Monday 14 October 2013

I'm a Cyclist Myself....

How many times have you heard it?

You are cycling along the road, minding your own business enjoying your cycle to work. Suddenly a car sweeps past too close, or cuts you up. Their rush to get past you is thwarted by the queue at the traffic lights 50m ahead. A conversation is struck up about the quality of the driving. There is no swearing or shouting, but a slightly heated exchange about the driving in question.

Road user who is cycling: Do you realise you were too close?

Road user who is driving: No I wasn't.

Road user who is cycling: You might not think so inside your nice safe metal box, but I can assure you that was too close.

Road user who is driving: You were wobbling all over the road.....anyway....

(and here comes the doozy)

Road user who is driving: .....I'm a cyclist myself.

I'm a cyclist myself.

If I had a penny for every time I've heard that phrase I'd be rich....ok not rich as such, but I'd certainly have a few bob more. I'm a cyclist myself seems to be a magical phrase that is used by road users who are driving as a, protective force field. They think that by using that phrase the road user on the bike will suddenly think to themselves,

Oh wait a minute, that person in the car has sat astride a bike before, therefore they know exactly how much space a cyclist needs and my impression that the car was too close must be totally wrong. How silly of me. Time for a big apology.....

Err, no.

As people who drive and prefer to associate themselves with those that drive, rather than those that cycle (have you noticed I'm avoiding using driver and cyclist as my own descriptions) often suggest, some people who ride bikes are rubbish. In fact some people on bikes have absolutely no idea whatsoever how to cycle in such a way to keep themselves safe on the road (they shouldn't have to of course, but that's another issue...). I have seen plenty of examples of people who are on bikes, where they are completely unaware of how close a pass was, or how close they were to being knocked off. In fact one of my very earliest videos provided a good example of this.

This cyclist was completely unaware and completely disinterested that they were very close to being knocked off.

Some road users who cycle are pants.

So when a driver mentions to me that I'm a cyclist myself it means diddly squat with regards to their comprehension about what a road user on a bike needs or doesn't need with regards to space, time etc. The information I need to know is, are you a good road user or are you a bad road user. I have no interest in whether you once rode a bike at Centre Parcs.

The above video has been made private as requested by the driver in the video. The driver proved to me who they were, and the reasons for the request were reasonable. Unfortunately I cannot provide any further information on the reasons that the driver provided for it's removal.

So when this lady recently said to me I'm a cyclist myself I pointed out to her, that she is also a driver, but that doesn't mean she is a good driver. The lady in the above clip made a couple of accusations, one of which you can actually hear at the very end. She claims I pulled out. She also earlier claimed (though you can't hear this) that I did not shoulder check. I think it is pretty clear from the footage above that I didn't pull out (in fact I swerved left into a pot hole) and that I was shoulder checking a fair amount.

Was she lying? Possibly not. I suspect that she thought that what she said was true. Remember, she was nice and safe and snug in that warm metal box. I suspect that she wasn't paying quite as much attention to her surroundings as I was. I suspect that she only became aware of an issue after I shouted at her. I suspect that at that point her brain, devoid of any detailed information from the proceeding seconds found that it needed to justify her actions and did so by suggesting to her that I must have pulled out and I must not have been looking.

It must have been my fault. I am a cyclist after all.


  1. Your post gave me some food for thought. Like many I am a cyclist and a driver. I try to cycle more miles than I drive and generally reach around a 4,000-5,000 a year on a bike and a little less in a car.

    When my kids learnt to drive I taught them to give cyclists more room than their driving instructors suggested and not to consider cyclists as obstructions that need to be cleared as quickly as possible, but a safely as possible.

    I know as a cyclist I wobble, I know what it feels like when a vehicle overtakes me dangerously. Buses and Lorries create a draught that draws you into them, too many drivers don't seem to really understand that the width of their vehicle includes door mirrors.

    I also know what it is like to be knocked off my bike by a car driver in a SMIDSY (broad daylight, me wearing a bright yellow jacket). He didn't see me at all!

    However I have never seen myself overtake a cyclist when driving a car. I try to obey the spirit of Highway Code Rule 163 and leave as much room as indicated in the helpful picture. I also know first-hand about Highway Code Rule 213 - Cyclists wobble. However it is only a subjective view.

    The trouble these are just rules and they are also rather subjective rules. So in a world where most drivers consider themselves as better drivers than average (illusory superiority) I think "your driver" was suffering from inter-modal illusory superiority. Which would be funny, if the consequences weren't so serious.

  2. I thinks it's even more pernicious, especially in the recent court case involving Dr Helen Measures. In court she is described as being a "keen cyclist" presumably because she had been on family cycling holidays; though whether that was Centre Parcs is not stated. These statements then justify her idea of what is or is not sufficient space to afford oncoming cyclists, whilst overtaking on a blind bend :( There appears to be no expert witness called AFAIK.

    I am also old enough to remember a public safety film from the 70s. It was a film shoot that had an old boy in a sport car overtaking, too closely, a female on a bike. She complains and he says he's been riding a bike since he was 6 (or something like that?). The director then asks for another take. The driver performs a safe overtake and everyone is happy. A bit cheesy yes but it made a point.

    I respond to the "I'm a cyclist myself" with "well YOU should know better then"...

  3. I've been on the other side of this. A few months ago I was driving back from the local supermarket where there's a small roundabout leading back into town. I was intending to turn left, but was looking to my right for a safe gap. As I pulled away I suddenly noticed an old guy riding his bike around the outside of the roundabout in front of me (having come alongside my car on the left) -- luckily I stopped in time without hitting him.

    I wouldn't want to blame him for what was essentially my error in not looking where I was going. But I felt his road positioning was a bit foolish -- never mind the red-painted cycle tarmac around the outside of the roundabout. As a cyclist, I'd often wait in the traffic, but only very rarely cycle up the inside, and always make sure a driver has seen me before pulling in front of their vehicle.

    Probably wasn't worth, it, but I stopped a little way up the road to apologise and make a hint as to safer road positioning. Started something like "I'm a cyclist myself and I've learnt never ride around the outside of bloody roundabouts where drivers don't see you"... but by that point he wasn't listening as he was more intent on telling me he'd been cycling for 70 years and therefore knew best...

    /shrug... People... :-D