Cycling safety tip: start shouting at cars

This is a post I wrote for Medium the other day and, since it’s about my Radlett-to-Elstree commute, I thought I’d republish it here. Tell me what you think…

It’s for your own safety. Everybody’s safety.

Don’t shout abuse obvs. That’ll make things worse (and get you a lump on the head most likely). Don’t ring your silly bell, wave your fist or offer sarcastic life advice.

Just do this: when a car passes and comes too close or cuts across, shout, as loudly and clearly as you can: “too close!”

The therapy bit

You’re not being aggressive. But you’re not being passive-aggressive either. You’re getting it out there. Getting it off your chest.

Shout those two words. then take some deep breaths and forget about it. The rest of your journey won’t be eaten up with unexpressed rage and terror. You can get on with your ride, maybe enjoy it.

You’ll get to work happier and more relaxed. You’ll find you won’t need to whinge about that maniac to your colleagues (while they roll their eyes and look out the window) and you won’t need to write your standard Facebook update about the murderous wickedness of the whole motorist class.

And, of course, it’s not about all drivers, it’s about that one driver who passed scarily close — and, by yelling “too close!” you sorted it out directly with that one person. Job done. It’s road safety as therapy. As healing.

I’ve been doing it for a while, on the three-mile countryside bit of my commute. I can’t report much change in behaviour but I reckon a handful of drivers have now heard me shout it more than once and common sense says they’ll think about it the next time they pass that lunatic who shouts at cars. Two bus drivers have actually apologised.

The public health bit

If all cyclists do this, sooner or later drivers will get the message and start to move over a bit when they pass cyclists. But, more to the point, if we just keep this stuff to ourselves — if we just fume silently and plot dark revenge — no one can learn, the system can’t learn.

By shouting “too close” you’re adding some information to the system, providing an insight that a driver might simply never have received before. And, if it becomes a more-or-less universal habit, there’s a reasonable chance that behaviour will change, peace will reign, days be improved, maybe even lives saved. Seriously.

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