What follows is a guest blog. It is written by Rob who contacted me after 'The War on Britain's Roads' on Wednesday night. His original e-mail to me is here. I asked Rob if he wanted to share his story on my blog and he agreed. Here, completely unedited, is what he sent me.
Is it a sign of weakness to say that you were wrong? To admit that you feel ashamed of your views and of the abuse you heaped upon someone? I was brought up to fight my corner, to stand up for my beliefs but also to hold my hand up and apologise when I was wrong. So, here I am. Holding my hand up and apologising.
I admit that I settled down to watch last night’s “The War on Britain’s Roads” looking forward to seeing footage of cyclists getting what they deserve. That may sound harsh but let me explain. I have been a professional driver for over fifteen years, driving buses and coaches all over the UK from the Highlands of Scotland to central London. I have always tried my best to be courteous to cyclists and to be mindful of the space that they need. I have been infuriated though, when that consideration appears not to have been repaid. I have lost count of the amount of times that I have been held up by cyclists not using a cycle path, or not been able to pass a cyclist on the road as they have been a fair way out from the gutter.
I recall one day rummaging around on YouTube, as one does. I stumbled across one of Magnatom’s videos and gave it a watch. I was immediately incensed at what I perceived to be his piousness and his selfishness. So I watched another of his videos, which did nothing to change my opinion. I even had little sympathy for him after watching the clip of the tanker on the roundabout that was featured on the programme last night. And so my antipathy towards cyclists was strengthened, and I posted abusive comments towards him under a lot of his videos.
Then, one morning at rush hour I was driving a commuter service into Preston. There was a cyclist ahead who was not using the provided cycle path, which meant that as the road was a dual carriageway I would be unable to pass him safely as it was extremely busy. So I passed him with inches to spare. He contacted my depot to complain and I was invited to view the CCTV footage from the bus. I was looking forward to clearing my name and to justifying the manner of my driving. However, once I had been shown the CCTV footage I was shocked at how little room I had given him. It was not inches as I had thought but millimetres. One slight wobble by the cyclist (which would have been perfectly possible given that he was being passed by a fifteen tonne double decker bus) would have sent him under the wheels. This sobering incident probably planted the seed in my brain that last night’s programme propagated.
The programme made me realise that most cyclists don’t do things simply to wind motorists up. What can be perceived as selfish riding can often simply be self-preservation on the part of the cyclist. Yes, there are moronic cyclists, of course there are. But as the programme amply demonstrated there are also moronic motorists. I was shocked at the behaviour of some drivers, shocked at how little they valued the life of another human being. And then I remembered my encounter in Preston. And realised that I was one of those drivers. That was a truly horrible feeling, knowing that I could so easily have killed that cyclist. There was no excuse for me driving like that.
Well done for coming forward to admit your error and apologise to Magnatom.ReplyDelete
If you are able to reply to comments I'd be really interested if you could say a little more about how you justified to yourself writing abusive comments on youtube in the first place.
It's all very well saying that you had a dislike of cyclists but resorting to anonymous abuse on the internet? Really? What are you, 12?
Dear Rob, thanks for sharing your thoughts, I genuinely appreciate that you have had the sense and decency to admit you we're wrong and seek to change your behaviour, it may have saved someone's life and prevented you from ruining your own.ReplyDelete
I know there is a lot of antipathy towards cyclists among professional drivers as I deal with plenty of them myself. Perhaps though as you are 'on the inside' if you take the message of road peace to your colleagues it would be more effective than if it came from anyone else.
I wish I had some kind of button-actuated thank-you signal on my handlebars that I could use for considerate drivers. I use a cheery thumbs-up when I can, but of course that means I can't power through any spatial or temporal gap that the considerate driver has given me and, since I like to repay their courtesy by getting out their way ASAP, I probably look like a twunt when I don't give an acknowledgement.
I don't know which is the better bet: will they know I'm eschewing the gesture by recognising the out-of-saddle haul on the handlebars?
There is a point buried in all of this: if you, in your newly awesome driver capacity, give one of us cogjockeys a bit of space and he or she doesn't wave back but just hammers on, then I do admit they might just be a git who doesn't say thank you. They also might be trying to say 'thank you' by hammering on.
I really wish I had a way of distinguishing the two, but I don't.
