Here is an e-mail I've just sent to a local company. I'll let the letter do the talking.
Apologies for the long e-mail, but please bear with me.
I am a father, and as fathers sometimes do, I like taking my
children on bike rides. I am fortunate in that my two oldest, D 10
and M 8, are very keen on cycling. On Saturday morning the weather
was clement and thus I decided to take my two boys on a bike ride along
the canal close to where I live. We live in Torrance.
Unfortunately the canal is not right next to our house. In fact
we need to cycle a relatively short distance to get to it. There are
two routes that we can take, one that requires us to on the path and
then via some dirt cycle path, or via the road. On the way out we went
the path way and had no problems in doing so.
After a while out on the bikes my two boys decided they wanted
to return home, but they suggested to me that they wanted to come back
the other way. They wanted to do this for two reasons, firstly because
there is a relatively fast hill to come down, they enjoy the feeling of
speed on their bikes, but secondly because they are keen to learn how to
ride on the roads, just like their dad. You see, I am a cyclist who
commutes by bike daily to my work at the Southern General Hospital,
which is a round trip of about 24 miles a day, a commute I have been
doing for a number of years. I have quite a considerable amount of
experience cycling on the roads.
I am of course, not a fool. The roads are a difficult
environment for a cyclist to be, especially the roads around Torrance. I
have suffered my fair share of bad driving when out cycling. However, I
also know how to keep my kids safe. I know the techniques for riding in
a small group such as this and I know that my children are capable of
it. Thus I agreed with M and D that we would ride the
alternative route of which 0.9 miles was on the road.
The first 0.5 miles on Torrance Road were uneventful. The road
was relatively quiet and for a large part downhill, and when cars did
come from behind us they passed with great care and gave us plenty of
room. It was only after we joined Balmore Road for the last 0.4 miles
that we noticed an issue.
D and M were ahead of me, I was behind and taking a
strong position in the lane. This discourages close passes, especially
on my children. We were cycling at the speed of my youngest which was
probably about 10mph along this road. Yes it was quite slow, but it
would not take us long to get to the turn onto Tower Road and to get out
of the way of the following cars. A few vehicles did appear behind us,
and unfortunately at first as the road was busy coming the other way, it
was not safe to pass. A short distance further and I heard the first
toot of a horn. I say toot, but it was angrier than that. It wasn't from
the driver behind us, who was being patient, but appeared to come from
the driver behind. This was an early indication to me that trouble was
Cycling with my children in this way means I need to keep
communicating with them. "a bit further right M", "move a bit closer
to your brother D", etc. So knowing that there could be an issue
shortly I checked they were in the correct road positions. At this point
my youngest, who was at the front said, "should I indicate yet". I
suggested that it was too early. Then an opportunity arose for the first
car behind to overtake. They did so without a problem. Then the second
car, which turned out to be a grey van overtook. Their passenger window
I have no idea exactly what was shouted by the two occupants of
the vehicle, but I can assure you it was abusive, threatening and
horrible for my kids to hear and be subjected to. I was understandably
furious. Perhaps I shouldn't of done, but I waved for the driver to pull
over. I did this mainly because I wanted to get a good look at their
faces, so if I had managed to get enough details I could take this
horrible incident to the police. They drove on.
The next two cars again passed without incident. At this point
we were getting closer to the junction and my son had asked if he could
signal yet. As he asked another car overtook and again we had horrible
abuse shouted at us, for what I can only assume was the short hold up.
At this point, feeling very flustered and concerned for the state of
mind of my children and their safety I said "yes indicate", and he, I
and D all did so. This was of course earlier than I would indicate
if I was riding myself. However, I had two flustered children and an
understandably flustered 'me', to get safely to the right hand turn and
off the road that had very quickly turned hostile.
That is when your employee decided it was a good time to
overtake, when myself and my two kids were indicating we were about to
turn right. Your employee gave me a 'dagger' look as he drove past. My
dismay at this maneuver was compounded by the fact that the driver them
proceeded to turn right up the very road that we were about to turn
right up. He saved himself a whopping four or five seconds at my
If you can understand everything that I have written above, I
hope you will understand that I was angry with your driver, who stopped
just along the road from my own house. As I passed I indicated (and I at
no time swore, which amazed me) that that was a terrible maneuver
which had put me and my children especially in danger. His answer was
that it was me that was dangerous and me that was putting my children in
I took my kids back to the house and returned to speak to the
driver. My intent was only to get his name. He refused to provide me
with his name. He and I went on to discuss the incident. The driver
agreed that he had overtook after I had signaled but suggested that he
had done so as I "had been waving my arms around" and riding
dangerously. Yes, I had perhaps been waving my arms around, but that was
at the drivers who were abusing my children and also in an attempt to
try and control my children. I was pointing to where they should ride at
a stressful time.
What the driver repeated a number of times was that he thought I
was dangerous. We eventually got to the bottom of that when he
clarified that it was 'dangerous of me to take kids on the road' and
that 'he would never do that'. Effectively he was suggesting I was a bad
parent. At this point, I asked for his name once more. I was refused
and so I took his picture (attached).
So am I a bad parent? Does the fact that your driver thinking
that I am a bad parent excuse his overtake? If I was indeed waving my
arms around and cycling dangerously, is that a good time to overtake?
Should you perhaps wait behind?
We live in a world that values the motor vehicle above all
else, and I say that as someone who owns and drives one. Delay of any
kind is unacceptable. Drivers, not all of course, but a significant
proportion, will endanger you or abuse you if they feel that their delay
has justified it. On this occasion two drivers felt that a short delay
justified abuse towards me and my children and one driver, your
employee, couldn't be bothered waiting a few seconds to allow a father
and his two boys to safely get out of that abusive situation.
Might I ask that you pass this message on to the driver and let
me know what his response to it is. It may also be worth pointing out
that I am one of the organisers of a campaign called Pedal on
Parliament. This is a campaign that is pushing for the government to
invest in proper cycle infrastructure to make the roads safe for all.
This would include where appropriate segregated cycle infrastructure
that would keep the majority of those 'pesky cyclists' out of the
obviously much more important car drivers ways. I suspect though that
this particular road would not suit such segregated infrastructure and
despite my best efforts it might still be the case that me and my
children might hold up your driver for a few seconds.
Perhaps next time he would chose to wait a few seconds instead. is that a lot to ask?
Ah, 01236 4 -- Coatbridge, my home town. Sorry about those two shining examples from there.ReplyDelete