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.

Street photography at the Radlett Centre

Gary Perlmutter walks the streets of London, capturing those decisive moments that define the city. He’s shared this gorgeous set of photographs – from the tradition that includes Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand and Martin Parr – with us and you can see the rest of his exhibition in the Apthorp Gallery at the Radlett Centre until 29 February. Highly recommended.

Two dogs waiting outside a supermarket. In the window, an advert reads 'Dinner for two'
Dinner for two

Two men walk in the city paying attention to their mobile phones. On the hording behind them the word 'Connectivity'.
Four people sit outside an upmarket cafe with coffee.
Two people reading newspapers outside a beach hut, by Gary Perlmutter
Elderly man sleeping in deckchair in the sunshine
Last rays of sunshine
A woman walks past a wooden hording with a painting of hands on it. One of the hands appears to be grabbing the woman's head.

A guarded welcome for the Radlett crime map

Pity the poor residents of Craig Mount – a not-particularly-long cul-de-sac in the South East corner of Radlett – victims (or at least witnesses), according to the new government crime map of the area, of 5 crimes in December alone. In that period, the data suggests, Craig Mount was the scene of one robbery, one vehicle crime, one violent crime and two ‘other’ crimes. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Craig Mount is Radlett’s crime hotspot, although it does seem unlikely (and there isn’t even a pub there). The doubts expressed in the 36 hours since the data went public suggest we might be seeing some ‘bunching’ of crimes for the sake of convenience or that some of these crimes may not have been crimes at all. Certainly it’s impossible to tell if any of them resulted in convictions – that data’s not here.

We are, of course, big fans of linked data from public sources but this particular release looks like it may have been bodged. Will Perrin – localism champion – on his King’s Cross blog highlights weaknesses with the data, including mapping inaccuracies that misplace crimes (he wonders why this government project isn’t using the excellent Ordnance Survey maps, recently opened up for purposes like this). More damning perhaps is the verdict of the database hackers and developers consulted in The Guardian. These are the people who’ve been pressing for the release of public data like this in usable forms and building applications on top of it. One of them points out that historic comparisons won’t be possible with the new release because only one month’s data will be available at any one time.

Adrian Short, one of the developers quoted, goes further and calls the exercise “pseudo-transparency”, and says that the site is “worse than useless”. Most of the big releases of public data we’ve seen from the initiative have been received with at least qualified enthusiasm so it’s unsettling that this important block of data has been rubbished by the data jockeys.

So we’ll welcome the crime map but reserve judgement on its value at least until we’ve been convinced that it’s more than a political exercise – a settling of scores with intransigent police forces and the previous regime.

Type your postcode into the search field at for your own data. The results page provides some other useful information – the names of your beat coppers, for instance, and the dates of crime prevention events near you.