Oh dear! I have a confession to make. I’m not going to make excuses or play up one side over the other although it’s plain which side of the fence I’m sitting on. You see, Saturday afternoon I got involved in ‘a bit of an argument’ with a motorist. And I’m not sure I came out of it that well really.
It all started when I was riding back from my parent’s house in Ashtead. I was cycling down Craddocks Avenue on my slick-tyred, carbon-forked converted MTB bike with a short five mile blast ahead of me.
Anyone who knows Craddocks Avenue knows it has one of the most stupid and badly thought out ‘traffic calming’ road layouts in the area, of at least ten years standing. With a speed limit of 30mph it has three chicanes spaced about 300 yards apart with traffic islands between each of them. So it is very difficult for cars to overtake a bike along there.
Some genius road planner has had the bright idea of putting in short 20 yard cycle paths to bypass the chicanes by stealing space from the grass verge. In practice what this means is that a cyclist is encouraged to ride up to the chicane, turn sharply out of the traffic flow onto the short cycle path then return back into the traffic flow at precisely the point where the car that’s been behind you is swerving round the last part of chicane it has just negotiated.
This is moronic planning, you get two vehicles, one inherently more vulnerable than the other, heading for the same piece of road at the same time. I absolutely refuse to use these cycle lanes on principle and since the Highway Code does not force me to do so (thank God!), I won’t.
So there I was heading down Craddocks on Saturday at speed, well around 18mph at least. Not super fast but not slow and certainly not particularly holding up any traffic if it had the sense to look past the end of its front bumper and read the road ahead. It’s full of chicanes. You can’t speed. The chicanes are there for a reason. To stop you speeding.
The first chicane, no problem. With nothing close to me I just eased out from the kerbside a couple of feet and straightlined through it without pausing to slow down.
The second one, I had by now a couple of cars behind me. First, a Nissan Micra with two young girls squeezed past me approaching the chicane after being prevented from passing by the traffic island in the middle of the road. Then, as I look behind me twice to check I’m visible to whoever is behind them, I pull out smoothly to negotiate the chicane.
That’s when this idiot 40-something (yes, I know the irony!) in a pale yellow Toyota MR2 with the top down hits his horn as he tries to push through while I’m on the chicane. Big mistake. I immediately lost my temper like a switch being flipped, something I haven’t properly done for years.
I can’t explain it but I had a proper Jeckyl and Hyde thing going on. I turned round on my bike, ‘gestured at him’ and told him to F*ck off! Loudly. He hit his horn again even though he could now pass easily. I told him to F*ck off again and added a few more descriptive words!
So he passed me, swerved in to the kerbside and brake tested me. At which point I really lost my rag with him, telling him what Cnut he was and telling him to F*ck off as I took to the pavement to avoid him.
He continued to remonstrate with me, I think he was saying that I should have used the cycle path and that I was wrong to go through the chicane before giving up at my last ‘F*ck off you twat’ response and driving off.
I know I was in the wrong. I shouldn’t have lost it and I’m a bit worried that I actually did. Those brief 20 seconds of anger had me quite willing to inflict harm on a complete stranger for being ignorant. Not a good thing and something that could have led to God knows what if the car behind had turned out to be driven by someone more threatening than a middle class nonce in a pale yellow soft-top.
What annoys me is how someone can be so impatient as to need to pass on a speed restricted, traffic calmed residential road on a Saturday afternoon. What’s the hurry?! My taking the direct approach through the chicane possibly held him up by nearly 2 seconds of his day but meant I was at least in the direct line of sight for road users behind me.
But then again, I hate to think of how I have reinforced stereotypes in the mind of that driver. Not only did I put my own safety in potential danger but maybe next time that driver will cut other cyclists even less slack. I was like a classic bug-eyed loon the way I responded to him!
So no excuses. Apologies to the cycling brotherhood. And to the idiot road planners? Umm, your traffic calming idea looks like it needs some work…