Why must cyclists behave before they get bike paths?

Cycling continues to grow in popularity and yet politicians and paid pontificators continue to demonise cyclists…Why? Wonders Carlton Reid

by Tony Farrelly   September 22, 2012  

Cyclists at traffic lights (©Toby Jacobs)

On Wednesday it was reported that deputy leader of North Somerset Council said cyclists were "arrogant" for using roads instead of adjacent cycle paths. Elfan Ap Rees was complaining about a petition asking for the council to redesign a £1.2m cycle path, half of which is being paid for by the national lottery.

Mr Ap Rees said: "Until [cyclists] are better behaved I can understand why there is opposition to new cycletrack schemes."

On the previous Saturday, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the MP for Kensington, penned a newspaper piece linking lack of bike path provision with poor cyclist behaviour.

He wrote: "Support for cycling should be complemented by a shift in behaviour of a minority of cyclists who flout the rules of the road."

These two points of view are mainstream: all cyclists are deemed, by many, to be red-light running, pavement-riding scofflaws. Pro-cycling MPs and peers tell me these sort of views are prevalent in Cabinet and endemic in the Department for Transport.

But switch the words: how about a suspension of the Government's £13bn road building programme until every single motorist in the UK drives below the speed limit, doesn't text while driving and doesn't park on the pavement? This is preposterous but it's pretty much what Mr Ap Rees and Sir Malcolm are saying about cyclists, the behaviour of one leads to lack of provision for all.

I parodied Sir Malcolm's stance on trade website BikeBiz.com, spoofing that the Coalition Government planned to mothball road building until ALL motorists started behaving.

The article became an instant hit, with retweets from, amongst others, Bad Science author Ben Goldacre and, rather sweetly, the RAC Foundation.

Naturally, the dark humour was lost on some people but it resonated deeply with cyclists. We're heavy users of social media. We complain about things. You know, like death threats and stuff.

The previous BikeBiz article to go viral (536 retweets) had the temerity to ask why the editor of an upscale London listings magazine wrote "the only good cyclist is a dead one."

Complaining about columnists wishing for your demise because of your transport choice just shows we can't take criticism, say detractors. Helen Martin in The Scotsman on Monday wrote:

"The problem is that any criticism [of cyclists], no matter how minor…is often taken …as a declaration of war."

Ms Martin has a neat solution: "Is it really so outrageous to suggest that, where there is a cycle lane, cyclists should be fined for not using it?"

Ms Martin has clearly never been on a UK cycle path on a bike, she isn’t aware most such paths are poorly designed, don’t mesh into a usable network, are often blocked with parked cars, and are rarely maintained. UK bike paths, in short (and most of them are, indeed, short) are a joke: there's even a book and a website which collects the funniest examples, Crap Cycle Lanes.

When MPs, newspaper columnists and random haters on social media call for compulsory cycle training, mandatory cycle lanes, bicycle license plates, payment of 'road tax' (which was abolished in 1937), and total adhesion to road rules from all cyclists,  this isn't really a call to share the road with trained, registered, fee-paying, law-abiding cyclists, it's a call for cyclists to get out of the way, a desire for transport cycling to wither and die.

The irrational hatred of cyclists is discussed in this month’s issue of The Psychologist. Bath University’s traffic specialist Dr Ian Walker said: “The usual outgroup effects are seen, particularly overgeneralisation of negative behaviour and attributes – ‘They all ride through red lights all the time’. 

“[Cyclists are] a minority outgroup, engaging in an activity that is deemed slightly inappropriate in a culture that views driving as normative and desirable and views cycling as anti-conventional. But even adding these factors into the mix does not explain all the anger that cyclists experience.”

The demonisation of cyclists needs to end. It would help if politicians and journalists recognised that cyclists are not one homogenous group and the sins of one should not be reason to impugn all.

 

Carlton Reid is the executive editor of BikeBiz.com and author of forthcoming book, Roads Were Not Built for Cars, due out later this year. http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com This article is a version of a talk Reid will be giving on 26th September at the be2talks in London, a conference for architects and town planners. http://be2awards.com/2012-be2talks/

48 user comments

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I agree we need better lanes / paths for cyclists but until "the cyclist" and i use the term as covering all of us, gives something back to the government / council (ie taxes of some sort) we are going to get nothing back from them.

