Cycling home from the station this evening I encountered a car moving at the tentative crawl of a very new driver. Actually, when I say ‘encountered’ I mean ‘almost cycled into the back of’ it was going so slowly. And then it got to a junction and stopped. And stalled. I could hear the familiar sound of the engine restarting as I cycled round it and left it stranded in the rain.
Ah, it took me back. It’s not so long ago I was spending every Monday lunchtime creeping tentatively round Barnes, parallel parking next to anything that couldn’t actively defend itself, and listening to my Italian driving instructor ruminating on the correct use of the horn (top quote ‘if you use your horn correctly in the test, it will really impress the examiner. The British tend not to use the horn enough …’). I felt sorry for the learner even as I thanked my lucky stars that I was on a bike and able to get past. Stalling at level crossings was my speciality. Just knowing how long everyone behind you had been waiting, knowing that they were expecting you to stall, and knowing that they would all humiliatingly steam past you the minute you did, pretty much guaranteed it would happen. And even when I wasn’t stalling, I seem to remember that whenever I looked in my mirror, all I would see was a van driver tailgating me so close that I could see the whites of his eyes. But at least I never had to learn to drive in the dark and the rain in the tail end of rush hour. And I’m pretty certain that I was never overtaken by a cyclist.
Two minutes down the road I met the other kind of learner driver – the kind that should be sent back to driving school for the good of all concerned. He* was an arsehole in a Vauxhall Tigra (there’s some redundancy in that sentence that I can’t quite put my finger on …) who decided to turn left and overtake me at the same time – fortunately I was turning too, or it could have been messy. Then he roared off down the road with no regard for the speed limit. Give me the real learner drivers, stalling or no stalling, any day of the week
* Sorry, rampant gender stereotyping here. Could have been a she, I suppose.