Road Wars v Road Peace

Over the years, I’ve had the odd difficult moment on the roads. But, generally my philosophy is to try and stay out of trouble, ride with common sense and consideration to others. I follow the rules of the road with the over-riding proviso being common sense and consideration, rather than a stickler for rules and regulation.

There’s nothing to stop the unexpected event, but generally even cycling 500km a week, including a commute into town passes without incident.

I don’t cycle to try and get some incident recorded for youtube. I cycle because I enjoy it. Over the years, I’ve got more and more circumspect in avoiding conflict. There was a time when a car jumping out of a sideroad may have set me off an indignant streak and started chasing it down road. But, these days I tend to let it go. There are better things to do than try to explain to a taxi driver the rules of mini roundabouts and give way signs.

If you try, you can easily find conflict and reasons to get annoyed. If you use the roads in an aggressive way, it won’t be long before you find other road users in a very similar frame of mind. If you want conflict, you will find it. But, if you have a different mindset, travelling on roads tends to pass OK.

This is not to say I haven’t had cars reversing into me, people shooting things from a passing car, a few too many close shaves, the odd near accident. And I do feel much more vulnerable on the bicycle than when I’m driving. But, I still nod and smile to drivers far more often than I shake an angry fist. Some might say I’m too passive, but if you want to make any difference, it has to be done with a light touch or people just get very defensive. If a bus or car passes only a few inches away – I may well give it a good tap – as if to say wake up look how close you are, but that’s as far as it goes.

Basically, this is a lengthy preamble to saying I had no interest in watching a BBC documentary cobbled together from a few youtube video clips – ‘Road Wars’. It often annoys me when people review programmes without having seen me. (All those bishops condemning The Life of Brian in the 1970s, without ever having seen it springs to mind). But, it’s not really a review, just a fact, I can’t be bothered to watch a programme which tugs at your sense of self-righteousness indignation at how other people can carelessly use the roads. At the end of the day, I’d make a pretty bad bad Daily Mail columnist (or at least I hope I would)

Maybe I’m too passive, maybe I should have a video camera and report every near misses to the police. But, at the end of the day, I’m determined to keep enjoying cycling – and the best way to do that is to avoid the situation of getting worked up into road rage. Sometimes, it means swallowing your pride. Sometimes it means not thinking too much about just why the White Van has decided to do a U-turn, right in the particular section of the road.

I am aware of dangerous motoring manoeuvres, and seek, as much as possible to be prepared. But, my attitude is always defensive, I can’t change other people’s motoring behaviours, but I can make sure I keep enjoying cycling.

The BBC describe the documentary as:

“an adrenaline-filled one-off film for BBC One,” during which “viewers will be parachuted into the middle of a war that is raging between two-wheeled road users and their four-wheeled counterparts in The War On Britain’s Roads.”

Sounds more like a computer game than reality to me.

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8 Responses to Road Wars v Road Peace

  1. Rachael December 12, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    I watched the programme and felt very let down. I really enjoy cycling and am aware of the dangers on the road, trying to ride defensively. I ride because I enjoy it and I want to get away from the stress of driving and road rage. This doco has done nothing to get more people onto two wheels or to improve the relationship between cyclists and drivers. If anything it has done the opposite.
    Surely the answer is to make learner drivers more aware of the vulnerability of those on two wheels and to educate cyclists where needed regarding their responsibilities. As always the issues lie within the minority NOT the majority.
    We should be encouraging people to get out and enjoy cycling, improving our roads substantially to accomadate cyclists so that our cycle lanes are a safe size and taking on the examples set by other countries within Europe (we should get something out of being a member)
    We seem unable to be positive about anything or to encourage any kind of activity that promotes health and wellbeing, yet read the scathing headlines about our nation of obese children, lazy and inactive families and too much time spent in front of the tv. Easier to moan than to invest and to encourage change for a relatively small investment in the long term. Don’t you think?

    • tejvan December 17, 2012 at 9:43 am #

      Yes. I definitely think it’s good to promote active lifestyles. It’s very sad when people won’t exercise because they fear accidents on the roads.

  2. Paul Jakma December 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    It’s worth noting:

    a) The BikeBiz review was made without seeing it

    b) There are few programmes that are adequately described by the “TV Guide” description.

