Monday, September 28

Cyclist heckling

I have been riding a bike since I was about 14, but it is only really since starting to commute on it regularly that I have been subjected to the fine art of cyclist heckling.

It's a strange phenomenum. Unless they are career bullies or subject to road rage, people rarely feel the need to shout out random and often meaningless things at other pedestrians or car drivers. But when an innocent cyclist passes by, often one who is minding their own business and concentrating on the road, some people find themselves yelling out insults, comments, or just a random string of words, as if by some involuntary spasm.

I used to get upset about it, even hurt, but now I just find myself pondering what makes them do it - it's totally mysterious to someone like me who would no more consider yelling 'hey, ugly fuckwit' at a total stranger, than I would consider defecating in the street.

It would be more acceptable if the insults were witty or imaginative, but usually they are just dull and predictable. "You fucking lesbian!" is probably the best example of this. Even if it were true, it's hardly insulting - except perhaps in the world of small-minded imbeciles!

"Fat-bottomed girl" was another recent one. If I had had my wits about me I would have shouted back "who are you calling a girl?"

Once I got "your bike's shit!". So is your power of insult, you stunted pillock.

Today's was a classic. In the tone of someone shouting out "lovely tits!", the bloke called "cock up your arse!" almost as if he had even taken himself by surprise! I checked but didn't find anything and then wondered whether perhaps he meant to add a question mark at the end of his sentence but didn't quite know how. Aw bless.

As for gestures, I have never been able to decide if the three schoolboys mooning at me was insulting or just hopeful. Aside from making me laugh it did remind me to ask about getting some bike racks at work.

Car hecklers are by far the worst; it is usually so sudden and unexpected that it can be at best annoying, at worst dangerous.

But if you are an habitual heckler of cyclists, beware! Sometimes they bite back. Some years ago, on my way home from an early morning swim, I was persistently heckled by the occupants of a white van. As we passed one another going from one set of traffic lights to the next, these morons gurned and catcalled at me out of the open window each time they drove up behind me.

As I approached the van at about the third set of lights, a mischievous spirit took hold of me. Swimming can cause the body to generate more phlegm than usual, and at the time I felt a 'poor man's oyster' rising in my throat. At my side of the van the window was wound right down, all the more convenient for some cycle heckling, and the miscreant had the Sun open on his lap, looking at the pictures no doubt. I could not resist, your honour.

I didn't stop to check if I had hit my target, I could tell from outraged yelling that it must have been pretty near the mark. I sped off down a side street, grinning to myself and did not stop chuckling all day. I'm not ashamed, or sorry that I did it. They deserved it.


Felix said...

I am filled with glee at the thought that one small victory for heckled cyclists has been made, in the form of phlegm!

I used to cycle and I found the random shouts of car drivers very off-putting... I don't know what makes people do it.

The only time I yell at cyclists as a car-driver, is when they have no lights on and are riding in the dark. And then I yell, 'I can't see you! It's really dangerous!' However I have never felt the urge to yell random obscenities and I don't know why others do.

Clare said...

Fab! Good for you.

Susie Hewer said...

Oh I love that story!

We runners get insults too plus people seem to like to see how close they can get to me without actually hitting me - I've even been swiped by a wing mirror a couple of times.

I have to say that since we moved to the country I am heckled less but I remember the insults I used to get when I had to run on the pavement alongside the A23!

colleen said...


colleen said...


Anonymous said...

Love this piece as I have been subjected to some of this myself - not as bad in Glasgow though.

Not quite heckling, but when an ex-boyfriend of mine was knocked onto the pavement by a motorist who didn't stop, he caught up with him at the lights and deliberately rode so close to his car that he scratched the door. The enraged driver got out of his car, ready to give him a bollocking.............but then my ex got off his bike and stood to his full height of 6'7" and glared down at the driver. At which point the driver decided that humble pie might taste better than having his face panned in, so he apologised for knocking him off his bike and asked if he was OK. LOL!