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Footballer-turned-driving instructor Ashley Neal divides opinion with use of horn in overtaking video

Some viewers criticised Neal’s “unnecessary” horn use as he passed two cyclists, but the instructor said that “the horn in this situation is a simple ‘excuse me’… no different than a signal with an indicator if I was passing a car”

Footballer-turned-driving instructor Ashley Neal has divided opinion online after posting a video in which he beeps his car horn at two cyclists while overtaking them.

Neal, the son of European Cup-winning Liverpool full back Phil Neal, regularly posts videos on his website and YouTube channel, which has over 98,000 subscribers, chronicling his experiences as a driver and instructor in the northwest of England

Neal, who runs his own driving school business, has often been praised for his even-handed approach to cyclists on the roads, and last year posted a video analysing an incident in which a cyclist was knocked off their bike by a motorist, an act the instructor claimed was “done purposefully”.

Last week’s video, titled ‘Cycling 2 Abreast and Overtaking’, caused a stir in the comments of the video itself and on the road.cc forum, after some viewers claimed that Neal was criticising the cyclists riding two-abreast before “unnecessarily” beeping his horn at them as he passed.

As he approaches the cyclists in the video, Neal says: “Do they need to be taking up a primary position and riding two-abreast at the moment? Yes.

“But I think this is going to cause issues with the new updates to the Highway Code. And that’s if some cyclists choose to ignore the other advice which has been updated to say that they should move back to single file to allow faster moving traffic to overtake.”

On the subject of riding two abreast, the revised Highway Code states: “You can ride two abreast and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders. Be aware of drivers behind you and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when you feel it is safe to let them do so.”

> Highway Code changes: ‘What about cyclists, or do the rules not apply to them?’

Neal then questioned whether the cyclists’ decision to carry on riding two abreast prevented him “from giving them a proper two metres space on this faster speed limit”, before answering “well, it does”.

The Highway Code updates advise that drivers should “leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds”, and only explicitly notes that two metres’ distance should be maintained when passing pedestrians or horses on the road.

“Just because you can ride two abreast,” Neal continued, “doesn’t mean you should be doing it always. You should still appreciate the flow from other people.”

Neal then proceeds to pass the cyclists, doing so at a safe distance in the opposite lane, sounding his horn as he begins the manoeuvre. After the overtake, Neal told his viewers to give cyclists “as much space and care as you would do overtaking a car…  A little beep of the horn is key, no problems, do it safely.”

> Driver knocks cyclist off bike on purpose – then claims she used to be police officer

While some viewers took to the YouTube comments section and the road.cc forum to express their disgruntlement at Neal’s preference for the cyclists to have ridden single file (though he acknowledged that he wouldn’t have been able to pass in any case), most of the resulting controversy surrounding the video centred on his use of his horn.

One road.cc reader wrote: “I don't agree with his use of the horn. Imagine if every car that passed you 'warned you of their presence' with a 'friendly' toot.

“In my view, the only reason to warn someone of your presence is when you think they might need to take some evasive action or look like they might cross your path.”

Another said: “I don't know what a ‘friendly’ toot sounds like, I cannot remember the last time I heard one.  It might be some quaint throwback to the golden age of motoring, but in my experience it just doesn't happen these days.

“Therefore, any use of the horn will get my hackles and probably my middle finger up. If you're driving behind a cyclist, however you use your horn will make them jump, which doesn't seem advisable to me.”

> Driving instructors have their say on the Highway Code – “a recipe for disaster” or “not a big deal”? 

Some viewers on YouTube agreed:

“I'm not sure on beeping before you overtake. If someone beeps me when I'm cycling I assume they are highly offended by my existence. If you force a cyclist to take their eye off the road ahead and look around, especially if they are alongside someone, there is a chance they will swerve enough to cause an issue.”

“I really disagree with the use of the horn in this situation. I know why Ashley is using it, but there are very few road users who consistently use the horn like he does. When I am cycling and hear a horn being sounded from a car behind me, I generally assume that an accident or near miss is about to occur and take defensive actions.”