Mind you we dont help ourselves - i was driivng to work yesterday on a dual carriageway which has filter lanes for traffic and as such makes it for long stretches 3 lanes. We also have a cycle path at the side (not in brilliant condition but still suitable for use by a road bike). As i drove along the road i saw cars swerving up ahead and i thought it was debris in the road, but no it was a lad on a mountain bike in the middle lane literally travelling at 10 - 12 mph.

He had no reflective gear on and no lights showing. When there was a perfectly good cycle path at the side why risk dying cos all it would have taken was a driver not paying full attention (and to be fair not expecting a bike in the middle lane) hitting him at 70+ mph.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2706 posts]
24th September 2012 - 11:00

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The outgroup/normative behavior thing is an impotent issue, especially for the up coming Parliamentary inquiry asking 'Why Don't More People Cycle'? reported here: http://road.cc/content/news/67073-parliamentary-inquiry-ask-why-dont-mor...
I sometimes feel that others view my believes about cycling and transportation as those of a zealot wishing to promote rebellion against the Holy Car Empire, which is far removed from the truth. But these attempt to marginalize of a view and activity as something odd and potentially dangerous,makes it considerably easier for those like Mr Elfan Ap Rees to maintain a paternalistic "nanny state" way of doing things, especially when it comes to cycling and indicative of what could be called lazy leadership.
I can appreciate that being involved in politics is a frustrating business and that unlike many others it is hard for the likes of Mr Ap Rees to express their frustrations. But I would suggest that not denigrating whole groups of people when expressing ones frustration, of be able to recognize that people can honestly hold counter views and arguments and that there are ranges of behavior within groups is a hall mark of good leadership in a democratic civilized society.

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [156 posts]
24th September 2012 - 11:11

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This infrastructure argument does annoy me. We have a perfectly good (albeit potholed and poorly surfaced) transport network called the roads that we all pay for and all have equal right to utilise.

What this is really about is prejudice and plain bullying of cyclists to 'get out of the way'. If this form of aggression and resentment were prevalent in any other framework such as the workplace for example we'd have any number of laws and human right statutes to throw back.

As this is the road however we remain as second class citizens subject to the usual nonsensical arguments about road tax and any other feeble attempt to justify what is little more than a hate crime.

As ever the crimes of the motorist including multiple fatalities and all manner of disfigurement and severe injury are forgotten in favour of picking up on a few favourite topics of argument such as red light jumping and pavement riding.

I do neither and do not condone that at all, however in reality both actions are actually quite understandable given the relentlessly hostile attitude of certain motorists (who in fact would most likely be very poor cyclists too).

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [124 posts]
24th September 2012 - 13:49

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I use a couple of "perfectly good" cyclepaths on my way to work.

As they give way to the sideroads joining the road they run parallell to, they can extend journey time by nearly double, on days where you're unlucky with the toucan crossings &c.

I use them because the last time I didn't, some bellend in an Audi swerved at me deliberately, (on two separate days) despite there being no traffic other than him and me on the road. These "perfectly good" cyclepaths, are also, of course, not maintained in any way, so in the Autumn they're covered in slippy, crappy leaf litter, in the deep winter by snow and ice. The road alongside is, of course, kept free of debris by the passage of traffic, and gritted in icy conditions.

I'm also wary of the rubric that suggest sympathy with the motorist annoyed by "bad" cyclists. Conversations, and the stuff I've had shouted at me whilst riding, suggest that many drivers have only the most tenuous grasp of the contents of the current Highway Code, and traffic law. Their definition of "bad", when it comes to behaviour on the road, isn't one I'd feel comfortable staking my continued good health on.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

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posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
24th September 2012 - 14:13

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John_the_Monkey wrote:
...some bellend in an Audi swerved at me deliberately, (on two separate days) despite there being no traffic other than him and me on the road...

Crikey, I've run across some idiots but none that bad. You get the plate/report it?

