Just like our initial departure in September 2015, the weather was beautiful as we pedalled through Leicestershire a few weeks ago. Blue skies, rolling hills, sunshine, pretty villages. England can be simply wonderful. However it is also home to some of the least cyclist-friendly drivers the world has to offer, with a good smattering of rudeness thrown in. Our trip was just 1.78km old when a driver rolled down their window and called us ‘F-ing assholes’ as we cycled on that first day 20 months ago. We were riding two abreast on a low traffic country road. Like many, he failed to recognise that this reduces his overtaking time.
It’s nice to know you can go away from home for a long time and some things don’t change. Fish and chips are still brilliant, and some motorists are still ignorant. We met a fabulous guy in June in delightful Market Harborough. It was a beautiful day and we were on the way out of town on National Cycle route 67. On the little uphill near the station, we moved out to ride around a parked car. There was an oncoming truck. The road is not super wide. We heard a vehicle behind us. As other cyclists will know, you can tell from the sound when the approaching vehicle isn’t slowing down, and sure enough a van driver decided to squeeze between us and the oncoming truck whilst we were all passing the parked vehicle. At best the driver left 30-40cm between the van and us. I was in front, and as the van pulled back in I selected a choice hand gesture for the driver in response to the unsafe pass.
The van now cut in front of us and pulled in suddenly to the side of the road. The driver jumped out, and we got to meet a charming man.
CM: “Don’t you wag your finger at me”
(That’s right, I had selected the offensive ‘finger wag’)
D: “You came far too close”
CM: “I had to get past you and avoid the truck on the other side”
D: No, what you had to do was wait.
(J is now level with the van)
J: You could have slowed down. (Meaning to slow down and wait until we had passed the parked car)
CM: I was going slow, we’re going uphill you tit!
As I said, a real charmer. Maybe he was trying to bring ‘tit’ back into fashion as an insult. Certainly a while since either of us has been called that and probably the first time by a grown-up. We were quite taken aback. I would like to say that we said something funny back, but we were a bit past the van by then and I’m sure you can come up with something funnier.
It has been continually shown that reeducation is more effective than punishment (Welford, 2017), so here is some helpful advice for our Charming Man:
1. The Highway Code tells you to leave as much space for a cyclist as you would if you passed a car. Imagine the cyclist is a car or a horse. Would you pass then? If not, you shouldn’t squeeze past. UK Police recommend 1.5metres minimum. In lots of countries this is the law.
2. If you are so desperate to speed up your journey, I would suggest that waiting 3-5 seconds for us to pass the parked car would have been significantly quicker than parking up for a spot of verbal cyclist bashing.
3. If you do feel the need to stop your vehicle and abuse some upstanding citizens, it’s probably best not to do it in your branded work vehicle. This is particularly important if you work for a small organisation and are in fact the registered director of said company, and it is absolutely vital if you have your hometown as public on your Facebook profile. That’s right, I know exactly who you are. Good job I’m only a bit vengeful. So far.
Thanks to: The overwhelming majority of people who stop to talk us around the world. Almost all of them actually are charming and lovely.