    There are indeed quite a few people who’ve watched it and were incensed it didn’t cover every possible cycling issue in detail and/or that it showed footage from a very reckless messenger race through London (which was quite real). However it seems at least a few people thought the programme was balanced and reasonably thought-provoking.

    Even if you dislike the more sensational helmet-camed “cyclist and driver shouting at each other” incidents (which I thought was still covered in a more balanced way than I thought it was going to be), the mother’s story was incredibly moving, and it took up a good portion of the programme.

    It was worth watching for her story, and (in my opinion) that her story was presented on prime-time to the nation made any other flaws in the programme forgiveable.

    • Simon E December 8, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      I thought I read that Carlton had seen a preview version of the programme.

      Including an alleycat race in a prime-time TV programme talking about general safety issues like this – even one called “road wars” – is a diversion and can misrepresent how most cyclists behave. Ian Austin MP seems to agree.

      While the helmetcam stuff may seem OTT some of it is not that different from what I’ve experienced (thankfully only a few times). I’m more interested in the reaction from the AA’s president and organisations like RoadPeace and CTC and whether something positive emerges from it.

  3. Tim December 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I’m afraid I got sucked in and watched it.

    One of the things that did seem notable was how riled some car drivers get at the idea of you touching their car. This is difficult because sometimes it’s the only way to get someone’s attention before they squash you.

    Even the policeman in the film seemed to side a bit with a taxi-driver in order to diffuse the situation and get the confrontation over with. He suggested that instead the cyclist could use “a bell or a whistle”. The cyclist was understandably taken aback – “no one’s ever told me to wear a whistle!”. The suggestion was ridiculous, especially coming from a cycling policeman who should know better. We didn’t see him advising the driver to always give cyclists room. It didn’t fill me with confidence in the police.

    And there I go with the indignation, getting sucked in again!

  4. JonF December 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Hi Tejvan

    My philosophy is that if I expect other road users to do just what I don’t want them to do, I won’t be disappointed.

    I followed your 2008 link which lamented the retiring of Dave Moulton’s blog, though happily it has returned. Not sure if you knew, as I can’t see it listed on your other cycling blog links.

  5. Simon E December 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    I dind’t watch the BBC programme as I had read a pretty comprehensive preview of the contents over at Bikebiz. I knew a lot of it would just make me either cross or scared and contribute little or nothing to making the roads safer.

    @cbrndc – the choice whether to report an incident is yours, but bear in mind two things: firstly, if you don’t report this aggressive bully he may well injure or kill someone, possibly deliberately. Secondly, if this behaviour occurred in a different context (in a shopping precinct, outside a pub) you can be sure people would not think it inappropriate to contact the police. That he threatened onlookers as well as yourself proves he is a menace. Name and shame.

  6. cbrndc December 7, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    A good blog but “If a bus or car passes only a few inches away – I may well give it a good tap – as if to say wake up look how close you are, but that’s as far as it goes.”

    You may well intend it to go no further but you cannot count on the other person not taking it further and it can very quickly get out of hand. I used to do this and felt ok about it but then . . . I was close passed just before a set of traffic lights with the lights at green so I just tapped on the rear window. The driver then turned left in front of me so thats 2 goes at injuring me in less that 3 seconds. As I passed through the junction I noticed he had stopped and I just continued, riding uphill . The driver must had done a U turn because he soon passed and forced me into the kerb and got out. He was violent and abusive but, thankfully, it never came to blows, saved in part by pointing out that I was recording on a helmet cam; but it could have been a lot worse. Eventually after a long exchange and with three witnesses looking on I rode off and continued uphill. That unfortunately put the driver behind me once more so was not a good situation to be in. Later I found out that he had stopped to give abuse to one of those witnesses, another cyclist who had ridden past but had stopped to keep an eye on what was happening (he must think all cyclists know each other).

    I should have reported the driver to the police but thought better of it. I still have the video clip and intended to put it on a video site and maybe I will one day but the language used by the driver is not for general release.

    So IMHO touching the car is not really an option and if the police are involved I think it would look as though you escalated the situation by provoking the driver.

    I cannot personally recommend it.

    Full details of the incident can be provided if requested but it still upsets me to think about it.

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