John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk

Road reporting

Last week the Express published a blog post: Hey cyclist, stop shouting...

Basically, the writer (Penny Stretton) was doing a driving lesson, then she swerved to avoid a lorry and almost hit a cyclist. This cyclist then shouted at her, which ruined the rest of her lesson. In fairness, she admits that she shouldn't have been driving when she was tired (cf Highway Code rule 91) and that she should have spotted the cyclist sooner, so I don't want to dwell on that, particularly since she's still a learner. I'm more concerned about the conclusions she's drawn from this experience, and the self-contradictions in her article (which apparently escaped her editor as well).

All I know about this incident is from the driver's point of view, but it sounds similar to a collision I was in last year, so I'm inclined to sympathise with the cyclist.

Quoting her article: Trying to compose myself, I took a deep breath and looked up to see a lorry ahead, half parked and jutting out across my lane. If she looked up, that implies that she was looking down beforehand, i.e. she wasn't watching the road while her vehicle was moving. This is extremely dangerous. If she needed to compose herself then she should have pulled over to the side of the road first; failing that, I'd prefer her to do an emergency stop in the middle of the road rather than driving blind.

Quoting again: He screamed and shouted accusing me of "trying to kill him" which was a rather hilarious exaggeration actually, although it wasn’t so funny at the time. I don't think that she ever intended to harm the cyclist, i.e. this was just incompetence rather than malice. However, I also don't think that she understands how much damage a car crash can do: if you hit someone with a ton of metal then it is often fatal. Last year a 13 year old child was killed by a learner driver in a car park, when the car was only travelling at 4mph. Forgive me if I don't see the hilarity in that.

It's also not clear where the cyclist was (relative to the car) before the near miss. Quoting again: while I certainly should have spotted him quicker, slowed down and hung back, let's get things straight – he shouldn't have been trying to overtake me so quickly, either. If he was trying to overtake her then that implies that he was behind her, but if she could have hung back then that implies that he was ahead of her. Also, she later says that he: was ambling along at wobble pace, swaying so much that I'd earlier been worried about passing him at all. If she was worried about passing him, that implies again that he was ahead of her, so he couldn't have been trying to overtake her. Similarly, if he was ambling along then he couldn't have been going "so quickly".

Finally, she said: Also, couldn't they see I was a learner, in car plastered with BSM and cut me a tiny bit of slack? If he was ahead of her then he probably didn't get a very good view of her car. Also, what exactly should he have done differently? If she came up behind him (travelling faster) and then swerved towards him, it's hardly his fault for not getting out of the way in time! Maybe he should have stayed quiet and assumed that she'd learn from the experience on her own, but she seems to disagree with his assessment, which implies that someone needed to tell her how dangerous that was. I'd be interested to hear the BSM instructor's view on this, since apparently he didn't explain this to her either.

All in all, another reminder that the tabloid press isn't a reliable source of information.
Tags: cycling, driving, journalism
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