Social media can be a force for good but it is, all too frequently, an opportunity for the ill-informed to broadcast their thoughts to the world. Below is the transcript of a cycling-themed conversation that took place yesterday evening on Facebook. The original comment was posted to my personal Facebook page but the construction company was tagged in the post allowing people other than ‘friends’ to see it and comment upon it, as Paul T and Paul M did. I have tidied up the punctuation, but not the syntax of the comments made by Paul T. You may have to read his comments a few times before you actually understand the point he is attempting (and usually failing) to make. I have removed the name of the construction company to save their blushes… Brace yourself; we are going in!
From the Highway Code (Updated in 2022):
“[Drivers should] leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds. [Drivers] should wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.
Transcript from Facebook, 12.4.22:
ANDREW: “XXXXX Construction may be wonderful builders – lots of pretty pictures on their Facebook page. Alas the employee driving a XXXXX Construction van this morning at 8:15 up Stainland Road approaching Sowood nearly knocked me off my bike. The rule is a minimum of 1.5m when passing a bicycle. Not under 50 cm…”
PAUL T: “Do you pay road tax?”
ANDREW: “Nobody does. I pay Vehicle Excise Duty on my low emissions car. It costs me £25 a year. I filled my tax return in this morning however and I paid around £6,000 in income tax in 2021/22 plus Council Tax, VAT etc… all of which pay for the upkeep of the roads, roads upon which I’m perfectly entitled to ride my bicycle without getting killed…”
PAUL T: “OK. Do you own/drive a car?”
BRENDA: “Have you read his reply? Cyclists have a right to ride safely on the roads. Not all of us are teenagers who ride disrespectfully of other road users. I am 71 year old and still ride my bicycle and tour on it keeping emissions down.”
PAUL T: “So he’ll understand that the 1.5m rule is absolutely ridiculous on rural roads like the roads around Stainland, Barkisland etc… my argument is and will always be when 2/3 cyclists ride side by side (which you are entitled to do) but IS NOT safe for other road users especially on narrow roads! So yes I have read his reply, my point being, he should understand you can’t exactly go round someone and give them ‘safe distance’ on narrow roads!”
PAUL T (TO ANDREW, I think): “So you’ll agree the 1.5m rule doesn’t work in rural roads “
ANDREW: “Not sure whether to laugh or cry at that. I was cycling by myself. The 1.5m rule is the law (as per recent changes to the Highway Code). It is perfectly possible to give cyclists ‘safe distance’ on Stainland Road. It just requires patience… I do it all the time when driving my car. Even in Stainland and Barkisland. The 1.5m rule does work on rural roads. 100% of the time. It requires, as I said, patience. (Not sure why you thought I was agreeing with you. Apologies if I gave you the wrong impression.)”
ELEANOR (TO PAUL T): “I see. Not paying road tax means you are fair game to be run over. Is that how it works?”
PAUL T (TO ELEANOR): “That’s not what I’m saying* but I’m my experience 90% of cyclists are inconsiderate towards drivers (which lets have it right that’s what roads are for) also did the driver** of this said incident get run over it was he just being a bit of a melt because he didn’t have his 1.5m”
[*In fairness, Paul, this is exactly what you are implying…]
[**I think Paul T. means ‘cyclist’ here.]
PAUL T (TO ANDREW): “I’d laugh so you don’t look silly if you do it all the time you’ll understand how annoying it is! Just in case your unaware I’m not a fan of cyclists being on ‘roads’ that as far as I’m aware we’re designed for motor vehicles!”
BRENDA (TO PAUL T): “Just treat others with the same amount of care and respect you would expect from others. It’s very simple really. Love one another.”
ELEANOR (TO PAUL T): “I don’t think most roads in the U.K. were built for drivers – they were built for pedestrians, horses, donkeys and carts.”
