Classic ‘get out of my way, pay road tax’ letter

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C Baxter from Cambridge has a bee in his bonnet. In fact, he nearly had a bike on his bonnet, but was “too polite” to go the whole hog. In a letter to the Cambridge News, published on Wednesday, he complains of a cyclist who swore and shouted at him but then – with no hint of mea culpa – gives away why the cyclist might have been angered in the first place.

The letter is an absolute classic of its type. It bears dissection, paragraph by paragraph.

One Friday morning I was travelling by car into Cambridge and at the sharp bend at Newnham I overtook a cyclist. I looked in my mirror and saw him pointing his finger to his forehead and shouting to me.

Mr Baxter (for convenience, let’s assume C Baxter is a man) is hung by his own noose. At a sharp bend he overtakes a cyclist. Why not wait until after the bend? It appears Mr Baxter cut in front of the cyclist, a fact not lost on the cyclist who uses the ‘are you crazy?’ hand signal to point out to Mr Baxter there was little need to pass at the point he did.

I drove slowly and opened my passenger’s window and told him he should use the cycle lane.

Mr Baxter, upon seeing the time-honoured hand-signal doesn’t drive on, impassively. He slows down, waits for the cyclist to pull up to his left side, winds down his passenger window and then lectures the cyclist on getting off the road and on to a cyclepath.

He said it was up to him to choose the road instead of the bicycle lane.

Never a truer word spoken. Cyclists have to keep this right because cyclepaths don’t go everywhere (roads tend to) and because not every cyclepath is safe and usable. Many are afterthoughts, even in Cambridge. Many are strewn with broken glass, even in Cambridge.

He then started swearing and shouting at me and I told him I was going to report him to the police but he wanted to use the road while the cycle lane was empty, does not pay any road tax, is not insured and misbehaved like a complete lunatic.

No need for shouting or swearing but, if a driver cuts you up, slows down to remonstrate with you and then tells you this stretch of tarmac is apartheid-style off-limits to bikes, you might be a bit miffed, too. Mr Baxter then ups the ante, saying he’s going to report the cyclist to the police. What, for cussing or not using an “empty” cycle lane? Then comes the throwaway road tax gibe, followed by a no insurance statement without any evidence whatsoever. Cyclist could have been a CTC or British Cycling member, thence covered by third-party insurance.

He then drove in front of my car and started braking, about four times, while he still swore and shouted at me.

Mr Baxter had slowed down to confront this cyclist and is now wondering why the aggrieved cyclist is taking direct, non-violent action.

I could have easily knocked him over but I was too polite to do so.

This sounds like Mr Baxter thought about bumping into the cyclist but wasn’t prevented from doing so by fear of prosecution for dangerous driving or causing death or disfigurement to the soft and squishy human ahead of him, but because Mr Baxter minds his Ps and Qs.

I travel daily into Cambridge and I have seen a lot of dangerous situations with bicycles. It is not only the young students but the over-40s think they own the road on a bike.

I wonder how many of the dangerous situations Mr Baxter has seen have been views in his mirror as he overtakes cyclists on sharp bends?

  • Anonymous

    Interesting point. Dim youths hmmm. When I was a kid there was a cycling profficiency test that we were all encouraged to take. Your bike was a proud possesion and you kept it clean and well maintained. You used your pocket money to make it better faster safer. Lights were on at night and the newest one was always a must have. Dynamo’s were common place. The same is not true nowadays I fear. Any winter weekend you will see cyclists riding on frames that are many years old. I have three frames that are over 30 years old and still going well, Dawes, Carlton and an Ellis Briggs Favouri. How many mountain bikes are that old? that well kept? or have a rider with such pride in ownership. Just go to the local tip, its rare to see a set of drop bars there, but many rusty other types of cycle. Do you get my drift? Club cyclists will tell you tales of the bad motorist, car clubs (I am the chairman of one and a member of another) will tell you of bad cyclists. But do good drivers ever talk of good cyclists or do cyclists ever mention the fella who stopped to help you fix a puncture.

  • Anonymous

    There are LOTS of bad cyclists out there. Dim youths riding without rnlights, so dim in more ways than one, and inconsiderate red light rnbreachers who nearly take out pedestrians on crossings.rnrnBut it’s only motorists propelling heavy killing machines, and so bad rndrivers are, by dint of this, the worst menace of the two.

  • Anonymous

    Sadly the events described by Mr Baxter occur all too often. I cycle around 50 to 150 miles a week and drive over 200 miles a week. I see some drivers treating the road with respect as well as bad drivers neglecting the rules of the road. I think that this car vs cyclist war comes from poor cyclists as well as bad drivers. In general my experience of bad drivers whilst cycling has mostly been caused by drivers in too much of a hurry. In one instance two cars were racing each other and did not see us until the last moment, they both braked hard and got out of their cars to remonstrate, however when I got off my bike and walked towards them they got back in their cars and drove off. Must have been frightened by the lycra!!

  • Anonymous

    The swearing and shouting was out of order (although perhaps rnunderstandable given the ramifications of close shaves) but I think rnI’ll change the ‘time honoured hand signal’ line because the cyclist rnmay not have been making rude gestures but merely pointing to his rntemple or eyes ie to the driver, ‘you’re nuts’ or ‘are you short- rnsighted?’

