Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Anger only begets rage.

There's been a lot of buzz about a particular incident that occurred on the busy streets of London in the U.K. recently.  It's the story of a motorist and a cyclist that got into a fight over the bicycle box at an intersection. The footage was captured by another cyclist. Here's the video:

There are many who side with the cyclist claiming that he didn't deserve to get punched by the driver of that Audi. I agree that punching people is wrong, but I can't side with either party because they're both jerks in their own way.

I'll admit that I'm not well-versed in British traffic law. What I know is based on common sense, my own cycling experience, and Top Gear.

First of all the cyclist is a shoaler* which discredits him from being a faultless victim. It's a reasonable assumption that the driver got stuck at that traffic light and is already pissed. I can relate because I hate getting stuck at red lights despite speeding to avoid them. This cyclist stopped right in front of the car instead of queuing up behind the other cyclists that were waiting on the far left. The driver probably planned to gun it at the green light, blow past the cyclists and hopefully catch a green light at the next junction. That plan was foiled when our guy stopped his bike in front of the Audi. He's within his right since that's what the box is for but he also could have lined up behind the cyclists on the left shoulder. Sometimes it just makes more sense to give way to cars even if you're legally not obligated to, especially when it doesn't put your safety in jeopardy. That would have given the car enough space to safely clear the cyclists. It makes sense that the Audi pulled into the bike box beside the cyclists so that he can get past them. It wasn't a legal manoeuvre but everyone pulls stunts like that, especially in a busy city.

The cyclist gets upset over the fact that the Audi drove past the limit line and into the cyclist's box. The Audi isn't supposed to do that and the cyclist was rightfully upset. Was it worth screaming at the driver? I wouldn't do so but I also wouldn't try to silence someone else voicing their displeasure. That's as far as I go in terms of being supportive for the cyclist though. What he did afterwards annoyed me.

He rides like hell to catch the Audi at the next junction and starts screaming at him. Yes, the driver is an asshole but catching up to him just to call him a "fucking prick" isn't going to make him apologize. So it's no surprise that he punches the cyclist. In fairness the driver shouldn't have hit the cyclist but it's also not the cyclist's place to try and give the driver a sermon either. The driver knew what he did was wrong, he just didn't care. Let the police deal with him, if he tries to start another boxing match with them he'll land in jail. Speaking of boxing, what I found most disappointing is that a motorist finally stepped out of their car to scrap with a cyclist and the cyclist didn't fight back. It's not often that motorists decide to brawl instead of just mowing bikers down with their cars. A golden opportunity, wasted. 

Another thing worth noting: if you look at London's streets on Google Street View you'll notice they're freakin' narrow. These roads would be considered alleys where I live. It's not hard to imagine why people get so agitated about sharing the road. With that much congestion, tempers flare and there's no reason for anyone to mind what a cyclist thinks. So unless you're a cop or you can land a punch like Tyson, sometimes it's best to let things go.

*Term derived from the water feature "shoal" to describe a cyclist that squeezes in front of other cyclists already waiting at a junction. I first came upon the term from bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com


  1. Disagree that Audi should loose some mirrors for this aggressive shit! He want to blow past? We'll bad luck better buy a bike instead of an Audi next time

    1. The Audi driver should probably take your advice. Central London charges a congestion tax on vehicles between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays. The tax comes out to 10 British Pounds, or about $16.50 per day just to drive into the city. If he traded in the Audi for a bike he'd save a ton of money.

  2. "It wasn't a legal manoeuvre but everyone pulls stunts like that, especially in a busy city."

    Yeah... but that's the problem right there. We wouldn't be having this issue if the "bike box" or cycle lane encroachment was enforced. Instead, we have motorists who don't give a damn about cyclists because they have no reason to, outside of common courtesy which sublimates into the air the minute anyone starts commuting. You cite BikeSnob NYC in your post- you should read his book The Enlightened Cyclist, it talks about this issue, albeit in a more philosophical than a practical way.

    1. I totally agree that enforcement is key for avoiding these types of incidents. Unfortunately, we don't live in a world where the police is always at the right place, at the right time. What I was trying to convey in the quote you cited was that all road users shirk the law at one point or another. I believe that taking it personally when someone else breaks the law only makes things worse.

      I should also mention that I've got an autographed copy of "The Enlightened Cyclist". It's a fantastic book, but I've come to develop some opinions in contrast with his philosophies. It's safe to say that everyone's experience with cycling is unique.

    2. Autographed? Nice. He seems like a pretty cool guy in person, in contrast to his blog persona.