Tuesday 18 February 2014

13 Seconds

13 Seconds. Yes 13 seconds. How much is 13 seconds worth?

For 3 drivers on Valentine's Night it was worth risking another human beings life. Mine.

Cars are not the biggest danger on our roads and neither are buses, HGVs or taxis. By far the biggest danger on our roads is impatience. Having cycled on Glasgow's roads for eight and a half years now I have come across many, many examples of driving where a road user will risk my life just to save a second or 13 from their journey time.

How do I know that impatience is the culprit and not some other factor?

I've found over the years that bad driving patterns can almost be predicted. If it is dark, people want to get home quicker. If it is pouring of rain, people want to get home quicker. If it is Friday, people want to get home quicker.

Bring all of these factors together....dark, wet, Friday night....throw in some strong winds, and add the fact that it is Valentine's night into the mix and you can almost predict that the driving will be dire. I say almost, when in fact what I should say is:

...you CAN predict it with a high degree of certainty.

In fact I did predict it a few days ago.

I was getting ready to leave work, having shut my computer down and having put on my cycling gear. Looking out the window it was obviously dark, very wet and windy outside (average wind speed was 23mph with strong gusts). It was also a Valentine's Friday night. Thus, I sent the following tweet:

Pouring with rain. Friday night. Dark. I expect some bad driving on the way home. Experienced some this morning.
This is the driving I had experienced in the morning.

So I had made a prediction, one that I unfortunately knew was likely to come true, and come true it did. In fact I experienced quite a few episodes of poor driving that night, however, one particular incident was particularly horrible.

It was on Balmore Road, not my favourite road to cycle on, it has to be said, but one that is a direct route home, and one that would get me out of the terrible weather as quickly as possible. On the section of road where the incident occurred the lane width was about 3m (I checked on Google maps).

I am about 50cm wide when I sit on my bike. On a road like this I try to remain a minimum of 90cm to 1m from the edge of the road (this is where my wheel sits, so I extend 0.25m to the right of this). Cars, including their wing mirrors generally have a width of about 1.8m to 2m.

Let's do some adding up then, assuming the minimal dimensions.

0.9 + 0.25 + 1.8 = 2.95m

Thus, assuming that the car is touching my right arm as it passes, we take up the whole lane.

The agreed safe distance to pass a cyclist is 1m. Thus, assuming a car passes at this distance, the passing car has to sit at about 1m into the opposing lane to pass me safely.

Now let's add some realism. Let's add the wind, which was a mixture of headwind and crosswind, and which was gusty. Let's add the heavy rain. Let's add the dark. Let's add the fact that this is an unlit section of country road, and let's add the fact that on this section the road is national speed limit, meaning cars can be approaching at 60mph (sometimes above).

With all that added, and assuming that cars are approaching, would it be appropriate to pass?

Let's also assume that a matter of seconds later, let's say....13 seconds later, there was a long clear gap in the oncoming traffic which would allow for safe passing. 

The scene is set. What would any reasonable driver do? 

I know what I would do, and I know this road very well, having driven it as well as cycled it many times. I would not even consider overtaking a cyclist in these circumstances in perfect conditions. It would not even cross my mind. Therefore, and I don't think I am stretching things much here....any reasonable driver would hold back for the 13 seconds and overtake safely at that point.

Not these three.

That 13 seconds saved was important to the first driver. The 7 seconds saved was important to the second, and the 2 seconds (despite me indicating to him it was not safe to go) was important to the third.

These cars were not driven by drivers, they were driven by impatience. They just didn't care.

So if you ever happen to see any of these three cars, (YX05ZRN, SH59PGZ, SA63 JXF), don't abuse the drivers and don't shout at them. Just calmly ask them to Google their registration numbers, so that they might come across the video. Then we might find out if they still feel that 13 seconds, 7 seconds or 2 seconds were worth risking my life for.



  1. I just don't understand drivers at times. We always wave drivers passed when clear and like wise tell them to hold back when it's not yet that doesn't stop some overtaking onto the wrong side of the road on a blind bend!

    1. Had a driver attempt a bling corner overtake tonight. I stopped that with my hand out. They passed me sheepishly with loads of space shortly afterwards.

    2. I had a blind corner overtake from a learner driver, with a school... who proceeded to immediately cut back in when he/she realised traffic was coming and almost clipped my front tyre/foot/whatever. Nothing soft and gradual about it, full jerk of the wheel.