Are we STILL having a cyclists v motorists battle?

I feel like by now, everyone has seen the angry, ranty driver outside Richmond Park that has been doing the rounds on social media for the last couple of days. (If you haven’t, it’s available here but I’d avoid having the volume up in the office or anywhere where anyone might be offended) He has since, apologised, (and been given a £90 public order fine) however, I feel it’s right to address the situation. Because it’s infuriated me.

I have spent far, far too long reading the comments on the Daily Mail article about this (I am a sucker for the DM comments as much as I am for the sidebar of shame), and wanted to raise firstly, my opinion on the whole situation, but secondly, some of the (sometimes clueless) commentary and points of view that have arisen.

Let’s start with the bona fide journalism that is the Daily Mail comments section

  • Why do cyclists moan and moan about cycle lanes and when they are built, don’t go in them?

Firstly, anyone who rides along Priory Lane knows the state of that cycle lane. It’s a pain to get onto if you are heading to Richmond Park, there are holes, pedestrians, and often, small children on bikes. You have to hop on and off across the traffic. They aren’t always practical. I’ve already linked to this. Lanes that are split with pavements and pedestrians can be dangerous – pedestrians are even more likely than cars to step out in front of a cyclist (they NEVER stay in the bit which has a picture of a person on it) ,you have to be incredibly aware of people pulling in and out of their driveways without noticing you and they aren’t well maintained.

I think they are a great idea for novice cyclists and those who aren’t confident in traffic, but if you are a competent cyclist and you go in one, you can often get stuck and it wastes time. They are more useful for complex rounadabouts in places like Vauxhall Cross where even competent cyclists can find it hard, but a lot of roads would simply benefit from a white line on the left hand side. Cyclists have a right to be in the road, the law does not stipulate that you have to use a cycle line if it is available. Pretty sure that this driver needs reminding of this aspect of the Highway Code.

  • Get off the roads cyclists, you don’t pay road tax

This is a constant argument involving vehicle excise duty (you pay it on the car, not on the road…), emissions and other various discussions. I would like to say that actually, the vast majority of cyclists probably do pay vehicle excise duty, they just aren’t choosing to drive their car at that particular point in time.

  • The cyclist should have just ridden off.

I don’t agree with this. I have seen in several situations, an altercation where the cyclist has cycled off to avoid conflict, and the driver has sped up after them to pull in front, slam on the brakes and intimidate them. You are probably actually safer when an aggressive driver is not behind the wheel. I dread to think what he would have done if the cyclist had tried to escape. I saw a motorcyclist kick a cyclist once!

  • The cyclist hit the car, he deserved it

Er, one, I don’t think he did. You can see where the wing mirror is in but that’s probably to do with the fact the driver tried to run him into a hedge. Even if he did, I think if you have a car come that close to you and pretty much try to push you off the road, it’s probably OK to do so. If you are close enough to a cyclist that they can touch your car when you overtake them, you’re probably too close.

  • The cyclist was provoking the driver and just happened to be wearing a camera, coincidence?

OK this is a almost a valid (ish) point as he may have been fairly choice in his language and should have expected some sort of reaction to it. hen you see the full video, it’s pretty clear that the cyclist is well within his right to be more than a little angry – as it’s the driver who makes the first unnecessary comment about the ‘f***ing cycle lane’, as I don’t really see how shouting ‘come on’ when someone tries to push you into a hedge is really that much of an overreaction.

However, it gets to a point where one car too many is just, well one car too many. (Again, some will be saying that one cyclist too many can have the same effect) But no-one, no-one should ever threaten to kill someone and THEN suggest that the only reason they haven’t is because there is a witness?! Is that really the kind of people who are allowed to drive around in human death traps?! The cyclist has since said he isn’t proud of his reaction, and you can imagine why. But, having just been nearly run over, you can forgive him for being slightly irate. I don’t think he was going out with his camera on just to stitch up a driver, because you can clearly see he doesn’t do anything wrong…

  • We should all boycott Brew.

I know a lot of people doing this. They are in perfect SW London cyclist-heavy locations and I feel like they have just lost a lot of custom. Despite the apology. Or is that why there has been an apology?

  • Why do all pretentious cyclists have to ride around in lycra?

Seriously?! I’m feeling jealousy here that some people just don’t pull it off as well as others. Apparently we should all cycle really slowly in our normal clothes. Ew.

And a few from my own mind.

What worries me here is the sheer aggressiveness of the situation from both sides – firstly, the driver trying to intimidate the cyclist  (which, if you have ever had this happen in any manner, is terrifying), and secondly, the reaction from both of them. I genuinely don’t know what I would have done in the situation – and would he have responded differently if the cyclist was female? I actually think I would have just cried! And then probably have been told I was being a pathetic woman. Would he have done it to a parent and child cycling on the road? (Although they would probably have been in the cycle lane) Is it a case of pent up male aggro and MASSIVE egos from both sides? Jeez, what are they both like at work?

My second worry is that there is a riding stables just at the bottom of the road. Another road user that needs respect. From both cars and cyclists. Drivers moreso, but I need to put a plea out to cyclists here as well – please, please, let us know when you’re coming. I’m not going to get into a ‘if you can’t control your horse, you shouldn’t be on the road’ argument, but horses are animals with their own mind – the rider can’t predict what is going to happen. I’ve ended up in hedges and spun round in circles in the middle of a road because cyclists have come whizzing past – slow down a bit, give us a hello and allow us to talk to our horses to let them know what’s coming. Also, sometimes horses like to run after cyclists, just FYI 😉

I mean – who was on the road first…I know the answer, and it isn’t ‘cars’ – so why do they think they own the place?

Also, as the man in question is local, he KNOWS that is the main route to Roehampton Gate and should be well-versed in waiting until there is space to pass a cyclist. Take an alternative route if waiting 30 seconds bugs you that much, or leave the house earlier.

There have been a few more sad stories over the last few days regarding cyclists and motorists, including one very close to home for me – it wasn’t in London, it was a junction I use regularly, and it was someone my mum knows. We really need to stop this constant battling for supremacy and bragging rights, because unfortunately, we often do know who comes off worse.

Everyone needs to take responsibility, as I’ve said before – cyclists need to keep themselves in the right place, but in this case, it was a case of generally crap, inconsiderate and bully-ish driving, NO respect for other road users and a pair of blokes who just need to chill out before they get themselves in real trouble.

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