Why do some motorists hate cyclists?

I blasted a quick 10 miles down the estuary and back through Exminster this evening, leaving just before 5:30pm to take advantage of what I suspected might be the last of this unseasonable sunshine and warmth. “The last hot ride of the year” I said to Em when I got back, and sure enough I arrived home to clouds and premature twilight. It had been about 25 degrees when I left. It wasn’t exactly cold when I got home, but a breeze had begun, and was fanning the trees ominously.

That 10 miles leaves me five shy of 100 for the month of October already, only three days in. Last October I managed 200 for the entire month. Evening rides are obviously going to be less frequent now, but I’m determined to keep up my big weekends mornings, even if I set off at 10am rather than 6:30am. I’ve bought arm warmers, winter socks, a snood, and ¾ bib knicks in an effort to equip myself properly.

If Sunday morning, out at 7am, is anything to go by, I’ll need them. 35 miles of fog, forests, foxes, and farmsteads from Exeter towards Tiverton, east to Cullompton, back south again, the wooded upland areas preserving warmth, making me sweat beneath jersey and wind jacket, but descents to areas close to water, even the tiniest streams, seeing temperatures plummet, and rapidly. I was glad of the wind jacket and the winter socks, but by 9am, as I neared home again, the sun was up, the sky blue, the fog turned to mist and then evaporated completely. I cleaned my bike after lunch and spent an hour or so at the allotment after that, and it was steaming hot.

I’d done 50 miles on Saturday morning, setting out at 7:30am, through golden river mist at Topsham, over Woodbury Common, meeting up with Monstershark for a dozen miles or so at Ottery to Feniton and then Whimple, before heading back towards Exeter, over the crest at Little Silver, and along the estuary home. Along the estuary an impatient guy in a classic car, who was forcing his way past a family out on their bikes and wanted me to stop and jam myself into a hedge for him, called me an idiot.

That was only the second or third time I’ve received abuse from a motorist. It was a tiny, quiet lane from Exminster to the estuary trail, the most popular cycle path in the area. It’s busy with cyclists, especially when the weather’s good. The driver didn’t have to stop his car, I didn’t have to stop my bike, there was clear space between us; I was confused. But then, today, I saw Danny Care’s comment about cyclists retweeted. “I hate cyclists. Get a car!” he wrote. I’d link to it, but he’s deleted it now, seemingly. I shan’t link to his profile, either, because he seems like a moron. He’s a professional rugby player, apparently. I’d never heard of him; I’ve no interest in rugby.

The antipathy that motorists allegedly have for cyclists confuses me. I’ve barely ever experienced it, but I generally ride on the roads early at weekend mornings, when they’re quiet. It confuses me that motorists would think that cyclists don’t own cars, too. I do. I love driving. I think I prefer cycling, though; in August I rode over 500 miles. I’m pretty sure we didn’t do that many miles between us in the car. I’m not a fanatical cyclist. Not yet anyway. But I agree with this guy, that we could really do with yet more encouragement from the government, as a nation, to accept cycling, both in terms of other people doing it and as something to do ourselves. Some friends rode to Amsterdam the other weekend, when we were in Ibiza, and the stories of glorious, busy, well-maintained cycle routes have me wide-eyed with jealousy. I must go there with the bike next year.

Cyclists don’t always do themselves favours. On campus today I saw two ignoring one-way systems. On the way to work I saw one mount the pavement and cycle through people rather than wait for traffic lights. Don’t do this! It gives us a bad name; it makes people hate us, both motorists and pedestrians. Don’t jump red lights either; we saw two cars smashed together tonight as we headed out to buy cat litter and bike grease, presumably because one had jumped the lights. If one had been a bike there’d have been a worse outcome than whiplash and insurance claims. I admit I jumped a red light on Sunday morning, but there wasn’t a car to be seen in any direction, it was 7am. Excusable? Maybe not. No one would know if I hadn’t written it here.

The photograph with this post is by http://www.timpestridge.co.uk/, who’s a lovely guy and great photographer. That’s me, by the Exe Estuary, last Wednesday evening.


2 responses to “Why do some motorists hate cyclists?

  1. Trying to work out where you photo is. Guessing at Powderham. I totally agree that cycling should get more government support. I bang on about it, but I went to San Jose a few years ago, and it’s just really difficult to be a pedestrian there because the roads are very wide and the the pedestrian crossings only give you time to cross half the road. Scary! Made me realise how the Americans are totally wedded to the car. To be a pedestrian in San Jose is to be a complete nobody. No doubt the oil companies want it that way. I’m a cynic!

  2. Other side of the estuary! We were at Lympstone.

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