I found this website the other day all based on one woman’s experience of cycling through London. Here is just one of her experiences: “Our first wanker was angry that a bicycle was on the road. He hit his horn whilst behind me, whilst I was waiting in the cycle box at the traffic lights. As he turned at the junction alongside me, he continued to use his horn. At the next traffic lights, he rolled his window down to shout “You stupid fucking slut, get off the road and onto the pavement, you stupid bitch”. He was in his company vehicle, so rather than rise to his bait, I took my iPhone out and openly took a photo of his registration plate. For some reason this shut him up. The company in question is Cannon Hygiene. I’ve written to them to tell them about their driver, and will update if they get back to me.”
I think its incredible she still cycles. I’ve not suffered that kind of abuse up here in Newcastle, but I know a number of women who have. For me the main problem is aggressive drivers who push me off the road, quite literally. There is behaviour on roads which can make it a trial to cycle through towns rather than a joy.
So how can we, as cyclists, meet this aggression? With equal force? I find sometimes this means you both just get angry. Many a time I’ve flicked the bird or given some kid of “you’re a knob” hand signal, only to be met with the same back. Great. Getting angry is not really my style so recently I’ve been trying a different, more creative, tactic.
Last month a driver drove aggressively close to me and overtook me coming up to a junction. As I sat behind him in the middle of the road waiting to turn right he proceeded to reverse towards me. All the while he was smirking and checking my reaction from his wing mirror. I was pretty peturbed, then decided to do something I’d not done before. It worked a treat! I looked directly into his wing mirror and mouthed the words ‘CALL ME’ my hands mimicking a mobile, pointing at him. He had no idea what to do. It was great. He sheepishly drove off and I felt fantastic that I’d not been aggressive back at him. I hope, by meeting his aggression with something slightly different it got him thinking.
Here are a few ideas on how to deal with aggressive drivers in a slightly different way:
Beeping: If a driver beeps at you wave at them! Mouth ‘hello’. If you it’s clearly your attention they want so make sure you give it to them. I like this one especially if I can put an ‘I love cycling’ grin on my face.
Talk to them: If you are in the right head space (feeling calm and confident) and a driver does something which is clearly out of line and then stops at traffic lights an easy cycling distance ahead try this one. Calmly knock on their window and talk to them about your experience. If you start with “I felt” or “that felt” it works best as drivers cannot argue with your feelings, it’s how you feel. End with what you’d like them to do in future “please can you make sure you give me more room next time?” If you can do this pretty calmly then the response is generally positive. I’ve done this quite a few times and every single time drivers have wound down their windows and I’ve had a “sorry,” a grin and more space on the roads. I have to make sure I’m in the right mood though.
Call me signal: A bit of a favourite at the moment, if you try it tell me how it goes! I was really impressed by the response drivers gave on this one.
Slow clap: Again, something a bit different to get the driver thinking. Look at them in the eye and applaud them for their angry driving.
At the moment that is as far as I’ve got but if you’ve got any other ideas let us know. All the tactics described above have given me a real sense of joy and confidence on the roads after I’ve done them. I hope they might do the same for you.