November 25, 2016

Are many cyclists in the wrong, or should motorists just learn to share?

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However, from time to time when cycling around our busy, overcrowded roads, there are situations when I question the behaviour of other cyclists and how they damage the reputation of others. On the one hand I believe that much more needs to be done to protect cyclists, but then again when it comes to creating a culture of mutual respect, sometimes, cyclists could do more.

What I would say is that cyclists and motorists both have in common the opportunity to behave considerately and obey the rules of the road. The difference between the two is that generally, when cyclists push the rules, the consequences to other road users can be minimal. By contrast there can often be catastrophic consequences when motorists breach the rules of the road given the size, speed and damage their vehicles can cause.

Nevertheless, and it pains me to admit it, but there are times when cyclists are simply in the wrong.

We each have our own experiences and I would encourage you to comment below, but these are four examples that spring to mind from recent journeys:

  1. Failing to illuminate bicycle lights in the dark

This is a legal requirement and is as much about the safety of others as it is about yours. Pedestrians may walk in front of unilluminated bikes which can cause serious injury to both. It is a simple addition that goes a long way to creating mutual respect and safety.   

  1. Not obeying red lights

Red lights are an important part of traffic management and when you are on a bike, you count as traffic. We want to be treated with more respect on the roads don’t we? You may know a junction well, but if you choose to ignore a red light then you are putting yourself and others in danger and breaking the law.

  1. Filtering between slow moving traffic too quickly

Technically and legally speaking you are allowed to filter between traffic. However common sense must prevail. Cars have blind spots and gaps can quickly close, especially next to long sided vehicles such as buses and lorries. If you suspect you're in someones blind-spot, then respect the danger.   

  1. Riding on pavements

Once you are over the age of 10 years old, in the UK this is simply illegal. If you want to use the footpath to avoid a busy road, you just have to get off. There is a maximum fine of £500 and the police can issue an on the spot, £50 fine. (My views on the fines are probably worth a separate blog of their own!)

Having said that, I am often frustrated by unfair criticism of cyclists, and some of the biggest and most constant are:

  1. Wear a helmet!
  2. Wear high visibility clothing.
  3. Cycle single file (not two abreast).
  4. Don’t ride with headphones.
  5. Don’t filter between slow moving traffic.

None of the above are legal requirements, but you could argue that many are simply problems because of motorists engendering cyclists, not cyclists being irresponsible or poor road users. A more effective solution would be to create better spaces for cyclists and motorists to share.

I am firmly of the view that cyclists should absolutely behave in accordance with the Highway Code, but we should keep in mind the bigger picture which is that we should be encouraging cycling for all its benefits. The focus should be making cycling more popular and reducing the potential barriers to participation, not generalising from the behaviors of a minority.

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