What’s Their M.O.? Know Your Enemy!
Today was a big cycling day for me. With one thing and another, I’d only got in just over 20 miles this week, and I’m still aiming for 150 miles a fortnight to make sure that the year’s goal is well and truly in the bag.
I had two slots of two hours available, so I did just over 30 miles in each on Trixie The Fixie, with just about enough time to walk Huge Dalmatian & have lunch with Daughter between.
Heading out for the second session, having dropped Daughter off at her Stage class, I went through North Shields - complete with early Saturday afternoon traffic. Just after pulling away from a set of lights, a lorry began to overtake me . . . slowly. And then drifting over to my space on the road. He’d only just got the cab past me, and I was faced with the choice of giving it 110% and undertaking, or an emergency stop. Undertaking’s a bloody stupid thing to do, so I opted for throwing out the anchors.
So I survived yet another assassination attempt.
- Type: Cycle
- Date: 09/29/2007
- Time: 11:37:15
- Total Time: 3:38:00.00
- Distance: 62 miles
- Average Speed: 17.06 mph
- Max Speed: 32 mph
Actually, this got me thinking - there are lots of different types of drivers on the road, some representing more of a risk than others. Perhaps it might be an idea to think about who your ‘enemy’ is when cycling. Of course, ‘enemy’ seems to imply that they’re deliberately out to get cyclists . . . and we know that’s not really true.
Anyway - here’s my field guide to the top ten bad guys out there trying to get you:
Top Ten of Hazardous Road Users For Cyclists to Avoid:
10. Buses. Contentious, I know. Bus drivers are amongst the best trained and most experienced road users you’ll ever come across. They’re responsible for the safety of up to 70 passengers, AND are generally very aware that 13 tons of bus can really, really ruin someone’s day. When you hear the distinctove sound of a bus engine behind you, you can generally feel pretty safe.
Hazard: The trouble is that buses STOP - sometimes rather suddenly (in response to a passenger pushing the ‘please stop’ bell) just after they’ve passed you. And then, it can be quite easy to find yourself in the driver’s blind spot as they pull out again.
Best action to take around a bus - keep your eyes open, and take care when passing.
9. Other Cyclists. What?! No, not cyclists like you. I mean the people usually riding a mountain bike on the road, with the front brake disconnected, no helmet, and an mp3 player blasting bangin’ techno into their earbuds. And usually a baseball cap.
Hazard: They can’t hear you (or any other traffic), and will just pull across the road with no warning or over-the-shoulder glance. If they don’t do that, then as you overtake, they’ll be so surprised at your presence, that they’re likely to wobble the bike into you, wiping you out with them.
Best action - approach with caution, and overtake with a good wide berth. Take extra caution if they’re also wearing a white Kappa tracksuit - a sure sign of trouble.
8. Chelsea Tractors. (a.k.a. 4wd’s, SUVs, etc). To be differentiated from genuine 4wd drivers (driving short wheel-base Land Rovers or similar), these guys are insulated from the whole world around them, and with their heads level with most horse riders’, affect a looking-down-the-nose attitude to all other road users - especially horse riders. And cyclists.
Hazard: Their vehicles have generally been designed to survive all but a direct hit from an ICBM, and in collision with any other road vehicle, will use the other vehicle (and its passenger compartment) as the crumple zone. As a cyclist, you stand absolutely no chance whatsoever.
Best action - Keep ‘em in front, where you can see what they’re doing. If you have to overtake in traffic, make sure you get at least two other vehicles between you and the ‘Tractor. Even that may not be enough - best to make sure you’ve a bus in the buffer zone.
Hazard: They’ll routinely pull out on you - even when you think you’ve made eye contact. Worse still, they’re always running late, and will disregard all traffic laws to get the kids to school on time / make sure that little Angelina or Tarquin don’t have to wait for five seconds in the freezing summer rain.
Best Action - avoid cycling anywhere near schools at arrival / departure time. If you can’t avoid these drivers’ habitat, get off your bike at junctions, and walk.
6. Volvo Drivers. There’s something about Volvos - especially the bigger, faster ones. You get in as a ‘normal’ driver, and within minutes, you’re driving like you’re the piloting the drop ship from ‘Aliens’ - tough, fast and armed to the teeth.
Hazard: All other road users are filed under the headings of’legitimate targets’, or ‘obstacles’, but you needn’t worry about them - you’re cocooned in ten inches of Sweden’s finest armour plate. Not that that would matter much - a Volvo comes complete with a serious f**k off deflector shield around it.
