Road Rage on a bicycle is a dangerous thing. Yet anyone who cycles to work in a busy city is sure to experience it from time to time.
I say dangerous, because shouting abuse or giving the bird to a driver can leave you rather exposed. If you're in a car yourself, you can gesticulate and honk your horn all you like, but as long as you keep your doors locked, you're probably safe enough – however angry you manage to make another driver.
On a bike, you can quite easily be put in hospital by an angry motorist who wants to teach you a lesson. Unfortunately, I never seem to remember this until I've landed myself in it.
The latest incident took place last week, when some guy in a BMW cut straight across me and into the cycle lane, even though the traffic lights just ahead were red, and he would gain no advantage by his aggressive little manoeuvre.
As he went by me, I managed to reach out and catch the edge of his bonnet with the palm of my hand. However, concerned that I hadn't made a loud enough bang, I came up alongside him and gave the car a proper whack.
It was only at this point that I noticed the driver looked like a character out of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – a cross between Ray Winstone and Vinnie Jones – the kind of guy who would be willing to kill someone who crossed him.
Fortunately, I had momentum on my side, and as I saw him get out of his car and start running towards me, I managed to weave through the traffic ahead of him, and escape by jumping the lights. I could see he was shouting at me, but all I could hear over the top of my iPod was the C word – which he used a lot.
By this time my heart was racing, and I realised that if the lights changed now, he would almost certainly drive up behind me and try to run me off the road.
The problem is with the whole "I'll teach him a lesson" mentality – is that you'd have to be a very adept driver to teach without also maiming. Five seconds of that thought running through my brain, was enough to persuade me that I should get off the main road immediately, and start cycling down the back streets. I must have added 10 minutes to my journey to work, and I haven't stopped looking over my shoulder ever since.
I had an even closer shave a couple of years ago, where I gave a similar-looking driver – perhaps more Bronx than East End this time – the bird after he'd cut me up just ahead of some traffic lights. I was just in front of him, and he responded by putting his foot down and driving straight at me. I had to hurl myself and my bike to the side of the road to avoid being crushed under his wheels.
While I was lying on the road alongside his car, he wound down his window and told me that he was going to break my legs. Like my friend Vinnie, he was also fond of the C word. I recovered from my fall pretty quickly, and made a speedy escape.
It still all seems very unfair to me. Why should drivers be able to get away with nearly running cyclists over, and then be able to threaten them with death if we retaliate? I've thought about carrying a bazooka around in my backpack, to even things up a bit, but I suppose that would be a bit extreme.
So, I guess cyclists just have to learn to be the bigger person. Roll your eyes, swear to yourself, take a deep breath – and, most importantly, only pick on the drivers who look scared of you. You've got to be able to get it off your chest occasionally.