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3094 posts]
24th September 2012 - 16:02

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notfastenough wrote:
John_the_Monkey wrote:
...some bellend in an Audi swerved at me deliberately, (on two separate days) despite there being no traffic other than him and me on the road...

Crikey, I've run across some idiots but none that bad. You get the plate/report it?

Noted the plate - as it was only him and me around at the time (not long past 6am), I figured it would go nowhere (my word against his). I took the plate & jotted down what happened in case anything more serious came to pass after (the two incidents were effectively "punishment passes", I reckon - either that or the driver was horrible at judging speed and distance).

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

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posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
24th September 2012 - 21:00

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'We have the space, on ALL our roads'

WTF? We really don't. We hardly have the room for a single car on a lot of our roads.

posted by andyp [860 posts]
25th September 2012 - 9:08

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Well, they have found space that was given completely to motor vehicles in the past in London for the blue paint lanes/filters (that even motorbikes etc are forced to use because of queues).

There is the space on all roads, if there was the will, more would be done.

posted by southstar [11 posts]
25th September 2012 - 10:47

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andyp wrote:
'We have the space, on ALL our roads'

WTF? We really don't. We hardly have the room for a single car on a lot of our roads.

This addresses the argument that UK streets are too narrow to contain Dutch standard provision for cyclists. It is also addressed on this GB Cycling Embassy page.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1334 posts]
25th September 2012 - 12:18

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andyp wrote:
'We have the space, on ALL our roads'

WTF? We really don't. We hardly have the room for a single car on a lot of our roads.

My commute from Wilmslow to Manchester has quite a bit - indeed, a fair bit of it is unsegregated cyclepath, or "Overflow Parking" as it's known in Manchester (the stretch along Parrs Wood Road is used by people who, it seems, either won't use their drives, or don't because they have too many cars to fit on). In some places there are large, high speed limit roads (choked with traffic) running alongside smaller roads (which are used as rat runs).

You'd have to reallocate (some of) the space, rather than hoping that you could keep cramming increasingly slowly moving cars into it, I guess.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

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posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
25th September 2012 - 12:19

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'This addresses the argument that UK streets are too narrow to contain Dutch standard provision for cyclists. It is also addressed on this GB Cycling Embassy page.'

It does indeed, for a small sample of streets. It doesn't address the argument that many roads and streets are narrower than that.

posted by andyp [860 posts]
25th September 2012 - 12:24

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andyp wrote:
'We have the space, on ALL our roads'

WTF? We really don't. We hardly have the room for a single car on a lot of our roads.


Whose fault is that? Take the Mini, for example. There are now models of the Mini which are so much wider than the original, that if you parked the old and the new nose to tail, with one side lined up against a wall, you could lean a road bike against the old one, and it would be completely obscured by the new one, when viewed end-on. And that is still considered a "small" car. Range Rovers - which were rare twenty years ago, but they and their imitators are common now - have expanded by about half a road bike's width, to the point where there are many rural roads on which they take up every last centimeter of tarmac. Even if you gave up your legal right of way, and took to the verge, you'd still risk getting slapped by the wing mirrors (also designed to look chunky and butch, and filled with heavy electric motors.) Not to mention all the streets half-filled with parked cars these days, because people want to live in renovated "character" cottages and terraces, but don't want to be without the motorcars that their former occupants lacked.

And yet, who gets accused of being inconsiderate road hogs? Cyclists. Especially ones who don't ride in the gutter (and even sometimes those who do) or - gasp - ride two abreast (which is usually twice the number of people in the car behind.) That's what people mean by lycra louts - people who subvert the driver's innate sense of entitlement to travel at whatever speed they want.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
25th September 2012 - 14:39

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Over the last 10/15 years the road planners responsible for Manchester have embarked on a fairly extensive programme of change, all apparently designed to slow the motorised traffic. Narrowing of roads/widening of pavements, removal of lay-bys for bus-stops, traffic islands next to the bus stops to prevent other vehicles overtaking, etc etc. These also seem to deliberately place the cyclist into the main flow of traffic, also presumably with the intent of decreasing speeds.

