The unofficial rules of the road


One way of ensuring motorists give adequate overtaking distance

I learnt to drive in Ireland, hence there was a rule of the road in the UK which I didn’t know about, but I’ve learnt about it by observing other drivers and how they handle cyclists. This unwritten rule states “a cyclist must be urgently overtaken at all costs, all other rules of the road are suspended, including speed limits, lane discipline and basic common sense. Drivers who fail to overtake a cyclist immediately will be hunted down and shot by police marksmen”.

Or at least I assume that must be the rule, given the insane manoeuvres I’ve seen motorists perform to overtake cyclists. They’ll do 40 mph in a 20 mph zone, ignore solid white lines, overtake on a blind corner, hill or where the road narrows (sometimes swerving into oncoming traffic). They often fail to give sufficient clearance for the cyclist, or consideration for the possibility that he say, might have to overtake parked cars (which would be dangerous of a car door were to open). And they’ll often ignore the state of traffic, hence they’ll bust a gut to get around a cyclist, only to run straight into a queue of cars at a set of lights (meaning the cyclist just overtakes them again!). Or they’ll overtake a cyclist, then pull in and stop or turn left (possibly hitting the cyclists in the process or causing him to run into the back of them).

Needless to say such overtaking manoeuvres are dangerous. I have seen the aftermath of accidents that have been the end result of this, e.g. a motorist overtook a cyclist on a blind bridge….then ran into a lane divider the other side of the bridge and wrote off his car!

The most amusing one is on streets with speed bumps, they’ll race around a cyclists as fast as they can, giving themselves whiplash as they go, then be forced to slow down because of the speed bumps (forcing the cyclist to brake to avoid going into the back of them). I was once on a road with speed bumps (in the UK these usually have gaps so cyclists can go around the sides or middle of them) and a women went past shaking her fist at me because she had to drive so fast over them to overtake….of course a few yards down the road, she ran into traffic lights and I overtook her again as I filtered through to the front of the queue.

Many cyclists have a go at taxi drivers. And a skill you quickly pick up cycling in the UK is the familiar drone of a black cab’s diesel engine as you know that means trouble. However, its my experience that the worst offenders by far are parents on the school run, especially those in SUV’s (setting a good example for their kids by driving like a manic).

Look the reality is that if you are in an urban area (in Europe at least) you are likely to be slower than a cyclist. I’ve seen it once or twice where I’ve been meeting with friends, we’ve decided to go from point A in a city to point B (e.g. a theatre or cinema to a pub or restaurant) and generally the one who is on a bike arrives first, followed by the person on public transport, followed by the car driver sometime later….who then has to sit cold sober while everyone else drinks themselves silly. Even the show Top Gear (hardly anti-motorist) proved this in one of their races (and just to make it fair, Hammond on the bicycle, stopped at all the traffic lights).

Thus there is little to be gained by performing a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre around a cyclist if you are going to get stuck in a queue of cars a few yards down the road. Is it really worth risking an accident just to get to your destination a few milliseconds faster (or probably not any faster at all). Nobody is in that much of a hurry. And if you are, how about getting on a bike and cycling yourself?

Better otherwise to be patient, follow along behind them and wait for a suitable and safe overtaking opportunity. And equally there is little to be gained (other than points on your license and higher blood pressure) for flashing your lights and waving your fist at a motorist who has actually read the rules of the road and is patiently following a cyclist and giving them space.

And just to have that conversation. Oh, cyclists are always jumping lights. Yes and I see plenty of motorists doing the same (amber means stop, not speed up). Cyclists don’t pay road tax . Well nobody pays it, because there’s no such thing in the UK, roads are paid for out of general taxation (which cyclists pay along with everyone else in the country). There is also Vehicle Excess Duty (intended to counter the carbon footprint of cars), but lots of people don’t pay that, including the police and the Queen. Try hurling abuse at them and see what happens (prison vans also don’t pay VED btw!). In fact, as a car club member I also don’t pay VED.

To my mind, all of this stinks of the need for some new law to protect cyclists. After all the very fact any driver is performing such dangerous overtaking manoeuvres indicates they aren’t familiar with the highway code and aren’t driving with due care and attention.

So I would propose a law against endangering a cyclist. The punishment for a first offence would be a choice between 1) A two year driving ban, the vehicle is crushed and its cubed remains displayed at the location where the offence occurred as a warning to other drivers. Or 2) Several months compulsory travel by bicycle (verified by helmet cam footage). As both a motorist and a cyclist I can see things from both points of view, so I suspect that putting errant motorist through a couple of months on a bike would teach them the error of their ways.

About daryan12

Engineer, expertise: Energy, Sustainablity, Computer Aided Engineering, Renewables technology
This entry was posted in cars, cycling, environment, sustainability, transport and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The unofficial rules of the road

  1. Pingback: The first self-driving car accident | daryanenergyblog

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