The facts of life on the road for cyclists in Britain today are grim. It seems to be socially acceptable for motorists to breach the Highway Code. Parking in cycle lanes is routine. Imagine what the police would do if I left my bicycle locked up and parked so that it blocked an entire traffic lane?!
On Monday I was cycling North along the London Road in Brighton. As I passed Preston Circus, a large silver coloured SUV (registration plate: G3 RMM) came very close behind me and honked its horn. As I have said before the only permitted reason to honk the horn is when you need to alert other road users of your presence (rule 112 of the Highway Code). It is inconceivable that I did not realise that there was a vehicle behind me. I had been conspicuously looking over my shoulder. Every lane was full of vehicles (I was at the back of a queue of cyclists and there were two lanes of motor vehicles). The lights had just turned green and our one-way system obliges everyone to travel in the same direction. The SUV roared past me, very close. Already shaking from its driver’s aggressive use of the horn (a clear breach of the Highway Code), this dangerous manueouvre was utterly gratuitous. The vehicle swung close in front of me and then continued at roughly the same speed I was travelling at. This is also dangerous. I think this is careless driving, at the very least, because it fell below the standard expected of a reasonable, prudent and competent driver in all the circumstances that we were in. I have made a complaint to the police via Sussex Police’s Operation Crackdown website, which is specifically aimed at anti-social driving and abandoned vehicles.
For far too long, us cyclists have tolerated behaviour towards us from motorists which is dangerous. It is time to take action. We’ve all got phones with excellent cameras, which date and time stamp photographs. Let’s use them. Let’s change the culture that says that motorists will get away with anything that they damn well feel like.
Considerably shaken by this driver’s behaviour, I vented my anger by giving him ‘the finger’. Yes, I raised my middle finger at him from behind. He obviously saw this because he stopped a short distance up the road. When I cycled past him he shouted at me, “Fucking behave yourself, you twat!” He even stopped on double yellow lines, having driven past two pull in spots. Here’s where he pulled in:
Of course, I did not take this photograph; it is from Google’s street view. I’m not that tall! After he overtook me a second time, I pulled over myself and made a note of what had happened on my phone. The time was 12:49pm. If the Crown Prosecution Service decide to prosecute me for raising my finger, that will be a price worth paying to see this driver prosecuted.
Further up the London Road the cycle lane reappears. However, just after the start of Preston Park, I found my path completely blocked by a truck. This truck:
It’s driver was unloading something or other. Immediately behind the truck is a space he could have pulled into, except that there he would have been blocking cars using that building. This cycle lane is bounded by a solid white line and there are double yellow lines down the road. Presumably, he couldn’t be bothered about the inconvenience and possible risks he visited upon us cyclists. This kind of parking is unacceptable. The photograph above was taken at 12:54pm.
Further up the road, the same thing happened again. This time, the truck’s driver had the courtesy to put his hazard warning lights on. However the Highway Code says that hazard warning lights can never be used as an excuse for dangerous or illegal parking (rule 116 of the Highway Code). I photographed the second truck at 1:00pm; here it is:
Around the corner that this truck is parked just in front of, the double yellow lines end. Lauriston Road is a minor road. The driver could have parked there.
In less than 15 minutes, I had been confronted with three dangerous situations. All could have been very easily avoided by the drivers responsible for them. This is the daily experience of cyclists. If we were treated better, more people would cycle. I don’t need to enunciate the advantages of more people cycling here. After several decades of abusive behaviour by the motoring public, it is clear that nothing is going to change without action.