Cycling is a dangerous sport. Tragically on 9th May, Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt died during the third stage of the Giro d’Italia. He lost control during a fast descent. He was wearing a helmet but that couldn’t save him from sustaining fatal head injuries. He was just 26 years old. It’s a terrible, dreadful shame.

Chris and I are on our bikes every day, with Ruadhri for some of the time as we cycle him to get his school bus and then carry on for an hour or so. We’ve had the most hassle from drivers this year that we’ve ever had in the form of being blasted by horns and then cut up on the roads. And this has sometimes happened when our son has been with us. He has even started joining in the swearing and gesticulating that follows these incidents! Whoops.

Anyway, I’ve done some digging around regarding the law on this. Many car drivers are under the impression that it is totally illegal for cyclists to ride two abreast on any road. False. By daytime it is totally permissible, but no more than two abreast. If the road is narrow, and by cycling side by side you are obstructing cars coming up behind you, then they are entitled to hoot gently from a safe distance so you are aware of their presence, and then give you time to fall into single file so they can pass. None of which they do and drive aggressively and dangerously. Motorists need to learn the rules of the road. And on a wider road, there is plenty of room for them to overtake safely without them hooting and cyclists needing to pull in.

Matching jackets make motorists more careful

Cars and other vehicles are obliged to leave a gap of at least one metre from the cyclist’s left shoulder when they overtake. Again, motorists often don’t and whistle by about 20 cms away. This is one reason Chris and I stick to riding two abreast as much as possible. We’ve found that if we drop to single file, cars don’t bother pulling out far at all. What’s more, they still overtake, even if a vehicle is coming in the opposite direction, which is diabolical. They’re forced right in and woe betide the poor cyclist. We’ve ended up in ditches before now, not in France thankfully. Yet, anyway.

And cyclists are not obliged to cycle into the verge or the kerb to make way for a car behind them on a narrow road. In fact the opposite. Cyclists are meant to maintain a safe line, not too close to the edge of the road where they could hit kerbstones with a pedal or ride over detritus and be knocked off balance.

It’s noticeable but when Chris and I cycling in our matching jackets, we get better treatment than if we’re in non-cycling tops with our longs or shorts. If motorists think you’re in a club or some sort of organised ride they’re better behaved. I shall order us some matching cycling vests so we look more official. Twee, but official!

Anyway, we’ll continue cycling two abreast. When we’re with Rors, one of us goes on his outside and the other one behind to keep him protected (apart from on narrow lanes where we obey the law and drop to single file). And without him we cycle alongside because it makes us work harder and, funnily enough, even after 25 years of marriage and having spent the last 5 years working together 24/7, we still have plenty to say to each other!

Daily snippets for 11 May

Today’s saint: Saint Estelle, martyred in the third century. Also St Mamert.

Famous French person born this day:

Famous French person who died this day:

Today’s word: de front – abreast, side by side

Today’s dicton: Gare s’il gèle à la Sainte-Estelle – Beware, it could be frosty on St Estelle’s Day.

There’s a further dicton: Saint Mamert (11/05), Saint-Pancrace (12/05) et Saint-Servais (13/05) sont les Saints de glace. St Mamert, St Pancras et St Servais are the saints of ice {i.e. could be frosts}