Thursday, 24 May 2012

Cars that pull out in front of you from side roads.

This morning I was in the car and on my bike (obviously not at the same time). I drove about 14 miles taking the kids to school and then rode about 12 miles into work.

During the car drive I was very concious of the number of cars that pulled out of side turnings into my path. Maybe because I do most of my miles on the bike nowadays, I was suddenly more concious of the cars pulling out from side roads in front of me. The reality is when I was on my bike the same proportion of cars pulled out in front of me too (maybe even less).

So where is this all leading? Well I think the point is that drivers generally are fairly aggressive on the road and it is not a thing aimed at cyclists in particular - they do it to fellow car drivers to the same degree. Three things are different though;

  • Cyclists tend to stop more slowly - our brakes are not as good as cars (well at least a well maintained car) additionally when we slow down or stop it takes a lot more effort to get back up to speed again.
  • Cyclists are a lot more vulnerable in a crash (thank you captain obvious) and additionally we do not really have the option of swerving out of the way without considerable risk of potentially being hit from behind by a car overtaking us.
  • Cyclists often have a feeling of persecution (contentious I know) this may be because of the above two previous points - but I think we need to realise it is not just a personal thing - generally speaking, car driving on the roads is awful!

I think we need to start looking at how bad driving on the road is done by a significant minority of drivers in general rather than making it a bike Vs. car argument. 

If driving standards generally were improved I am sure not only cyclist would be very happy but also other car drivers. When I drive I see some atrocious acts of driving by some people on the road, it has always made me laugh in comments sections when the drivers lobby complain about poor cyclists and how they break the rules - and then blaming them for the accidents, yet these same drivers, daily on the road, are berating their fellow drivers for poor driving. Yet as soon as it gets to discussion time, it becomes a tribal matter with drivers and cyclists in opposing camps, with the main variation being that most cyclists are car drivers and most in the drivers camp do not cycle.

So why does it become so tribal? It becomes tribal because we allow it to. Often the theme of discussions seems to be driven by a sanctimonious few cyclists, who abhor the car, it's emission and the capitalist scum driving them. From the drivers side it is driven by the total petrol head who has no life, no driving skills (although he thinks he is Jackie Stewart) and no chance of getting laid unless he can trick a woman into his car with his impressive selection of "Max Power" stickers.

The army of us in the middle get drawn into these arguments and with the best will in the world discussions get polarised with digs from the trolls on either side to stoke the fires of argument. Forget reclaim the road - we need "Reclaim the Discussion" - the 99% of drivers I meet on the road are reasonable and considerate - yes they make mistakes and those mistakes put a cyclist life at risk. Yes there is a need for all drivers to exercise a higher level of patience but this is only going to be achieved by reasoned discussion. As for drivers without insurance, who  as a general rule I find to be the worst drivers on the road, they need far stiffer fines, as does what is currently called "Dangerous Driving" (or know to cyclists as "he almost killed me").

I try and do my little bit - at dinners, I talk to my driving only friends about the hassles faced on a bike and hopefully they will take more notice of the cyclist in the future (baby steps get there eventually) and as for cyclists who jump red lights at dangerous intersections (not at empty pedestrian crossing) I generally mutter "twat" loudly under my breath as they go through, maybe peer pressure will eventually make them think twice?

The only certain thing is, the more we allow discussions to be become polarised the less likely we will be friends on the road.


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  2. Having only learned to drive in the last year the skills and behaviour of other qualified drivers disappointed me greatly. Unfortunately I know that a bad driver is only ever caught when they make a major error, when there is a significant amount of damage or someone has been killed or injured. At that point it is too late and society has to pay the price.

    I can understand that people make mistakes, and get into bad habits, that is human nature. This is not acceptable however when it comes to controlling a dangerous piece of equipment.

    The point of the test and licensing system was to make sure people are capable of driving a car safely. It falls down when it assumes that peoples skills will be as good as the day they passed, and they won't loose those skills over time. Worse still, it is assumed that the longer you have owned a license the better driver you are! I fail to understand that no government seems to think that this is a problem.

    A quick solution is to implement a law that states each person wanting to keep their license has to prove at regular intervals that they still understand the rules of the road and how to drive a car safely. Lets call it a driving test.

    Many people would fail, and these would be the people who would be deemed to be dangerous to others if they were allowed to continue driving.

  3. Thanks for the comment.

    Personally - I think it would be far more useful to make car drivers also ride a bike as part of their test (in a city centre for example)- this would not only benefit the safety of cyclists but also motorbikes and pedestrians.

    I know that before I got a bike myself I was really unaware of the issues they faced - I considered myself a safe driver then and my accident statistics (or lack of them) seemed to back this up - but the truth is I was really unaware of what a cyclist had to deal with.


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