Since I have been training for my advanced motorcycle test I think I have become a better driver as well as a better motorcyclist. Many of the skills, especially the hazard awareness and observational links, are equally appropriate to driving as they are to motorcycling.
Yesterday, however, the safety of my driving was called into question.
The incident occurred as I was heading into Cheltenham along the Shurdington Road. As you drive through Shurdington itself, the speed limit drops to 30 mph, but shortly after The Bell the speed limit increases again to 40mph.
This bit of road used to have a 50 mph speed limit, but like many roads around Gloucestershire it has been reduced. When I did my BikeSafe training, the police motorcyclists running it complained about this trend.
Not so long ago, the speed limits on most roads throughout the county away from built up areas was the national speed limit – i.e. 60 mph on a single carriageway road. Now most of these have been reduced to 50 mph or even 40 mph, despite the ability of the vehicles (brakes, handling, tyres, etc) using it increasing dramatically in the same time frame.
There are well laid out guidelines for what speed limits should be and most roads now no longer comply with these guidelines. There was a brief, happy period where there was a will to bring speed limits back into line, but it was quickly dropped as too politically difficult, so we are now stuck with this ridiculous situation.
The problem, from the police point of view, is that speed limits now go up and down so much that it is confusing and dangerous. Consequently there is now a trend for motorists to do 40 mph everywhere. This is bad because in 30mph limits they are going too fast and everywhere else they are getting in the way, which is equally dangerous.
So, back to the incident in question.
I had just gone through Shurdington and past The Bell into the 40 mph speed limit. I was following a Vauxhall Astra (ironically with a Nürburgring sticker on the back) doing 30mph.
I waited for a while to see if he was just a bit slow in accelerating up to the new speed limit, but no – he stuck doggedly to 30 mph.
Something else that has happened to me following my advanced motorcycle training is that I tend to think like a motorcyclist even when I am driving the car. I don’t know if it is the same for the advanced driving test, but in motorcycling the advanced test is about driving safely and also about making progress. This means that you should seek to travel at the maximum speed for the road and weather conditions within the speed limit.
To this end, when following a slower vehicle you are always looking for the overtake.
In this case, the overtake was very much on. This stretch of Shurdington Road is long and straight. It was a pleasant sunny day, road conditions were good and I could see for a long way in front: there was no traffic in front of us and none coming the other way; there were no junctions to worry about and no cyclists or other vulnerable road users that could get caught up in an overtaking manoeuvre. So I overtook.
The overtake was no problem: I dropped down a gear, pulled out and accelerated past the slow moving vehicle. I may have briefly exceeded the speed limit in order to pass him in a safe manner, but once I was past I pulled back in and dropped back to 40mph.
So why did the Astra drive feel the need to sound his horn in a long note as I went past? Seeing and hearing this, an elderly man on the pavement, presumably assuming that I was a boy racer, then felt the need to make ‘slow down’ motions with his arm at me. If asked I am sure he would have sworn I was doing 100 mph.
But who is more dangerous: the person who crawls along getting in everyone’s way, causing people to perhaps make rash manoeuvres through frustration (although in this instance I can assure you there was nothing rash about my manoeuvre), or the person who perhaps travels a little beyond the newly over-restrictive speed limits?