A random act of abuse on a beautiful day

Cycling along Acres Lane in Great Altcar yesterday was glorious; the countryside and weather were just right for peddling. However, someone had to spoil it and they achieved that by abusing a fellow cyclist all because they had been slowed down by a bike. Indeed, instead of simply safely passing the cyclist, they had to draw up alongside wind down the passenger window and take a bit more of their day to ensure they were fully understood by the cyclist, if you get my drift!

So what was it all about? Testosterone, selfishness, petrol-headedness, intimidation of a more vulnerable road user – your guess is as good as mine but one thing I have yet to see as a daily cyclist around Sefton and West Lancashire Boroughs is for such behavior to be exhibited by a female driver. Yes, abusing/intimidating cyclists is very much a male-dominated hobby in my experience.

And what you might ask was my fellow cyclist doing other than peddling along a country lane to get this chap so upset? Nothing at all, he was simply going about his lawful business, following the Highway Code and enjoying his day.

When I’m cycling pedestrians are the most vulnerable things on the road. When I’m driving pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists are the most vulnerable things on the road. It’s the mindset of drivers who think they are the most important thing on the road that’s dangerous. Powered vehicles are never the most important, except on a Motorway.

Yes, I’m fully aware that some (usually male) drivers very much disapprove of cyclists and that they think we should not be allowed on our roads. I’ve even had one barmy driver tell me to get onto the pavement, which of course is telling me to do something which is illegal (although rarely enforced)!

Photo from Cycling UK showing the likely chage to the Highway Code for passing a cyclist.

Cycling UK, of which I’m a member, recently told me that many UK police forces had taken part in a campaign (#OperationClosePass Day) to tackle close-passing of cyclists. This practice is sadly a regular thing you get used to but it’s dangerous and often caused by poor driving or even done deliberately to intimidate cyclists. The Highway Code presently says a driver should leave as much room as possible when passing a cyclist but that is soon to be changed to a more specific distance to leave beween a cyclist and a passing/overtaking vehicle. I raise this aspect now of course because close-passing of cyclists is very much related to the kind of driver behaviour which I observed yesterday.

I’ve asked both Lanashire Police & Merseyside Police to publish information about how they participated in the safety campaign but have yet to hear back from either Force. The idea, as I understand it, was to send out coppers on cycles, dressed in plain clothes/cycling gear, so that they could identify bad/dangerous drivers who were not observing a safe passing distance when overtaking. I’ll let you know what I get back from Lancs & Merseyside Police.

Virually all cyclists are drivers too but many drivers are not cyclists. Cycling is getting more and more popular for fitness and environmental reasons so the conflict bewtteen cyclists going about their lawful riding with drivers who want them off our roads is only going to become a bigger issue. The police really need to tackle dangerous and intimidatory driving that’s why initiatives like #OperationClosePass Day are so important.

Speeding – Is it an addiction akin to alcoholism/drugs?

There can be little doubt that driving standards have plunged during lockdown and that this has mainly manifested itself via excessive speeding. That’s certainly been my experience travelling around Sefton and West Lancashire by car, cycle and indeed walking.

We had quite a number of weeks when there was little or no traffic on our roads and this seemingly became an invitation to those who enjoy/can’t resist speeding to put their clogs to the floor in both urban and rural areas regardless of pretty much anything. ‘We can so we will’ and they certainly have been doing! Maybe they thought the police would be enforcing social distancing and would not be bothered about speeding?

But now speeding become the norm will the petrol heads slow down as our roads are pretty much back to what they used to be? Frankly I’m not sure. Yes they’ll be slowed by the weight of traffic but will the urge to speed mean they’ll take greater risks to get past anything which slows them down? Or put another way once you’ve had a taste of speeding and done it regularly can you stop the addiction?

I’d like to see the stats for speeding enforcement on Merseyside and in Lancashire during lockdown as logically more speeding tickets should have been handed out assuming of course that police resources have not been reallocated elsewhere.

But what are our two local police forces going to do to try to normalise traffic speeds? Letting them rise was an inadvertent consequence of less traffic on our roads, bring them back down may well be a much harder task.

And yes I know some of you reading this will say the police have better things to do than fine motorists but you may have a different thought if a relative or friend is killed walking a country lane, cycling a local road or even being in a vehicle hit by another driven far too fast.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the most important and vulnerable thing on our highways is the pedestrian followed by cyclists. Only after that come powered vehicles.

My point in raising this issue once again is that if someone is caught say 2nd or 3rd time speeding within a specified period then is there not a reason to look upon that driver as someone with an addiction problem who needs help? They may also need to be stopped driving until their addiction has been tackled.