PAUL T (TO ELEANOR): “Don’t think they were where they maybe horses abs carts but not pedestrians, I’m pretty certain that’s what ‘foot paths, or pavements’ are for! Explain what the white lines are for if they were built for pedestrians “
ELEANOR (TO PAUL T): “This is going to shock you. The white lines get painted on! And when they fade, they get repainted. And when the roads were built, they didn’t actually have white lines. Or tarmac, because (I’m sorry, two shocks at once) it wasn’t invented until 200 years ago! And back then everyone walked everywhere or rode horses! Sometimes they took carriages.”
ANDREW (TO PAUL T): “Paul… Your legal arguments are invalid. Your knowledge of the history of the road network is minimal. Your morality is, charitably, dubious. All that I ask is that you treat vulnerable road users with the respect they deserve, whether they be pedestrians, horses or cyclists. Slow down, keep your distance and be patient. Thanks.”
PAUL T (TO ELEANOR): “Wow I never knew the white lines got painted I genuinely thought they just appeared over night….. shock 2 if you want to get anal tarmac was invented 120 years ago…. Times change we move just saying “
ZOE: “It sounds as though, in Paul’s world, one should have to pay for the privilege of not being mown down on the road. Interesting idea.”
ANDREW (TO PAUL T): ““Anal Tarmac”? Does that sell at a premium?”
ANDREW (TO ZOE): “It might help with the national debt if we did. I’ll write to Sunak in the morning…”
ZOE (TO PAUL T): “You can drive behind and just wait until it’s safe to pass, rather than put someone in danger. Just a thought.”
ZOE (TO ANDREW): I’m crying.
PAUL T (TO EVERYONE): [Yawns]
BRENDA (TO PAUL T): “It’s a shame you have such thoughts. Just be kind to all you meet or us that a difficult concept”
PAUL T: “Such thoughts…”
PAUL M: “Social media at its worst! Contact them directly rather than starting an on-line public flogging with idiots and their pitchforks! I’m sure it wasn’t intentional but a quick word with the owner would have been sufficient. You obviously found the company details easy enough.”
ANDREW (TO PAUL M): “Thanks Paul. Probably inevitably, I’m going to disagree. On the occasions that we cyclists do address our concerns directly with drivers, we are generally at the sharp end of verbal abuse, occasionally violence. If you read the comments above you’ll notice that the ones that are ‘pro-cyclist’ are measured and reasoned. They set out the facts and challenge, politely, those who disagree with what they say. They are not the the comments of ‘idiots and their pitchforks’. Social media is all about debate, discussion, persuasion. This is social media at its best and, hopefully, makes a difference in the driving habits of anyone engaging positively in the conversation”
PAUL T.: “Your usually at ‘the sharp end’ as you say because it’s you that’s bring inconsiderate, but you get on your soap box!”
ANDREW (TO PAUL T): “Thanks Paul.”
Such fun! Here’s a video that both Pauls would benefit from watching, but they probably won’t…
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Just one point. The highway code is not law. It is guidance. It is only law when it is included within the road traffic act and it currently isn’t. People cannot be prosecuted for failing to stick to the 1.5 or 2 metre rule to overtake. This can only happen when the overtaking manouvere is considered dangerous. It can be considered however in a prosecution.
Glad I’m not on Facebook!
Same here John. I deleted FB and all those other time-wasting things many years ago. I now spend my time on Andy’s forums!
From what I understand, it’s unlikely that a rational debate will change a person’s viewpoint. Many drivers become angry when cyclists are delaying their, oh so important journey. They believe cyclists have fewer rights as ‘tax paying motorists’. I remember a driver drove past me and shouted that ‘roads are for cars’, because he’d had to slow down for a few seconds. It’s peoples’ beliefs that are at the heart of the matter, not a lack of facts.
There’s evidence that people with low intelligence hold extremist beliefs. Conversely, people with greater cognitive ability use their intellect to defend against new information. A fascinating podcast about why everyone resists new information (listen from 14 mins) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csytzc
My, rather sketchy, conclusion is that trying to change strangers’ beliefs through discourse on social media is unlikely to be successful, but rather entrench their position.