Do you do this? I do, and it’s likely that you do too. I think we are all, sometimes, cycling hypocrites.
There are actually quite a few circumstances that I can think of where I find myself getting really impatient, or just mad, at motorists for doing what I am sometimes guilty of doing on a bike.
It’s really frustrating, unnerving, and can be really dangerous when a car passes you too closely, and at speed. We all get that, but consider the following scenarios:
Every now and then you might be in a hurry on a shared-use path and don’t slow down when passing a pedestrian or a slower cyclist. Sometimes you shoot the gap when there is also someone else coming the other way. A few times I have felt a bit bad after giving a pedestrian a bit of a fright as I whizzed by. I didn’t pass them with this intention – though sometimes after incessant bell-ringing and no movement from the pedestrian, I do pass just a little closer. Sound familiar? I have found myself looking to get around a slower cyclist in the cycle lane on the road, trying to time it for the small gap that is opening up in traffic behind me, and my closing speed is too fast and I end up squeezing by the cyclist and catching them unawares. I truly planned on passing with more room, but I passed too close because I didn’t just slow right down and take my time.
Last weekend I was coming down one of the most beautiful, most funnest, and most fastest descents in the hills around these parts, and two of us got caught behind an old vintage car with a very cautious elderly driver and a couple of passengers. We could have been going significantly faster and enjoying it more, the decent being twisty enough to be fun, but not enough for it to be slow. I was entertaining thoughts of an overtake, which I probably wouldn’t have with the road being mostly blind corners for the first half, but the thought happened nevertheless, and my companion on the road at that moment pointed out quite rightly that we (cyclists) expect that cars wait patiently until there is opportunity for a safe overtake, so we should do the same. We did, and when the road opened up… well, the car was no longer in the way…
When approaching a roundabout and the car in front of you slows down to what you deem an unreasonable speed (it is a roundabout, after all, not a stop light – the idea is to maintain traffic flow!), you think, “come on, let’s go!”, while at the next roundabout when a car entering from the give-way side comes in a bit hot and has to hit the brakes a bit sharply, you, the cyclist, shakes your head at them. Just 30 seconds earlier you were mentally chastising someone for not going fast enough (again, something I’ve done)! At other times you yourself may go steaming into a roundabout and make use of a gap that a car definitely shouldn’t, but if it did for you, you’d be pretty pissed off about it.
This is bad:
And so is this:
You get the idea. I’m not interested in getting into the cause of this (being in traffic, driving offensively/defensively to protect your safety, emotional issues, competition, ego, poor time management, etc). I mainly just want to, at this point, highlight that cyclists aren’t above the behaviour displayed by motorists. We do the same things, and sometimes we can actually be worse. You may argue that the consequences are less severe if cyclists get it wrong than if a motorist does, and you would be right, but that actually has nothing to do with whether or not it should be the case, or whether it is right or wrong. This is something I’ll come back to in another post.
The main point here is that we, like most everyone that is human, are hypocrites. Cycling hypocrites. We want all the benefits but none of the costs in the perpetual transaction that is traffic. If order is to be kept, if rules are to be followed, and therefore if predictability and safety is to be ensured, then cyclists have just as much a responsibility as anyone else on the road for their actions. If we can’t at least avoid acting in ways that we chastise others for, then we have quite a lot to be accountable for.
The next time you are on your bike, think about how you ride and consider how you react to situations where your speed or direction of travel is compromised by another road user. If you are at all annoyed by this, and if you then manifest this thought process into action, you may want to consider changing your behaviour or at least giving it some serious thought, and consider that you have a clear view of what is going on in the motorists head when they think the same of you.
Header image: source