Josie Dew blogs about beeping drivers

Josie Dew and her children

Josie Dew blogs about beeping drivers

Cycling UK's Vice President Josie Dew discusses drivers who blast their horns at cyclists.

If I’m pushing a shopping trolley around our local shop and I accidentally get in the way of a shopper I will say, "Sorry" and they will say something like, "No problem love". Or if I’m trying to manoeuvre a pushchair weighed down with a hefty child and an ungainly assortment of shopping bags through the door of a shop and I momentarily hold someone up I will again say, "Sorry" and they might grab the door for me and say, "Not at all, take your time. You’ve got quite a handful". Some even go all Australian on me and say, "No worries, mate". In other words, face to face, people tend to be the height of politeness.

So, why is it that some people who are so courteous and well-mannered when you meet them on foot can get into a vehicle and turn into a snarling, foul-mouthed, devil-horned monster? Here’s a fine example of one such undesirable character I had the misfortune to meet recently when cycling up a long steep hill near where I live.

It was a lovely early spring morning: cold, quiet, clear and windless. My breath steamed out in front of me as I cycled up through the tall-trunked conifer woods. After going up and up the road slightly flattens out before it suddenly hits a very sharp and steep left-hand bend. No car had passed me since I had left home three-quarters of a mile earlier (though I had seen three deer and one fox), but as I was approaching the bend I suddenly heard a vehicle coming up the hill. It sounded loud and fast.

When I glanced over my shoulder I saw it rear up over the brow of the hill in the middle of the road: a big black 4x4 Porsche Cayenne. You’d have thought that on spotting me on a bike on a near single-track country lane, approaching a steep, blind hairpin bend, that the driver might slow his speed a bit. But no, he didn’t slow up until he was right on top of my rear wheel where he then leant on his horn with a prolonged and loud valley-echoing blast. One minute I was having a lovely cycle in the quiet with just the birdsong and the pant of my breath and the next all this peace was shattered by an obnoxious muppet in a Porsche Cayenne 'Pepper Pig'. Or whatever these oddly-named vehicles are called.

To be blasted by a horn when on a bike is hugely rude and hugely annoying! If I was in the shop and blocking this man’s way with my trolley would he remove an air-horn from his pocket and blast me in the face with it just because he was in a hurry to get to the checkout? Of course not.

Josie Dew, Cycling UK Vice President 

To be blasted by a horn when on a bike is hugely rude and hugely annoying. If I was in the shop and blocking this man’s way with my trolley would he remove an air-horn from his pocket and blast me in the face with it just because he was in a hurry to get to the checkout? Of course not. He would most likely be very pleasant and very polite.

So what was Mr Pepper Pig Porsche hoping to achieve here from the elevated helm of his vehicle? If he was in a hurry and didn’t like the look of the cyclist in front of his expansive, shiny sleek bonnet he only had to wait six seconds (I counted the next time I rode up here) for me to ride up round the corner and for him to overtake on the wider part of the hill.

But he was too self-important and too arrogant to be able to wait such a mere handful of seconds, so instead he just detonated his horn. Little friendly toot-toots are just that - nice and friendly and are often accompanied by a cheery wave. But this man’s almighty blaring horn meant nothing other than a fist-shaking: ‘GET OUT OF MY WAY YOU <insert an expletive here>!’

When I’m out cycling with my three young children (which is mostly every day) I find the majority of drivers pretty good when they pass us on our bikes. They slow down (though not nearly as much as for a horse), they give us space, they give us a wave. But every now and then we get a bumptious halfwit who (in the case of a man) often has a chipolata stuffed down his pants and who attempts to make up for what he lacks in that area by trying to be all loud and flashy and fast. Voila Mr Pepper Pig Porsche!

As if blasting a cyclist with a horn isn’t pompously pointless enough, he then tried to overtake me right on the hairpin. Overtake on the hairpin! What wombat in their right mind enters a blind, steep uphill corner on the opposite side of the road driving on the right as if they are in France?

I powered up round this corner psyched-up by the brainlessness of this man and once I could see the way was clear, I pushed him into the bank forcing him to stop. I then knocked on his passenger window with a hearty and very satisfying road-cop rat-a-tat-tat. He glared angrily at me and I smiled. Smile, and the world will smile with you! So goes the saying. Except for Mr Pepper Pig Porsche. He just continued to scowl.

