Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole ValleyMuddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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My bad cycling manners on the road

Posted by Matt | June 14, 2009 | 9 comments so far

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…

Filed under Lifestyle, Mutterings in June 2009

Matt

About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years he's now running a YT Industries Jeffsy 29er and a Bird AM Zero Boost.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 9 comments on ‘My bad cycling manners on the road’

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  1. Anon says:

    Get his number plate if you see him again. This will allow “people in the know” to get his address and we’ll all go round his house and brick his windows!

  2. Easynow Nick says:

    Morning Matt.

    I know Craddocks Ave very well having grown up in and around Epsom. I remember the road before they put the traffic calming in and it was a bit of a racetrack but I agree the chicanes are the most idiotic bit of design.

    They have used a very similar design in Martin Way in Morden on my daily commute except the short 3 metre cycle path doesnt nick a bit off the verge, it sort of cuts through the island which makes the ‘rejoining the road’ effect even worse.

    Like you I dont use the cycle paths because it is simply dangerous to do so. WHat I generaly do is move out to the middle of the main traffic lane in the approach to the chicane and hold my position untill Im through it. I do get the occasional impatient driver sounding his horn but I just ignore them.

    Although Im no angel and there was an incident in the past many moons ago where I had an ‘altercation’ with a driver who decided he was going to ignore the fact that I was cycling and he was going to swerve left and park, which he did and sent me flying and taco’d my front wheel.

    The resulting ‘exchange’ ended with me ‘making him sit down’ and taking his keys out of his ignition and throwing them down a drain (leaving his car still at an angle and blocking the traffic flow) before stomping on my front wheel to make it ridable and making my wobbly escape.

    But I was younger, fitter, stronger and far less wise back then and I would not dream of, or condone, such action these days.

    Its a slightly sobering thought to remember the fate of an occasional poster on the DOAMB forum with whom I went for a ride a few weekends ago.

    A couple of years ago now he overtook a stationary bus in Hook on the two lane 30 limit road. A car aproaching the rear of the bus at a fair rate of knots also pulled out to overtake and had to brake when he found himself behind a cyclist.

    He sounded his horn and got abusive.

    The bike rider gave the car driver the V sign.

    Our bike rider doesnt recollect what happened next.

    Witnesses statements say the car driver slowed, changed down a gear and accelerated hard and hit him square.

    Local newspaper reports gave accounts of him being thrown 20 feet.

    After huge amounts of hospital time and various operations, pins, plates and lots of pain, he is still getting over it with more operations to go still.

    No one got the car reg.

    When we get aggressive with a following car, we are in a hugely vulnerable position and the worrying reality is that there seems to be a generation growing up today that just dont give a sh*t.

    Its far better to ignore them and let them go and be happy in the knowledge that the driver is an ignorant f*ck.

    Which is a good thing because ignorant f*cks like that dont walk anywhere they dont have to and that means that we never have to share with them the fantastic countryside and trails where we spend our weekends.

    A final thought in the Craddocks Ave chicanes.

    The daftest thing about the design of them is that they are laid out in such a way that if you take the right line they may as well not even be there and you can still almost ‘straight line’ them in a car and on a quiet evening when sensible folk are sleeping, in a V6 Vectra they can still be taken at over 80mph.

    Allegedly.

  3. Easynow Nick says:

    Just as an afterthought in response to anon.

    That doesnt actually achieve anything though does it. And it makes us worse than them.

    Not only that but you might get found out or caught. And I dont mean by the law, and then it gets out of hand.

    People could end up being hurt. Or worse, the wrong people could get the blame.

    When I was in my 20s I split up with a girlfriend as you do at that age.

    A few weeks later I spent a night indoors watching a video alone and was woken up the following morning by the police who took me to Epsom station and spent the next few hours questioning me about who had smashed up my ex girlfriends car the night before. I geniunely knew nothing about it but it was clear no one believed me.

    Eventually charges were dropped to my relief

    About 15 years later someone let it slip to me that a few of my ‘friends’ had done it on the way home from the pub ‘as a favour’, but then decided never to tell me when I was promptly arrested for it.

    Some favour…

    I would like to think that we are all older and wiser than to go down this route of perpetuation.

    Ive been through something in my life which taught me something valuable.

    Life really is too short and too precious to get involved in things like this.

    Let the idiots go. Save your energy for the people you enjoy having around you and the trails.

    Im a much better person for it. 🙂

  4. Matt says:

    Nick I totally agree with your sentiments:

    Let the idiots go. Save your energy for the people you enjoy having around you and the trails

    Couldn’t have put it better myself but I’ve surprised myself at how I reacted. I must have anger issues!

    Anon, I appreciate the support! ;o)

  5. Andy C says:

    Nick – Like you I have been cycling around London for a fair old time (about 20 years in my case), being an irregular commuter from Kingston to various points (Heathrow, Knightsbridge, Soho and Brentford) depending on various work contracts. As an owner of 3 cars currently, I also do a fair bit of driving and pay my fair share of road tax.

    I have learnt to adopt your approach (Zen, Karma, Calmer? call it what you will) for both driving and cycling. I have been knocked off my bike twice (fortunately no injuries) and have been cut up dozens of time. When I was younger I would get wound up, swear, shake fists etc. Now I have learnt to smile and just shake my head, then try and get on with my life and not let anger and negativity wind me up. If you do react, as a cyclist you nearly always are in too vulnerable position to “tough it out”. Also, you end up full of adrenaline and tension, which is really the opposite state of mind to what I like to achieve when I cycle, i.e. calm, relaxed, and energised from the ride.

    When driving, I award myself mental “politeness points” for letting people out of side junctions, signalling buses to pull out in front of me etc. It really makes me chuckle when the car behind gets irate because I’ve done this and relaxes me even more. If they then overtake and cut in forcing me to brake (has not happened very often) I smile and wave cheerily. I hasten to add that 20 years ago in my Astra GTV 16v I was the hot head who raced from light to light, but I eventually realised it was only getting me to a destination 5 minutes earlier (if I was lucky) and I was inveitably wound up and tense when I got there.

    My advice (echoing Nick’s) is take it easy, accept there are idiots out there, feel sorry for them and the tiny world they seem to inhabit with little joy or sunshine in their lives. We all have bad days, maybe they’re having one too. But don’t let them “infect” you; count to ten, smile, wish them a good day. You’ll feel better for it with no guilt about having stooped to their level. Maybe your good example will influence them, but if not, you’re still relaxed and in one piece.

    P.S. Remind me not to cut Matt up when we’re next out on a trail

  6. Jem says:

    Matt,

    Perhaps you need to see Dave on a proffesional basis and quash your road rage!!

  7. DaveW says:

    I agree you were wrong to get angry, but not that you were in the wrong with your riding.

    There is no law saying that you can’t cycle on the road when there is a cycle lane. Cycle lanes are optional for cyclists and if you feel it is safer for you to use the road in certain situations, then you should do so.

    Also, the Highway Code gives the following advice:

    “Look out for

    153

    Traffic-calming measures. On some roads there are features such as road humps, chicanes and narrowings which are intended to slow you down. When you approach these features reduce your speed. Allow cyclists and motorcyclists room to pass through them. Maintain a reduced speed along the whole of the stretch of road within the calming measures…You should not overtake other moving road users while in these areas.”

  8. Muddymoles says:

    Commuter – it’s a different kind of cycling altogether

    Matt gives his thoughts on cycle commuting, covering traffic, pedal action and crazy riders with a death wish.

  9. Pingback: Commuter - it's a different kind of cycling altogether | Mutterings, Stuff & nonsense | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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