However, others were more forgiving of the ‘friendly toot’:

“In my opinion the reason for riding two abreast is to get the cars to slow down before overtaking thus reducing potential damage (to me). Once they slow down I move into single file as soon as I think it's safe to overtake.

“Very occasionally I don't notice the car behind and a friendly toot is much appreciated. I'm ashamed to admit that aggressive use of the horn just winds me up and the move to single file is much delayed as a result.”

“I'm not totally against a friendly horn toot if a driver thinks I may genuinely not be aware of them. However, if I haven't already heard you coming, then even a friendly toot is likely to be alarming.

“So if you're going to do it, I think you need to leave a pause before you then overtake, to account for the cyclist jumping or turning to look – don't toot while you're mid-overtake.”

Neal took to the comments section himself to respond to those criticising him for his horn use, telling one viewer to “go read the Highway Code”.

“The horn in this situation is a simple ‘excuse me’,” he wrote. “It’s no different than a signal with an indicator if I was passing a car. If someone might benefit, it’s needed. It’s really sad that the true use of the horn is lost on so many.”

Rule 112 of the Highway Code states that the car horn should only be used “while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence. Never sound your horn aggressively.”

According to Neal, “due to their poor positioning and not going back to single file, [the use of the horn] was absolutely necessary. It’s only the poor perception of what the horn should be used for that’s the problem.

“It’s a non-aggressive way of saying “excuse me” and so many cyclists have problems with it… These cyclists were just riding for themselves and did nothing to work together as they should.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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168 comments

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MiserableBastard | 1 year ago
4 likes

Re Neal's bleating about being identified as a former kickball player: when some knuckle-dragging mouth-breather on Twitter is delivering a knowledge-free rant about cyclists, it's a safe bet he'll have a football team affiliation in his bio.

Football fandom is a community based on tribalism. I won't say it's inherently toxic, but it's not really surprising that it contains more than its fair share of people who bring their toxic tribalism to the roads too.

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IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
3 likes

Buried in the thread is a comment that Ashley is not very aware of cyclists and one thing he seems unaware of is that many cyclists do actually have mirrors. One of his arguments is that as we do not have mirrors, he must toot to let the cyclist know he is there, but he doesn't realise that aside from ears, a good many cyclists have mirrors - either on the bar end, on the frame or on their helmet. I've been riding with a mirror since the 1980s, originally a nasty Raleigh one, but these days I use one of these:

https://www.bike-eye.com/index.html

so you would not see me looking around, you would see me looking down (and possibly cocking my leg!). About 50% of the group I ride with have mirrors, and many casual cyclists I see have one.

I'd actually be quite happy for mirrors to be compulsory as they are for cars.

Another fact to consider, nearly all adult cyclists are drivers, probably less than 5% of drivers are regular cyclists*. Which group will have a good perspective of the issues from both sides?

*Presumably not members of this forum.

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HoarseMann | 1 year ago
0 likes

ooh eck, BlackBeltBarrister has weighed in on this now...

https://youtu.be/7lGz2SqPB7Y

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chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like

I'm a bit "meh" on the whole issue given that Ashley at least gets the basics right.  And given I've seen evidence of pretty shoddy driving by driving instructors both here and in real life.  And it's all publicity and if some of that washes off into better driving...

I've my doubts about his views on the horn, it sounds like he feels "but now because we MUST give a certain clearance that means that motorists are just completely trapped!  Unless the cyclists single out all we can do is beep". It does seem rather an overreaction, a lack of pragmatism.

I think Captain Badger / GMBasix and others have nailed it - if it's not appropriate for a car then probably not for a bike.  Otherwise it comes over a bit like men trying to demonstrate their "feminism" by dodging round women and opening the door for them "to let them know that you're looking out for them".

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Steve K replied to MiserableBastard | 1 year ago
2 likes
MiserableBastard wrote:

Re Neal's bleating about being identified as a former kickball player: when some knuckle-dragging mouth-breather on Twitter is delivering a knowledge-free rant about cyclists, it's a safe bet he'll have a football team affiliation in his bio.

Football fandom is a community based on tribalism. I won't say it's inherently toxic, but it's not really surprising that it contains more than its fair share of people who bring their toxic tribalism to the roads too.

