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


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?