Rosamund Urwin: Why do cyclists make car drivers boil with rage?Rosamund Urwin
Thursday 1 September 2016
I once interviewed a cyclist who had taken a car door to the neck. “I felt the impact and was surprised my head was still on my shoulders,” she recalled. The blow fractured her thyroid cartilage and severely damaged her vocal cords. She spent two months in hospital while the Royal London’s doctors performed reconstructive surgery. When we met her voice was still raspy and she had a tracheostomy tube sticking out of her neck.
This is why most cyclists don’t hug parked cars while riding down a road. And yet this approach — which is recommended in the Highway Code — is often enough to ignite the wick of drivers’ dynamite-like rage. Sometimes they rev their engines behind you, the auto equivalent of tutting loudly. That may escalate to honking. The more aggressive will then attempt a “punishment pass”, coming far too close. And then sometimes, they go full Colonel Kurtz, getting out of their vehicles and yelling because you’ve added seven seconds to their journey time. Even though the getting-out-and-yelling takes longer than seven seconds.
Last year this happened to me. It was a windy day and I was leaving a trachea-protecting distance between myself and the stationary cars. A woman tooted behind me. She overtook, slamming her foot on the accelerator, only for me to get back ahead at the lights. This prompted her to get out, shrieking: “I’m going to run you off the road, you fat b****.” Her teenage daughter was in the passenger seat.