Friday, 12 December 2014

The cyclist should have been paying more attention

My commute takes me over a short hill, as I approach the crest of the hill my speed drops to around 14 mph. A second later though as I emerge over the other side I very quickly reach around 25-30 mph but am routinely held up by parked cars or vehicles that I catch up. For this reason and the fact the hill crest is on a blind corner, there is very little point in cars trying to overtake me on this section, and frankly it's dangerous. In fact the ones that do either put my life at risk because they have to cut in at high speed and slam their brakes on, or more usually they chicken out because they find themselves on the wrong side of the road doing around 35 mph into on coming traffic.

Today I was commuting as normal, and as is typical people in cars were being slightly bullish, one was trying to overtake me at this very point I've described. I hold out my hand to point out that there is on coming traffic. They slow down and thankfully dont overtake, I briefly look over my shoulder to double check. I now have a tailgating motorist closely following, and is preoccupying my mind.

Around a second later as I am gaining speed down the hill I see a car is trying to reverse out of the junction. That's concerning! I have a tailgater which I'm trying to mitigate against by keeping my speed reasonably high, but I also might need to slow in case this the reversing driver hasnt seen me. There really isnt much time to think about these things, but I cover my brakes and slow a fraction doing my best to juggle in my head whether it's better to slow or maintain speed because of the tailgater.

Whilst this is happening I can also see that there are parked cars ahead, and traffic is slowing for them. I'll be at that queue in a few seconds. My mind goes to the tailgater. Is he going to overtake and slam his brakes on. Is he a Must Get In Front driver? But crucially I also havent taken my eye or mind off the reversing driver. They have stopped reversing.

Thank fuck for that.

I look over my shoulder to check the tailgater, I then look forwards again to check the queue of traffic...

then I realise - my heart sinks - ARGGHHHHH

I've missed a massive hazard. There is an oncoming car that has it's indicators on, and wants to turn right and park on my side of the road. It's twitching to move. So is my arse. I have only just seen this car. It might be moving.

All of this has happens within a 7-10 second window.

Whilst I was concerned with the brow of the hill, the tailgating car that was trying to overtake, the car beginning to reverse out of a junction, the queuing traffic behind a parked car, and the usual task of picking a line though a pothole ridden UK street - I had not been paying enough attention to a car that looked like it might be turning across my path.

How many fucking things have I got to watch out for - I cant watch everything on the road. I cant mitigate and counteract every single possible hazard. There are only so many things one can juggle in their head within such a time frame. It was also an impossible balancing act of choosing what speed would keep me safest.

Nothing happened.

The car stopped rolling.

It was just another commute.

But what if this driver hadnt have stopped? What if he turned across me?

I probably would have slammed my brakes on, and about 1-2 seconds later likely collided.

What if I had recorded the incident on youtube? What would uninformed viewers think? Viewers that had no idea what hazards were already preoccupying and burdening me.

They would say, the cyclist should have seen it and predicted it all. He should have slowed. It's obvious. Sitting there with the benefit of hindsight, but uniformed of the actual situation......
I fear some might have unwittingly victim blamed me.

I am a defensive cyclist. I routinely look over my shoulder, look for cars pulling out of junctions, fear left-hooks, and try to mitigate against must-get-in-front overtakes that end with drivers slamming their brakes. But there is only so much that one can consider and at any given time and if there are too many dangers in one situation it's impossible to counteract or see them all.

Whilst the severity of some situations could be lessened by being a more defensive cyclist, there's only so much that a one can do to defend against bad driving....