Best Action - Let ‘em past . . . and make sure you keep ‘em up front where you can see them. Under no circumstances get in the way of a Volvo.
5. Girl Racers. They drive small hatchbacks, usually with pink furry seat covers, Playboy ‘Babe On Board’ sticker on the rear window, and a paint job from hell. Their driving tends not to be that bad, but there are a couple of problems - the loud, loud music to distract the driver, the three other girls in the car to distract the driver, and the fact that the driver’s using the rear view mirror to reapply their makeup while all this is going on.
Hazard: They’ll run you down because they’ve not seen you. But worse still, they won’t see you even then . . . and just carry on their journey.
Best Action - Listen for the loud, loud music, and pull over to let them pass. Be aware that this might be enough - mounting the pavement isn’t too uncommon.
4. Boy Racers. Another category altogether - still mostly driving small hatchbacks, but now souped-up, lowered, and equipped with more flashing electronic gizmos in the drivers eyeline than your average airliner. Oh, and the biggest, loudest, scariest sterio you’ve ever heard. And more testosterone in the adolescent driver’s bloodstream than your average bull elephant in the mating season.
Hazard: Be afraid, be very afraid. The driver will apex bends as he’s overtaking you, routinely take corners too fast (and slew across the road), pull occasional random hand-break turns, and wheel spin away from the lights with all the delights of torque steer to slide the car into you.
Best Action - treat like Girl Racers . . . but get out of the way quicker!
3. Hillbillies. A bit like Boy Racers who grew up (well, got a little older), and married their Girl Racer sisters. Often found in the more insular communities - remote villages & towns, as well as the inward-looking parts of the inner-cities, where if you’ve not been local for at least seven generations (a little over 90 years), you’re some sort of “goddamnedfreakbikeridingfaggot“.
Hazard: They’ll spit at you as they pass, pelt you with beer cans / bottles, grab you or you bike, try to knock you off, and if you offer any resistance, they’ll get out of the pickup with their five friends (/ cousins), beat you to a pulp and run over your bike.
Best Action - Keep to well populated, nice parts of town. If you’re going into Hillbilly country, be part of a peleton. Wearing Kevlar body armour might help, as will carrying a small anti-tank weapon in your second bottle cage.
2. Mini-Cab Drivers. Probably good drivers when they’re not working. But somehow the lack of seatbelt (why do they never wear them?), the 19-hour days behind the wheel, endless coffees, and the need to drive faster than light to make up for the low per-mile rates they charge . . . doesn’t fill me with confidence.
Hazard: Very much like fast, badly-driven buses. If involved in any kind of accident, there’ll always be at least a dozen other mini-cab drivers present, who’ll swear that they saw it all, and it was the idiot cyclist that caused the whole thing. Funny how you never see these witnesses until the insurance forms come back / you appear in court.
Best Action: You’re generally safe during the hours of daylight. But, they WILL accidentally kill you, and will have no problem in making the subsequent problems go away. So avoid at all costs.
1. Lorry Drivers. (a.k.a. ‘truckers’) Generally those driving full articulated vehicles are nothing to worry about - they’ve got full HGV licenses, and are aware of what’s going on around them. Just take care at traffic lights - don’t take up the position in the cyclists’ box in front of the lorry, as the driver can’t see you.
No, the lorries to watch out for are the smaller ones that you can drive on a normal car license - the flat-bed vehicles favoured by scaffolding firms, small delivery trucks, and the ultimate terror - skip lorries.
Hazard: The drivers have absolutely no idea how wide their vehicle is, and so they assume that it can fit through any gap that’s already got a cyclist in it. They also assume that the seven tons of metal that’s being pushed along by an ancient engine will accelerate like a greyhound with a fresh chili up its exhaust.
Best action - ride defensively. Make sure that you take up more that is really your fair share of the road space. Listen out for the approaching lorry, and if they’re really intent on making their move, just get out of the way and let ‘em past.
0. Biggest Villain Of Them All. It’s you. Or me. If you’re a cyclist . . . it’s up to YOU to keep your EYES OPEN and avoid the other hazards. It’s a dangerous world out there, and you have to treat it as such. Other road users will do bloody stupid stuff - you have to anticipate what they’re going to do and avoid their stoopidity before it takes up your space on the road. Oh, and keep away from Hillbilly areas!