David Behrens: Life in the slow lane a dangerous place when anger’s all the rage

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AS IF Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and the August floods hadn’t given us enough to worry about, we now have the phenomenon of joggers’ rage to contend with. Apparently, it’s caused by low blood sugar and causes normally equitable people to turn violent as soon as they put on running shorts and a race bib.

In running circles (that is, commun­ities of runners, not people who run in circles) it is the issue of the moment. Mild-mannered men and women are said to start banging on cars, elbowing competitors off the road and yelling at drivers who get in their way.

The phrase originated in America, apparently, but came home to roost this week when footage emerged of a runner appearing to push a woman into the path of a bus on Putney Bridge in south-west London. Only a quick-thinking swerve by the bus driver saved her from going under the wheels.

The incident has led to calls for separate lanes for runners, similar to those for bicycles, so that we might segregate pedestrians according to the speed at which they move.

I avoid running unless absolutely necessary. I’ll do it if it holds out the chance of getting on a slightly earlier train home from London, but otherwise, I prefer walking quickly, in the misconceived notion that it might be doing me some good.

But still, I admit to harbouring impatience towards people walking more slowly, especially in a crowd. Conversely, I tend to shift out of the way of people running in my direction, on the assumption that it must be more urgent for them to get to where they’re going than for me to do likewise.

So, separate fast and slow lanes for pedestrians is a good idea, at least on paper. That would be in addition to lanes for cycles, mobility vehicles and prams. That’s five in each direction, before you start accounting for cars.

It’s pie in the sky, obviously, but it does raise the question, in a nation that has never fully embraced the concept of cycle lanes at all, of who should have priority over whom.

I confess I didn’t know this until fairly recently, but it is illegal to cycle on the pavement in the UK. I had assumed, on the basis that it’s something lots of people do with no apparent fear of reprisal, that there was no law forbidding any such thing. In fact, it carries a maximum fine of £500 or a £50 fixed penalty notice. The law also covers children, although those under 10 are below the age of criminal responsibility and the police can show discretion to others for whom cycling on the road would not be a safe option.

But is cycling on the road a safe option for anyone? Whenever I do it, I feel as if I’m taking my life in my hands, and I would, frankly, rather risk the £50 ticket than fall victim to an Audi with go-faster stripes driven by someone steering with one hand and checking his Facebook page with the other. I doubt very much that any ticket would materialise.

On the pavement, all I need worry about is not bowling over anyone slower than me, and perhaps incurring the anger of people who run faster than I cycle.

But there isn’t always a pavement. The winding A65 past Skipton and into the Dales is barely wide enough for two cars, let alone the thousands of bikes and lorries that use it, and there are few of us who have not grown impatient at getting stuck behind one or the other, especially on a stretch with ten miles before the next overtaking lane.

The problem is that everyone – motor­ists, cyclists, runners and walkers – feels a sense of entitlement, whether on the road or the pavement. Bike rage, in which cyclists display verbal or physical anger towards others, is a well documented phenomenon, as, is pram rage – in which people on pavements or buses react badly to pushchairs occupying space that might otherwise be theirs. And, of course, there is road rage – the condition at the root of the issue.

Even walkers have a syndrome to call their own. Walk rage, according to a website listing urban slang, is a condition that seems to validate my predisposition for becoming irritated while attempting to pass slower walkers getting on a Yorkshire train out of King’s Cross station.

In short, what we all need is a lane just to ourselves. That way, we could plough our own furrow without having to interact directly with anyone else. You know – the way people do on Facebook, but with fresh air.