One from the vaults: He’s behind you

This is a veritable golden oldy from all the way back in 2009!

Motorists are often impatient, tooting their horns at you if you don’t move as soon as the traffic lights turn green. This horn tooting also extends to cyclists and, I’ve learnt, can mean a variety of things.

First off, there’s the friendly toot from someone you know who’s trying to attract your attention. This is generally, short, staccato but ultimately convivial and usually accompanied by much hand waiving. It’s generally one of my neighbours or a fellow cyclist.

Next off there’s the “watch out” toot. This is generally long and loud, intended to alert oncoming traffic as the vehicle overtakes the cyclist unsighted. This is wise and precautionary. Many of the roads are quiet and one can understand the driver’s reluctance to remain behind a slow moving (at least in my case) cyclist on a winding road.

Then there’s the “advisory” toot, loud but not overly intrusive, warning the cyclist of the impending arrival of an unusually large vehicle. I suspect they assume all cyclists wear MP3 players and wisely decide to advertise their presence. Generally, they’ll wait until they can see the road is clear before overtaking. I may just help them on their way by signalling when the road is clear.

The penultimate class is my least favourite. The “get out of my way” toot. This is loud, aggressive and insistent, assuming that cars take precedence over cyclists. Whatever the size or state of the road, the driver will endeavour, sometimes in vain, to pass the cyclist. I have a variety of hand signals to show my displeasure at this category of driver and, if the opportunity presents itself, I like to remind them that they own a vehicle but not the road. None of these drivers are cyclists  and have little appreciation of what constitutes reckless driving.

Finally, there’s the driver who doesn’t toot because they are oblivious to my presence. They’re multi-tasking: driving while simultaneously, talking on the phone, smoking, putting on their lipstick, grabbing a quick drink, eating something, fiddling with their GPS, twiddling the dials on their radio etc etc You get the general drift. These drivers pay no heed to the mantra “mirror, signal, manoeuvre”. Again, none of those in this category are themselves cyclists.

Fortunately, there are more cyclists on the Cote d’Azur than there are drivers in the last two categories, except during the months of July and August when we’re hit by a tidal wave of tourists – though maybe not this year.  During these months special attention has to be paid to those with number plates from countries where cycling is not a popular sport, hire cars (all helpfully registered in the same French department) and Parisians.

8 Comments on “One from the vaults: He’s behind you

  1. I enjoy driving in France and Spain and Portugal is so easy but I will never drive again in Italy. I hired a car in Puglia in 2013 and felt bullied and intimidated the whole time. The horn blowing was persistently aggressive and dangerous.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well, I was looking at it purely from the perspective of a bike rider but I know what you mean about the Italian driving. They sit on your bumper or, in my case, bike carrier and try to get you to go faster. It’s totally wasted on me as I drive on the speed limit, driving them crazy. 😂 😂 😂


  2. I’ve cycled in England and France quite a lot and all of those toots I have experienced in England but never in France, particularly in Brittany, Loire, Languedoc and Burgundy. I was once interviewed live on a Radio Cumbria as I cycled up the coast one day and posed three questions for motorists to answer across the day; when did a cyclist last kill a motorist by overtaking a car, why do you slow down for horses and not cyclists, and what do you think is the effect of overtaking a cyclist at 50-60mph?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One signal we had to get used to here in the New Forest was the flashing headlights from oncoming vehicles indicating that there are ponies on the road round the next bend 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This was a fun post. I had one experience in the People’s Republic of California when two cyclists in San Diego were stopped in front of me at a red light (at the top of a hill.) The woman cyclist took off as soon as the arrow turned green for a right-hand turn. Her pace was very good for what was essentially an uphill turn at a major intersection. Her male companion was the epitome of passive-aggressive slackerdom. He moseyed up the hill, deliberately remaining in the middle of the road. I should have switched lanes and safely passed him but I wanted to make a right hand turn into the shopping center shortly after the turn was completed. After what seemed like several excruciatingly slow minutes, I honked at him. The truculent twenty-something biker stopped his bike and came back towards my car. “What do you want?” he snarled. “I just want you to move,” I replied. What I did not add, if that you had shown the same reasonableness as the woman you were riding next too, this incident would not have happened. As a former cyclist, I try to give bikers the right of way, but unless there are extenuating circumstances besides attitude, I would hope the rider would make a reasonable attempt to not deliberately back up traffic behind him just because he can.


    • Absolutely, I’m with you on that one and I hate unreasonable behaviour in other cyclists as it gives us all a bad name.


  5. I think there is an angry toot too! I was subject to one in Amsterdam. I was mesmerised by the architecture and didn’t realise that I had stepped onto the cycle path. And goes an angry toot and a shout, ‘Are you kidding me!!’. I was quite shaken to react but thankfully a kind Dutch woman smiled at me and shrugged suggesting, ‘the pains of pedestrians’ 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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