Breaking the rules


It comes as something of a disappointment that in a blog which is ultimately about finding one’s freedom I’m having to talk about rules.  As I alluded to in a previous post, this year’s Tour de france sparked a debate about the unwritten rules of cycling, nicely encapsulated by this Australian blog.  Some people believe rules are there to be broken.  Sadly I can’t agree in the case I’m about to recount. And it is the written rules which have been broken and yesterday it was with almost catastrophic consequences.

On my return leg from work Tuesday I was almost taken out by a multi-person vehicle (MPV).  It was driven by someone who I can only imagine was a parent given that the back seat had 2 children’s booster seats in it.  As I cycled down hill along a wide road I approached a double junction which sits on a bit of a blind bend.  On the clear side of the road I could see the MPV approach the give way junction to my right.  As I got nearer I realised that the driver had merely slowed and was then proceeding to cross the carriageway on which I was and where I had right of way. She didn’t stop. She carried on, by which point I was on the junction. The next moments are a bit of a blur as the car and I were on collision course and I don’t know how I am here to tell the tale.

Needless to say I was not happy. Livid is perhaps a good description.  What I did next is part comic and part regrettable.  I ran across to the MPV in my cycling shoes – anybody who wears cleats will know what a challenge this is and how comic it can look – shouting at the driver.  I regret now that my language was choice and slightly rare.  The driver however told me there was no need to swear to which I replied, something along the lines of, “but why? you put my dear life in danger”. Or words to that effect. I apologise but I was in shock.

I think we both had a shock from incident.  She was apologetic, I was angry but happy to be alive.  What is highlighted was the problem of the rush that everyone seems to be in these days.  I’ve mentioned this in the blog already yet this is one of those times when the consequences of rush could literally have been fatal.  All it would have taken was for the driver to stop and give way, look carefully and check that nobody – car, cyclist or otherwise – was in danger of being hit.

Now I realise that Tuesday was a pure accident, the process of the rushes of modern life. But the reason I say the driver was obviously a parent relates back to a story earlier this month about a couple who were berated for letting their children cycle to school alone, prompting a great cartoon in the Telegraph. People seem all too ready to keep their kids safe from the actions of others, and they drive kids around because the roads are too dangerous. Yet they miss the paradox of that equation: by doing so, they create more risk and feel rushed into fitting more into an already packed day.

I’m still a bit shaken by it all. I’m not going to commute next week by bike. I’l get the miles in somehow. But what irks me most is seeing even more blatantly poor driving all the time. I just wish people would take more care.

No before I go any further and suffer the rath of the daily mail reading, car loving mass of cyclist haters who will jump on this as their opportunity to defend the car, I am not condoning the behaviour of some cyclists who are inconsiderate in the way they cycle and in some cases blatantly break the rules of the road.  But following the incident I tweeted the following:

Would motorists please remember that stopping and looking are not an optional at a Give Way junction. That could have been my life you took!

Its interesting the responses I received – most of which were sympathetic and shared similar stories (showing who I follow and who follows me on Twitter I suppose).  But via Facebook I received an interesting response from my friend Jim:

Ooh. Let’s start a 10 top tips for motorists when encountering cyclists. I’ve got number 2 from this morning: indicating to your fellow drivers that you are going to pull out to give the cyclist room doesn’t actually count UNLESS YOU PULL OUT AND GIVE THE CYCLIST THE ROOM!

So this is the challenge which I open to you.  What are the other eight rules that we should include in our explicit and written rule book?

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