Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Dear Driver...

Dear Driver,

Today, as I was cycling the 12 miles to work (yes, some people prefer to commute by bike - get over it) you drove past me.

You may have been any one of the string of large 4x4 vehicles* that were way too important to slow down even a fraction, until it was safe to overtake me, and instead insisted on squeezing past so close your wing mirror barely missed me.
You may have been the Audi driver* that accelerated hard just before a pedestrian refuge, ensuring that a) you were ahead of me and b) I had to brake sharply to avoid getting knocked off my bike.
You may have been the JC DeCeaux driver* that squeezed me out of the way, when just a number of seconds later there was a safe space to allow me to move over so you could safely overtake. If you were that JC DeCeaux driver, you'd remember saying you had to do a dangerous overtake as there was not enough room to do otherwise.
You may have been driving the large white van* that overtook me at speed so closely that you caused my bike to wobble.

You may have been ANY of these (and other, similar) drivers, except I think you weren't.

I think, like the majority of drivers, you waited patiently until it was safe enough for you to overtake me, because you know the only way a good driver overtakes a cyclist is by leaving the lane. Anything less and you're simply too close.
I think you were one of those many drivers that gave me plenty of room when overtaking.

I want to thank you for being carefull on the roads around me, and other cyclists.

As a good driver, undoubtedly you realise I'm not a "road tax dodger", because you know "road tax" was abolished in 1937, and what you pay is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) or "car tax". As a good driver, you know roads are paid for out of council tax and general taxation, and that "road tax" pays for the roads as much as alcohol and tabacco tax pays for pubs and cigarette kiosks. In fact, I expect you may even have visited the I Pay Road Tax site.

As a good driver, you may be aware that far more drivers than cyclists skip red lights, and of course you're well aware that the potential consequences is so much more disastrous when a car skips a red light.

Equally, I expect you're aware that drivers are heavily subsidised and that each car has an additional estimated £600 annual cost paid for not by the driver, but by everybody else. After all, the scientists have proven it, even if they were working on very conservative figures.

Actually, I'm doing you a disservice by categorising you as a driver - you are of course so much more!
Just like any cyclist you may see, you are a mother or father, a spouse, a sibling, a child. A human being!
You are somebody's loved one and they desperately want to see you alive and well.

That's pretty much how my kids and my wife feels about me, and simply because today you were careful, attentive, courteous and polite when you passed me by, I'll live to see my loved ones another day.

Thank you for that.

And yet, despite all these overwhelming positives, I do have some bad news, I'm afraid.

See, I'll be doing things on the road that you won't like and that you won't understand. In fact, some of the things I'll be doing may even make you angry, but please remember I will never  deliberately set out to upset you.

You see, when the road is not wide enough for cars to safely overtake me, I will follow DfT advice and cycle in the middle of the road. Yes, this is to prevent other vehicles from overtaking me where it isn't safe for them to do so, but I will move out of the way as soon as it is safe for me to do so.

When cycling next to a row of parked cars, I will again ride in the middle of the lane. I'm not doing that to annoy you, but rather to avoid getting killed by somebody opening the door of a parked car right in front of me. Next time you open your car door, have a look at the sharp corners it has. You wouldn't want to be smashed into that at 20mph, would you? No, and nor would I, which is why I ride out in the middle of the lane, because so many car occupants simply open the door without looking.

When I get to traffic lights, depending on what type of traffic is already queued up, and how it is queued up, I would probably filter through to the front, where I will stop in the "cyclists box" (we call it by its proper name: the Advanced Stop Line, or ASL). I'd be doing that again as per DfT guidelines, because when I'm directly in front of traffic, the drivers can see me and there is less chance of getting killed.

Sometimes I won't signal when I change lanes (although I normally try to do so) because I need both hands on the handlebars at that moment in time. I will however always look over my shoulder to see if it is safe to change lanes. When I do indicate, please will you continue to give me a gap, just like you've done in the past? Thanks, I really appreciate that!

When I ride on the road, I won't be right in the gutter, as it isn't safe for me. Instead, I'll be about 1 meter away from the kerb. This allows me to swerve to avoid potholes, debris, manhole covers and more. Please accept my assurances that I'm not simply trying to delay or annoy you.

While on the topic of being delayed, next time you drive, please have a GOOD look around: I think you'll find that you're actually being delayed by all the other cars. Imagine if they weren't there - how much smoother your journey would've been!

Because I cycle, there's one less car on the road in front of you, and if more people cycled you'd have even MORE free roadspace just for you. See? We're actually making your journey better because we choose to cycle.

If all drivers were as good, polite, careful and courteous as you, I wouldn't have to do many of these things. Sadly I never know what kind of driver is approaching from behind, so I have to ride as if most drivers are of the bad variety, when in fact I know the opposite is true.

Anyway, thanks again for being so kind and understanding out there. I may not show it when you pass me by, but I sure do appreciate it a great deal!

*While cycling to work on the 2nd of January 2013, seven 4x4's, 1 Audi, 1 white van and 1 JC DeCeaux van came dangerously close to killing me on the road, purely because they didn't want to wait five seconds or so.

Update:
Dear Driver,
You may also want to read this: http://www.happycyclist.org/?p=32