Oi! – you’re in MY space

What was it today? Was it a full moon last night?

Filtering by a line of traffic this morning the light up ahead changed, so I held back at the first gap to merge slowly in with the traffic. Lifesaver, yep, can see car behind me is quite close, so going steady – what do they do? Engine roaring, shove up the inside, hand on horn BAAAAAAAAAAAA. I guess they don’t like motorbikes! Oh well gave them a wave (apology/thanks for not actually knocking me off) and on I went.

A short time later, I carefully filtered to the front of queuing traffic at a junction. Cyclist already waiting, so give him plenty of space and pull up. While waiting for the lights to change another cyclist comes up behind me – “Oi mate – you’re not meant to be in here – how am I meant to get by the pinch point if you’re in the way”. I don’t think my response that “we’re all vulnerable road users” held much sway, but the lights changed and magically I was no longer in his way anyway – the Varadero is great at getting off the mark quickly.

I try to see every incident as a learning opportunity – the filtering and angry car driver is an interesting one – I’m not going to stop filtering because of one intolerant car driver, but should I take a more circumspect approach? Once you start filtering by a single traffic line you are rather committed to continue until you can find a gap to pull/merge into. Often a gap appears as the lights turn and the queue starts to move off at different speeds. This is fine if you are a good bit away from the junction / next traffic island etc and have time to allow a gap to develop and then make use of it, but if you are only a vehicle or two away from a tight spot then you have to come in a lot sooner.

Of course, there are various strategies, not least of all making an educated guess at how likely the lights are to change soon – if the traffic queue has been there a while, chances are the lights are going to change soon. Maybe best to avoid filtering in that circumstance, or if you’re already out there, look to merge in earlier? I’m going to ponder on this a while. I don’t make an automatic assumption that I can filter by any old queue of traffic.

I first making an assessment of the situation – and I try to take into account as much as I can – the space available, the length of the queue, the likelyhood of pedestrians cutting through the stationary cars, the position of junctions, the cause of the queue – is it likely to move soon, what’s the oncoming traffic like, where are my opt-out points, etc etc etc.

I don’t feel I did anything to warrant the angry hand-on-horn driver reaction other than I was beating a traffic queue they’ve probably sat in for a while. It’s not like I went whizzing by then slammed on the anchors and cut blindly in. I was going at a walking pace and tried to move very carefully back into the traffic flow as it began to move. I guess it’s inevitable that some people will be mean spirited enough to resent anyone they perceive as somehow encroaching on their space, or gaining some imagined advantage over them. That’s a shame.

Now, the cyclist. Well, I’ve had a good long think about this. I, and other commuting motorcyclists, regularly use the cycle boxes at junctions. I’ve never cut up or barged in on cyclists, I’ve always given them the maximum space I can. I have always recognised their extreme vulnerability in traffic and I make every effort to look out for them. I took the opportunity during my BikeSafe last year to quiz the motorcycle traffic cops about the use of bus lanes and cycle boxes, and they saw nothing wrong with making use of them – so long as it was being done safely and with care. I can’t help it if there are a few militant cyclists who don’t want to share their road space with motorbikes. Again, that’s probably inevitable, and it’s a shame.

Lesson for me – be even more careful about filtering, and be even more vigilant for cyclists.

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