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How Not to Be a Road Hog

One of the charges often levelled against enthusiastic drivers is that they are “road hogs”.  “They think they own the road!” is a common complaint by non-car road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians (and, out in rural areas, horse riders).  With the growing concerns about rising petrol prices and about emissions, more people are turning to these non-petrol forms of transport.  You may have heard injunctions to “share the road” with what transport experts refer to as “active modes of transport” and avoid being a road hog.

  1. Remember that bikes belong on the road.  This means that if you have a Give Way or Stop sign in front of you and the bike does not, you still have to give way to the bike, even if it’s the only thing on the road.  The bikes have to comply with the usual give way rules at intersections and roundabouts, and so do you – having more power and seats does not give you extra rights.  If you were living in Holland, you would have fewer rights: over there, if a car collides with a bike, the car is assumed to be at fault unless they can prove otherwise, with the responsibility for that proof being on the car driver.
  2. Don’t drive in the bike lane.  The bike lane is designed to keep slower cyclists out of your way so you can overtake them easily.  It is not designed as an extra lane to allow you to overtake the car in front of you, or to get to the front of the queue at the lights when you’re turning left.  Nor is it designed for parking in.
  3. Don’t drive on the pavement.  You might think that this is a statement of the obvious, but when I used to live by a busy intersection where a huge line of cars used to queue up at the lights, I often saw people trying to get to the head of the queue at the lights “because I’m turning left and all those people in front of me aren’t” not only driving in the bike line but also getting a wheel or two up on the pavement and driving along to the head of the queue like that – even though I was walking on the aforementioned pavement with small children.  So it does happen.  Don’t do it.
  4. Give bikes a bit of space.  They are less stable and may need to dodge road hogs (not like you) who drive in the bike lane, open car doors in front of them, etc. and swerve to one side. They are also less stable and can tip over if a sudden strong gust of wind takes them unawares.  A good rule of thumb is to keep at least 1.5 metres clear of a cyclist when you pass just in case he or she falls over as you pass.
  5. If you drive near an area where lots of pedestrians and cyclists are likely (e.g. near a school), slow down and be prepared for them.
  6. Be polite and considerate.  You may not be obliged to stop and let a waiting pedestrian through if they’re stuck on a traffic island in busy traffic, but it’s a nice thing to do if you wave them through.  Consider it a random act of kindness and a way of making the world a friendlier place. 
  7. If you’re out in the country and see a horse rider, slow down and try not to make loud noises suddenly with your engine.  Especially do not blow your horn.  Horses are emotional things, and if they are frightened by a sudden loud roar (“Lion!  Lion!  Panic!  Run!”), they are likely to start acting up and throw the rider.  Watch out for a hand signal that is only given by horse riders: the right arm held to the side and waving up and down from the elbow. This means “I am having trouble controlling my horse; please slow down.” 
  8. If you have to negotiate a mob of sheep or cattle being herded along the road, pull over to the left and slow to a crawl.  Again, don’t blow your horn.  Sheep run straight ahead rather than to the side and if one sheep runs, others follow.  Cattle are large and able to dent your vehicle (Buttercup can think that your wing mirrors make a handy scratching post if you stop). Goats go everywhere.  If a collision is inevitable, don’t hit the dog.
  9. One of the main gripes many have about road hogs is in their inconsideration of other road uses.  When you’re out driving, a road hog is easy to spot.  They will go right up the back end of a car in front.  They will intimidate till the last moment before pulling out and passing at the slightest sniff of a gap in oncoming traffic.  Often, but not always, they drive big vehicles or fast vehicles.  It’s good to be patient and to keep your distance from other cars around you.  I’m sure road hogs are more stressed!