You're right about football's toxic tribalism.  Anyway, don't listen to anything Neal says, he used to play for Brighton.

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chrisonabike replied to HoarseMann | 1 year ago
2 likes
HoarseMann wrote:

ooh eck, BlackBeltBarrister has weighed in on this now...

https://youtu.be/7lGz2SqPB7Y

It all starts out with reasoned comments - though almost entirely "get over it cyclists, horns just mean 'I am here' obvs!".  Which does seem to ignore an important chunk of reality.  Not far down and we're already into "how to identify these unaccountable cyclists and pedestrians" though...

EDIT - and then we're into bingo (or satire): e.g. "council's have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds putting in cycle lanes and duel use pavements to give cyclists a safe place to ride, away from traffic and they still insist on riding down the road right next to a cycle lane."

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HoarseMann replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
0 likes

Yep! But this has got me thinking, are we on the brink of a revolution in horn use? Just like Daytime Running Lights for cars have encouraged more cyclists to use day bright lights, will cyclists adopt an audible warning for approaching drivers, notifying them of their presence on the road ahead (arguably more of an issue with in-car distractions these days).

If all cars now 'toot' to warn of their presence when overtaking, surely it's only right that cyclists can 'toot' a vehicle that's about to overtake? I'm thinking of a couple of loud air-horns aimed to the rear, hooked up to a Varia radar. Two short pips for a vehicle approaching at a normal speed and a long blast for one going a bit too quickly!

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chrisonabike replied to HoarseMann | 1 year ago
2 likes
HoarseMann wrote:

Yep! But this has got me thinking, are we on the brink of a revolution in horn use? Just like Daytime Running Lights for cars have encouraged more cyclists to use day bright lights, will cyclists adopt an audible warning for approaching drivers, notifying them of their presence on the road ahead (arguably more of an issue with in-car distractions these days).

If all cars now 'toot' to warn of their presence when overtaking, surely it's only right that cyclists can 'toot' a vehicle that's about to overtake? I'm thinking of a couple of loud air-horns aimed to the rear, hooked up to a Varia radar. Two short pips for a vehicle approaching at a normal speed and a long blast for one going a bit too quickly!

There were a couple of thoughtful comments that didn't disagree with the use of the horn ("as a cyclist myself") but did point out that horns have got louder and noise pollution is a thing.

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IanMSpencer replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like

Along with members of the forum here should be prosecuted for spreading misleading information. Seems like Putin has still got access to YouTube.

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chrisonabike replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
2 likes
IanMSpencer wrote:

Along with members of the forum here should be prosecuted for spreading misleading information. Seems like Putin has still got access to YouTube.

I believe he wishes to deny to others what he allows for himself.

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Awavey replied to HoarseMann | 1 year ago
1 like

the first 5 secs, he is using a clip thats at least a few years old out of context so  Im not going to watch the rest of it to boost that guys youtube algorithm

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IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
2 likes

Funnily enough, I'd forgotten that about 10 years ago I tried one of these:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Air-Zound-Rechargeable-Bike-Horn-XL-115db-Lou...

An AirZound rechargeable air horn. Lightweight, 115db (loud!). Strangely enough, none of the motorists seemed happy when I used it to alert them to me when they were pulling out of side streets in front of me. In part they were totally baffled by a blast from the invisible cyclist, but none of them seemed to appreciate its appropriate use. After one particularly belligerent motorist who tried to drive on my bit of road through Worcester threatened physical harm because I used it (even though I ended up pinned against the kerb avoiding him), I decided that it did more harm than good.

I'm tempted to get it out of the loft and see what effect it has on close passes now the highway code is clearer. Somehow, I doubt our tin boxed friends will appreciate its appropriate use as a warning that they are too close.

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grOg | 1 year ago
2 likes

Don't use the horn; it should only be used to warn of danger and most motorists use the horn behind cyclists illegally, because they are aggravated and want to harass the cyclist.

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HoarseMann | 1 year ago
2 likes

In the highway code, there's a subtle, yet important, difference in the wording between using a bicycle bell and a car horn...

A bicycle bell can be used to let people know you are there, a car horn is to warn of your presence. 'Warn' infers that there is some danger to be aware of, it's not just a simple 'I'm letting you know I'm here'.

