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.