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We smug cyclists just bring out the worst in drivers

Here's an incident I recalled, while reading about the campaign for safer cycling. I was on a bike, at a set of traffic lights, when a gargantuan lorry pulled up beside me.

One thing you learn about lorries at a set of lights is to make sure the driver has seen you, so I gave him a smile, which is normally greeted with a semi-wave.

But this time the driver put his window down and made a fascinating statement. He said: “I pay road tax. You pay clear off.”

So, presumably, what was going through his mind was ‘On the one hand, here is an ideal scenario for me to make my point about the iniquities of our road-funding policy, whereby this cyclist is deemed exempt from contributing, in spite of the fact that he uses the road as much as I do. On the other hand, I can't wait to tell him to clear off. Oh, no. Now I've merged the two thoughts together, it's come out all grammatically incoherent’.

Another flaw in his thesis is that I do pay road tax, as do all cyclists if they have a car. And, in any case, it seems a strange thing to get angry about.

After a while, the anger becomes fascinating.

Sometimes a driver will lean out of the window and scream “get out of the way” when you're innocently at the side of the road — if you were in a car, you'd be much more in the way.

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And you wonder how exhausting it must be to scream at everything that is, technically, in the way.

They must knock at random doors and yell at whoever answers “If these houses hadn't been built, I could have driven through here. Now get out of the way.” The puzzling side to this rage is that thousands of people are injured by cars, whereas it's almost impossible for a motorist to be injured by a pushbike.

Maybe it's an equal opportunities issue and motorists feel that, as cyclists are likely to be healthier, drivers should even up the life-expectancy by being allowed to pull out in front of them while texting their mum and looking on the back seat for a Twix.

Most drivers can tolerate the frustrations of the roads and remain considerate, but the anti-cycling sentiment seems to be growing.

It's still a glorious means of travel, due to a reason more important than those usually cited such as cost, health and speed across town, which is that cycling releases a chemical in the brain that makes you feel utterly smug and superior for the rest of the day.

Maybe that's what annoys some people, as they sit in motionless lines of traffic.

Which is why cycling's image is so different from when it was seen as a sweet-natured pursuit of children.

So if children's stories from back then were updated they'd read: “Mrs Mablethorpe was cycling to Picklewitch Farm to pick up some delicious eggs.

“‘Ding-a-ling’ went her bell as she passed Mr Jiffybag, the postman.

“‘Get out of the bleedin’ way, Mablethorpe’, yelled Mr Jiffybag as he threw a lovely round juicy orange at her head.”


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