Is it ok to do something that creates danger as long as you use your horn first? Maybe. I think the hump-backed bridge is one example where there really isn't another option. But for overtaking cyclists, IMO it's either safe to pass or it isn't.

Even using a bicycle bell is a dilemma, as discussed in this old guardian article, so using a car horn really has to be a last resort.

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IanMSpencer replied to HoarseMann | 1 year ago
1 like

That raises another interesting point, the advanced driver recommended way of dealing with a blind bridge is to wind your window down and turn off any sound system because there is no point hooting if you can't hear another car do the same.

So in a cycling example, if a motorist thinks an audible warning is appropriate, what actions should a motorist take to be aware of any audible warnings from a cyclist - after all if a motorist heard the panicked cry in a group of "CAR DOWN" after hearing a call of "Car up - car through" they'd know the cyclist had spotted a serious threat.

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auldain | 1 year ago
3 likes

I was taught to drive using the  horn as a tool to alert other road users to your presence, with the exception of horses riders. It was never to be used as a road rage tool, which seems to be what most drivers think it's there for. Any cyclist will attest to the fact that wind travelling over your ears makes it almost impossible to hear approaching vehicles. So a driver giving a short "toot" on his horn alerts cyclists to their presence, and allows for them to get prepared for the imminent overtake and do things such as compensate for any road surface issues (pot holes, gratings, etc) plus get into single file where appropriate. I have for some time been considering starting a campaign using the slogan "Toot You're  Aboot" to educate drivers on horn use. I know from personal experience that life threatening situations I have been involved in would have been less traumatic is a toot had been given. Let's hope driving instructors take this onboard and instruct their pupils on the benefits if proper use of the horh. It could help to prevent unnecessary injuries and also h  we plan driver/cyclist relations. 

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giff77 replied to auldain | 1 year ago
0 likes

Was taught much the same. The horn was never to be used after an incident in anger which as you say seems to be the norm nowadays. 

I think that as cyclists we have become so accustomed to someone leaning on their horn as they pass or when they're behind for about 30 seconds. That we now perceive in many cases the use of the horn as being aggressive. 

I've no issue with a quick toot from behind to make me aware or as they're preparing to pass. It really doesn't bother me. I do think that with the huge uptake in EVs  that instances like the one in Ashley's VT the use of the horn is a way forward. Maybe not so much  in the urban environment but the rural setting where roadies will find themselves. Wind blowing through ears, wearing of skull caps all of which dampen ambient noise, especially when a competent cyclist is hitting speeds of up to 20mph. This coupled with EV's being much quieter at higher speeds and also having a much more responsive and silent acceleration. The use of a horn may be useful. Having been caught out by Teslas lately has been unnerving and a quick beep would have been helpful.

I'm old enough to have learnt to drive in a car with the horn on the indicator stalk and owned a couple with the same set up.  I've found that the modern horn in the centre of the wheel is more difficult to control as you have to really push down with some force as opposed to the quick finger tap of old. Maybe that is something to do with the more aggressive use.  

 

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grOg replied to auldain | 1 year ago
2 likes

'I was taught to drive using the  horn as a tool to alert other road users to your presence'.. you have left out the important proviso for using the horn; read the whole reason; 'The function of the horn is to alert other road users to your presence, when another road user poses a danger'. You should not use the horn to notify someone you are passing them.. it reeks of 'get out of my way, I'm coming through'.

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Captain Badger | 1 year ago
8 likes

AND another thing

Ashley Neal wrote:

According to Neal, “due to their poor positioning and not going back to single file, [the use of the horn] was absolutely necessary. ]

Or of course, you could wait for it to be safe to o/t and do so with no fuss....

And here is the problem. The acute level of entitlement that motorists feel that nothing can impede their progress in the slightest way is the underlying cause here, and leads drivers to believe that any action ( right or wrong, against teh HWC or police advice, or vulnerable road users request) is justifiable.

