Friday, 7 December 2012
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.