Thursday, 4 June 2015

New Forest Drivers

Having regained my cycling confidence on gloriously quiet Dorset roads, a ride in the New Forest brought back the inner panic. What is it that makes drivers in the New Forest so much more angry and rubbish at driving than anywhere else?! The New Forest is such a beautiful place to cycle and it is a terrible shame that motor vehicles and man-powered ones can't live in harmony.

If it wasn’t a coach ploughing down the Forest’s “main roads” with no idea of their own size, it was aggressive, impatient drivers who refuse to wait until it is actually safe to overtake, or who wait for the right moment but then choose to squeeze past you anyway.

Three New Forest Rangers passed by throughout the ride in their big off-roaders; they all managed to overtake like normal, safe drivers – excellent. Perhaps they could start delivering a course, a quick driving course for anyone entering the New Forest?.. They could get drivers to demonstrate a safe overtake of a cyclist and a horse, then they could get a little flag to display on their left wing mirror that allows them to drive around. If at any point a pedestrian, cyclist or rider can remove the flag whilst the car is in motion then that driver is banned. Simple?
Sportives are often a contentious issue with the locals; reports in recent years of tacks left to booby-trap the roads make whole events dangerous for those taking part. I agree entirely that some events have become enormous and probably a bit too regular throughout the year but it is a very peculiar type of person who decides that the only sensible course of action is to attempt to intentionally harm people. What's wrong with a good old, traditional moan to the council or to the organisers?!

Crazy local trap-setters aside, this is my guide to the types of drivers you will encounter if you choose to pedal in the New Forest (my illustrator is extremely professional):

"The Small Car Squeeze" There are a lot of drivers who lack the very essence of spatial awareness. Drivers of small cars will look ahead, see oncoming traffic and feel confident that both their vehicle and a cyclist will fit very comfortably together on one side of the road. I can assure you that the cyclist will not agree. The only one worse than this is the big car that thinks it is a small car and takes the same course of action.

"The Driver in the Wrong Gear" You're flying down an amazing descent. Your eyes are streaming but you're focused on the road; at this speed any tiny bump or hole could throw you off, but you have to take every bit of momentum you can get because there is a killer hill up ahead. A car trundles past you, the driver is either a tourist or a pensioner. The car goes ahead and suddenly, just as you hit the bottom of the climb, they slow down or worse, stall. Your Strava segment attempt is ruined. You fist-shaking is wasted; they're oblivious to your pain. Also occurs regularly when approaching cattle grids.

"The Deceiver" There's a car behind you, you can hear it coming. You glance behind and he is already pulling out. You breathe a sigh of relief, he's a good'un, he's gona give you loads of space. This driver though, is completely unaware that you - the cyclist - are still moving forward. If you had been stationary, this would have been a fine manoeuvre but the driver manages to nearly drive you off the road as they cut in right in front of your wheel, if not sooner. Be very wary of the deceiver, prepare to brake. Long vehicles are also big deceivers.

"The Hero" The New Forest Ranger is coming, riding their big, green, metal steed. Courageously. they cross those scary white lines in the middle of the road and go about their noble duties without causing any harm or fear to other Forest dwellers. They show every other vehicle on the road how it's done in their kingdom. 

"The Traffic Maker" There will always be one car who is scared to overtake. They will trail in your wake for miles, unsure of how to proceed. They will unwittingly sow a seed in your head that you must pedal as hard as you possibly can for the whole time they sit behind you because you are a massive inconvenience. Hoards of vexed drivers will form an exasperated meandering queue who will cite hatred for the innocent cyclist. This is, however, a preferably option than being run off the road. Plus it is good speed endurance training.

"The Exterminator" Caravans: contraptions designed by the Devil himself. Worse than a lorry or a coach or quite frankly, a tank. The rattle of a caravan or trailer is enough to send shivers down my spine. The towing driver does not remember that whatever they are towing is wider than the vehicle they're driving. They don't know know that their caravan is swerving gently behind them like a silent wrecking ball of cycling destruction. They love nothing more than taking their caravan on entirely unsuitable roads and causing mayhem and havoc wherever they go. Avoid at all costs.

Be safe out there..

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