when people don’t.

5. Respect the countryside

It’s a nice place to be right? So lets keep it that way! Littering the countryside with gel/bar wrappers and discarded inner tubes is just stupid. To quote my good friend @repsychlist

FFS just put them in your jersey pocket until the next village and throw them in a bin!


Tl;dr

There’s no Us Vs Them. We’re both just two sides of the same coin. Let’s just respect the other and stop being dicks. It’s as simple as that. Just before publishing this article I made posted this question on Facebook.

There are some nice points worth checking out raised in the comments.

Cyclists

The more of us that are out there obeying the rules and setting a good example, the more accepting motorists are going to be of us.

Motorists

Remember cyclists are vulnerable bit of flesh and bones. Sometimes we have to do things that are slightly annoying to stay safe, don’t take it personally if we hold you up for a second or two.


I’d love to hear the opinion of others, so comment and share away if you feel like contributing!


*I couldn’t resist. Sorry.