Life on bikes

Topics to avoid at the dinner table

Somewhere along the line growing up I learned that there are some topics that it’s impolite to discuss in casual conversation – most notably religion and politics.  To those weighty items I would also add that I am reticent to discuss my feelings as a cyclist about road safety. I have STRONG feelings on the subject, and I do not want to subject my (lovely, well meaning) driving friends to a breathless tirade. So, Dear Reader, I thought I’d subject you to it instead (since you are here voluntarily and can leave when you like).

  1. Remember how vulnerable cyclists are. The best visual I ever saw explaining safe passing distances first showed a hand being slammed down hard on a table close to a hammer, and then showed the reverse. 🫱🔨 Only one of those things made me wince, and I bet you would have the same reaction. The cyclist is the hand, your car is the hammer.  Don’t risk our lives just because it feels safe to you inside your car to be that close to us.
  2. Be a bit more chilled out about cyclists when you’re driving. I particularly hate pulling up Peppard Road going away from the Last Crumb. The road there is not wide enough for a car to safely pass a cyclist (you can tell this, Dear Rider, because the separate bike lane doesn’t start until a little further up). The number of drivers who CANNOT BEAR to wait twenty seconds to get to a safe passing place is ridiculous (I am better now than I used to be at road positioning to stop this happening). Yet, when it is other cars (instead of bicycle traffic) causing the (much longer!) delay coming down that road they all manage to queue nicely without trying to rear end each other.
  3. If you are in a SUV and you cannot generally give safe passing room when overtaking cyclists, then get yourself into a narrower car. There’s no need to hog that much of the road. Same goes for the drivers coming down Peppard Road who feel the need to keep one set of wheels permanently in the bike lane, thereby making it unusable. Almost all of our road space is allocated to cars, stop stealing the little that isn’t.
  4. Always, ALWAYS look all around you before pulling away from stationary. It gives me a little mini heart attack every time I see a car lurch forward then stop just before hitting something as the driver clearly decided to do their mirrors check AFTER they started moving. That should never happen.
  5. Stop parking your car on pavements and in bike lanes. ESPECIALLY on Henley Road where all the houses have massive driveways and many schoolchildren commute along the path. If you don’t have the fine control of your car to manoeuvre it safely into your driveway please turn in your driving licence immediately.

I suppose I don’t say these things to my friends because they are all lovely, well meaning people. However, I also suppose every driver who has ever close passed me, or undercut me on a roundabout, or parked their car in a bike lane or on a pavement is probably in most circumstances a lovely, well meaning person with lot of friends. Perhaps if it became more acceptable to talk about these things we would see less of them.