[I wrote this post ages ago, but after re-reading it, discussing the incidents with my wife, and mulling it over, I’ve decided to re-write it slightly. At the time it felt right, but as I thought about it I realised that, sometimes I’m at fault, sometimes I’m unsafe, sometimes I’m an inconsiderate cyclist.
I wonder what you think?]
There are some places that I ride where I know that one day someone’s going to try something daft and plenty of other places that I don’t often go with equal capacity for daftness.
The last few days have seen a couple of minor incidents made amusing by the responses of the people involved.
The Gesticulating Roundabout Crosser
There is one place where I cross a major dual carriageway by using a traffic-lit roundabout. The approach is a single lane which splits in two, and then both lanes splits in two again. I’m going straight on, so I take the lane one from the left.
It was clear to me that at some point someone would try to overtake, mis-judge it, and end up either bashing me into the left-most lane, or getting stuck too far on the right. Fortunately, and amusingly, what happened on Friday was the latter.
A woman pulled out to go around me as the lights turned red. Now, I’m not certain what the mindset is. Is it “I’ll get past before the roundabout”? Is it “He’ll get out of my way”? Is it a simple or accidental misjudgment of speed, distance, and the timing of the lights? I don’t know.
Anyhow, she made that call. I somehow anticipated and was on my guard, so when she started to cautiously steer left towards me I was expecting it. Fortunately she’d seen me and stopped moving left. I kept going for a bit, wondering what she would do, and eventually relented and waved her in front of me.
What amused me most was the frantic, angry arm waving from the driver, suggesting that she was asking “Where was I meant to go?”
Of course, the unspoken answer was “Well, you made the call to overtake; where did you think you were going to go?”
The lights turned green and she pulled away, and turned left from the middle lane without indicating.
The Randomly Shouting Pedestrian Crosser
The second incident happened on Saturday. The weather was glorious and we had a walk planned with some friends just south of here. I’d been looking forward to cycling out to meet them, doing the walk, and then cycling home – which is exactly what I did.
The way home was speedy as I flew downhill towards Wroughton. In the town centre is a Coop with a fairly obscure junction that includes a pedestrian crossing.
As I approach the green filter light at speed, fully anticipating that I go straight through it, I see two older men at the roadside looking like they want to cross. They’re still some way off at this point and one has seen me but again my sixth cycling sense picks up that they might cross, despite the “red man” facing them and the mad cyclist bearing down on them both telling them that it’s probably not such idea.
One of them does decide that, well, I’m on a bike so I can’t be going that fast and I’ll probably give way and even if I do hit them it won’t hurt so much, or whatever people think in such situations, and so I’ll cross.
Fortunately my judgement is better than his and I work out that he’ll be well across into the other lane before I reach him, so I keep going, holding out that the other guy, who’s not seen me, will decide NOT to cross.
He doesn’t and I pass safely, but as I do so I get a rather stern shout of something along the lines of “where’s your brakes?”.
And well you might ask. My fingers had been on them ready to pull them hard if needed. One might ask whether you really expected me to have to use them when the filter light was clearly in my favour.
My writing is a bit harsh about the driver and pedestrian, mostly to make a point. I was amused by their comments, verbal or otherwise, as they made little sense to me who had, as far as I could tell, done no wrong. And yet, on reflection, perhaps I was aggressive too?
I think that both situations were simple mis-judgements. Bad calls. Bad luck! But maybe my not giving way…not slowing down, despite anticipating something potentially dangerous, made them more dangerous than they needed to be. In a non-threatening situation I prefer to be gracious, but when threatened, perhaps I’m too quick to stand my ground.
I’m reminded that others are usually willing to take a risk with an approaching cyclist. These “Yes, I can squeeze round before the lights”, or “I’ll make it across before he reaches me” situations are probably symptomatic of a bigger problem: road users putting themselves first. But then…isn’t that what I was doing too?
Is it always better for me to concede to bad driving? Where does “standing your ground” turn to “pushing your luck”? Perhaps my own safety, and that of those around me, is more important than making a point about the rules of the road?