Slowly and reluctantly he pressed a button and the window came down. Naturally I felt like calling him a word that rhymes with banker but instead I kept all vocab pristine clean. "Good morning, sir," I chirped. "Is there something you would like to say?" Because I take it that when someone blasts you with their horn they more often than not need to get something off their chest. So I thought it best to go down the psychology path rather than the expletive-throwing one.

Maybe Mr Pepper Pig Porsche was having a bad day and me on my bike in front of his motor was just another thorn in his side. Maybe he had got out of bed the wrong side. Or maybe his wife had left him. Or his husband had left him. Or his dog had left him. Or maybe his underpants were simply just too tight. Who knows?

Anyway, so much for my agony aunt attempts at understanding. All I got for my efforts was a shout and a shriek and a thick tirade of unmentionable lingo. There was no reasoning with him. And absolutely no point in inviting him to sit with me on the grassy bank at the side of the road to discuss the finer points of horn-blowing in the Highway Code. So I let him go and he roared off up the hill in a huffily haughty show of speed.

Should I ever meet Mr Pepper Pig Porsche in an aisle in my local shop, I will introduce myself as that bloody annoying cyclist that he blasted with his horn and tried to run over on that scenic hairpin hill one lovely sunny spring morning. And he will probably be all smarmy and charming and invite me for a nice cup of tea. Or maybe not. 

Josie Dew is the Vice President of Cycling UK and an author and cycling adventurer. For more information on her bikes, books and bits and bobs take a look at her website www.josiedew.com

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Comments

Josie,

Anyone who has ridden our UK roads for any length of time will recognise this scenario and sympathise. There are some people who are so unstable and angry that they are psychologically unsuited to doing something as dangerous to other people as driving. I've had similar experiences any number of times, once with serious consequences.

I was riding up a very long, steep hill in the Wye valley with a 90 degree right hand bend at the top. I was about 30m from the bend when I heard a high revving motor behind me, and glancing back, saw the dreaded white van approaching at speed. Looking forward again, I saw the reflection of headlights on the dew soaked hedge, and held out my right hand in the universal "stop" sign, but the van driver ignored it, pulled out past me and hit the oncoming car at the bend. No injuries, but two vehicles damaged badly and undriveable, but it could have been so much worse.

As far as bad drivers go, 4x4 drivers are up there with white van man. I once thought of an advertising slogan to be spray painted on 4x4 posters; "Only got 4 inches? Get a 4x4!"

To call this person, I hesitate to use the word man, a halfwit insults all halfwits some of whom are a little intelligent.

As a regular rider in Hertfordshire-- admittedly in a Quest velomobile (entirely human-powered aerodynamic tricycle) I experience such events all the time. Only a week ago whilst out riding in a beautiful quiet lane behind a group of conventional cyclists (all riding single file!) A WOMAN in some sort of Porsche thing decided to try and pass us all with oncoming traffic in the other direction!! Needless to say she almost caused an accident-- both cars came to a stop facing each other whilst we rode steadily on. What she didn't notice was that I have both front and rear cameras on my machine! (See link)
https://www.dropbox.com/s/1p1u43cxcb6wv8s/crazypassing.jpg?dl=0

Although I haven't posted the next few frames-- rest assured the number plate is clearly visible and had there been an accident the evidence of her stupidity was undeniable!

So it's not just male drivers- but I'm starting to develop a distaste for large 4x4s and Porsches of any model!

As a regular rider in Hertfordshire-- admittedly in a Quest velomobile (entirely human-powered aerodynamic tricycle) I experience such events all the time. Only a week ago whilst out riding in a beautiful quiet lane behind a group of conventional cyclists (all riding single file!) A WOMAN in some sort of Porsche thing decided to try and pass us all with oncoming traffic in the other direction!! Needless to say she almost caused an accident-- both cars came to a stop facing each other whilst we rode steadily on. What she didn't notice was that I have both front and rear cameras on my machine! (See link)
https://www.dropbox.com/s/1p1u43cxcb6wv8s/crazypassing.jpg?dl=0

Although I haven't posted the next few frames-- rest assured the number plate is clearly visible and had there been an accident the evidence of her stupidity was undeniable!

