Here’s a type you might recognise: the vigilante motorist. I came across one this morning on my own street. Said street is a quiet suburban backstreet with an unsigned speed limit. In Canberra this means it’s the default speed limit, 50km/h.
Most of the day it’s quiet, but for a brief period each morning it’s used as a rat run by people trying to avoid a queue to turn right on a parallel road below.
Given this is my own street and it’s meant to be a light traffic surface road with a 50km/h limit, I feel fine about riding on it with my 8 year old behind me on the tandem and my 10 year old to our left on her own bike. We ride two abreast so that I can protect her from passing cars with the long tandem.
This morning there was a small queue of cars behind us waiting for a safe spot to pass. That in itself is unusual, since people will usually just squeeze past, often without looking for oncoming traffic. Today there must have been a good driver at the head of the queue.
Ahead of us the road was narrowed to one lane by a car parked on the opposite side of the street. Behind that, a ute was waiting to back into a driveway where they driver had a job. Pulling out in front of us, the guy began his backing manouvre, at the same time gesticulating and yelling at us that we were holding up traffic. The guy was clearly in a fury, and called me a “fuckhead” in front of my young children. My son was unmoved but my daughter was unsettled by this unpredictable outbreak of potentially threatening fury on our otherwise quiet and idyllic street.
I was struck by the fact that this clearly on-the-edge tradie was furious not because of anything we’d done to him (he had in fact pulled out in front of us), but rather because of his empathy for the poor inconvenienced motorists behind us. Who, he no doubt assumed, should be allowed to speed while rat-running on our street unmolested by hippy cyclists.
I don’t imagine this guy presents himself as a figure of moral probity or legitimate enforcer of social norms in many other situations. But here he was, the vigilante motorist, censoring our selfish and irresponsible behaviour and standing up for the right-minded motorists of Australia. Thank you, Vigilante Driver.