Respect on the Roads

Friday 8th February was a momentous day. My route home from work in cludes a right turn into a main road. Both when we drive and when I cycle, we/I tend to sit right by the centre white line, so cars turning into the side road have to either take the corner properly or stop  to let us/me out. In the car, roughly every third vehicle lets us out. On my bike, the first vehicle this year to let me out was on Friday 8th February. The second vehicle was actually the same vehicle for a second time last Thursday.

Drivers do a lot of talking about what cyclists should and shouldn’t do – mustn’t cycle on pavements, must wear bright clothing (no similar rules on cars not be dark colours, though, and I know which’ll do more damage if you don’t see it), mustn’t undertake on the left.

It’s about respect. When a driver tells me that I mustn’t undertake stationary traffic even when there’s space and it’s safe and the weather’s miserable, but that same driver then pulls up right beside me when I’ve stopped behind the car in front, well, what message does that send? If the car is beside me, seems to me that the car thinks that there is a second lane so why can’t I use it?

I passed my driving test about 3 1/2 years ago and have barely driven since, due to the cost of insurance (driven up by the fact our car is a Subaru Impreza WRX Japanese import, which of course all insurance companies think is a perfect first car. Yeah). This year, we found a company that would insure me for less than all our money so hurray! I’m driving again.

Which is crazy. I haven’t driven for 3 1/2 years, and now they’re perfectly happily letting me loose on the roads in a car with somewhere between 240 and 250 break horsepower. Fortunately, I am not so reckless (and the car is Husbit’s darling baby), so I booked myself a couple of lessons with my old instructor in his new car and have only driven the Scooby a couple of times on a short journey with Husbit two steps from a panic attack beside me.

Here’s the interesting part: when I drive my instructor’s Corsa, I drive with greater skill and confidence. It’s more akin to the Clio he had when I learnt to drive; he’s better practiced at hiding any concern he has when I make mistakes; I know that, if it all goes tits up, he has dual control and can take over and save the day. So I drive well in it, only minor mistakes – to be honest, by the end of my second refresher lesson, I felt like a better driver than I was when I took my test. All the same, other drivers were crowding me, cutting me up, driving too close behind and generally (unsuccessfully – too many years as a cyclist) trying to indimidate me with their lack of patience.

In the Scooby, I don’t drive so well. The journeys have been very short so I haven’t yet become used to the car. The steering is a little stiffer so I’m turning slower and it’s a petrol car when I learnt in a diesel which requires different use of the accelerator pedal so I’ve stalled a few times. The engine has a lot more power so I’m far more nervous about actually using the gas. And despite stalling and being in the wrong lane and driving way below the limit, despite all that the other road users give me space, treat me as another valid road user. This is why I fought when Husbit said we needed to get me learner plates – having cars crowd me when I’m driving a car I’m already nervous in would be too much and probably actually intimidate me (and make my driviing even worse).

It’s frustrating because everyone has to learn at some point and crowding a learner only makes it more difficult for them and doesn’t save you anything.

Anyway, the car is due for its MOT and service soon and the garage we use is a nice drive away – clear, open roads with little traffic and a decent stretch away so, as long as Husbit can hold his nerve, this should be very beneficial in getting my confidence in that car.

It is nice to be driving again though.

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