Off-season roads

Got caught out in the dark and wet yesterday.  Cycling home in the dark leaves me having to slow right down every time I meet a car, as visibility past their headlights is virtually nothing.  The rain seemed to be on the higher ground, coming down relentlessly on the hilltops but easing off to near-nothing (except surface water and big puddles) in the two big valleys on my way home.

But foul weather seems to bring out the best in the drivers.  Not one of them failed to dip their headlights for me, nor did any pass too close or fast.  Excellent behaviour all round.  Actually that comment almost applies to my outward journey, which was in daylight and good weather: most of the drivers around here are courteous and considerate.

This of course is the off-season.  Come the summer, and particularly the school holidays, and our roads are full of obnoxious idiots.  In my childhood, my mother characterised them as “London Drivers”, and I expect she was pretty-much right.  Nowadays I expect it’s not so much central London as the Extended London that has swallowed up the whole of southeast England.

Guess I should make the most of it, and hope the idiot season brings weather to encourage me off-road, at least for leisure cycling.

Posted on February 21, 2011, in cycling. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’m glad to see you still remember some of my words of wisdom after all these years. Yes, keep out of the tripper/holidaymaker’s way if your value life and limb!

  2. OK, since you’re a far more serious cyclist than me, maybe you could be a spot data-point for me. Take a 60mph limit country A-road, single lane either way, mildly wiggly. Would you rather a car drive close behind you at ~20mph for a while, or just get on with it and overtake as soon as the way’s clear?

    (I’m trying to phrase the question neutrally here; my real feelings – from the point of view of someone two cars behind – are more in your favour.)

  3. Tim, if a car is behind me on our narrower roads, I’ll look for an opportunity to wave them past – typically somewhere the road widens sufficiently. A bit of give-and-take benefits everyone.

    Of course that depends on the terrain: on the downhill there’s no reason for them to pass; on the steeper uphill I’ll look to the first opportunity even if it’s just a gate, and something intermediate on the flat.

    It also depends on driver behaviour. If they’re being an arse then I might feel inclined to slow right down and *not* let them pass. And conversely, a few of them hang back such a long way that I *can’t* wave them past, in what may be a misguided attempt to be over-polite.

    As for your precise scenario, I’ll let them get on with it, and pass just as soon as there’s sufficient visibility ahead. That may occasionally mean my moving in or out according to whether I see it as safe, but usually I’m happy to leave the driver to judge when it’s safe. A hesitant old dodderer isn’t as bad as the boy racer who overtakes into oncoming traffic, but does get annoying. Much prefer drivers who get on with it just as soon as there’s room.

  4. When I was working in and around London, London drivers (those in the centre) were pretty much as mellow as they come. Once the average speed was down to little more than walking pace it was very obvious to all that being pushy and inconsiderate wouldn’t make any difference to how long it takes to get any where. Also they might end up sitting a few yards in front of anyone they cut in on for half an hour or more, best not to invoke road rage in people in such circumstances. The rest of the south east traffic on the other hand was manic.

  5. Much prefer drivers who get on with it just as soon as there’s room.

    Sounds about right. Good. My expectations of cyclists’ wishes aren’t that far out.

    (The problem has arisen when you get some jerk who insists on dawdling up a cyclist’s bottom at 20 in a 60 limit despite there being plenty overtaking room; for the rest of us stuck behind forming an increasingly long queue, this is gratuitously offensive – and not the cyclist’s fault. Bloody stupid tourists.)

  6. Tim, can’t say for sure whether your idea of plenty of room matches mine. Depends on conditions, but at 60mph on a single-track-each-way road you should only pass when you can move over to the other side. Different story if you’re doing 20 or 30 to my uphill 10, but even then one wants room to avoid potholes, crap in the road, protruding vegetation, etc.

    If a driver is hesitant, better (s)he remain behind than go halfheartedly into an overtake and then dither about it.

    Going back to my original post, I’d also expect you to go slower and give me more space when the weather is bad, as indeed happened in that instance.

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