One of the more serious downsides to cycling in the UK is, “The twat factor.” I think we will all have a story about a motorist who has consciously made the decision to attempt to intimidate a cyclist with their vehicle, verbally abused a cyclist or threatened them with violence, typically attempting using the car itself as a weapon (although this is not always the case). It is a markedly different experience from the constant stream of bad behaviour from motorists which we as cyclists endure on a regular basis, such as unsafe overtakes, left hooks, cutting in and ASL/cycle lane obstruction and intrusion, to name a few. The less cynical amongst us can dismiss this kind of behaviour as a symptom of ignorance or selfishness, rather than outright bigotry or malice.
I encounter similar behaviour sometimes in a non-transport context, after all, the person who tries to assault a cyclist with his car will still be a twat when he is away from his vehicle. However, in this context this kind of behaviour is much more easy to deal with, as the playing field is much more level. When an aggressor is armoured with a few tonnes of car which can accelerate to a high speed very quickly, and the victim is, well, not, such behaviour can be particularly intimidating.
It made me think of that quote attributed to Gary Fisher;
“Anybody who rides a bike is a friend of mine.”
Whilst this particular statement is a bit too rosy to sit well with my own slightly more misanthropic world-view, it got me thinking. Whilst the man who tries to assault a cyclist with his car will still be a twat when he is away from his vehicle, his ability to harm is severely reduced. If he were to ride a bike instead of drive, I’m sure it wouldn’t make him the sort of person I’d want to call a, “Friend,” but his very existence would suddenly become less of a detriment to the lives of others. So, I have decided to modify Gary Fishers quote to fit my own view of the world;
“Anybody who rides a bike, is less of a twat than they would be if they were driving a car.”
It perhaps doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I think the sentiment is similar enough. Feel free to share your stories of these sorts of encounters in the comments.