What is it with British drivers?

A couple of weeks ago I went to London (Teddington). It was quite a joyous experience despite the fact that I was driving. It was a Sunday and from Dorking on there were bikes everywhere. The closer we got to the capital the more bikes there were. On the single carriageway roads traffic was moving at a fast cycle pace. It is pretty ironic that the nation that has done the least to provide for cycling has ended up bringing car speeds down to the cycle pace. In this area south west of the city we were close to reaching that critical mass when there are so many bikes going in both directions that it is virtually impossible to overtake if you are in a car. By the time we got near Hampton Court the throngs of sports and recreational cyclists were joined my leisure riders including loads of families with young children. Needless to say, the bike riders took over and left us at a crawl.

The very sight of all of this brought joy to me as a rider but must be quite perplexing if you are a motorist. At least the denizens of the London metropolis are used to the sight of two wheels and, thanks to Ken Livingston, have been gently introduced to road sharing. Never has the case been stronger for drivers to be banging the gong for more cycle routes (that is if they want to get their speeds up again).

Not so beautiful Sussex. There are good places to ride, places where you stand a reasonable chance of coming out alive and places just to be avoided. I would have said the Sussex drivers are beginning to become more aware of us cyclists (being aware is the first stage, tolerance comes next) but Sunday made me realise that we still have a long way to go. Are all the inhabitants of the lands east of Brighton hell bent on terrorising cyclists to keep their roads clear for their driver’s exclusive use?

The road from Falmer to Rottingdean would be a beautiful road to cycle on if it wasn’t for the selfishness of drivers. There can be no possible time gain to them overtaking a wing mirrors width from my shoulder. The road to Peachaven got even worse despite the fact that the that road is wide. The more abused I was the angrier I became. I decided to hog the whole of the lane which resulted in deliberate and successful attempts to scare the living daylights out of me. There was no peace in that haven on Sunday.

The upshot of this is to raise my heart rate. That raises speed. That drops my mates. That gives me Strava cups. I’d like to say that, after all, a bit of driver abuse is not all that bad. However, having picked up a mate’s damaged bike for an insurance assessment I wish that those drives could have seen him hobbling around on crutches, nursing his broken pelvis, fractured face, busted ribs, crushed vertebrae and shattered dreams.

Next time that you think a 30mph limit is ridiculous try standing on the edge of the curb and see how safe you feel when the law abiding drivers pass. Then imagine how you’d feel a few steps into the road (that is where we ride).

If you are reading this, there is almost a certainty that you and your closest loved ones are not only accidental cycle terrorisers but potential killers too.  Soldiers return from the frontline with psychological problems caused by the constant threat of losing their lives. Has anyone thought of the impact continually threatening to be killed has on cyclists?

Here’s the ride. Wet cold start but that made for a pleasant change and it slowly got warmer and warmer until the sun shone and we were dry. It is a nice ride if you can cope with the Falmer to Newhaven section (it is always like that there).

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