Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dear Penny

I came across this rant from someone in England, and decided to post my response. Here is the original piece and my reply:

“Dear Mr. Cyclist,

Please learn how to ride your bike on the roads.

Good for you being out riding your bike at 7.45am, Yay for the environment and Yay for your health and fitness, but there is no Yay for me being late to work, because I can’t drive around you. You are not doing the speed limit, you have space to ride your bike quite happily over to the left WHERE YOUR MEANT TO BE!

This is England, we have little roads that sometimes means it is impossible to get past you bikers when there is constant traffic on the other side of the road and when you are so far out that we have to actually drive on the other side to get past.

Kind Regards!

The Red Micra crawling behind you this fine morning.”

Dear Penny in your red Micra,

You just don’t get it do you. It is precisely because I do know how to ride my bike that I am riding out here a short distance from the edge of the road.

Oh I could ride on the extreme edge of the road, amongst all the broken glass and other crap people throw from their cars. Then you could speed on by at 60 mph. as if I didn’t exist.

But what if at the precise moment you pass, I come across a large pothole, a storm grate, or a fallen limb from a tree. Where do I go? Do I swerve into your path; do I hit the obstruction and risk falling under your wheels? Will you be able to stop at 60 mph, I doubt it.

I am not riding out here just to piss you off; I am riding out here because on this particular piece or road it is unsafe to pass me, unless you do it carefully. That means slowing down, waiting for a small gap in opposing traffic, and simply driving around me.

And no, you don’t have to go into the opposing lane to pass. If you include the short distance I am from the edge of the road, I am about four or five feet wide, and seven feet long, and traveling at 20 mph. It is not like passing a London Transport Bus; you will be past me lickidy-split and on your merry way.

Count how many times you are delayed and it is not a cyclist. On the Motorway (Freeway.) for instance; no cyclists there. How often do you have to sit behind someone waiting to turn? Do you get your knickers in a twist, and curse at the driver for being so inconsiderate as to stop in front of you while he waits to turn into his own driveway.

I will be always be considerate to you as long as doing so doesn’t endanger my life, that’s where I draw the line. If I am passing a row of parked cars for example, I am not going to ride within five feet of them. Drivers have been known to open their doors, knocking the cyclist in front of your red Micra speeding by.

So if I am in the middle of the lane at that point, I am sorry it is such an inconvenience for you to slow, signal, and move over to the other lane.

You would do well to remember I am a fellow human being, cut me I bleed; run over me and I squish and my bones break. I am someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s husband. These people would miss me terribly.

Oh, and if I should make you late for work. I am sorry, but I am not responsible for poor planning on your part. Try leaving home a few minutes earlier. You may get delayed by a traffic accident, road repairs, any number of reasons. It is all part of driving on the roads today.

Get used to it, and get over yourself, just because you are in a motorized vehicle and mine is pedal-powered. Does that make you more important that me, or my life any less valuable.


Dave Moulton

(Unofficial spokesman for cyclists.)

Footnote: Within minutes of posting my comment Penny deleted her post, and posted an apology here. See the first comment.

Thank you Penny.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I am Penny and I just recieved your comment.

I am sorry; I didn't mean to offend anyone with my letter to the cyclist that was riding in front of me this morning, on my way to work.

BUT can I say, that you did not see how this guy was riding, he was taking the piss slightly. Maybe he was pissed, who knows.

I am a safe driver; I have no convictions, no points, not even a car parking ticket.

I stayed behind this guy the WHOLE time he was in the middle, and when I say middle, I mean middle, of the road. I manoeuvred around him in the sensible manner that I always do when the opportunity arose, I did it without speeding. I did not beep my horn or slip him a look as I drove past.

I understand that cyclists come across a bunch of ejits on the road everyday. Hell I don't ride my bike BECAUSE of the idiots that I know are out there.

But unless you were there, you saw how this guy was riding, and you can make an accurate judgement, then please consider the fact that not all drivers are idiots and that I actually did respond sensibly on the road. And that maybe, just maybe this guy really didn't have a clue about road safety on his bike.

The fact that I came on here and had a rant (which I'm sure you've ranted over drivers before)is another matter. I have taken my post down as I don't want to start a war. I use it as a fun place to go and write.

I apologise for any offence I have caused. And wow have a I learnt my lesson from you. And yes I will think before I write in future.

A very apologetic Penny in her red Micra.

331 Miles said...

Kudos for two excellent responses. There are some drivers that need to improve, and some cyclists too. But we should all be ready to learn from each other, and respect each other. This thread makes me happy!

Anonymous said...

If only all disputes between motorists and cyclists could be resolved so quickly and easily.

Here is one lady driver who may see cyclists in a different light, thanks to Dave. And cyclists reading this should not abuse the right to take the lane. Use it wisely and sparingly.


Anonymous said...

And I thought existed idiots only in Brazil.


Rich Gift Of Lins said...

One take home lesson must be that respect for space on the road needs to be in the minds of BOTH cyclist and driver. I wonder whether the cyclist in question is aware of having caused some irritation, or alternatively whether did do so at all?

Dave Moulton said...

Zaka thought that idiots only existed in Brazil. No they exist all over the world both drivers and cyclists.

The huge difference is, idiot motorists kill other people, idiot cyclists usually only kill themselves.

Anonymous said...

Usually the problem is lack of perception. Once you've been both a driver and a cyclist you understand better the problems. Today I was shouted at by a motorist when trying to turn right, but they were speeding too fast.

