Beep beep

My good friend and fellow sufferer in the human circus Alastair has been unjustly abused by the driver of a Ford Mondeo. You can read about the incident here.

Interestingly, the road on which this occurred is not all that far from the scene of an event which prompted this letter.

And these are but two examples of things which happen on a daily basis. No, I don’t mean on a nationwide level, or even within Cambridge on a daily basis – I mean to me on a daily basis.

I don’t claim to be a perfect cyclist. I make errors of judgement occasionally and do things which could be considered potentially dangerous through carelessness or sheer stupidity. I cycle every day, one has a tendency to get blasé about daily routines and make mistakes. Occasionally.

On these occasions car drivers are rarely forgiving, but as they pass me miming obscenities through the windscreen I am inclined to see their point of view, since I am a car driver myself and know how annoying it is to almost kill some tit messing about in the middle of the road.

But these instances are far outweighed by the times that car drivers decide to harrass me for the simple error of being a cyclist. Because careful cyclists do very slightly cause impatient drivers to have to slow down and possibly even watch the road in front of them, and so many drivers think they are above this.

People who have bothered to read the highway code (I suspect many car drivers are excluded from this category) will know that the car horn is not there to be used to “torment and disorientate roadusers without a big metal shell protecting them from the killing machines passing them at fifty miles an hour”. In fact the car horn is there simply to “warn other roadusers of your presence”. I scarcely think that Alastair needed warning of the presence of the Ford Mondeo when it was driving next to him with the driver glaring at him. And I would like it to be known that when a driver has decided to drive so close to your bike that their car is actually touching you, you don’t need warning of their presence either. You already know they’re there.

If I was in a position of power in the Cambridgeshire Constabulary (very unlikely, for I have a brain, a sense of humour and I care about social justice) I would encourage police officers to be less persistent in arresting and fining students cycling along deserted country roads at two in the morning without lights, and to deliver a few on-the-spot fines to drivers misusing their car horns. Because being beeped at by a car passing you at high speed when you’re not expecting it is just as likely to cause an accident as anything else. I’m a good cyclist and it makes me wobble; I’ve seen cyclists who wobble at the slightest gust of wind, and I imagine they’re far more prone to beeping than I am because they’re usually very slow and indecisive.

And therein lies the rub. For there are some cyclists who are so slow and indecisive, and whose grasp of basic manoeuvres is so hazy, that they constitute an actual danger and probably deserve to be beeped at. I was cycling along Grange Road earlier today and got stuck behind a very very slow cyclist, who gradually ground to a halt then stopped, waited until I was finally going round her then suddenly turned right. As she narrowly avoided twatting me I was tempted to yell “signal, move into the centre of the road and look behind you, cretin!!!” but she was in such a different reality that I imagine she wouldn’t have heard what I was saying and I might as well have shouted “beep beep!”

And so the solution seems clear to me. Well, the most obvious solution is to make cyclists take a driving test, and I’ve no idea why this perfectly sane idea has not even been suggested in Parliament. But a more instant and gratifying solution would be to take car horns away from car drivers – they don’t know how to use them and people are always aware of their presence, especially when they’re driving like idiots – and give them bells instead, which make a friendly “tring tring” sound that’s unlikely to knock a cyclist off their bike. Cyclists, on the other hand, would get the car horns, with which they would be allowed to alert car drivers to their presence (particularly the twatty ones with no respect for other roadusers) and also alert twatty cyclists to the fact that they ought to stop cycling for the safety of everyone concerned.

These are sensible suggestions which would save lives. It is distressing, then, that the only recent development in transport laws is the adoption of a European idea that car seats should be compulsory up to the age of eleven. This is clearly a ludicrous idea. For a start, age is no measure of whether people need car seats; if there are to be laws about it they should be calculated by size. And spare a thought for the poor eleven-year-olds; I’d have felt pretty bloody stupid using a car seat at that age. Especially when I wasn’t in a car.

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