A stressful ride

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Most local lanes are really single cart tracks

Most local lanes are really single cart tracks, bordered by ditches

My daily ride around the neighbourhood wasn’t over-pleasant yesterday.

Although there is little traffic around us, and in general I have found French drivers very courteous (their presumed liability probably helps here), I am still very nervous about traffic and yesterday I found it all a bit much.

In an hour or so (just over 15km), I normally encounter two or three vehicles, but yesterday I encountered eight tractors, a double-length HGV cattle carrier and several cars, two of which came a lot closer than I would have liked. One car, which came round a hairpin bend on MY side of the road, missed me for two reasons – one was that I know the road well and was hard up against the verge, just in case, and the other was that I ride with my lights on – in the shade, I’m pretty sure that was the most visible aspect of me, despite my high-vis pink.

The other car I wasn’t happy about overtook me with less margin than I would have liked on a wide two-laner, but that was my fault for not taking the lane and forcing him into the opposite lane to manoeuvre. Interestingly, both drivers were Brits and therefore far more twattish than the French.

With most of the tractors, to be honest, there was no problem. Each time, I pulled over into the verge and got off the bike, made eye contact with the driver and smiled. But with one tractor driver this mollifying behaviour cut no ice. He passed me twice and the first time, pulled over into the verge (still moving) right behind me (who had stopped). I had stopped to allow him to pass, but he had pulled over to allow an oncoming car to pass. This is a very frightening thing to happen when the wheel of such a vehicle towers high above you and could crush you like a walnut. I had indicated that I was stopping, but I assume he was either not familiar with the hand signal or simply ignored it.

Shortly afterwards, I was passed by the massive cattle carrier, and although he gave me a very reasonable berth, I am generally scared by freight (having twice been hit by HGVs when driving), and was very glad to get home in one piece.

One issue I’ve noticed on our rural roads is that although ostensibly they’re two-laners, in reality they’re one laners. The road from our village to the next is kind of one-and-a-half lanes: two cars can pass, but each has to slow and move into the verge. In theory, therefore, one car and one bike can pass each other relatively easily.

But when you’re riding a bike rather than driving, you also become horribly aware that the tractors, which drive straight down the middle of the road, have created a massive camber, with deep ruts down the middle of each so-called lane. This means you have to cycle almost on the verge, as otherwise you’re half-way up a slope, which is disagreeable when the bracken is high and the bend is blind.

The verges round here consist of about 20 inches of grass, followed by a ditch. I’ve certainly ditched the car a couple of times and would rather not ditch a 23kg bike and then have to haul the sodding thing out.

Oh well, it is all grist for the mill, I suppose. I know that I will have to get used to traffic, but my next ride tomorrow will be during the French two-hour lunch hour in the hopes of restoring my confidence a bit. And then I might pretty much stay off the roads for a couple of weeks, while they get the maize in.

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