This does indicate that with a different aim, the available space on the road could be used differently. I don't argue that we have some narrow roads where this simply isn't viable, but for many of the roads into the city this could be looked at properly.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3094 posts]
25th September 2012 - 15:24

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handlebarcam wrote:

...Range Rovers - which were rare twenty years ago, but they and their imitators are common now - have expanded by about half a road bike's width, to the point where there are many rural roads on which they take up every last centimeter of tarmac. Even if you gave up your legal right of way, and took to the verge, you'd still risk getting slapped by the wing mirrors (also designed to look chunky and butch, and filled with heavy electric motors.)...

Hmmm, interesting point this. Since I was a kid, the ever-stricter safety regulations have been a big part of ballooning car design. NCAP safety ratings, side impact bars, crumple zones, more airbags than a strip club, and, indeed, EU-regulation mirror sizes (no, really!). Of course, the EU safety regs apply across the EU though.

Not sure where to go with this line of thinking now -

1. Why isn't vehicle size an increasing problem on the continent? (Assuming it isn't)
2. The drive for increased vehicle safety is about more than just drivers - car specification and manufacture is an arms war of one-upmanship, aided and abetted by 'government calls for mandatory [insert safety feature here]' and burgeoning minimum safety standards.

It's also a double-edged sword - those same safety regs have also given us such gems as ABS brakes, which have probably saved a few of us, in addition to all the occupant lives saved.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3094 posts]
25th September 2012 - 15:46

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notfastenough wrote:
Over the last 10/15 years the road planners responsible for Manchester have embarked on a fairly extensive programme of change, all apparently designed to slow the motorised traffic.

Not something that had occurred to me, but now you mention it, I can see it in the road design, in some places.

I think the big problem is that it relies on drivers being rational - looking ahead a bit and thinking "Well, I know those lights are always red, so I can wait" whereas what often happens is that they'll overtake you unsafely (or tailgate you if you take primary) instead.

Don't get me wrong, there are considerate drivers around, and there may even be more of them nowadays. In my neck of the woods at least though, there are enough impatient, inattentive cretins (and enough driving large, heavy vehicles for a living, god help us) to make most commutes a pretty nervy business.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

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posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
25th September 2012 - 19:07

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'We have the space, on ALL our roads'

WTF? We really don't. We hardly have the room for a single car on a lot of our roads.

Whose fault is that?

well, if we're apportioning blame, it's certainly not the car manufacturers.
Is it farmers, perhaps, for not giving up more of their land for roads? Or those selfish people who live in houses which were built before tarmacced roads existed and won't let the local councils demolish them in order to make wider roads instead of the singletrack lanes which pass right by their front doors?

posted by andyp [860 posts]
26th September 2012 - 7:52

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It is a bazaar notion that people who do little harm should be deprived the right to travel safely because they are not considered to be behaving. Yet those capable of doing greater harm as not actively discouraged from misbehaving because they hold a Sacred Driving Licence. No driver should be allowed to driving legally with 12 points or more on their licence, and yet it happens all too often.

posted by Kim [131 posts]
26th September 2012 - 17:56

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I'm sick of all this bullsh*t (from people like Ap Rees that is).

I'm moving to a new job next Monday - too far to cycle - so I have bought another car. F*ck cycling. I can't be bothered any more Sad

posted by don_don [149 posts]
26th September 2012 - 18:35

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Blinkered, as Carlton always is, he ignores that there is a £43 billion answer to why this silly injunction isn't required of drivers too. That is what's left of the £50 billion they pay in driving taxes of which only £7 Billion actually gets spent on them. Perhaps if cyclists were paying that amount too, they could get all they wanted but the way drivers are treated.....perhaps not.

Carlton also suffers from paranoia in that, of 60 million people, a tiny minority who think evil of cyclists could be described as 'many' I suppose. Yet he becomes very hostile about anyone defending drivers and forgets that cyclists, already a tiny minority, he is, like others with the same thought patterns, merely a tiny minority of a tiny minority who just happens to be flavour of the month at the moment. One harsh winter, time to forget the Olympics and France, and normality will return.

posted by Driver Protest Union [17 posts]
26th September 2012 - 20:01

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Driver Protest Union wrote:
what's left of the £50 billion they pay in driving taxes of which only £7 Billion actually gets spent on them

I wonder who gets the rest? NHS patients, burglary victims, the unemployed... How lucky these drivers are, never to fall into these and many more categories.