Ashley, you could have pointed out to your followers;

" the cyclists are riding safely and in accordance with the law, and posing no risk to others. It should be remembered that the main hazard on the road are the motor vehicles that we are in control of. Waiting patiently until it is safe to overtake will take a few seconds, and won't delay our journey overall"

 

 

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brooksby replied to Captain Badger | 1 year ago
5 likes

Well said, Cap'n! laugh

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belugabob | 1 year ago
3 likes

As a cyclist, approaching pedestrians, on a shared path, I can ring my bell, but this is met with a similar divided opinion.
The other option, which I usually employ, is to use a friendly vocal greeting - this is much more sociable and almost universally well received.

Maybe it's about time cars are fitted with an second "warning" button, that causes the car to emit a jolly "Yoo-hoo!" or something similar...

https://www.google.com/search?q=leslie+phillips+hello&oq=leslie+phillips...

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JustTryingToGet... replied to belugabob | 1 year ago
4 likes

I absolutely will not use my bell anymore. It incites violence. Whilst that is completely unreasonable, I'm a skinny middle aged woman and the last time I used it, on a shared use path being blocked by à group of five or six men, one of them, built like a brick shithouse, threatened to kill me whilst the others cheered him on. An extreme example but not the only one where people seem to get enraged by a bell. I'll try shouting 'excuse me' in my nicest voice and proceed with caution when I can. A bit like a vehicle behind bikes... oh... yeah....

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grOg replied to JustTryingToGetFromAtoB | 1 year ago
1 like

Thugs and yobbo's will use any excuse to threaten and harass people; I don't use the bell, mainly because so many people have earplugs in, so can't hear a bell or a call; I just slow down to walking pace, edge alongside until they see me with their peripheral vision and most instinctively move aside at that point.

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Rendel Harris replied to belugabob | 1 year ago
4 likes

As I noted somewhere below, the buses in Paris have a delightful chiming bells that they use to warn cyclists when they are coming up behind them in the many shared lanes in that city, it works incredibly well, I've cycled a lot around there and you get a polite warning without feeling attacked. A polite "hello I'm here" bell on cars would work wonders for driver – cyclist/pedestrian interactions, I think.

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vthejk replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
3 likes

I think context matters - if Paris has this prevailing culture of friendly warning bells then it follows that Paris residents would expect bells to be friendly. Conversely, travel to India and the horn is almost universally (and very frequently) used as a gesture of impatience. I don't think any warning sign or bell from road users in Britain could be seen friendly anymore, as the prevailing culture here is for horns showing aggression or impatience.

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Rendel Harris replied to vthejk | 1 year ago
4 likes

Well, Paris buses used not to have bells and they would give one the horn, if you'll pardon the expression, regularly, so people can adapt. It might also help if we adopted the French horn laws: within cities it is illegal (€35 fine rising to €150 for late payment) to use the horn for anything except to warn of immediate danger, and this is enforced, it's really noticeable these days how much quieter the streets are (in the old days the joke was how do you define a millisecond - it's the time between the traffic light turning green and a Parisian driver hitting the horn).

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vthejk replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
2 likes

Maybe I'm an old (all of 27) cynic - but that does sound positive! All it'll take now is some sensible legislation...I'll hold my breath.

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wycombewheeler replied to belugabob | 1 year ago
2 likes
belugabob wrote:

The other option, which I usually employ, is to use a friendly vocal greeting - this is much more sociable and almost universally well received.

Not universally, have had a woman complain about calling good evening from a reasonable distance behind (so as not to startle her) and she claimed to have been startled and we should have used a bell.

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IanMSpencer replied to wycombewheeler | 1 year ago
1 like

The reality is that anything you do behind people startles them and their instinctive reaction is to be cross. My system on country is to call very loudly "Cyclists behind" from very far away, and they only just hear me and become aware that something is happening. Hopefully they are then far enough away that as they glance round they then gather their thoughts.

What actually disappoints me is the number who stop walking and take to the verge as if we are manic Range Rover drivers intent on ploughing them down.

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vthejk replied to belugabob | 1 year ago
2 likes

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I regularly get grief from pedestrians on a shared-use path for calling 'Excuse me - d'you mind if I pass?' etc. I just wish that we had a culture of quality shared-use and segregated infra, well-trained car drivers and a recognisable system of warning signs and calls. We wouldn't be in this mess then.

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