Mr & Mrs Two-Abreast

On tonight’s commute home I must confess I lost my temper and yelled at two of my fellow cyclists. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, I called them “f**king idiots”. Unfortunately, I don’t think they paid me a blind bit of notice.

Why? Because they were so engrossed in the conversation they were having with each other I could have waved a machine gun at them or danced in front of them naked and they wouldn’t have even seen me much less taken offence at my actions.

The reason I got so angry at these twits was the fact that they were cycling two-abreast along the very busy stretch of road that is Kensington Gore / Kensington High Street. Now, cycling two-abreast is fine if you’re going at a reasonable pace, but this couple were trundling along very slowly, probably not much more than 6mph, and all the while they were gas-bagging to one another completely oblivious to the other road users around them.

I longed to overtake them, but because the traffic was so heavy I was unable to get into the next lane without causing a serious incident. So I tailed them and muttered under my breath and then, unable to stand their inconsiderate ways any longer, bellowed “bloody
hell, get a move on!”

When I did eventually pass them, I turned my head and gave them a piece of my mind. I’m sure they didn’t even hear me.

The most infuriating thing is that this is not the first time I have been caught behind Mr & Mrs Two-Abreast, so it’s not like this was just a one-off incident. They are obviously regular commuters that should know better and chances are I am going to get stuck behind them again…

… which is why I thought I better check the Highway Code to see whether they are, in fact, doing anything illegal. According to the code it’s okay to cycle two-abreast, however, Rule 51 states that “you should ride in single file on narrow or busy roads”. Now if Kensington Gore / Kensington High Street isn’t classed as “busy” then I’ll eat my cycle helmet!

So, I guess the only thing I’ve got to worry about now is this: how do I deal with them next time I see them? Should I carry a copy of the Highway Code with me that has the relevant rule underlined and then chuck it at them as hard as I possibly can and hope it makes an impact?  Or should I get a megaphone, so that my comments can cut right through
their nicey-nicey conversation?

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10 thoughts on “Mr & Mrs Two-Abreast

  1. There’s always the stick-through-the -spokes option. Or if you just to get their attention, an airhorn from about 2 feet behind. Why waste your breath when you can use the horn to give them a “code brown?”

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  2. I was thinking an umbrella rather than a stick, but either should send a message. However, you also don’t want them to crash and bleed and all that nonsense–might slow you down even more. I think you could attach the book to a hula hoop and toss it over the nearest one’s head.

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  3. Here in Australia it’s also ‘legal’ to ride two abreast but that doesn’t mean it’s always wise.
    Even on my Saturday morning ride we ride as is appropriate for the road we’re on. About 8 or 9 of us go riding at a fairly decent pace and we can legally stay two abreast the whole way.
    We choose to be mindful of other road users and drop back to single file on various stretches of road to keep traffic flowing.
    If cyclists want the respect of other road users we need to first show some respect.

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  4. Colin, I love the idea of giving this couple a ‘code brown’! Thanks for giving me the best laugh I’ve had in ages!!
    Sophie, I may just have to invest in a hula hoop, though not sure where I would carry it on my bike – perhaps round my own neck? God knows I see enough cyclists wearing their bike locks that way!!
    Rodney, great advice. I don’t object to cyclists riding two-abreast — I do it myself at times — but when it interrupts the flow of traffic then I think it is a strict no-no. And you are so right about the respect thing… I rant about this a lot… and one day will write a post about it when I have calmed down enough to write a rational one! 😉

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  5. Personally I don’t let things like this bother me. If I thought they were the only ones breaking the law or behaving disrespecfully it might upset me, but they aren’t. It’s so common in society these days, particularly on public roads that I just learn to live with it.
    I really don’t think shouting abuse at people like this is going to make them change their behaviour, and even if it did it’s not going to change the irrational prejudices of so many motorists. Consequently, I just look at ways of preparing for and dealing with these problems as they arise, then wait for the next one.

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  6. Chris, I guess it’s a fine line between ‘rising above it’ and ‘burying your head in the sand’, but the number of idiotic cyclists in London is not doing anything to transform the “irrational prejudices of so many motorists”. If anything it only justifies their anti-cycle stance, which is why I think it’s every cyclists’ duty to pull our fellow cyclists into line whenever we see them doing something dangerous or illegal. Admittedly, yelling at them, may not be the most effective way but it certainly makes me feel better! 😉
    I love that more people are cycling (a 72% increase here in London in the past 5 years), but I wish they’d abide by the rules because if they continue to flout them then ALL cyclists, especially the well behaved, sensible ones, suffer as a result. I guess we all have to learn to share the road, but cyclists can’t expect to share it if we put others at risk.
    Sorry for long response, but this is a very thorny, hot, political issue here right now – perhaps I’ll write a proper post on it when I find the time to get off my bike, as it were! 😉

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  7. I think that’s the whole point, I don’t follow this idea that *all* cyclists suffer when one breaks the law. The number of motorists I see breaking the law everyday makes me wonder whether the majority of them really care if a cyclist breaks the law — or even know the law well enough to observe it when it happens.
    Personally, I think that’s just a myth perpetuated by individuals who wish to justify their own prejudices, and shift the blame for various forms of “road rage” onto the victim. The way it works with bigotry is to find something to dislike, then find reasons to “justify” it, not the other way around.
    Consider this: the average interaction between a motorist and a cyclist lasts for considerably less than three seconds. Now ask yourself if that three seconds is really enough time to alter a lifetime of conditioning (which is what it has to do to change anyone’s perception).
    It just doesn’t happen, especially when we’re dealing with a relatively indirect method of persuasion. It’s like turning around a whale with a tadpole. The motorist who abuses a cyclist because he “saw another cyclist run a red light” would have acted the same regardless. He would have just found another reason for it.
    I’ll stop now, but if anybody cares, I wrote a rather lengthy post on this subject a while ago. The same points still apply. http://life-cycle.blogspot.com/2005/06/man-in-brown-shirt.html

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  8. Chris, thanks for the link. I’ve read it – certainly food for thought.
    Personally, it’s not the attitudes of motorists that worry me — I actually think the ones here in London are quite bike-savvy and for the large part give me plenty of room to do my thing. I have experienced very little ‘road rage’ from car drivers.
    It’s fellow cyclists and pedestrians that cause me more grief. A little common courtesy, a lot of good sense and some public education might rectify that… but I am not holding my breath.
    But how did we get so serious? This post was supposed to be one of my ‘black comedy’ type rants! It was never meant to be a serious discussion about the politics of cycling!

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  9. You’re right. I guess I get overly serious on this topic because I’ve been assaulted on my bike a few times, and been told “you must have done something to upset them” by people to whom I’ve filed complaints. Often it’s come from cycling groups who I would have expected to be more supportive.
    We definitely *do* need some form of cyclist education though, but that’s another rant, and one that I won’t go into here. :^)

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