Good letter though. It helps to say things calmly and matter of factly

Anonymous said...

Now that "Penny" has responded to the uproar she started, I can see her point as well. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of lack of consideration people have for others. Our society seems to have become "all about me" and screw everyone else. Here in Los Angeles California the attitude has become an epidemic. Unfortunately peoples lives are taken or forever changed because someone is in a big hurry to get somewhere and could care or less who they kill or injure doing so.I say, slow down, give people a break, allow more time to do your tasks, but most of all, no matter what is your mode of personal transportation, know the rules and follow them with condideration of others.If you can't, just walk or ride a bus. And if you do walk, don't just step out in the street thinking traffic will stop for me because I am a pedestrian. In a clearly marked "crosswalk" traffic is "supposed" to stop, but many times they don't/won't and can't in time to save your tail.Use your head and live.

Anonymous said...

Dave - way to go. That was a nice, rational response, which probably got the desired result. A bit like your post yesterday that referenced Bill Strickland's 'just say sorry' article.

Penny - I think we all get a bit frustrated at times, and need to vent spleen. The problem is that there are real ejit motorists out there (unlike you), who wouldn't bother with the open letter - just push the bike off the road when they think no-one's looking. Differentiating between someone who's just had a crappy drive into work, and someone who's a borderline psycho isn't so easy when their car's just off your back wheel!

KYScoast said...

Very nice post, Dave. You described yourself to her as "an unofficial spokesperson" for cyclists, but you should know you spoke on my behalf eloquently.

This subject comes up with so much regularity its shameful. The two groups, even though drivers are cyclists almost as cyclists are drivers, Drivers (only) don't understand enough about what makes for safe cycling, especially road cycling where speeds are typically much higher and not suited to "bike paths", one of my own rants on my blog some time ago.

It's so nice though to witness an awakening like Penny's. Again...nice job.

Keep riding...something.

WestfieldWanderer said...

Looks like it's the silly season on cyclists. After getting government funding to improve cycling provision for the City of Bristol in the UK, this pile of poo appeared in the Bristol Evening Post.

Very sad man, is your Jamie

Anonymous said...

It is a thoughtful response by Penny. But, it is very revealing that expressions of murderous intent were written down in the first place.

Penny shouldn't be angry with the cyclist; she should be angry with her city government that there are no separate bike lanes.

Penny may have kept her thoughts to herself on the road, but many motorists do not. They use their vehicles in a threatening manner. The only analagous response that a cyclist would have is to draw a gun - equally deadly posturing.

Penny should remember that smooth paved roads were developed because of cyclists demands in the 1890's. She should remember that cars evolved out of bicycles. She should be thankful that no one is driving a horse and buggy in front of her. And perhaps Peggy should get on a bicycle and try to commute to work one day.

Harry in NYC

Anonymous said...

As another commenter said, it helps to be or have been both a real cyclist and a motorist to see the whole picture. By real cyclist, I don't mean to sound elitist, but rather someone who is a cycling enthusiast of some kind, knows how to ride a bicyle effectively, and knows how to ride in traffic on public roads. Most cyclists don't really know the latter. Similarly, a big part of the problem with regard to drivers getting impatient at cyclists is that they just don't realize that a good cyclist does not not nor should not usually hug the shoulder, gutter or sidewalk - but they expect them to do just that.

I think we need some public information commercials on TV about this. But first, please, please, let's get rid of the sidewalk cyclists!

inkyfingers said...


Excellent response!

The Technohippybiker said...

Thank you Dave for being so calm and well spoken/written for all of us.

Thank you Penny for your calmness on the road and for a great rational discussion, I see your point and wish other cyclists would be as considerate as you.

Ed W said...

Excellent response, Dave.

...and Penny, if you're ever in Oklahoma, I'll ride with you.

Bujiatang said...

it's nice to see a dialogue. Usually it seems like cyclists and motorists are too polemically opposed for that. There might be speaking, or typing, but no one seems to listen.

Penny, it was very big of you to remove your original comment. When I read it, I thought the comment was rather incendiary, but, I've seen cyclists cut off people just like I've seen motorists cut off people. Just please remember that letters like that get people excited. Whenever angry correspondence is involved, good proofreading when you have cooled off can save a lot of heartache.

Dave, I liked the way you made cyclists into humans. By emphasizing our sameness, maybe we can change the negative attitudes on both sides.

And to everyone else out there prepared to read my rambling: pay attention to whatever the hell you're doing.

lemmiwinks said...

Kudos Dave and Penny.

Sharing people, sharing. Why is it so hard for some?

Anonymous said...

Starling -

Are you only opposed to sidewalk cycling in heavy pedestrian areas?

There is a wide sidewalk to the side of a heavily trafficked road that I will often ride on to avoid speeding cars - but there are rarely pedestrians on this sidewalk due to its unique location - and, if there are, I can ride on the grass next to the sidewalk.

I would ride on the road - but it's a curvy one where drivers speed, talk on their cells and type on their blackberry's while driving.

Neil said...

Just one thing on the original post by Penny -

She says -
"YOU ARE NOT A CAR!" and "over to the left WHERE YOUR MEANT TO BE" which is just wrong!

Bikes have as much right to be on the road as any other vehicle (and pedestrians). Roads are not solely or even primarily for cars. Other road users are not second class citizens that should be pushed to the left out of the way of the cars!

Cars should expect to overtakes bikes properly (as if the bike were a car).