We were laughing all the way home, recalling his mud splattered face, stroppy words and glare. He’d come round the blind bend at top speed. The instant I saw him I stopped dead, which didn’t take much because in these narrow country lanes I drive slowly, you never know what’s ahead. But he kept coming, breaks working hard, back wheel swerving a superb skid mark, handlebars shuddering, his body thrown high as the G-force lifted him off his seat. He stopped an inch from our bumper. Glaring at me, he shook his head, growled, pointed.
Knowing he was in shock, I reversed as far as I could but it was so narrow between banks of vegetation higher than the van and another car had come round the bend behind. I had to stop. There was just enough room for the cyclist to ease past without scratching us. As he levelled with our open windows he shot us a sharp accusatory look and grumbled, “Not the ideal place for you to be driving!”
My wife, who was at his side, said, “But we live here!”
“Respect cyclists!” He shot back.
Reinforcing her words, I honked. He jumped on his bike and peddled hard, speeding towards the car behind, dodging it, shooting off at top speed. We laughed and laughed. It was he who had been blindly pelting along a public road which half the people in our village use every day.
We were reminded of an incident further along the same road, in our village. Stepping from our car, we had to jump inside as two cyclists speeding downhill almost ran us down. As is usual all over the country, upon seeing somebody exiting a car, drivers hesitate to let them out. This wasn’t the first time such a thing has had happened here, cyclists seem to think they are tops. OK, it’s an official cycle route, but it is a road and people live along it. I also cycle it when I am able to.
Thirty years ago, driving up a steep hill on the edge of Leicester city, I slowed because three cyclists abreast took up half the road. They were slow and so I gave a friendly toot and drew closer. They didn’t budge. I slipped into first gear and crawled up towards them. They wouldn’t shift. Traffic coming downhill prevented me from overtaking and for a full two minutes I crawled behind them, giving the odd toot to ask them to move into single file. They became aggressive, shouted, waved their fists, slowed right down. I called out the open window, imploring they let me past. Their abuse became worse and my mother, who I was giving a lift, told me not to respond. I didn’t.
At the top of the hill those painful two minutes later, my lane widened and as I overtook them, I made a remark about their impoliteness. Two of them kicked out, heels striking my vehicle. It was a coordinated, practiced moved, they were used to this sort of encounter. I stopped. Blocking the road behind me, they threw down their bikes and stood aggressively in a line, bellowing abuse. I drove on. The dents they made were profound and stayed with the vehicle until its end.
Four years ago, my wife and I crossed the almost empty road in front of London’s Chelsea Hospital. There was a cyclist in the distance, unconcerned, we kept going. As we crossed the central white line we had to leap backwards to avoid being hit by the cyclist’s front wheel. It was an act aggression, there was no traffic within fifty metres and he’d moved onto the wrong side of the road, swerving over to hit us and he flashed past shouting.
For a naughty second, I wished I’d poked my crutch into his wheels, but then I’d have felt guilty at having injured him. I’ve been a cyclists since childhood, I never do these things, nor cycle on pavements, such people turn a pleasurable activity into a bad experience.