It’s been a while since I’ve had a good rant about the shower of bastards I encounter on the roads. I’m not commuting through Cambridge itself any more, so I don’t encounter so many of them. Also, although my route is over twice as long now, it uses quite a few cycle paths of varying lethality, ranging from “sort of OK” to “wheel-fucking argh! clang oh shit I think I’ll stay on the road”. Of course, most of the people I encounter on the roads are boring sods who aren’t even bothered with me being there and show respect by passing safely. Yawn. How can I wake up in the mornings without the surge of adrenaline from a near miss? Some even pass on helpful advice, like the young man who veered towards me on his moped and shouted above the noise of his “bee farting in a tin can”-type exhaust that gwargle obbly wobbly. I asked a qualified aromatherapist about this later and discovered that he was correct. I’ll not bore you with the details.
But there are still a few hilarious encounters with people who want to liven up my day by giving me a nice scare, shouting out of the window or expressing their complex thoughts about road safety, the role of the cyclist in the ever-more frenetic highway ecosystem and the merits of the primary and secondary road positions, by going “beep”. So I’ve tried a few different responses.
1. Middle finger salute. Instant gratification on my part, but the driver usually responds in kind, causing gratification for him/her too. I don’t want them to feel better as well. The last time I tried this, the scrote who had just carved me up waved his arms a bit and then slowed down further up the road, presumably to have another go at running me over when I caught up. Funnily enough he had to give it up when a white van roared up behind him and, with military precision, tailgated him at 1 millimetre’s distance until he sped up. The irony of his sudden change of place in the vehicular pecking order was probably lost on him.
2. Stopping for a chat. Fun, but it’s quite rare for anyone to actually stop when I make pointing motions for them to pull over. It’s important to be friendly and cheerful to put them off their guard, because they’ll want a good shouting match. The only time I successfully had a chat, she explained that the reason she almost took my right elbow off and beeped was because my riding position meant she couldn’t overtake when there was a car going the other way. I pointed out that if she couldn’t overtake when there was a car going the other way, then maybe she shouldn’t overtake when there was a car going the other way. She replied that I was lucky her boyfriend wasn’t there. She didn’t explain why. Maybe he’s really ugly and smells like rotting turnips or something?
3. Smiling and waving. I’ve only tried this once, but it worked quite well. I didn’t get the instant relief of a nice rage hit but, on the other hand, the beeper got no gratification either. The complete failure to get her message across seemed to send her into spasms. “Beep!” Big cheery wave from me. Frantic hand signals from the beeper as she watched me in her mirror and weaved around the road slightly. Another cheery wave and a nice grin from me, and she disappeared from sight, still weaving around all over the shop.
Or I could do what a friend of mine has done, and fit a car horn to my bike so I can beep back.