Stop Hitting Yourself

Over my 36 years of semi-professional bike blogging I’ve amassed tens if not dozens of loyal followers from all walks of life, from sports heroes:

To scoundrels:

Then there’s Jeremy Vine:

Frankly, I’m more worried about Jeremy than any of my other followers. I try not to look at Twitter, but every so often I do, and without fail the first thing I see is Jeremy Vine riding right into some easily avoidable situation and then spinning it as some sort of grave social injustice–it’s like “Jackass” for bike advocates. Most recently, he posted this encounter, which generated like a bazillion views, but since Twitter doesn’t seem to want to let me embed it here’s a version from YouTube instead:

Basically, he’s riding along when he sees a truck driver turning into a bike lane. Here’s where he is when he starts shouting, “no, NO, NO!!!

It’s unclear whether the driver is confused, or stupid, or heedless, or perhaps some combination of all three. Regardless, instead of assessing the situation proceeding with caution in the presence of what appears to be a dangerous (or at least clueless) driver, Vine continues riding directly at him, and he’s about here when he begins to deploy what sounds like an airhorn:

In New York when you honk at somebody they ignore you, or perhaps give you the finger. But apparently in London they actually correct their errant behavior, because the driver then stops, at which point Vine cunningly places himself behind the truck just as the driver begins to reverse course:

Hey, the sign does say “oncoming cycles.” It doesn’t say anything about cycles directly behind.

As the driver begins to back over his bicycle, Vine’s self-preservation instincts finally override his intense self-righteousness, and he moves himself out of the addled driver’s path:

No, I’m kidding, he actually stands his ground and starts pounding on the truck:

Start to finish, the entire encounter is like watching a man get run over by a steamroller:

Finally the driver stops, and another Brompton rider arrives on the scene, because, you know, it’s London and they all ride Bromptons:

I was unable to scan the QR code on the truck, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was also carrying a load of Bromptons.

Fortunately, Vine’s Brompton is unharmed, and one might cynically conclude that having gotten what he wanted (more victim footage for his Twitter) he parts on good terms with the driver:

The end:

Scenes like this one play quite well on social media, because everyone gets to be outraged at something. “Drivers are horrible!” “Cyclists are entitled!” “Section 87151949885574412-B of the traffic code explicitly states that a fop on a Brompton on a nearly empty London street shall have the right of way at all times!” And so forth. You’ve got to pick one side or the other, and you can’t cede an inch; the very nature of social media discourse requires you to stand your ground like Jeremy Vine behind that truck and die with your metaphorical Brompton of Righteousness rather than acknowledge that someone with an opposing view may very well have a valid point.

However, we’re all cyclists here, so we can dispense with the formalities. Certainly each one of us will have a different assessment of this video, but I like to think that if one of us happens to think it makes Jeremy Vine look like a complete idiot *[raises hand sheepishly]*, we can still take it as read that the driver was wrong and that in general motordom exacts a steep toll on our cities–including of course the steepest toll of them all, that being death. I also think we can each recognize that it’s simultaneously possible the believe that everyone should feel free and welcome to ride a bicycle and that cities have a responsibility to make it safe for them to do so, while also believing that someone who can’t seem to ride two feet in any direction without having yet another conflict or near-miss might want to consider folding up their Brompton permanently and just taking the fucking subway.

I suspect that most of us have seen a driver doing something wrong that posed a potential danger to us yet kept riding right into it anyway; I’ve certainly done it more than I’d like to admit. We do it to prove a point: the road is ours. You must yield to me. Certainly the manner in which we do it on a bike is far more benign than, say, the driver who subjects you to a close pass. Still, it comes from the same obstinate, thick-headed impulse. If Jeremy Vine weren’t riding around with a camera on his head he wouldn’t have so many Twitter followers, but I’m willing to bet he also wouldn’t have nearly as many frustrating interactions, and he’d probably enjoy riding his bike a lot more. Alas, for people like that, enjoying the ride doesn’t seem to be the point. And that’s missing it completely.

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