Earlier this morning and my vision momentarily went polarised, near tunnel like, and focussed wholly on that jutting out concrete delivery pipe on the side of the lorry, and at the skimpy one meter gap between the truck and the roads edge.
Just a fraction of a second earlier that self same chunk of dirty metal had skimmed my head with the clearance of regular a pizza in total width. That breathing space was all that had wooshed between me and near certain death or decapitation.
Having been sick for a week I’d only been out for around 30 minutes, and had been close cut at least 20 times already – by around half of all of the vehicles that had passed me, all of them at less than a meter of a gap.
This is Malaysia, a place I’ve ridden in regularly for almost 20 years now, and although I’m fully aware of this terrible close pass thing that happens here, this time it really un-nerved me.
A few days earlier I’d taken a taxi from the airport to my hotel, along the same road. The female taxi driver (who was about twice my girth and weight) was on a wide open road with very low traffic, and she’d done exactly the same thing to another cyclist, cutting at around half a meter of clearance – sheer laziness and disrespect for a life.
I’d raised arms and shouts and numerous cars already this morning, but was too far off any traffic pause to be able to catch up and point out the issues; those of actually slowing down for a few seconds, changing gear and giving a cyclist a little more room over cutting them so damn close that you endanger their lives.
Like all of us, this is not a first, or even a 101st, and I have been hit and forced off the road in the past, and gotten info fist fights with motorists. As cyclists we tend to assume that people “get it”, that they understand cycling – yet the sad fact is that in many parts of the world when people get into their prized tin box they see the world differently, and any hindrance by a scum bag on two wheels, well – we all know the feeling, and we all probably know people with such attitudes (sadly).
Despite the mainstream global boost in the popularity of cycling there are a huge number of people who simply do not get it, and never will – to them we should not be on the road “get a car, pay your road tax” and become a valid citizen seems to be the underlying attitude of many – and it only takes one such bigot to end a life by enforcing their rights to “their” road.
Recent high profile tragedies have hauled this home to many of us, although in reality less prolific cyclists the world over are mowed down like second class beings all too often, and for those with the power of an engine beneath them attitudes rarely change.
That said, many cyclists also transform when they hit the road, and the adrenaline does kick in at times. I recently came up behind a group of 6-7 riders riding on a winding and narrow road in the UK, in my old local area.
There a wasn’t much traffic, and they were not locals, but they insisted on using the whole road and riding TTT style, meaning that it was impossible to safely pass. For 5-6 minutes I drove behind, waiting for a safe opening. I was tempted to pull over and lay into them, not for holding me up, but for what they were doing towards damaging the relationship between cyclists and motorists, but I think my words would have been wasted at best.
There was no need to ride like that; a simple single line and a smile and wave past would make the difference, and had I been a pure motorist I would have been pretty peed at these guys. Just because you can ride double line and take up the whole road doesn’t mean you should – these kind of riders are directly impacting on the image of cyclists, and are not only their own worse enemies, but enemies of cyclists the world over. Perhaps the fading old school cycling club scene once played a major part in this education of cyclists.
It’s a dangerous world out there for cyclists, and one with ever growing traffic and a seemingly slow changing or halted attitude towards the value of cyclists. We all have to do out bit towards enhancing awareness and smoothing out relations between ourselves and other road users. It’s down to us, because at the end of the day there are very few groups around campaigning for our rights and safety, and when you do have an incident with a vehicle it sure isn’t going to end sweetly.