June 9, 2013

The Road to Ruin: from considerate cyclist to one fuming with rage

Last week’s commute was a trying one. I started the week in a positive mood at the thought of a full week of cycling in glorious sunshine. All that changed, very quickly. By the end of the week I was angry. Fuming. Encounter after encounter made me wonder why drivers in London paid so little care for the welfare of those around them. I was so angry, that when I accidentally cut someone up (as I was filtering and misjudged when they were going to move off), I didn’t really care. After all, if motorists had shown anything, it was every man (or woman) for themselves.

At the start of the week I was considerate, happy: letting cars & taxis out where safe to do so, moving over for a taxi when I was holding him up in a bus lane (and I got a thank you!), sticking to cycle lanes where they existed. By the end of Monday I was very annoyed, having nearly been knocked off by an inattentive or deliberately malicious driver. By the end of Thursday, having seen a lorry driver deliberately drive at 3 cyclists, I was fuming. By the end of Friday morning I was wishing a horrible end on London’s motorists, after a van driver cut me up just because I was on a bike.

I was so angry that I’d become a potential danger to myself, and maybe others, so was strongly considering taking a break from cycling for a while. Although I wasn’t running red lights, I was showing considerably less consideration to motorists around me. Screw them all was my attitude – they don’t care about me, why should I care about them?

I caught this all on camera. Below, is my journey. The road from a considerate cyclist to the sort of lycra lout people complain about.

Monday morning
The sun is up. The sky is blue. As is the cycle lane. Not that it stops this idiot driver from making several of us swerve by sticking the front of his car straight into the lane.

Still with blue lanes, this driver was showing the classic signs of someone not in full control of their vehicle: it was slowly creeping forward, but also to the left, towards the blue strip which marks CS7 on Balham High St. This isn’t an official cycle lane, but both I and the cyclist in front of me were concerned he was going to squash us. As expected, he was texting on his phone. He even showed it to me, which is great, as it’s probably enough for Roadsafe London to give him some penalty points.

These two made me annoyed, but is typical of the general standard of driving seen on the roads every day. However, on the way home there was even more fun to be had. This guy, having looked right at me for a while, decides to pull out right into the side of me as I pass – if I hadn’t been expecting it, he probably would have knocked me over the bonnet:

This focusses the mind – if people will drive at you while you’re in the cycle lane, why bother using them at all? The following clip, taken on the same day, shows the marvellous quality of Croydon’s cycle lanes. Two motorists pull into them while trying to turn right, they keep turning into park bays, and at one key junction cars and buses block the lane all the time at the lights.

Generally a day of cars and lorries in bus lanes that shouldn’t be. Including this fine example of some lorry drivers from RMS trying to squash cyclists and motorcyclists in the bus lane, then using it to jump the queue across the junction.

Actually, not a bad day on Wednesday. Little to wind me up and a good run with a Mitsubishi Evo, which took the same time as me to cover the distance between Vauxhall and the South Circular.

On Thursday, I saw my first attempt by a lorry driver to kill some cyclists. Why? One of them was riding in the middle of the narrow lane of traffic. A lane too narrow for a lorry to pass safely, which is why the cyclist was there in the first place.

The incident started when a the lorry driver, working for Allport Cargo, realised he needed to leave the Vauxhall Gyratory but was in the wrong lane. He indicates & pulls across, forcing the cyclists already occupying the lane to the left. They shout that he’s about to run them over. Instead of behaving like a civilised human being, he honks his horn and tailgates, trying to bully them off the road.

I didn’t really want to hang around blocking the road for a further argument. The cyclist he tried to run over was understandably very annoyed.

Then, 25 minutes later, this oblivious driver drives most of his journey down Streatham Hill in the cycle lane, despite the other traffic taking a more considerate line. When I try to pull alongside, he shuts the door, forcing me to brake.

This is an advisory lane, but it’s only permitted to enter it if ‘unavoidable’. This wasn’t really ‘unavoidable’, was it?

And, to cap it off, the straw which broke the camel’s back. This guy overtakes into a gap that isn’t really big enough, then forces me to brake hard as a result. I was keeping up with the traffic in front, but he overtook simply because I was on a bike. As if to prove his manhood, and that a bike can’t be faster than a ‘car’, he then carries out a dangerous, high-speed overtake across a zebra crossing, then overtakes me a third and final time by tailgating the car in front of him, coming close to rear-ending it in the process.

All in all, not a happy week in the sun.

This is the sort of inconsiderate driving that might put a dent in another car, but could put a cyclist in hospital or worse. This is why there are so many angry cyclists, who don’t care about anyone else on the road. No-one cares about them, so they just look after themselves.

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