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What do you do when a car passes you very close?

defeverdefever Posts: 171
edited January 2018 in Road general
Hello fellow cyclists,

This is not a rant but to learn about what’s appropriate to do in certain situations.

The context is this: for the last few months I’ve spent considerable amount of time on road (on my bike) for commuting, and will likely to stay the same over the winter. 14.5miles each way, around 50-55min journey, mixture of country lane, town roads, and two lane A roads. I usually cycle before 7:30am and after 6:30pm to avoid the rush hour. Overall, I can confidently say 99% of cars passing by are considerate and overtake safely. At least the route I take for commute I can see other fellow bike commuters and I feel that other road users are generally aware of cyclists.

However, there are rare encounter from time to time where a car virtually brushes next to me as it passes by or try to squeeze through between myself and the oncoming vehicle. Most of the time I don’t do anything about it, just take mental note of the registration and what sort of car it was (as it’s a “commuting road”, perhaps I may come across the same car again). In fact, it’s more like I can’t do anything about it, as they are long gone once they pass me...

…UNTIL you catch up with the car at the next traffic light or when the vehicle joins stationary traffic… What do you do?

This morning I had the exact scenario: car virtually brushes me through town road, only to stop very shortly after at the traffic light. No traffic behind us. Whilst I still had the momentum before stopping completely, I cruised over to the driver side and gestured “that was close, sir” with my index finger and thumb. The driver looks at me, winds down the window. I gently repeated with the same gesture “that was close, sir”. The gentleman takes a moment and says “…oh, really” and looks away to the front. Light change to green, I offered “after you” and stayed back to give him space. End of encounter.

I’ve done similar thing twice before and reactions were: 1) “I see you lot jumping red lights and going everywhere as you f-in’ like”, (my reply was “well, that’s not me you saw, was it? You were still really close to me back there, sir”) 2) “oh, sorry” (my reply was “thank you, safe driving!”).

Is this appropriate?
Should I be approaching drivers in these scenario?
Should I have just stayed behind the car and not mention anything?
Could I have done anything different?
Does it make any difference?!

What do you do in these situations?

Happy cycling!
«13

Posts

  • navrig2navrig2 Posts: 1,556
    Report it to the police and don't confront.

    If really bad and regular invest in a couple of cameras and give the police the footage.
  • lakesludditelakesluddite Posts: 1,319
    I admire your calmness, you should maybe drop the 'sir' as it sounds a bit patronising (although don't replace it with 'mate' either), might wind people up further. Apart from that I think you're doing the right thing - remaining calm in these situations is far better than a screaming rant into someones face, you only cause confrontation that way.

    I think it depends on the circumstances - I wouldn't perhaps do this in a big urban area (higher chance of coming up against some psycho), but to be honest in the rural area I ride in I'm a bit too quick to see red I'm afraid - usually my encounters involve 'industrial' language and arm movements!
  • defever wrote:

    However, there are rare encounter from time to time where a car virtually brushes next to me as it passes by or try to squeeze through between myself and the oncoming vehicle.

    If this is a common occurrence for you then you need to read up on understanding primary road positioning

    You won't stop it entirely, but you can reduce it
    I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles
  • timothywtimothyw Posts: 2,482
    Usually, when I catch up with them they're near the back of an enormous queue so I like to give them a friendly wave and shout 'Enjoy the queue!' and sail past.

    So sarcasm, generally.

    What you're doing sounds much more mature.

    Funnily enough, the other day I did catch up to some chap driving a pickup towing a flatbed trailer and said to him 'bit close with the trailer there mate, it's wider than the car remember!' and down the road when he passed me the second time I was pleasantly surprised as he gave me a wide berth instead of trying to kill me!
  • oxomanoxoman Posts: 8,200
    I tend to memorise the car and number and thank the gods it was only close and not TO close. The routes i use on my commutes it tends to be the same drivers and times so quite easy to catch up at some stage. If really to close you could try the police but they tend to be not interested in near misses. Once discovered a close pass was a guy at work, nearly got the sack for the rant that went i had with him. Suppose i shouldn't have put a warning out with his name and car to all users at work. Not sure what rear lights you have but mine tend to burn your retina out if to close, as i driver as well they tend to shout out keep away hence why i use them. Glad it was only a near miss. Take care. PS don't ride in the gutter either, ride assertively not submissively.
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  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 12,659
    timothyw wrote:
    Usually, when I catch up with them they're near the back of an enormous queue so I like to give them a friendly wave and shout 'Enjoy the queue!' and sail past.
    Another nice touch is to blow them a kiss. :lol:
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  • I don't commute without my gopro these days.
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  • Dorset_BoyDorset_Boy Posts: 2,915
    Pull the hammer out your back pocket and smash their car to bits?
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    As I'm in sussex - I report it to OperationCrackdown .... well - done that once with a good result so far ... :)
  • Give yourself an escape route of at least 1m from the kerb just in case you need it. You are a road user and entitled to be there.
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  • bonk_kingbonk_king Posts: 158
    This is something which really annoys me. Problem is, as much as you want to kick their heads in and damage their car etc etc you can't do a great deal whilst wearing cycling shoes, lycra and a daft hat. Knowing my luck some bird would kick my head in, somebody would film it and i'd be an internet sensation.
  • defeverdefever Posts: 171
    Thanks very much everyone.

