Things that irritate me No.3 - Attitudes to Cycling

I am a cyclist. I am a motorist. I am a pedestrian.Being all three I feel gives me an upper hand when I do one as to the behaviour and rules of the others.

Yesterday I was reading an article on the BBC entitled 'Is dangerous cycling a problem?' The article was discussing the introduction of a private members bill into parliament to create a new law of Dangerous Cycling which would include the offence of 'death by dangerous cycling'.

The bill centres on a case of a cyclist only receiving a £2,200 fine and escaping prison after killing a 17 year old after calling out that he was not going to stop. I have to admit that I find it hard to believe that is the only punishment he got. I seem to remember there being a law of manslaughter in this country which could surely have been used in this case. Why would it not just because he was on a bike?.

Criminal law is not my specialist area clearly but I wonder if this is really a necessary law to be brought into existence when there are other issues that are far more pressing.

But the article is not what irritated me. It was the comments left by members of the public at the bottom.

There is a lot of hate for cyclists which may explain why I find myself dicing with death more often than I feel I should on my daily commute. But I fail to see why there is so much animosity for cyclists. Why do motorists hate them so much?.

Jumping Red Lights

I stop at red lights. I have no desire to risk my life by trying to save a few minutes by continuing across junctions into the path of oncoming traffic. There is suggestions in the article that cyclists jump red lights from fear of the traffic behind them. I find this a very hard argument to justify and if anything it is the lack of fear that propels those across the white lines duly dodging any traffic with right of way.

I am irritated by it myself. When driving I have had near misses with cyclists who have jumped red lights. As a cyclist I have been yelled at by another cyclist for being in their way because I stopped at a red light.

I think there is only one time you could argue it is ok to run a red light and that is at a pedestrian only crossing PROVIDING there are no pedestrians on it. Even then, if people cannot use their common sense and not stop when they should then there are no circumstances where a cyclist should run a red light.

At the same time though I think pedestrians should respect the red man too. Too many times I have almost collided with pedestrians who no longer see any cars and step out to cross the road even though the red man is still displayed and I have a green light. It works both ways.

Riding on the pavement

Again I don't approve of any cyclist being on the pavement and I have yelled at people when I have been walking and they have come towards me on their bikes.

But this is a confusing area. On my commute there is a shared use path with a dedicated cycle lane and walkway. Often there are people walking on the cycle path forcing cyclists onto the walkway. But there are also parts of the path that are shared use but not segregated. It's confusing for all involved and therefore either needs some education of both users or much clearer marking.

Breaking the Highway Code

Judging by the comments on the BBC you would think only cyclists break the Highway Code rules. I have lost count of the number of people who have turned in front of me both when cycling and driving who have not indicated, the number of cars I see stopped in the cycle bays at traffic lights, the number of cars who do not give enough space to cyclists and the number of drivers who go up the wrong lane to cut in front of a queue of traffic.

No one is perfect and we all have a little lapse of concentration but from a cycling and driving prospective I would say motorists break the rules more than cyclists.

When I first started cycling in London I remember stopping in the cycling bay of some traffic lights in front of the right hand turn only lane as I wanted to turn right. A 4x4 came up behind me. I thought nothing of it until the lights changed for the traffic to the left of me to go straight on. The 4x4 started beeping it's horn at me and revving the engine. I was bemused as the lights to turn right had not changed and were still red. I yelled as such to the driver who then drove his car at me, clipping my leg and drove past me, and across me to go straight on. He hadn't wanted to go right, he was just cutting up the outside lane in a bid to avoid the queue of traffic going straight on. He just hadn't expected to find a cyclist in front of him patiently waiting to turn right.

One-way streets are another confusion point to add to the shared use pavement issue above. Some have cycle lanes coming down in the opposite direction. Some don't. I can understand why any cyclist may get confused and come down a one-way street they shouldn't. Without uniform rules across all one-way street how can you tell straight away? Either all one-way streets should have cycle lanes going in the opposite direction or none should. It would make life a lot easier for all. Cyclist will know they can go down them, motorists will not be confused and cursing at cyclists coming towards them and pedestrians will know to look both ways.

The fixie argument

A few comments picked up on the increase of 'fixie' bikes. For those not in the know, fixie bikes are fixed gear bikes. The pedals always turn so you can't coast like you would do on other bikes.

In the UK all bikes should have front and back braking ability but as the fixed gear bike can be stopped with resistance applied to pedals in order to slow, they only need a front brake in order to comply.

As fixie bikes are more fashionable now I think even I question their safety. In inexperienced hands breaking suddenly could be quite difficult. Had to admit the jury is out for me on that one until I have done more research but that could also tie in with more cyclists going through lights - perhaps they just can't stop!

Insurance, testing and a yearly bike MOT

Almost 10 years ago I passed my driving test and since then every year I have bought insurance and made sure my car is road worthy. In fact I continually check my car throughout the year. Nothing annoys me more than a light out or for safety reasons I ensure my brakes are ok and my tyres are not worn.

Of course cyclists though, they don't have any regard for safety and as they don't have a yearly MOT they venture out on the road on unsafe vehicles waiting to cause a nasty accident. Or at least that is what some of the comments on the article would have you believe. I NEVER leave the house without checking over my bike. Lights working - check. Brakes working - check. Tyres pumped up and no problems - check. The minute there is a problem with my gears, tyres, or anything on the bike I am having it serviced. No offence but I don't do it for other road users. I just enjoy living and if my bike was dangerous in any way I would be more likely to kill myself rather than anyone else so I see no merit at all in any argument cyclists should have a certificate for the safety of their bike each year.

Regarding insurance, most cyclists will have some form of insurance be it theft insurance, public liability insurance either specific or through house hold insurance or both. Again I think this is a weak argument put forward by motorists who clearly do not understand cyclists.

Lastly - testing. Now, I am probably not going to make myself popular here but I actually think it is a good idea. Being a motorist as well as a cyclist I feel I have an advantage over those who have not taken a driving test.

I would be interested to know of the cyclists killed every year on Britain's roads how many of them hold a UK driving licence.

Now let me make myself clear, I don't think it would be an answer to problems but it may afford those with no road training some insight into why lorries pull out to the right to turn left and why at some junctions you have to give way. Like I said before I feel knowing the rules of the road gives me an advantage when cycling and allows be to know what is coming and what to expect.

But I wouldn't stop short of only enforcing this on cyclists. EVERYONE should compulsorily have to take a theory test. Why? Perhaps if anyone knew the rules of the road we would be more understanding. Pedestrians would not step out into the road only looking one way or may remember cyclists more and also understand more about cycling lanes and shared use paths, motorists may have more respect for cyclists and cyclists may have more respect for turning lorries etc.

Like I said I doubt it's full proof but I do think it is worth looking into.

So in conclusion....

I think while everyone is rushing to get places their will always be conflict between all road users. We rush around taking small risks in order to shave those extra couple of seconds off our journeys in order to get where we are going that little bit sooner. But at what cost? Our actions may be small but they can have a butterfly effect. Jumping a red light might be a small risk if you just miss a turning car but their sudden braking could cause a car pile up as drivers behind slam into the back. Our reaction speeds are not all the same and although we may know we can stop in time, not everyone else will think the same.

No where is worth rushing to if you don't get there alive.

I think everyone - cyclists, motorists and pedestrians just need to start respecting everyone else. Motorists - give the cyclists some room and don't get impatient because they are not as fast as you. Cyclists - respect the rules of the road and appreciate cars have blind spots. And pedestrians - look before you walk out into the road and understand the red man is there for a reason: your safety.

Rant over.


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