And in at number 6 we have:
6. “You should use your legs! Why don’t you people walk!”
I was tempted to place this higher up the list, such was its sheer idiocy. However, I am most interested in the oddity of remarks made by apparently otherwise sane people when faced with a cyclist. Whereas the individual who made this comment was clearly differently eccentric or, as one might say, utterly barking mad, in a way that verges on not being funny because I wondered if he might need serious help.
I was cycling up one of Devon’s steeper hills. To be honest I can’t have been doing much more than about 6mph when I saw ahead of me two pedestrians walking in the middle of the road. Now let’s be clear on this, it was a two-way street open to motorised traffic and bikes. I was in no way, shape or form disobeying the law or the Highway Code. I rang my bell to warn the pedestrians I was there, and carefully went around them, when I was greeted with the comment about using my legs.
Given that I had not in fact levitated up the hill like some new-fangled dalek I wasn’t quite sure what part of my anatomy this man thought I was using. I was careful, I had warned him I was there and he was, when all is said and done, walking in the middle of the road when there was a perfectly good pavement available. I’m all for pedestrians’ rights and do think that the roads should not be a no-go area for them but this really was as astonishingly rude as it was nonsensical.
5. “It’s not a great big cycle path you know”
Yes, yes it is. It is in fact a National Cycle Route. It has big blue signs along its length apprising you of this fact. It has different coloured tarmac. It has bollards separating it from the pavement. It has bloody great white bicycles painted along its length. It has done everything in its power to make you aware of its status short of jumping up and hitting you whilst yelling ‘Hello, hello, I’m a cycle path’ so why in the name of my blue-rinsed grandmother you haven’t noticed this fact is beyond me, given that you do not have a labrador with you, or a white stick.
4. “Well you could go on the pavement”
This really was one of my favourites. Given how often pedestrians will have a go at you for cycling on the pavement, even when you are clearly either on the road or on a cycle path, to be told to go on the pavement did leave me wondering which particular parallel universe I had wandered into and quite what substance or substances I had inadvertently consumed the night before. I was cycling on a cycle path next to a footpath. There was a young woman ahead with a small child (I would guess around 4 years old) and both were on the cycle path, with the child wandering around on its own. I warned her it was a cycle path because in my experience people do not always realise this and because I was worried that the child was at risk, given the speed of some of the cyclists who used the path.
Actually she was wrong about me being able to go on the pavement – she had every right to be on the cycle path, though she would have been better off on the pavement. If I had gone on the pavement I would have been in breach of the Highway Code and if an accident had occurred I would have been liable.
3. “You shouldn’t be cycling on there”
This one was in fact true, I should not have been cycling down that particular alleyway. Which is why I had dismounted and wheeled the bike down it, making the remark at best redundant and at worst indicative of reading a few too many Daily Mail articles about the horrific things that cyclists do.
2. “You shouldn’t be on the road”
This is more of a generic, all-purpose insult that drivers like to shout at both cyclists and horse riders which roughly translates as “I spent a lot of money on this car and for some reason think I should be allowed to go exactly where I want, when I want and at the speed I want totally unimpeded by any other individual”. Of course the reality is that they are often impeded but rather than shout at other car drivers, causing an existential crisis as the other driver is only doing what they are doing and they would therefore in effect be shouting at themselves, they shout at whoever else is around. Actually, buggalugs, I am here by right because it is a public right of way (the clue is in the name). You are here under licence and if you are going to be rude all the time frankly I think you are the one who shouldn’t be on the road. Another candidate for the “Jebus, who let you off the lead and could they please round you up again” award.
The same goes for that blindingly awful comment “The road conditions are so bad I cannot see you, it’s dangerous you shouldn’t be on the road”. Well I can see you and your half-ton of badly-operated rust bucket despite the fact that it is indeed widdling with rain. If you cannot see me then get off the road and go to an optician. You have just admitted that you are not fit to be out here because you cannot see and what on earth makes you think that your journey is more important than mine and therefore it is me that should stay at home, when I’m not the one risking other people’s lives.
But the winner has to be a driving instructor teaching a learner the art of the SMIDSY (sorry mate, I didn’t see you). So at the top:
1. “You were in her blind spot”
How? How in the name of blue buggery’s betsying nonsense can you be in someone’s blind spot when you are in front of them? What are you on? Did you take the same stuff that I took just before someone told me to cycle on the pavement? Are you seriously telling me that your learner has a blind spot 12 feet in front of her nose?
For the record I was on a roundabout, actually on the roundabout so I had right of way over traffic to my left trying to get onto the roundabout. It was a 20mph zone and since I was nearing the end of a 2 mile downhill stretch I was pretty much doing the speed limit and I was in primary position – middle of the lane, not in the kill zone, in my lane, going at the speed of the traffic. OK, going at the speed the traffic would have been going at if anyone took any notice of speed limits. The learner was in front of me trying to pull out of the exit just before the one I wanted to exit at and either at her own instigation or at that of her instructor she did the classic ‘ach, who cares, it’s only a cyclist’ and pulled onto the roundabout meaning I had to jam on the brakes. It’s something drivers do every day and it kills people. I will not have instructors teaching people to do this.
I followed her. It’s possible I may have shouted. A little bit. Sometimes I shout. I may have used a word relating to parts of the male anatomy followed by ‘brained’ and ‘moron’. So three words, the first word is often associated with dogs and the first two words alliterated nicely. I caught up with them at the next roundabout and asked what they were up to which was when the instructor claimed I had been in the learner’s blind spot.
Words failed me. OK, that’s not true. Polite words failed me. The rude ones were nice and reliably lined up and available to most people within a two-mile radius. Risky behaviour on my part? Possibly. But nowhere near as risky as seeing someone drive like that and not saying something to make them aware of their mistakes.