I was cycling home tonight and there were about 5 other cyclists on the road with me. As we set off from a cycle box at fresh green light the lane narrowed just ahead. Some cyclists, myself included, feel safer cycling in the middle of a narrow lane rather than sticking to a side and risking vehicles passing you too close (or even worse not seeing you) and 2 cyclists in our group kept to the middle of the road in front of traffic. The vehicle right behind them was not happy about this and lay on the horn. LONG AND LOUD HONKING OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Then as the lane opened up the vehicle took a wide swing and rushed around the group of cyclists still honking LONG AND LOUD HONKING OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Not that it can compete with a car horn, but I found myself saying CALM DOWN and rolling my eyes. I couldn’t believe that after the week we’ve had in London that people were still being so aggressive.
The facts of the situation were that the speed limit is 20 miles in Islington and cyclists are allowed to cycle up to 2 abreast (it’s a common misunderstanding that cyclists must cycle in single file).
The driver of the vehicle was mad he was being slowed down, and the cyclist was probably mad he was at risk of serious injury or dying. With everyone angry and no chance to stop and have a quick chat to explain things out it’s obvious how these incidences escalate and lead to people taking it out on Twitter, the Daily Mail comments sections, or my favourite, just yelling at the TV.
At the next stop light we all pulled up beside the LOUD AND LONG HONKING OVER AND OVER AGAIN vehicle and he had his window down yelling at the cyclists in front of me. I pulled up beside him and just found myself saying, “Just calm down, I’m sorry, I’m sure [the other cyclists] are sorry and we just need to all need to calm down.” Well, he wasn’t about to calm down and proceeded to lecture me on how dangerous it was to have any cyclists on the road, I started to argue, but then let him talk and get it all out. He finally took a breath and I jumped in and said, “I get it, but no one out here wants to cause any dangerous situations let alone accidentally get in one, so we should all chill out.” I did not change his mind about cyclists, but he did thank me and wished me a nice evening as he pulled away which seems like an improvement on LOUD AND LONG HONKING OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
I know I had nothing to apologize for, but being aggressive and trying to argue for the rights of cyclists wasn’t going to get anywhere – and I think this is something other cyclists can learn. Of course it’s important to have the activists out there pushing for our safety, and I’m forever grateful for that, but if more cyclists diffused the individual situations and didn’t meet anger with anger I think we’d have a better shared road. Of course vehicles can take the same tips and stop the aggression too!
As I said to the LOUND AND LONG HONKING OVER AND OVER AGAIN guy, “We’re all going to have to share the roads eventually so why fight it?”