Four Yorshiremen was always one of my favourite Monty Python sketches (though it actually pre-dated Monty Python). We must all have come across this kind of competition between individuals about who has had it hardest in some area of life, with the underlying implication that anyone who complains about anything less is just a wimp.
So it seems to be with riding bicycles. Incidents that make riding a cycle on the road unpleasant cover a spectrum of seriousness from annoying and tedious to downright dangerous. In some cases, an action by a driver that seems deliberate might be more annoying than one that was actually more dangerous but just a result of ignorance on the part of the driver, though both are likely to put many people off using a bicycle to get around.
Whatever the seriousness of an incident that is made public, though, there will always be the responses from some macho, battle-hardened “cyclists” saying that the incident was nothing; just an everyday occurrence; making a mountain out of a molehill; nothing to see here – move along; if you think that was bad, just look at what I experience every day (but I don’t moan about it).
I can just imagine these cyclists sitting in a café in their faded club lycra and frayed baseball caps eating their energy bars:
Idle: “Well, I had a bus go past me at 50 miles-an-hour, ‘alf an inch away, and it shaved t’beard off the right side o’ my face.”
Chapman: “Ha, a ride in t’park; I had a truck go right over me, and I had to slide down t’road underneath it wi’ th’axle draggin me along by my privates and lick t’road clean wi’ my tongue.”
Jones: “Well, I had it tough; I used to get killed every day by a 186 tonne truck and I still had to go into work and do a 26 hour shift for 2p a month.”
Palin: “And you try telling t’young commuters o’today that, and they won’t believe you.”
Listen guys, it’s not a bloody competition. Every time a driver does something to make someone on a bike feel even slightly nervous or uncomfortable, it further reduces the chances of people who currently don’t ride bikes from starting to.
I’ve actually had this kind of response from the police after reporting cases of deliberate intimidation: “I’ve shown it to some of the officers upstairs who cycle to work and they said it’s just an everyday occurrence”. Excuse me, officers, the fact that an incident is “an every day occurrence” is all the more reason to draw attention to the problem and do something about it!
Let’s get rid of this macho crap and recognize that every single close pass or tailgate is an issue, regardless of how serious it was. To quote ron611087 from the discussion on this road.cc article:
The underlying premis of near-miss safety is that there is a direct mathematical relationship between rear misses and incidents resulting in caualties. The only difference between the two is chance. If you don’t stop the near misses you won’t stop the casualties.
Therein lies one of the problems of road safety. Every near-miss that does not result in a casualty positively reinforces the practice in the drivers mind as safe . It’s a delusion, as the maths will always demonstrate. Drivers are simply playing russian roulette with someone else’s life.