    Fascinating responses, and there’s no right or wrong opinions (bar the hammer comment, sorry Dorset Boy!). I believe it’s very much subjective on what is “too close” and how each encounter “close call” happens.

    I forgot to explain why I made contact with drivers in the example I posted. I believe that every person is good hearted individual and aim to live pleasantly and happily every day. But sometimes we don’t realise that our actions have negative impact on others around, even if your intention was good.

    Oxoman’s comment is a prime example. Drivers are humans and they are just like people on cycle commuting to work; they are commuting to work in their cars. Is your colleague a sound guy at work? Perhaps he’s your friend? Had you known that the driver was one of your colleagues (or your brother or your father on that note), would you have reacted differently?

    Instead of converting myself to camera wearing traffic enforcer (which I completely agree the necessity of it; but not every cyclist should be wearing one), I wanted to provide prompt and constructive feedback to the drivers in non-confrontational manner if and when suitable to do so. Comment on doing what I did in urban area is completely agreeable. I wouldn’t make contact with every driver in a busy traffic. Only when there’s a chance and a moment to make quick conversation.
    I have a reservation about submitting video footage to a police, unless it is clearly intentional, repeated, aggravated and malicious behaviour. Receiving a letter of notice from a police (if they take such action at all) as a result of submitting a video footage of alleged “close call” episode doesn’t really help them to understand what they did wrong, but perhaps fuel more hatred against cyclists as they may perceive cyclists as a disguised traffic enforcer.

    TimothyW’s encounter with the pick-up towing a flatbed trailer is the reason why I thought it may make a difference to feedback to drivers. I grant that not all will take on the feedback and react positively, but if drivers realise or are informed promptly that they were too close, then hopefully they have the capacity to register it and make note in the next occasion.

    If I can demonstrate that I’m not a camera wearing cyclist who is cycling on the road just to annoy or aggravate drivers, then that’s positive encounter with a driver, I believe. If we do the contrary, like bonk king fears, then I just end up confirming to drivers that we are bunch of hostile and wanton cyclists (not going to mention any recent high profile case...).

    Or maybe I’m just naive. But I’m going to say again that on my commute, 99% of overtake is done considerately and safely. Just odd one once every other week I get a close pass.

    Food for thought. There's always going to be bad drivers and bad cyclists and bad pedestrians. But I still believe that everyone want to live pleasantly and happily.

    Happy cycling!
  • Aside from an accident I can't see how drivers would think they'd done wrong (and remember) without an irate reaction. So politeness probably perpetuates the problem. Bottom line is not enough people shout and swear.

    Worth remembering 99.99% of drivers could overtake you safely, but it only takes 0.01% to kill you.
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  • Dorset_BoyDorset_Boy Posts: 2,915
    Back in the 70s and 80s, government produced 'public information films' - remember the Green Cross Code, Clunk Click Every Trip etc.
    It's beyond time they produced something regarding overtaking cyclists safely, and the benefits of cyclists riding 2 abreast.
  • jp1970jp1970 Posts: 129
    defever wrote:

    However, there are rare encounter from time to time where a car virtually brushes next to me as it passes by or try to squeeze through between myself and the oncoming vehicle.

    If this is a common occurrence for you then you need to read up on understanding primary road positioning

    You won't stop it entirely, but you can reduce it

    This .. taking the primary position at junctions and roundabouts also increase your road presence as well.
  • itboffinitboffin Posts: 19,686
    navrig2 wrote:
    Report it to the police and don't confront.

    If really bad and regular invest in a couple of cameras and give the police the footage.

    like you I used to commute on busy roads mostly in the winter due to conditions i.e. ice on the back roads, unlike you i'd say it was a 50/50 split between close pass and just about okay passes, whilst i'm no saint I managed to get it together for 10 years with only a handful of angry exchanges, I ended up buying a gopro mainly because if i did get killed or badly hurt i'd like my family to have some evidence to prosecute, i've never felt the need to post my near missing on youtube or social media.

