On breaking the law

I had a bit of a go at a driver the other day. She was on her (hand-held, obviously) mobile phone and I was trying to get her to stop. The last time I did this, the man stopped rather quickly, but he was driving a van with company details all over it… the woman was in a normal car with no particular identification (apart from the number plate, of course…). Anyway the woman seemed to think that if she ignored me I would give up. Unfortunately for her, we were both waiting at a red light. I can confirm that banging on the roof of a car makes a really satisfactory bang… To be honest, in retrospect, I probably came across as a bit of a nutter, and I suspect that it is just as well I’m female – I would not like it if some angry man started banging on the roof of my car… Another time, in a traffic queue like that, I might try getting my phone out and taking a photo to go for the “post it all over the Internet” option. The thing is, I don’t suppose I have changed that woman’s mind about using her phone while she’s driving, and so I didn’t achieve anything. I do think that we need to object to phone use, and point it out when we see it, if it is ever going to become socially unacceptable. I just don’t think I went about it the right way that time. One thing I am glad I did, though, is say (well shout, really) “Stop breaking the law.” Perhaps that will make her think.

It got me thinking, too. I have an illegal manoeuvre that I make very regularly. I cycle the wrong way up a one way street. It is only about 10 metres long – that might make it worse, because I can and do quite easily push the bike up it instead. So the cycling up is just laziness. I have seen the odd driver go up there – it is not a regular occurrence, though. The reason it is one way in the first place (apart from being quite narrow) is that the exit at the top is really awkward with poor visibility onto a busy road. Not such an issue on a much more maneuverable bike, of course, but it is still a bit tricky, and so when it is busy I usually walk round the corner and into an ASL from which I can make a right turn in the usual legal manner. But, at 7am you can usually make the exit without getting off your bike.

I suppose the questions I am trying and failing to answer are; is minor lawbreaking like my one way street or the drivers I have seen go through red lights on pedestrian crossings once the pedestrians have crossed really worth making a fuss about? And, is it ok for me to criticise someone doing something properly dangerous like my phone woman, when I am not perfect myself? I think the answer to the second one is yes (well I would, wouldn’t I?) but the first one? I am not so sure. You could argue that 80kg of me plus bicycle is less dangerous than a tonne of car, or that I am only really risking myself, but I still think that there is a principle in there somewhere.

Mind you, I am still too lazy to walk 10 metres up a one way street…

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On an encounter on the road

I was cycling back from the station the other day, on my Brompton. This is my usual commute, so I’m rather familiar with it. There’s a place where there’s a road on the right which cars often turn right out of to join the main road, and a bit after that there’s a busy junction with lights where I need to be in the right hand lane of two – I’m quite used to getting into that lane, it is a matter of keeping an eye on what is going on behind me and making my signal and¬†manoeuvre good and early.

Anyway, I noticed a car turn right out of the side road some distance ahead of me, and I remember thinking “I think she’s on her phone…” so I made my move into the right hand lane as usual and came alongside the car that had turned – well the driver wasn’t speaking on her phone, but she was doing something to it. Now at this point we were all waiting at red lights anyway, so I wasn’t going to start hassling her (I’m too shy to hassle people unless they’ve really annoyed or scared me, anyway) so I just stopped where I was (which was only marginally further back from where I would have stopped anyway) and just watched her. (I think if she’d tried to drive off with the phone in her hand I might have tried to suggest that she didn’t.)¬†And after a bit she looked up and noticed me watching her, and she put the phone away quickly. I think the fact that I was a person quite like her helped – two nice middle-class-looking women, just going from A to B. I wasn’t some “lycra lout”, not someone “other”, just a woman in a pink hat and a leather jacket who happened to be riding a bike.