  • Anonymous

    classic example of two idiots – one idiot driver who doesn’t understand road safety and one idiot cyclist who doesn’t realize “a time honored hand signal” invites more road rage.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting that he was in such a rush that he couldn’t possibly have waited until after the sharp bend, yet he then had all the time in the world to verbally abuse and argue with the cyclist!

  • Anonymous

    Excellent last bit there – and I bet its “most of them in Cambridge”

  • Anonymous

    I’d also point out that driving a car close enough to someone to make yourself heard through the passenger window is dangerous in and of itself – at that distance, there is very little margin of error indeed.nnReading between the lines, I think Baxter has carried out the classic British motorist trick of the “punishment” pass – someone annoys you, so you roar past to “teach them a lesson”. either that, or he’s succumbed to the also common need to overtake AT ANY COST. Strangely, the latter applies less to horse boxes, tractors, other slow moving traffic.

  • http://twitter.com/John_the_Monkey John_the_Monkey

    I'd also point out that driving a car close enough to someone to make yourself heard through the passenger window is dangerous in and of itself – at that distance, there is very little margin of error indeed.

    Reading between the lines, I think Baxter has carried out the classic British motorist trick of the “punishment” pass – someone annoys you, so you roar past to “teach them a lesson”. either that, or he's succumbed to the also common need to overtake AT ANY COST. Strangely, the latter applies less to horse boxes, tractors, other slow moving traffic.

  • http://twitter.com/JobySp Joby Poby

    Excellent last bit there – and I bet its “most of them in Cambridge”

  • http://twitter.com/graemeshaw graemeshaw

    Interesting that he was in such a rush that he couldn't possibly have waited until after the sharp bend, yet he then had all the time in the world to verbally abuse and argue with the cyclist!

  • http://twitter.com/ccwasabi stuart innes

    classic example of two idiots – one idiot driver who doesn't understand road safety and one idiot cyclist who doesn't realize “a time honored hand signal” invites more road rage.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    The swearing and shouting was out of order (although perhaps
    understandable given the ramifications of close shaves) but I think
    I'll change the 'time honoured hand signal' line because the cyclist
    may not have been making rude gestures but merely pointing to his
    temple or eyes ie to the driver, 'you're nuts' or 'are you short-
    sighted?'

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  • mikearnot

    Sadly the events described by Mr Baxter occur all too often. I cycle around 50 to 150 miles a week and drive over 200 miles a week. I see some drivers treating the road with respect as well as bad drivers neglecting the rules of the road. I think that this car vs cyclist war comes from poor cyclists as well as bad drivers. In general my experience of bad drivers whilst cycling has mostly been caused by drivers in too much of a hurry. In one instance two cars were racing each other and did not see us until the last moment, they both braked hard and got out of their cars to remonstrate, however when I got off my bike and walked towards them they got back in their cars and drove off. Must have been frightened by the lycra!!

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    There are LOTS of bad cyclists out there. Dim youths riding without
    lights, so dim in more ways than one, and inconsiderate red light
    breachers who nearly take out pedestrians on crossings.

    But it's only motorists propelling heavy killing machines, and so bad
    drivers are, by dint of this, the worst menace of the two.

  • mikearnot

    Interesting point. Dim youths hmmm. When I was a kid there was a cycling profficiency test that we were all encouraged to take. Your bike was a proud possesion and you kept it clean and well maintained. You used your pocket money to make it better faster safer. Lights were on at night and the newest one was always a must have. Dynamo's were common place. The same is not true nowadays I fear. Any winter weekend you will see cyclists riding on frames that are many years old. I have three frames that are over 30 years old and still going well, Dawes, Carlton and an Ellis Briggs Favouri. How many mountain bikes are that old? that well kept? or have a rider with such pride in ownership. Just go to the local tip, its rare to see a set of drop bars there, but many rusty other types of cycle. Do you get my drift? Club cyclists will tell you tales of the bad motorist, car clubs (I am the chairman of one and a member of another) will tell you of bad cyclists. But do good drivers ever talk of good cyclists or do cyclists ever mention the fella who stopped to help you fix a puncture.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting point. Dim youths hmmm. When I was a kid there was a cycling profficiency test that we were all encouraged to take. Your bike was a proud possesion and you kept it clean and well maintained. You used your pocket money to make it better faster safer. Lights were on at night and the newest one was always a must have. Dynamo’s were common place. The same is not true nowadays I fear. Any winter weekend you will see cyclists riding on frames that are many years old. I have three frames that are over 30 years old and still going well, Dawes, Carlton and an Ellis Briggs Favouri. How many mountain bikes are that old? that well kept? or have a rider with such pride in ownership. Just go to the local tip, its rare to see a set of drop bars there, but many rusty other types of cycle. Do you get my drift? Club cyclists will tell you tales of the bad motorist, car clubs (I am the chairman of one and a member of another) will tell you of bad cyclists. But do good drivers ever talk of good cyclists or do cyclists ever mention the fella who stopped to help you fix a puncture.