Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Confronting Bad Car Drivers

I’ve been getting my game on lately and standing up for my little patch of pot-holed concrete I share with other road users. By getting my 'game on', I don't mean pelting passed all those mini-wheeled Brompton diva's out there.... I mean being more vocal to car drivers who have very nearly rammed their big fat car into me.

Building up enough confidence to ride your bicycle in a city is one thing, but being able to speak to car drivers about their misdemeanors is another. I have always been the kind of cyclist that when you get cut up, you deal with it and carry on.

I'm not sure why I have started to speak up, maybe it's because those near misses have happened just one too many times, or maybe it's because I have been reading up about that unorthodox Superman style character called 'Traffic Droid'.

Whatever the reason may be,  I have found myself giving the Help!MyChainCameOff dressing down to a few people of late*. I only really chirp up when I've been the target of the kind of near miss which makes you wish you had an ejection seat like this guy:

But I don't, so instead I have to say to the driver that their actions had put me in danger.

For example,  I was cruising my way to Stoke Newington on a Friday night when some kind of East End gangster and his mate slammed right passed me with only a fraction of space between us. I’m no Tony Soprano but I knew these guys were just softies at heart. At the traffic lights I knocked on their cheap blacked out windows and explained that they had driven far too close to me. The driver reassured me that he was a good driver and that I shouldn't worry (Oh...ok then, I see, that makes sense??!).

So I said-
'Hey you, I could have been a child on my bicycle or a nervous rider, how do you think they would feel, HEY?' 
And they were like-
'So sorry Lady, we won't do it again, have a good evening.'
They finished off the sentence with a nice smile which I returned. And that was the end of the Help!MyChainCameOff dressing down.

Do you ever attempt to speak to car drivers who have cut you up? And has it ever gone disastrously wrong?

*Please note that I am not transforming into Traffic Droid's Superwomen counterpart, no way Jose!


anniebikes said...

I speak up if it seems appropriate and I won't be chased down - as in your case - otherwise the driver is long gone and I break out in a sweat and feel angry and miserable for a while. It doesn't make we want to stop riding, but I rethink the situation. Is there a safer route? Should I ride the sidewalk in this section? Should I attach metal spikes sticking three feet out from my bike frame?!

Georgie Ormrod said...

I report on STOP SMIDSY and if it's a company van / car / lorry I email explaining that cyclists also pay for the roads, many cyclists have insurance (that includes legal cover) & point them to the government's Think! Cyclist website that has tips on sharing road space.

I tend to get really angry at the time - sometimes I shout as I drive past if they've got out of their car 'You're supposed to pass cyclists with THREE FEET to spare'.

I once got into a holy heck of an argument with some young VW Golf driver who sped round a blind corner - his retort was that I was a 'dirty bitch'. Was dying for him to get out of the car - I was on the tandem with my bf and there were loads of other cyclists about as it was on the Lancs Cycleway.

There is not enough policing of reckless driving, but there's also really not enough education. When I learned to drive, I was never once taught about vulnerable road users.

Katya said...

If I can I sometimes do, depends on the situation. In Melbourne a lot of bike lanes are regarded as a good place for cars to park and wait for someone, for taxi drop offs, or take a phone call and I often will say something politely, particularly where it isn't easy to go around the car.
Have complained directly to companies if it is a company van/car.
A lot of drivers simply don't know how vulnerable it feels on a bike, it isn't just about not hitting a cyclist, it is also about not scaring them, the same way when on a shared footpath I don't whiz past pedestrians with only millimetres to spare...

The Ranty Highwayman said...

I have been known to whack vans with the palm of my hand if they are that close (nice and loud in the van) and sometimes I use words which would make a jolly jack tar blush. It is not big or clever as you may pick on the wrong person, but I often feel better for it!

Shaun McDonald said...

It's not the first time I've surprised a driver by letting them know their lights weren't working. I often get the initial "what have I done wrong" reaction. I have had a Taxi driver ask if I wanted to be killed after I felt he passed me too close and I questioned him. Having been knocked off my bike in a hit and run I do find my personal bubble is bigger than it used to be.

Paul M said...

I also occasionally whack passing vehicles (usually cars or taxis) with the palm of my hand, to alert them but I suppose if I'm honest, out of frustration. I have only once been directly hit by a vehicle - a nice but very confused, and ultimately very apologetic lady in a Nissan Micra at Hyde Park Corner who took off from the lights when the Toucan crossing was still at green. I have however been swept off three times by left-hooking taxis and after the last time I ended up having to have surgery on my shoulder, so I do get a bit steamed up about it.

Anyway, if the driver gets arsy about it, I generally point out that if I was able to touch them THEY WERE TOO DAMN CLOSE.

Unlike Katya, I have once quite deliberately cycled at speed within inches of a pedestrian. As I explained to him, I wanted him to have at least some sense of how it felt for me when said pedestrian, a couple of minutes earlier in his capacity as a car driver, had almost brushed me with his wing mirror as he close-passed at a pinchpoint about 50 yards before he stopped to park his car. I don't think it sank in.

JimF said...

I talk to drivers and try to be polite but firm always. No point yelling - they won't get the message or modify their behaviour. They might if I'm nice.

Not sure it works - I've had a Mum mouth at me to f*** off in front of her child. Others have been nice and apologised. But if one person changes their behaviour it will have been worthwhile.


Ezra Rufino said...

I think this is definitely great advice. Speaking up, nicely and calmly(at least to start) is a good way to help people take notice and change their actions.

I haven't confronted any drivers, but I've never actually had the opportunity. Anytime, I've had close calls they've been long gone before there was an opportunity. But, this is helping me to think about it for the future.

Generally, with all things, sometimes you may want to be careful because some drivers are simply dangerous(as anyone can be). But, most are just normal people just like we all are. Cyclists can be drivers too, and drivers can be cyclists.

Glad the softies you confronted were kind!

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