    Zen is the way forward or you'll end up getting stressed, which makes you more sensitive and more likely to fly off the handle, rightly or wrongly.
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  • milemuncher1milemuncher1 Posts: 1,472
    I cry.
  • I just treat it as a bit of extra "traffic assist" to boost my average speed up... #timetrial

    :mrgreen:
  • ZMC888ZMC888 Posts: 292
    Do nothing except report them - if you have evidence eg camera footage.

    Nothing's worse than someone that thinks they are a self elected police officer. If someone else is in the wrong, then they're in the wrong, it's not your job to educate someone else - even if you are polite, fact is almost everyone thinks they are a great driver, they can only learn anything from the police through a driving awareness course or getting a fine and or points. They'll just get angry hearing the news that they actually aren't a wonderful driver from you, unless maybe they lack confidence.

    We all need to be nicer and less confrontational on the roads and work with other road users, we'll actually get where we're going faster and safer. Easier said than done obviously, but it's nice to at least have an ideal plan of action.

    You need to be bold, aggressive and confident in traffic, but don't make anything personal.
  • haydenmhaydenm Posts: 2,868
    ZMC888 wrote:
    Do nothing except report them - if you have evidence eg camera footage.

    Nothing's worse than someone that thinks they are a self elected police officer. If someone else is in the wrong, then they're in the wrong, it's not your job to educate someone else - even if you are polite, fact is almost everyone thinks they are a great driver, they can only learn anything from the police through a driving awareness course or getting a fine and or points. They'll just get angry hearing the news that they actually aren't a wonderful driver from you, unless maybe they lack confidence.

    I'm not convinced, most people with dangerous attitudes to cyclists are using stereotypes to justify their anger about a minor inconvenience (coming up to a cyclist and having to overtake without killing anyone). I would say that the more people who see cyclists aren't all angry red light jumping militants the better, a friendly chat should help if you can keep your cool. Definitely agree on the less confrontational bit though, if you go in angry you can't really expect a good reaction.

    The only times I've ever confronted anyone was some old boy in a beaten up 4x4 who pulled out on me and genuinely didn't see me. Managed to flag him down coming down the other side of the highstreet, he was nice and apologised. And when some swedish goldwing riders hit my pannier when squeezing between a van and us on the way to JoG, met them in the cafe and asked for a bit more space next time, turns out they were really nice, they apologised and said the weather was dreadful. JoG is a godforsaken place.

    I have heard a story where a mate of mine started swearing at a driver who nearly hit him, the driver proceeded to follow him around town arguing. In that instance I would just report it to the police if I can't keep my cool
  • itboffin wrote:
    navrig2 wrote:
    Report it to the police and don't confront.

    If really bad and regular invest in a couple of cameras and give the police the footage.

    like you I used to commute on busy roads mostly in the winter due to conditions i.e. ice on the back roads, unlike you i'd say it was a 50/50 split between close pass and just about okay passes, whilst i'm no saint I managed to get it together for 10 years with only a handful of angry exchanges, I ended up buying a gopro mainly because if i did get killed or badly hurt i'd like my family to have some evidence to prosecute, i've never felt the need to post my near missing on youtube or social media.

    Zen is the way forward or you'll end up getting stressed, which makes you more sensitive and more likely to fly off the handle, rightly or wrongly.

    The very reason I commute with a GoPro, In case the worst happens my Wife knows a camera should be recording.
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  • defeverdefever Posts: 171
    bigmitch41 wrote:
    itboffin wrote:
    ...whilst i'm no saint I managed to get it together for 10 years with only a handful of angry exchanges, I ended up buying a gopro mainly because if i did get killed or badly hurt i'd like my family to have some evidence to prosecute, i've never felt the need to post my near missing on youtube or social media.

    Zen is the way forward or you'll end up getting stressed, which makes you more sensitive and more likely to fly off the handle, rightly or wrongly.

    The very reason I commute with a GoPro, In case the worst happens my Wife knows a camera should be recording.

    I think that's a valid reason for wearing a camera... As with anything there's the good, the bad and the ugly side of arguments. The bad being the temptation of becoming a serial bike cam uploader and self-righteous lone wolf activist who, in fact, instigate and fuel aggressive behaviour from other road users (there are plenty examples on YouTube). I’m completely against this type of behaviour.

    The ugly-side is in case of those unfortunate and untimely event where a cyclist or someone else gets involved in incident. I think I’m in denial that this would happen to me which I realise isn’t the right attitude. As Superkenners mentioned, it only takes 0.01% of “close pass” encounter to put someone in serious danger.

