South of the River – driving in my car


Compass-SouthComment logo 2Have you noticed that motorists are antisocial?

I don’t mean all motorists, all the time and especially not when they are no longer in their car. After all I’m a motorist some of the time and I don’t think I’m antisocial.

I’ve done quite a lot of driving this summer, in different parts of the country, and I have seen plenty of antisocial behaviour. The worst was here in Leeds when some genius undertook me, using the parking and cycle lane, as I drove up Belle Isle Road. He seemed to think that my sticking to the speed limit was unreasonable behaviour.

The problem I think is that motorists are cocooned inside a metal box. They have limited interaction with others outside their box. They can’t hear them over the radio, they can’t speak to them. The main means of communication is the car itself, pulling out in front of you or driving right up behind you – tailgating, or using the horn of course. Cyclists and pedestrians (so long as they’re not wearing headphones) are more engaged with the world around them through no fault of their own.

My latest bugbear is drivers in supermarket car parks. Once they are out of their car and have become a pedestrian I’m sure they are as peeved as me at drivers going way too fast to be safe. But back behind the wheel, they speed off again. It’s just thoughtless and selfish.

Aside from road traffic accidents this sort of behaviour has all sorts of dangers. I heard an interesting programme on the radio about tornadoes in Oklahoma. One storm in particular was particularly ferocious, but being America the authorities were aware of it as it developed, they tracked it and put out warnings.

Unfortunately the residents of a city in its path all decided to leave town at the same time. The interstate (motorway) quickly became a giant car park as a massive traffic jam developed just from the pressure of traffic. This put the drivers in a more dangerous position than if they had stayed at home and hidden in the basement. Luckily the storm shifted direction and the motorists were safe.

The guy from the state government said “Given the chance people will always do the wrong thing”. What I think he meant was: people acting as individuals will do the wrong thing. If all the motorists had got together and discussed the situation they could have agreed to stagger their journeys, or stay in their cellars.

The Highway Code and traffic laws are sets of rules setting out how to behave on the roads. They are designed on behalf of the whole population and agreed by our elected representatives. In that sense they are a collective response to the situation. They aim to reduce the chaos of millions of individual motorists doing what they each think is right. And yet many see them as an infringement of their personal liberty.

I was struck by a recent tweet from the Yorkshire Evening Post: “More than 6k motorists have been stung by a single bus lane camera in Leeds making the council £250k.”

Let’s unpick that shall we? The role of the bus lane is to keep public transport moving despite road congestion. Each bus replaces about fifty cars at rush hour when most bus lanes operate. And 6,000 motorists have been driving in a bus lane when they shouldn’t have been. And they’ve been caught on camera and fined.

Can you imagine a similar headline or tweet about, say, shoplifters or burglars “stung” by a CCTV camera?

I suppose I’m asking motorists to do two things. Firstly to obey the law. It’s not there to make you late, it’s there for a good reason, to keep us all safe and keep us all moving.

Jeremy Morton Aug13The second thing is to stop and think about other road users – pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, even lorry drivers. You are a pedestrian some of the time, so you know what that’s like. If you haven’t ridden a bike recently have a go to remind yourself.

I’ll be back in next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.

8 Replies to “South of the River – driving in my car”

  1. My gripe with traffic in Leeds is that most motorists have forgotten how to signal, to warn the motorist behind them or coming towards them what their intention is. In recent months it has become a lot worse.
    I see in your article you say to watch for the cyclists, how about they watch for us, so often they think that there is one law for them and one for you, i.e. going over lights that are red, while you have to wait. Have coat tails flying behind them so that they could easily get caught up by a car or more importantly a lorry, that could be the end of them. I expect the road vehicle driver would get the blame.
    Coming up to the dark evenings how about reminding them that they should have good lights on front and back of their bikes, if you are driving a car with no lights you get had, and rightly so. You very rarely see a cyclist being prosecuted for no lights.

    1. Thanks for your comment Wendy and I agree, there is just as much onus on cyclists to stick to the Highway Code as any other road user. The only thing I’d say is that a bad motorist can do a lot more damage with a ton of steel than a bad cyclist who is most likely to hurt themselves.

      1. Whilst I agree with your comments, A lot of Cyclists do seem to think they have different laws of the road than us.

        1. Hi Wendy, you are correct, a lot of people who ride bikes (not cyclists per se) do seem to think that they have different laws of the road than people who are driving cars (not them and us you might notice) and is some areas they do.

          However, what I find more commonly is that a lot of people who drive cars blatantly disregard the law of the road and unfortunately when a car driver behaves recklessly behind the wheel in a 1 tonne vehicle that is being driven without care and attention, at speed and within the law of the road it has devastating outcomes.

  2. Unless cyclists are suddenly wearing coat tales that are a meter long then I can’t see how such things would be caught by a car or lorry unless the motorised vehicle was dangerously close. You shouldn’t be within a meter of a bike when passing (unless doing so at very low speed such as queuing traffic) so I can’t see how this would be a hazard in this way.

  3. Interesting article, I too work/live/cycle/drive/walk &amp use public transport in Leeds, I’m afraid its not one single section of society you can blame for the issues you raise.

    It’s more the fact people in Leeds (LS postcodes as a whole) aren’t very friendly at all, to each other or anyone in general.
    I have travelled around the UK and numerous countries and as a whole people are much more approachable, caring &amp friendly in just about every other place I can think of.

    Take this morning, I went out for a 50 mile ride from Leeds to Selby and back, I had one white van man beep at me for being in his way (1ft from the kerb) and shouted at.

    Once I got a little out of Leeds other road users are much more likely to give you room, overtake when it safe to do so.

    When I moved to Leeds several years ago I was a very careful considerate driver, let people out gave way, said thank you.
    Now I experiment with signalling, as mentioned the vast majority of people in Leeds won’t under any circumstance, I think they just don’t care anyone else exists.

    My partner is from Leeds and she has noticed the level of driving has gotten steadily worse over the last few years.

    What can we do? I have no idea but sometimes I do worry for my own safety whether I’m on foot, cycling or in the car.

    I must agree I despise cyclists who go through red lights, very poor example to set.

  4. for Barry Bethall
    I cannot agree with you, I had a very good friend who was seriously injured and in fact died from his injuries after getting his coat, which was undone, caught in a vehicle. He wasn’t wearing coat tails either.

  5. I wonder if that bus lane camera is the one at the END of Wellington Road, where you see the end of the bus lane clearly marked about 100 metres from the roundabout, so move across if you’re going left, only to find it continues! You have seconds to decide what to do (emergency stop? Move back out?) but can’t move out in time if vehicles behind are overtaking.

    By the way, I’m a cyclist too and appreciate bus lanes.

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