Right of Way

One thing I have learnt since starting to cycle more: everyone on the road is a cock.

I used to lump just cyclists into that category. They are, after all, quite the menace in central London where a significant proportion of them ignore traffic lights, zebra crossings and most other things that tell them to stop, presumably under some misguided notion that what they’re doing is saving the planet. Or maybe they’re just impatient bastards.

Of course, cyclists will tell you that white van men are the bastards. They’ll also tell you that bus drivers are basically white van men with government backing.

For me, the worst people on the road in central London are the taxi drivers. They block bus lanes, drive like they’re cyclists with four wheels, and have that same high-and mighty attitude that irks me so about cyclists.

This post isn’t about London, however, nor who I hate most on the road. As I said, I hate all of them. I can say this categorically as I have spent quite an amount of time as a pedestrian, a cyclist, a car driver, a van driver, and a bus passenger. I’ve seen it from most sides.

The main problem is that everyone on the road – from buses and vans down to cyclists and pedestrians – are all out for themselves. They seem to forget that for just about every situation, someone has a right of way.

I’m the sort of person that will take a risk in order to enforce his right of way. I’ve stared down buses at zebra crossings, had collisions with cyclists and near misses with cars. I also like to go out of my way to remind people exactly who has right of way in any given situation.

I do find this sometimes annoys people. One cyclist who ran a red right in front of me a couple of years ago received a copy of the London Lite to his face as he cycled past. This upset him so much he threw his bicycle at me.

Take last Friday morning too. This time I was the cyclist, and the pedestrian was the one on the receiving end. One the way to the station, there is a left turn into a side road where the cycle racks – and station car park – are located. Now, I know that, if a vehicle is turning into a side road and there are pedestrians crossing, the pedestrians have right of way. As I approached the side road, there was a woman walking along, heading towards the junction. I signalled courteously and kept my hand out whilst waiting for her to look around prior to crossing the road, in keeping with the green cross code.

She didn’t.

As luck would have it, the timing of both our journeys also meant that we would both be occupying the end of the side road at the same time. And she still hadn’t looked around to see if something was coming. So I decided to ‘ping’ her to teach her a lesson. I made a point of cycling in front of her and let out a ring of my bell as I passed.

With a start she jumped out of the little world of her own she was occupying, and entered the real world.

“What are you doing, you idiot?!” she exclaimed in an Eastern European accent of some ilk, before waffling on about how I was the vehicle and as such she had right of way. I tried to explain to her that the road was by definition the place for vehicles, not pedestrians, but she was having none of it.

So ultimately, I came across looking like a cock cyclist to this dozy cow, despite me being perfectly in my rights to do what I did. As for the woman, next time she doesn’t look before crossing the road it’ll be a lorry she ignores, and she’ll only have herself to blame.

I don’t have encounters like this that often any more. Time was I would go out looking for trouble like this; deliberately pausing in front of a cyclist who was about to run a red light so he’d have to avoid me, for instance. However when I began to try to curtail my anger late last year I stopped doing it, and after that they dropped in frequency. I still have them from time to time – not long after I decided I would stop baiting cyclists I made the mistake of crossing the road at a pelican without looking out for bikes, and got hit by one – but these days they find me.

I’ll still enforce my right of way to the last, though.

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