This is a little story about how quickly and how absolutely we fall apart.


It would be deeply upsetting were it not also quite funny. It’s a question of how you choose to read it, I guess. But since things are undeniably bleak with a kind of 360 degree totality just now, I would urge you to enjoy the dark humour contained within. I only say this, because I have been roaring with laughter about it, and I’d like you to enjoy it too.


It all started when I posted a comment about the “Toot” button on the new, very large Ineos Grenadier car.



So, I guess, I should confess: I don’t like cars. I don’t own one, and though I am sometimes forced to use one (there being no alternatives), I do so with regret and unease. Given that I don’t like cars, it therefore follows that I don’t like large, heavy cars, like this one. So, I’ll admit, I am predisposed to find fault. It is a form of prejudice.


Anyway, my post provoked a long series of replies, the most interesting of which took issue with my conclusions. The button, people claimed, was designed very much with rider safety in mind (after all, Ineos boss Sir Jim Ratciffe is himself a cyclist and an owner of a bike racing team etc.). The sound emitted by the “Toot” function, is a less urgent one than the regular horn function. Throughout the continent, I was told, there is a fine tradition of car drivers “tooting” politely at some distance, as they approach cyclists from behind on the road, to alert the riders to their imminent presence; just as you might on a bike, approaching a pedestrian on a shared path, I guess. I've only really ridden extensively in France, and can't say I've noticed that too often, but am quite prepared to accept that others have. It's personal experience.


Now, I felt that perhaps I’d been a bit rash, and that some of these arguments had some merit. My riding is daily, significant, urban and utilitarian, it should be stressed. I ride a lot, to get from A to B, through cities. I almost never wear lycra and I can’t remember the last time I went for a ride simply for leisure. So, I find it difficult to move beyond my quotidian lived experience in the UK, in which the sounding of a horn is almost always a signal that the driver wants you to make way. I see the big red button differently; as an invitation, almost an obligation, for the driver to sound a horn on seeing a cyclist. I have never once felt the need to sound my horn when driving a car in similar circumstances. Still, I took the points being made, and I have certainly mulled them over subsequently.



Not so every corner of this discussion. I noticed, scrolling down the thread, people pairing off for one-to-one fights, as if spilling out of a wider pub brawl to settle things face to face. The vitriol that this issue has seemed to invoke is staggering. The feelings run high in the world of car horns, it seems. And as I scrolled, I felt the smoky guilt of the firestarter.


Then I noticed a discussion which moved so far and so fast, reaching such ludicrous levels of childishness, that I was in a sense disarmed, and understood that perhaps I should take none of it as seriously as it would like to take itself.


It all began when Twitter User A (let’s call them TUA) posted this:



It’s not legal to use a horn in such a way in the U.K.


Now, I don’t know if this is true. But Twitter User B (TUB) was pretty sure they knew.


Yes it is


In some ways that should have been the end of it. Except, it was only the beginning.



It should only be used as a warning of danger…this clearly is not for that purpose. Check the HC


I guess they meant the Highway Code. Anyway, TUB knew facts.



Rule 112 of the Highway Code is very clear on the purpose of vehicle horns, and states that they are only to be used in order to warn another road user of your presence. That means you should never honk as a greeting, or as an expression of annoyance.


TUA came straight back at TUB:



So why would you need this horn …you shouldn’t be using it for it’s intended purpose ..


Now, I didn’t think this was quite the winning argument that TUA clearly thought it was. And neither did TUB, who was about to escalate.



To warn you’re their if you think they can’t hear or see you I don’t see a problem with that at all. People just butthurt for no reason


And here we had the mention of the first of string of body parts. TUB, in their frustration, had just opened a can of anatomical worms. TUA wasn’t going to let the accusation of being “butthurt” just lie.



That’s not required. You don’t need to warn a cyclists …do you warn cars ?!? Just drive carefully …it’s a butthurt having dickheads on the road …


There were alarming signs that TUA was losing control of their syntax, which might explain the sudden addition into the discussion of male genitalia, a theme which was going to be further explored by both TUA and TUB. Anyway, TUB wasn’t done. They moved it on again.



Yes you do warn cars blind bends etc warning is not a dickhead move thinking it is makes you a fanny of extreme proportions


Now female genitals, extremely large ones, had made their belated entry in the debate. Was this perhaps the clinching argument? It seemed not.



You don’t earn a fucking cyclist of you can see them


TUA’s spelling was falling apart under the weight of their fury. There followed a few exchanges which floundered around on the misunderstanding of cyclists being earned as opposed to warned, but TUA was insistent.



The fanny is the one honking the horn for no reason …


There followed a baffling exchange that simply consisted of them both shouting “toot toot” and “honk” at one another, before TUB made it suddenly feel real.



feel free to say that to my face coward


TUA came straight back with a string of laughing emojis and a return to the themes of genitals



the big man, who loves a big red button to go toot toot. Rather pathetic don’t you think ? As I said, you can get help for your all too obvious inadequacies. !!!!


A direct hit! How would TUB react to this casting of aspersions? I held my breath…



Says the Lycra clad mouth piece troll who tries to cause trouble on the internet because in real life he’d wet his nappy


Incontinence! Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of that? After such an appalling insult there was only perhaps one way to go for TUA to win their argument about the appropriate use of car horns in traffic, and that was to insinuate the nearness of TUB’s possible death.



…threatening folk from his keyboard …you sound like a right seething heap of gammon …watch the old ticker …


TUB took this in their stride, and, perhaps in an attempt to counter the impression TUA had built up of them as an elderly correspondent, took the debate to the approximate level of a six year old in a playground.



Ok Pussy whatever you say oh king of the cowards


There then followed a series of posts, none of which moved the issue on greatly, I would suggest. Here’s a rough précis of their content:



Toot toot !!



Smalldick syndrome?



Check the mirror mr inadequate !



…snivelling little whinging soft lad face coward


And there we leave our two protagonists, locked in their downward spiral, like an online tango couple. In a hate-clinch they drop through their day, losing vocabulary, nuance, self-respect, validity and happiness each time they hit SEND, and plummet further into the bottoming out of our virtual community; this massive branch of Wetherspoons at closing time, where it’s becoming increasingly hard to find a table in the corner to sit and sip a sherry with friends, and talk about, I don’t know, pressing wild flowers or cooking muffins without one of you calling the other into the car park, veins bulging at the neck and a broken bottle secreted behind your avatar’s virtual back.


Anyway, I still don’t much like the red toot button. But I promise, I won’t fight you over it.

Back to blog


Possibly even funnier, I know nothing about cars or that Ineos have a 4×4 brand; I thought it was a ‘cycle toot’ button for the Ineos team racing bikes. I agreed that would be quite rude.


Wonderful analysis. I am on my way to Court where I will prosecute and another Barrister from my Chambers will defend. We will represent our sides with vigour and tenacity and argue over any number of points. But at no time will we treat each other with anything other than respect. This when someone’s liberty depends on us. Thank you Ned for your decency and example.

David Eager

The spelling and grammar was ropey to start with – always a giveaway, like verbal face tattoos. I enjoyed that, thank you for compering and posting.


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