Josie Dew blogs about beeping drivers
Josie Dew blogs about beeping drivers
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