On the BBC’s Jeremy Vine programme this Tuesday , there was a short piece at the end of the show about a van driver who’d been fired as a result of his inappropriate behaviour towards a cyclist. It seems that his van was wired for sound by his employer, including cameras looking forward, at the driver, and out either side of the windows.
The driver was aware of this, yet it seemed that his frustration at the cyclist took over his ability to behave on the road. The situation was that the cyclist, 35 year old James Hogarth, had found himself in the wrong lane, with a revving engine behind him and a beeping horn. Jeremy Vine explained what had happened:
One thing led to another, and before james knew it, he was being shouted at and sworn at by a driver desperate to get past. At one point the driver even swerved in towards james and nearly knocked him from his bike.
That driver might have behaved differently if he’d born two things in mind. Number one, there was a gadget in the van recording everything he did. Number two, some cyclists have an almost millitant attitude towards their safety on the roads. James it seems is one, and as such he made a note of the vehicle’s registration number and the company name printed on its side, and reported it to the driver’s employers – a window cleaning firm, called NCMP247.com .
They checked the footage on their special video gadget. They duly sacked the driver.
James Hogarth explained on the radio show what had happened in this incident:
He just kept on beeping and beeping and beeping. At one point he undertook me, missing me by inches. I came up beside him and went, "Oi!", and he swerved the van at me . . . at the end of the day this is a gentleman who swerved a ton or two of metal at me, when someone on a bike weighs about as much as a sack of spuds.
And you complain about quite a few vehicles on your travels, because you find that it’s quite hostile out there?
I’ve complained to a few employers about their drivers, yes.
Talking to The managing director of NCMP247.com, Nathan Colewell, Jeremy opened the questioning about the incident. Nathan’s response was,
We saw a cyclist who was travelling … it could have been further over to the left [the road’s edge], possibly. It did look like he could be further over to the left. [Jeremy laughs], and the van driver was coming behind, the cyclist didn’t do much in the way to help matters , I have to say, um, but it’s not the cyclist’s fault he’s on a bike and this is a van, un, and yeah, there was an altercation between the two parties, and yeah, the car did swerve towards the cyclist.
So the driver pulled the van in towards the cyclist in a kind of aggressive way , and he said some very, very rude words?
This is a radio show that gets listener feedback, and there was the usual mix of responses – cyclists largely in favour of the outcome, and motorists on about tax-avoiding, law-breaking, anarchist cyclists.
But what got me was the tone of the presenter’s introduction. Jeremy’s obvious attempts to blame the cyclist, to get the cyclist to confess that it was all his fault, and his sniggering interjection when the video footage was being explained says a lot about his attitude to bikes on the road. If we’d been talking about a driver acting in this way to a mum pushing a pram across a zebra crossing, would his attitude have been a little different? If the cyclist had been killed by the driver’s "kind of aggressive" driving, would he still find it funny?
Is it any wonder that, "some cyclists have an almost millitant attitude towards their safety on the roads" in the face of this sort of driver behaviour. I hardly think that James’ response sounded particularly millitant – especially given the level of provocation he seemed to be under. If he were to have retalliated in kind against the driver of this vehicle, can you imagine the headlines it would generate? THAT would be millitant.