Noli porcum linguere

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posted by captain_slog [267 posts]
26th September 2012 - 20:07

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Driver Protest Union wrote:
...Perhaps if cyclists were paying that amount too, they could get all they wanted but the way drivers are treated.....perhaps not.

what you fail to realise is the vast majority of cyclists are drivers too.

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posted by netclectic [118 posts]
27th September 2012 - 9:48

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Dear Mr DPU

This is the new 'normality' http://flic.kr/p/dcHQCY

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! I can help you with finding a good local bike shop.

Carlton Reid's picture

posted by Carlton Reid [108 posts]
27th September 2012 - 10:07

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Thus demonstrating entirely the kind of irrational anti-cyclist venom Carlton was talking about. Fascinating that you should choose so eloquently to prove the point for him. Tell me, are you a plant? Did you do this on purpose? Or is this a genuine dream response?

posted by Gnomeicide [7 posts]
27th September 2012 - 10:50

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Once again Driver Protest Union over estimates the tax on motoring and completely fails to consider the cost of motoring (social and environmental externalities). If you want more balance research into the subject then try here:

http://www.ippr.org/publication/55/9542/the-war-on-motorists-myth-or-rea...

"It is a common perception that motorists contribute more than their fair share towards the cost of roads and, similarly, that they are somehow a cash cow for government. The RAC have stated that this is compounded by ‘the fact that the government’s annual tax take from Britain’s motorist – through fuel duty, VAT, new car tax and the road fund licence32 – totals some £45 billion’ (RAC 2008). This figure exaggerates the cost since they include VAT, which is a general tax not specific to road users. Nonetheless, revenue in 2010 prices from fuel duty and VED was around £22 billion in 1990 and rose to around £32 billion in 2010 in real terms, a 46 per cent rise. That said, they have actually fallen since 2000.

posted by markyjl [8 posts]
27th September 2012 - 11:34

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Driver Protest Union wrote:
Blinkered, as Carlton always is, he ignores that there is a £43 billion answer to why this silly injunction isn't required of drivers too. That is what's left of the £50 billion they pay in driving taxes of which only £7 Billion actually gets spent on them. Perhaps if cyclists were paying that amount too, they could get all they wanted but the way drivers are treated.....perhaps not.

Carlton also suffers from paranoia in that, of 60 million people, a tiny minority who think evil of cyclists could be described as 'many' I suppose. Yet he becomes very hostile about anyone defending drivers and forgets that cyclists, already a tiny minority, he is, like others with the same thought patterns, merely a tiny minority of a tiny minority who just happens to be flavour of the month at the moment. One harsh winter, time to forget the Olympics and France, and normality will return.

Good God. So much BS, so little time! Most of us here drive cars as well. I have a nice car and cover a lot of miles for my work, fancy working out which of us pays more tax?

Also, your last sentence betrays your true feelings on the matter; I think you would much rather those awkward cyclists sank back into obscurity (perhaps we will); are you part of the 'tiny minority who think evil of cyclists'?

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3094 posts]
27th September 2012 - 11:47

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John_the_Monkey wrote:
notfastenough wrote:
John_the_Monkey wrote:
...some bellend in an Audi swerved at me deliberately, (on two separate days) despite there being no traffic other than him and me on the road...

Crikey, I've run across some idiots but none that bad. You get the plate/report it?

Noted the plate - as it was only him and me around at the time (not long past 6am), I figured it would go nowhere (my word against his). I took the plate & jotted down what happened in case anything more serious came to pass after (the two incidents were effectively "punishment passes", I reckon - either that or the driver was horrible at judging speed and distance).

