When a motorist almost knocks you off your bike through no fault of your own, what do you do? After 15 years cycling in London I've had my fair share of near-misses. The doors of parked cars being opened on me. Drivers pulling out of side roads when I'm in full view. Getting cut up by someone nattering away on their mobile phone. I've been knocked off a few times, but never seriously injured. Typical experiences from the cycling/motoring frontline.
I was riding home through north London one evening last week when a car pulled out of a side road and almost knocked me off my bike. The street was well lit and I was sure the driver could see my lights and hi-vis jacket. I was watching the car quite carefully - with its spoiler and flash hubcaps, it bore all the trademarks of the boy racer. As I pulled level he swung out. I swerved and braked, the back bumper just missing me. He drove on. Bike rage kicked in and I gave chase.
By the time I had caught up a quarter of a mile later, some of my anger had dissipated with the physical effort but I still wanted to draw his attention to what had happened. I pulled level on the inside and as I did, he swung out into the opposite lane to try to overtake the car in front. This was a crazy manoeuvre. The traffic in the opposite direction was heavy. He was forced to careen back in, swinging back across the lane and yes, for the second time, he almost knocked me off my bike, this time his passenger door catching my leg.
Incensed, I slapped the window - hard. He looked over, accelerated and spun the car into a 90-degree turn, blocking the lane. Leaping out, he charged towards me, screaming, fists clenched. He was young and big - a lot bigger than me.
I jumped off my bike and stood to face him, trying to look calm and composed. He halted in front of me, his fist clenched and raised. "You almost knocked me off my bike!" I had to shout to be heard above his torrent of abuse. "Twice. You could have killed me, do you realise?"
He lowered his fist but kept hurling abuse. I repeated the facts. What on earth was he thinking, trying to overtake on such a busy road? He blamed me and the car in front and anyone who was ever born.
Then silence suddenly descended. We were sizing each other up, assessing the situation. (A passer-by didn't help by shouting out, "Hit him!" I'm not sure whose side he was on.)
I repeated my mantra: "You could have killed me."
Then his body language changed. His shoulders dropped. He looked away. He shrugged, murmured to himself, walked back to his car. I braced myself - what was he going to do? - but he got in, started the engine, reversed slowly and carefully, then drove off even more slowly. I think he had got the message.
I got back on my bike and rode home. Over dinner I told my partner what had happened. She was alarmed, said I should be careful, that he could have had a knife or a gun. True. But really, what else can you do?
In many ways I have come to accept such incidents as part and parcel of cycling in London, or anywhere with insufficient cycling lanes and a car-dominant culture (that'll be most of the world, then). But how should you react? Ride on? Or try to challenge the person about their driving? (I'm not saying it's all one way - there are cyclists who are reckless and endanger themselves, other cyclists and pedestrians - but the consequences of bad driving are patently much more serious.) Members of the public challenging antisocial behaviour is a contentious issue. The high-profile deaths of some who have make you think twice. But in the heat of the moment, do you have time to reflect?