On two impatient drivers

Wonderful Boyfriend and I were cycling along. There was a car behind us, and I got the sense from the revving engine that the driver wasn’t too impressed at having cyclists in front of them. We turned right at a junction – I signalled, my boyfriend didn’t. Then we came up to another junction. I thought we were going left, so I signalled left. Unfortunately my wonderful boyfriend was actually going straight on. The driver, came blasting past me, started to turn left and nearly knocked my boyfriend off his bike – a classic “left hook”. Fortunatly my he jammed on his brakes and she missed him.

Now if the driver had hit my boyfriend it would have been entirely her fault and “I thought he was going left” would not have been good enough. But defensive cycling techniques try to make up for the short comings of others, and learning from your mistakes is important. In the end, I think if I had not signalled, the driver might not have tried to overtake.

So here are my lessons learned:
1) if you have an impatient driver behind you, don’t signal
2) if you are following someone else, only signal when they signal

My second impatient driver didn’t leave me feeling I’d done anything wrong…

I was on the big bike, coming back towards Balerno about 6:30pm I guess. I was on the bit of the A70 where it goes through some woods, just before you get to the 30 limit and the climb through the narrow, twisty section. The wooded bit has quite a few stretches with double white lines, so visibility isn’t all that good. I was aware of a car coming up behind me, and also that there was a car coming towards me. The car behind me managed to nip round me before the approaching car got there – however there was another car behind the first, and when the driver of that car went to overtake they realised they didn’t have time before the oncoming car got there. I heard a “bump, bump, bump” sound as they braked hard which I’m told is the ABS kicking in. (In retrospect, that is a bit scary because it means that the ABS thought the car was skidding – so I’m told, anyway)

I take a fairly assertive secondary position along that road, in order to be a distinct obstacle and therefore get drivers to think about how they are going to pass me (as opposed to just whizzing past leaving me very little space). It also gives me some space to move into should I feel I need it. I find it interesting, in retrospect, that I didn’t head for the verge, thinking I was about to be mown down from behind. I’m also partly glad that I did not, because I half expect that if I had the driver would have then thought I was “getting out of the way” so they could squeeze past me.

The driver sorted themselves out and passed me, and we all went on our way. Another 30 second delay for some poor motorist.

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On roadworks and red lights

There are some roadworks going on on my usual short commute to work. One lane is closed, and there are three-way traffic lights as there’s a side road in the middle. I’ve been having an interesting time cycling through there. The lane is too narrow for a car to overtake me, so I sit right in the middle of it. Most drivers behind me seem to understand why I’m doing this, and sit well back until we’re through; however I’ve had one or two sit rather close and barge through as soon as they can. So far I’ve felt that this was intimidating and annoying, rather than actually dangerous. A couple of times, when I have had a car in front of me, I have counted how long the car behind me has taken to get to the end of the roadworks relative to the car in front, and worked out that being behind me delays you by, oh, at least 30 seconds…

If I’m one of the later vehicles to get through on green, I find that there isn’t enough time for me to cycle through before the lights go green for the cars coming the other way. I accept that the lights are not going to be set up for the very occasional bicycle, though. Once or twice it has seemed to me that the car at the front of the queue coming the other way has spotted and waited for me, but then started to move off before realising that there’s a car behind me… I wonder if this is because a person on a bicycle is taller than a car, and so more visible over the signs and stuff there are at that end.

Because of the length of time it will take me to get through, I know that starting through the section when the light goes amber is not a good idea. Actually, of course, it is not merely “not a good idea”, it is illegal. Here’s the Highway Code (rule 175)

“You MUST stop behind the white ‘Stop’ line across your side of the road unless the light is green. If the amber light appears you may go on only if you have already crossed the stop line or are so close to it that to stop might cause a collision.”

That MUST means there’s a law behind it, unlike bits of the Highway Code which are advice. So it always amuses me when drivers who have been behind me as we approach the lights, when they realise that I’m going to stop, then overtake me and go through the amber (and in some cases, the red). I do wish I had a headcam – I could put together a nice little compilation of them all, and post it up every time someone started off about cyclists running red lights. 

Wonderful Boyfriend would not be happy if I got a headcam, though. I’ll just have to stick with being the smug, law-abiding road user…

On some dealings with the police

About three weeks ago I posted this on the CityCyclingEdinburgh forum’s “Today’s rubbish driving” thread:

So I’m cycling along in the dark with my lights on. There are some cars parked in the inside lane, and I wish to move further out than I already am. There’s a car coming up behind me, and it sounds & looks as though it is coming quite fast. So I signal right but don’t move out much, if at all. The car overtakes me while I am signalling right and we all go on our merry way. It is just as well no one in the car I was passing opened a door, though.

I think I should have got further out earlier. I don’t quite know what I think about the driver of the overtaking car.

Does it make a difference that it was a police car? I noted the plate as SN11 DYP which can’t be quite right.

I was mostly just having a moan (that is the thread for having a moan, after all) but a couple of people suggested that I should report it, given that the Highway Code specifically says “DO NOT overtake … when a road user is indicating right…” To be honest, if it had been a private car or a taxi, I wouldn’t have thought much of it (though I might still have posted on the thread); it was the fact that it was a police car (I was right about the registration) that annoyed me. I think we are right to expect higher standards from the police, in driving as well as in other areas of conduct.

So, I went to the online form for making complaints, and filled it in (you don’t get that many words to make your complaint in, so it took a few minutes of editing to get my text right. They do say that you’ll get the opportunity to expand further, though.) I didn’t put in a phone number, expecting that any further correspondence would be by email, but the next thing that happened was I got an email asking for a phone number. I did get cold feet at that point, commenting to the CCE thread that I was concerned that
I’m just going to end up being criticised for riding in a dark jacket and woolly hat (as opposed to magic yellow coat and plastic hat…)“.
However I decided to provide a phone number and after a few attempts the policeman got through to me. I was actually very impressed at the level of effort that went in to getting hold of me and talking to me about my complaint, given that I was pretty slow to reply to emails; I half expected that they’d give up.

The policeman asked me what I wanted the outcome of my complaint to be, and I said that I wanted someone to have a word with the driver about his driving. At no point were my choices of clothing or head-wear discussed. So the policeman agreed that he would do that, and let me know (by email) when he had done it, and this is what happened. I slightly regret not asking for more details of the conversation, in particular, did the driver accept that he should not have done what he did; but I decided not to go any further.

So I’d say that if you do experience poor driving from the police, it is worth making a complaint about it – just be prepared to have to do more than just fill in an online form!