Why don’t British bike riders smile?

This is, in fact, a rhetorical question, as I’ve just learned the answer.

Over the past week, as the start of my build up training for the Tour of Wessex, I’ve done two rides of 30 miles (50kms), one in England, and one in France.

I’m used to riding in France, being as its where I live. The rides are always wonderful. Cold, often wet but with beautiful leafy lanes, small villages full of character and very little traffic. One thing I’ve always noticed, ever since moving to my adopted homeland, is that everyone always says hello. I’ve taken on the habit, and so, when riding through villages, I always say hello to people on the street and they reciprocate.

Should I ever see other bike riders, there is always a wave of the hand and a smile if they’re coming towards me, or a brief chat if they are overtaking me. (I don’t think I’ve ever overtaken anyone, but should this ever come to pass I’d slow down and chat too).

Wednesday of this week I went on a bike ride in England for the first time since I was knocked off my bike in England, smashing my thumb and damaging my elbow and shoulder, around 12 years ago.

The traffic is horrendous, nobody wants to talk to you and although I saw at least 30 other riders, there wasn’t a smile or a hand wave from anyone. I finished my 30 miles back at my son’s house and started venting my spleen about just how grumpy everyone is in the motherland and how no riders even acknowledge others, not like in France etc etc.

It was only after I’d watched the GoPro footage of my English bike ride that I realised why English bike riders don’t smile or wave. They’re in absolute fear for their lives.

After 23 years as a soldier I do have a fairly choice turn of phrase at the best of times, but watching the footage back, anyone who didn’t know me would think I suffered with Tourettes. I’ve watched it twice now, and I’ve counted at least 15 times where a car has missed me by millimetres, just stopped with no reason or the truck that just went straight on at the roundabout, causing me to bunny hop the kerb of said roundabout to avoid being flattened.

I believe the roads are closed for the Tour of Wessex, but apart from that, I don’t see myself riding over there too often in the near future.

Scary stuff.



About bobleponge216

Elderly rotund toothless male seeks wilderness to travel to.
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3 Responses to Why don’t British bike riders smile?

  1. I think there’s a British trait there, too. Some years ago, I worked in Dubai with a New Zealander who had only spent one week in London before being shipped out. Following a few journeys on the London Underground he wanted to know why people seem to spend all their time looking at each other’s feet. I couldn’t look him in the eye and give a sensible answer. Perhaps I should have looked at his feet instead…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nikki says:

    I wonder if the indifferent, mind-your-own-business attitude is symptomatic of large urban areas, a defense mechanism. I’ve always heard that of New York City (where the only ones crazy enough to use bicycles are messengers, and who are scary on their own), but I didn’t realize the look-anywhere-but at-another behavior was common in London too. How about Paris, Rome?
    Here in Oregon, bicycles are a way of life, despite the rain. Portland, Eugene, and Salem all have bike lanes on most major streets… Eugene even has major bikeways that are separate from regular roads and only open to cyclists and walkers/runners.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose any major city breeds a sense of isolation. There are so many people you can’t possibly say hello to everyone.
      The best place I’ve ever been for bike riding was Stockholm, cycle lanes everywhere, all physically separated from the road by a barrier of some sort.
      A really well thought out city.


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