Great to hear that you are now a safer driver after your experience. Your blog should be posted on every bus drivers staff room, and actually every staff room in every company. Thanks for letting us cyclists know this. If you ever see me peddling round Preston / Houghton - give a big smile!!ReplyDelete
Kudos to Rob. I hope this story can go way further than this blog, it really needs to be heard.ReplyDelete
Walk a mile in my shoes as they say, and perhaps there is also some walking to do from all of us.ReplyDelete
I can recall being on the coach heading for Glasgow from Edinburgh, and we came up behind a guy doing a pretty respectable speed but not quite 30mph in the bus lane. Now just as cycle lanes have a reputation for being crap compromises, I'd reckon that those attempting to navigate a 15 x 2.55m lump with manoeuvreability and performance like walking with wellies in mud. So this fit and fast moving cyclists pulls over to the right into the traffic lane so that the coach driver gets a clean, straight run through, rather than putting both of the road users at risk by trying to judge a risky move of pulling out and then back in, hopefully with plenty of clearance.
But its worth noting that for a 15-30 mph speed difference a 1 second margin in timing the pull-in is a 22 foot difference in whether the rear end of the bus comes close or gives you decent clearance.
Oops Walking with wellies in mud is a comparison with navigating a bus lane in a typical city, watching out to make sure that the outer extremities and rear wheels fit through the ridiculous clearances provided.ReplyDelete
Rob you are a lovely man. Nobody holds up a big commercial vehicle like that out of spite.ReplyDelete
Thank you all for your comments.ReplyDelete
David Kernohan - I can't justify my comments on YouTube. Like I say, I am ashamed of what I wrote and wish that I'd never done it. To be honest, Merlot may have played a part but that is no excuse.
Rob, I was greatly moved by your admission. It takes a strong brave and intelligent person to admit they were wrong, and to change their point of view.ReplyDelete
I hope that your example will encourage others to do the same, so that we can all learn to work together to make our road experiences as safe and enjoyable as possible - whether we're on foot, on bike, in car, truck or bus.
We all need to co-operate with each other, not create conflict.
I'm suspect if enough people read this email you will help change behaviours and potentially save some lives.
As it says in the bible "There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ten righteous men".ReplyDelete
Rob, as you are big enough and mature enough to admit your error, I see no point dwelling on what those errors were, on youtube or anywhere else. Thankyou
Change has to start somewhere,good man,thank youReplyDelete
You are a bigger man than most people on the road. It takes courage in the climate of Britain's roads to admit you're wrong and you made a mistake. I know how I feel when I've done something stupid on either two or four wheels.
Thank you for making the road a safer place for everyone.
Swallowing one's pride and admitting you're wrong is never easy. I'd echo Andrew Whincup's comment -ReplyDelete
"You are a bigger man than most people on the road."
Very true that there are stupid cyclists just as there are stupid drivers, but all cyclists know that it will only take one thoughtless driver or one wrong move to kill them outright, and that thought is always at the back of your mind. Conversely the driver only has to fear scratched paintwork (although I appreciate no-one wants the responsibility for an accident on their conscience either).ReplyDelete
Consider Gaz's incident with the taxi driver in the BBC programme. He admits that there were elements of his behaviour he wouldn't repeat, but let's think about it. He'd just had a close shave with a motor vehicle which is enough to get anyone's adrenaline going - I know from experience how the panic kicks in - and then the imposing sight of the driver coming around the taxi? Not easy to stay clear-headed and completely rational under those circumstances...
A thoughtful article, and much credit goes to Rob.
Well done that man. You give me hope for our society. If only everybody could be so honest.ReplyDelete
I hope someone also helped you understand why some cycle paths are ignored by cyclists.ReplyDelete
A lot of them are unfit for purpose due to the state of the road or insufficient width, and actually make things more dangerous for cyclists if they use them.
As a car driver I too watched the programme and my worries for my son who is a cyclist increased 10 fold. To David Kernohan, the guy has apologised and in my opinion he does not need to justify his previous points of view or behaviours. The important thing is that they have changed.ReplyDelete
Remember not all cyclist are angels and victims of us car drivers. I find some cyclist behaviours incredibly dangerous, no lights, no helmet, no hi viz clothes and many times all the above and using their mobiles. You will always get knob heads in all walks of life, whether car drivers, bikers or cyclists.
"Rob": - "What can be perceived as selfish riding can often simply be self-preservation on the part of the cyclist."ReplyDelete
Thanks, Rob, for putting this so eloquently. I have to say, when I hear a bus approaching from behind, I do often look round to see what line it's coming on...just in case, you understand...