Posts Tagged 'Bad Drivers'

Ignorant drivers

Instead of going to Richmond Park this lunch time, I decided to have a gentle ride on a flat loop from Teddington along the north side of the Thames to Shepperton, over the bridge at Walton-on-Thames and back to work via Hampton Court and Bushy Park (about 22 km in total).  The weather was cloudy but warm with a decent south-westerly.  The first half of the ride was fairly gentle, but I decided to increase the pace a bit for the remainder.  I hadn’t been out that way before so it was quite nice to learn some new roads.

This map is for a clockwise loop, but I actually rode it anti-clockwise.  For some reason Google Maps wouldn’t let me plot the route northbound through Bushy Park.

All had been going well until I got into Bushy Park.  Bushy Park has a road running through it with a lane each for northbound and southbound traffic.  Near the south end the road splits around a circular pond with a diameter of about 100 metres.  The lanes of traffic split at the pond with one lane going around each side.  At the north and the south ends of the pond it is possible for traffic to continue around the pond by joining the opposite lane instead of continuing ahead.  Traffic performing such a manoeuvre, however, must give way to any traffic already on the lane they are entering.  I know this all too well as I had once powered it hard southbound through the park and wanted to circle the pond without losing any momentum so that I could continue with the effort all the way back to the north end of the road.  Unfortunately there was a car coming north as I got to the bottom of the pond and so I had to slow right down to let him through.  A shame, but fair enough.  The give way requirement is quite clear with double white lines painted across the road and of course a give way sign (you’ll be able to see this if you switch the map to satellite and zoom in).  One of the good things about the road is that the speed limit is 30 mph as oppose to Richmond Park’s 20 mph.  That means it’s usually possible to ride at a fast pace without having to slow down for or overtake traffic.

Today I happened to be heading north and I was approaching the pond at about 35 km/h.  Just as I was getting to where the lanes split a small car coming the other way indicated a right turn into my lane.  To my complete surprise they didn’t stop at the give way, they didn’t even slow down, they just went straight through causing me to apply my brakes suddenly so as not to hit them.  I have witnessed plenty of poor driving before, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had such a close call when going at that sort of speed.  I was astounded at the drivers reckless driving and sheer disregard for pretty basic road rules.  I shouted my disapproval, “You’re supposed to give way!”, followed by “Idiot!” when they accelerated ahead.

The car was small and a bit old-looking.  A girl in her late teens or early twenties gave me a stupid look as they went off ahead of me.  I was so furious.  I chased after them at 45-50 km/h all the way to the north end of the park.  When I got there a queue of traffic was waiting to exit through the park gates so I stopped next to the car and knocked on the window.  Two middle aged ladies were sitting in the front.  I said, “That was not a roundabout, you had a give way.”  Had they said sorry I would have let it go and continued on my way.  That’s what I would have expected from the majority of drivers, and I can understand to some degree that a road circling a round pond could be mistaken for a roundabout where one is expected to give way to the right (although that’s not a valid excuse for drivers ignoring road signs and markings, but it could be the cause of a driver misunderstanding the intersection).  Instead I got a nasty, “Why don’t you grow up?”  They kept edging the car ahead to get away from me, but I continued, “What?  Are you trying to kill me?  You were supposed to give way to me”  I just got a load of abuse in response.  And then one of them shouted out, as they finally pulled away from me around the corner, “Didn’t you see the indicator?”  I could only follow it up with another shout of, “You had a give way!”

It reminds of two things.  The first is an incident that happened to a friend of mine some years ago.  He was cycling home from work along a straight piece of road when an older woman in a car wanted to turn onto the road from a side street on the left.  Despite seeing him coming, she turned straight out in front of him.  He had insufficient time to come to a stop and went straight into the side of her car putting a large dent in one door, damaging his bike and giving him a knee injury that took months to get over.  When he asked her what on earth she was doing turning into the road in front of him like that, she replied that as she was indicating, it was his fault for not slowing down to let her through.  The ignorance is astounding.  Would she have done the same thing if he had been a bus?

The second thing this incident reminds me of, and on a lighter note, is a piece of Jasper Carrott stand-up in which he was talking about his gran’s driving skills (update: it’s actually his mother-in-law, not his gran, and you can hear the clip on YouTube).  She knew every detail of the road code by heart.  For example, she knew that when pulling into the road from a parking bay, you need to check your rear-view mirror first (to see that nothing is coming, of course).  But to her there was no reason behind it, that was just a step that you had to take, so even if a ten foot truck was coming she would think, “I’ve looked in my mirror so it’s safe to pull out” (sound of screeching brakes).  Despite the humour, people like this actually exist.

This is the kind of ignorance that contributes to so many injuries and fatalities.  There exists a set of drivers that believe cyclists are required to give motor vehicles the priority on all occasions.  I see plenty of bad drivers, particularly those who fail to indicate (or indicate after they have begun turning), but the number of good drivers I see on a daily basis well outweighs the bad ones.  However, this breed of ignorant road users, the likes of which I have experienced today, really are the worst of the worst.  I wonder how they ever managed to get driving licences (or if indeed they hold licences).  In fact, it makes me more insistent that drivers should be retested every so often to ensure that driving skills and knowledge of the road code remain at a high level.  This whole incident has really got my blood boiling.  I can accept that people make mistakes and a lot of drivers I see do take corrective steps when they realise they’ve done something wrong.  But to encounter a torrent of abuse from someone who has just put my life at risk by failing to stop at a give way sign is infuriating.  Writing this has helped to calm me down a bit though.  In hindsight, I wish I’d thought to pull my phone out and take a picture of the car & licence plate before confronting its driver.

What can we do about this rare but dangerous strain of road user?  Petition the Government to provide a vaccine perhaps?


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