Here we are again… Late night, we were heading home, riding two abreast, at speed, down the road in this picture. Riding the lane parallel to Ave Louise, here in Brussels, clearly marked as a cycling-present space. The road is narrow and there is no way a car can give a rider one metre of space without pressing the cyclists into the door alone. We had large gears and were certainly riding above 30km per hour. And yet, as we rode over the bicycle icons, at this very spot, indicating our validity on the space, we had a car racing behind us, lights flashing, honking his horn, as he tried to force his way past.
It got so bad, so intimidating, we stopped and confronted the driver who insisted we had to be on the side, give him space. Cars had the priority. He pressed his car past us, driving my wheel out of his way in order to force his way forward. It was all vulgar and unnecessary., And demonstrated that the Lord Car mentality remains – the peasants on bicycles should stand on the side of the road and doff their caps as Lord Car passes.
This roadway is barely wide enough for a car to travel over 30kmph safely – and we were already that fast. But late night drivers race his lane every night – especially after a night out. We were doing over 30kmph and were no real hindrance to his safe and speedy transit down the road. But harassed we were, until we felt it too unsafe to continue.
Meanwhile, the driver could have taken any one of the exit points and enter a far faster, car-only road that was just 10 metres away, running parallel. But do not let that reality interfere with Lord Car.
I am tired of this.
When I ride home alone on this road, I take the lane, if I have speed (I always make speed here). It is safer. And I get cars that race up behind men, using the side road for a change to speed ahead. There is a constant attitude that, evcen if the road is declared equal to cars and bikes, the cyclists should just get out of the way and let the speeding cars have their way.
Now, let me be clear. I blame the police for this attitude. In Brussels, the police do just about nothing for the safety of cyclists. Cars use bike lanes, edge into the red light square, double park with impunity. They will aggress, intimidate and nothing will be done. The very best I have seen is a police car flash lights to get a car to move on when I have protested the presence in a bike lane.
In the same breath, I have had a police car race up behind me and expect the same doff of there cap and space given to him as this driver demonstrated last night.
I am no zero-tolerance person. I slip into the main road, further out than I want, to navigate some obstructions, and I expect cars to do the same in using the bike lane. Just do it safely and with respect. Recogniser that there just might be cyclists in the bike lane.
But every day cars abuse their status as Lord Car. They use bike lanes as a second car lane, double park and press cyclists into slivers of tarmac – and they can do it because its is just accepted that, barring injury, nothing will happen. And drivers press their metal cages to the very limit of where injury could happen, knowing that, almost always, the cyclists will relent and choose to not be hit by these drivers.
If the police do not act to admonish the ludicrous driving that is every day in Brussels capital (and across Europe, and just about anywhere, frankly), then the attitude simply increase in both numbers and the level of aggression.
At some point, the police will have to act to protect all road users – and not act as permission buffer for abuses by drivers as they conduct themselves as the privileged class of the road.
There is a war on cyclists. There really is. A substantial minority of drivers who are not mutual victims of failing infrastructure. They openly see cyclists as inferior and to be pressed out at almost any cost. I am still waiting to see the police in Brussels do anything to abate this.
I will provide one caveat. The police on bikes. They are the only ones I see who have unawareness and concern for cyclists. There are too few on the roads. They ride under the visible protection of their uniform and clearly marked bikes. I see them ride two abreast constantly through the city core and am grateful for that. But I have never seen anyone tell a cycling police that they must ride single file. Perhaps because it is not illegal.
If the police want a look into car aggression towards cyclists, dress like an everyday cyclist and come for a bike ride with us. Then you will see a very different world. Just one day for a ride will be enough. That should be a challenge to every police department.