    I still think having a gentle chat only when appropriate, necessary, and safe to do so is not a bad idea to maintain positive commuting culture amongst cyclists, drivers and other road users. I guess this depends on individual’s perception on other people.

    In the meantime, I watched some video clips published by British Cycling on how to commute smart and primary position on road. Something I can take on board and put into practice immediately. Thanks SloppySchleckonds for mentioining this.
  • veronese68veronese68 Posts: 22,788 Lives Here
    ZMC888 wrote:
    You need to be bold, aggressive and confident in traffic, but don't make anything personal.
    I agree with this point but would say be assertive rather than aggressive.
  • JesseDJesseD Posts: 1,961
    I'd agree with assertive positioning on the road, I don't want Joe Bloggs to think they can squeeze past me when the road narrows, yes it pis5es a few drivers off but so what I am safe at least, for those who hang back and only pass when safe I always give a thank you wave as they pass to show appreciation.

    As for when I am passed to closely then I usually give a shout and wave an arm up in the air to show my feelings followed by gesticulating that they need to move out when passing then forget about it, no point in getting wound up about it if you can, losing your temper means you have lost even before you start, when and if you do catch up with the driver I usually find a simple shake of the head and a quick "can you give me a bit more space next time" usually works.
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  • davep1davep1 Posts: 751
    slowbike wrote:
    As I'm in sussex - I report it to OperationCrackdown .... well - done that once with a good result so far ... :)

    Thanks for the info, I will have to try it.

    On my part, I ride mainly rural roads in Sussex but sometimes the dual carriageway of the A24, sometimes town traffic in Worthing. Any close pass I will shout out "Hey that was too close" and wave my right arm. If it's really close I will swear too and stick the middle finger up. It doesn't prevent that incident, but nearly every following car gives much more room. Although I have also had a close pass from a following car with a bunch of lads giving me all kinds of gestures too...

    I don't feel obliged to represent cyclists in a good way, I want drivers to be thinking about their driving and not trying to squeeze past unacceptably close.

    I haven't had a verbal confrontation with any driver recently.
  • ZMC888ZMC888 Posts: 292
    veronese68 wrote:
    ZMC888 wrote:
    You need to be bold, aggressive and confident in traffic, but don't make anything personal.
    I agree with this point but would say be assertive rather than aggressive.
    I agree, aggressive is maybe is the wrong word. Or possibly 'assertive almost to the point of being aggressive'.
  • veronese68veronese68 Posts: 22,788 Lives Here
    ZMC888 wrote:
    veronese68 wrote:
    ZMC888 wrote:
    You need to be bold, aggressive and confident in traffic, but don't make anything personal.
    I agree with this point but would say be assertive rather than aggressive.
    I agree, aggressive is maybe is the wrong word. Or possibly 'assertive almost to the point of being aggressive'.
    Yes, thought that was what you meant but some people might take you too literally. I would also add riding predictably to the above.
  • I think the question is really what people do with a close passing car when you have caught them up.

    If you are "buzzed" there's nothing you can do, but riding style can reduce the odds.

    If someone overtakes and stops, if its convenient for me, I'll happen to be in front of them shortly thereafter. A petty victory to passively allow me to suppress my irritation. I find most drivers are oblivious both times.

    In Edinburgh we now have 20 limits. So I'll frequently find drivers doing close, slow overtakes. If really too close, I'll reach out and rap my knuckles on the car. Normally the driver reacts as though there's someone shooting at them, or as though I've taken a baseball bat to the rear window. If they do try to speak to me, either they will be somewhat reasonable or, in the poshest accent I can muster, I'll suggest that I may not be able to avoid them next time. Usually works. At last resort, I'll make loud chimpanzee noises.

    Many of use lose our rag from time to time, but I try to remember that I'll be using that road every day, mostly wearing the same vest, helmet, glasses etc. Remember that it puts a crimp on your own day, unless you thrive on the excitement.

    If someone gets aggro with me, I use the same argument - i.e. are they really going to assault me in plain view in rush hour next to their own car (or boss's van)? Once that didn't work, and the guy now has a criminal record for assault.
  • What do you do when a car passes you very close?

    Carry on and enjoy the rest of my ride!

    If it's so close the hairs on my arm get brushed by a wing mirror then I rant away to myself for the next ten minutes and find I've got some strava PRs or 2nds. So overall I get over it.

    Think of it this way. You didn't get hit! If you spend your time thinking about close passes you could end up stressing out over it. You can't change the event so move on.

    BTW you'll get no redress by official avenues and illegal ones could get you into trouble. Just think of evil ways to get your own back and chuckle to yourself at how vindictive you could be! That thought has brought a smile to my face already.
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