So it's not just male drivers- but I'm starting to develop a distaste for large 4x4s and Porsches of any model!

Living in rural Norfolk I have discovered a strange phenomenon with some drivers - they will slow down and even stop for a pigeon, a cute bunny, definitely a pheasant but strangely enough not a human being on a bicycle. Now why is that? Quite remarkable.
With regard to the previous comment Audi drivers are particularly pushy in this part of the world.

So what are you going to do about it Josie? The use of the horn, unless there has been some change, is only to warn of your approach. It doesn't confer any right of way or excuse any driving behaviour. The driver still has to take the greatest possible care not to hit you including stop if necessary. The road user, of any kind, has no obligation to get out of the way of Mr Horny Blare. So what is the point of having it? You should use your influential position to start a campaign now to stop manufacturers fitting them. Then cars will also be a little bit cheaper, AND Dad's Taxi will not be pulling up outside your neighbours house at 6am sounding his horn to say get your arse out here, which is already illegal anyway, being stationary.

Ask yourself, what sort of character is someone who wants to own/drive a vehicle like this, a Porsche Cayenne?
Then ask yourself. Are you surprised at his behaviour?

Josie,
Did you take his number? If so, you could have reported him to the police for dangerous driving or at least driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. He certainly wouldn't get prosecuted for that one occasion, but he might get a friendly word of advice from a traffic cop. In addition, someone who drives like that normally does it regularly. If there are other recorded incidents he may even get to explain himself to the Magistrates.

I guess we have all experienced incidents similar to this from time to time. Some of my friends are very upset by it and react quite badly and aggressively. My own approach is to (try to) ignore it, completely. There is no point in letting aggressive, Jeremy Vroom-Vroom Clarkson types spoil a good ride. The proportion of such drivers is actually quite small, all things considered. However, it is strange, The person you describe may well be polite in "normal" society. I have been taken aback by the change in personality of some of the otherwise nice people I have been with in their car. What is it about sitting behind a wheel? Closing the vehicle door seems to leave the brain outside. We need a psychologist to elucidate, please.

PS forgot to mention another thought, worthy of consideration - if there are drugs or alcohol fuelling the aggressive drivers, there is no predicting the extremes of their behaviour. Maybe it's always wise to back off, let them accelerate away in fury, just in case?

I used to commute into work on a road bike, wear fluorescent clothing, helmet etc. Now I cycle on a sit up and beg bike, wear normal office clothing, don't bother with a helmet. Results: drivers (including 4 x 4s) overtake more slowly, giving more room, and even give way to me at times. The odd Porche is still a problem but then I catch up with (him) at the next junction where he's shouting at the car driver in front. Suspect Porche drivers don't like any other road users that slow them down.

I really sympathise with your experience. that kind of driving is dangerous and feels very threatening at the time. I have sadly also reacted in the heat of the moment to force a driver to stop so I could remonstrate with them. However, one only has to experience a couple of such incidents to realize that reacting in a way that escalates these situations carries it's own dangers and perpetuates antagonism. I'm very surprised that you're willing to use your platform on cycleclips to boast about your behavior and make tired old sexually derogatory comments to the driver involved. Seems you are reacting to his bullying behavior by bullying in return.

I've met dangerous women as much as men on the road. I'm not going to write to you about what they have in their underwear. Peppa Pig was funny. Forcing him onto the verge and insulting him in your blogg...?

Further to previous comments; (& obviously sympathise with the incident having had similar)
my experience is that it's nothing to do with male/female or porsche/ford focus/white van man/lorry - it all depends on the (crazy!) driver.
What do you/we do about it? I reckon from the earlier comment, the only way is to record footage with a bike cam & send to police, as usually there are no 'independant witnesses' (I was once launched over the roof of a lady's car, who after admitting liability at the scene to police, then chose to lie - the police made such a poor job of recording the incident she got away with it! I promised myself to get f/r bike cams, but of course still haven't shelled out).
We need a better 'culture' of drivers toward cycling, it's coming, too slowly IMO, but more continuous media coverage & better action from the police would help!
Best wishes to all fellow cyclists.

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