Black audi? Convertible? What's the plate? Think the same idiot may have tried this on me near Alderley Edge. Either that or we can start stereotyping audi drivers, as if 2 of them are idiots they all must be.

posted by karlowen [65 posts]
27th September 2012 - 16:01

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SideBurn wrote:
Interesting that these people in authority are not asking why a cyclist would take their chance on the road when there is a "perfectly good" cycle-path near by. Maybe when cycle-paths are cycle-paths and not shared use paths ie you have to take your life in your hands and ride from one near miss to the next, then I will use them! The last time I was knocked off my bike was on a so called cycle-path and this was by another cyclist not looking where he was going! Maybe we should call cycle-paths what they really are, "Dog shit alleys" it has a certain ring to it? Maybe if the people who finance these schemes could see what they are ie a big expensive dog loo then we could progress! If I had to use a Dog shit alley or be fined then I would either ride where there is no d.s. alley or drive...

[[[[ SIDEBURN!---stop complaining. Our cycle-lanes are to die for!
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [277 posts]
30th September 2012 - 22:05

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stumps wrote:
I agree we need better lanes / paths for cyclists but until "the cyclist" and i use the term as covering all of us, gives something back to the government / council (ie taxes of some sort) we are going to get nothing back from them.

Mind you we dont help ourselves - i was driivng to work yesterday on a dual carriageway which has filter lanes for traffic and as such makes it for long stretches 3 lanes. We also have a cycle path at the side (not in brilliant condition but still suitable for use by a road bike). As i drove along the road i saw cars swerving up ahead and i thought it was debris in the road, but no it was a lad on a mountain bike in the middle lane literally travelling at 10 - 12 mph.

He had no reflective gear on and no lights showing. When there was a perfectly good cycle path at the side why risk dying cos all it would have taken was a driver not paying full attention (and to be fair not expecting a bike in the middle lane) hitting him at 70+ mph.


[[[[[ STUMPY----Whaat?? That bicyclist is a menace to society, but of course typical of ALL of them. They all do that. All the time. To paracraze J. Clarkson (who was having a laugh, I know)---they should all be taken out at dawn & shot in front of their families, innit.
'Ere, d'you know?--I saw a motorist drive at 40mph through a red light, once...back in the 1970's it was....good thing there aren't more of them doing that nowadays! In fact, I wasn't sure it had really happened, and if the pesky cyclist he missed by inches hadn't rudely shouted at him, I'd have thought the whole thing was a figment of my blinkered and prejudiced imagination. Erm...wait a minute....what am I saying?! I just realised---your comments are tongue-in-cheek, yeah? Irony, and I fell straight in. Silly me!
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [277 posts]
1st October 2012 - 2:43

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The on-going battle between motorists and cyclists is reminiscent (to me) of other battles between groups in society - black and white, men and women for example. I am particularly struck by the approach taken by black Americans in the 1960s; a combination of mass, peaceful demonstration, effective advocacy and, most important, the dignified and honourable behaviour of the black population (eg the young black teenager in Jacksonville who marched straight into her local "white" school, I can't remember her name). Women, similarly, have achieved their current position in a similar way - by clearly demonstrating that the reasons for discrimination against them are ridiculous and illogical.

What's my point? If we cyclists are ever going to be accepted by fellow road users (and it will always be hard because we are slower and so are liable to slow them down ), we all have to show that we know how to use the the roads responsibly. Therefore, we have to follow the letter of the law not just its spirit. So, riding without lights, running/jumping red lights, two or more abreast when there are other road users behind etc etc has to stop. It just gives car drivers/Clarkson et al the opportunity to dismiss us. This is all despite the misdemeanors and downright dangerous stuff that they do. We have to have the dignity to rise above their behaviour and demonstrate by our own actions that the abuse of cyclists is just as ridiculous and illogical as discrimination against other members of our society (of which I have mentioned just two).

In a few weeks time, I will be able to practise what I preach when I start a new commute into Leeds from the lovely "cycling centre" of Otley. Let's see what happens....

posted by leathers [4 posts]
1st October 2012 - 12:46

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There's a cultural observation I've made in my time living here (from the States). The UK seems to be adopting bad trends from the US, which lag anywhere between 1-10 years (a rate that has been sped up with help from the internet). This includes fast food chains, clothing styles, and vehicle sizes.

There are plenty of stereotypes about the size of things in the US, many of which are true. Vehicle size is one of those things. The only influences in the other direction have been the Mini and the Smart car, and those look like Scalextric cars when they are next to the likes of a Chevy Tahoe or Cadillac Escalade, or a ridiculous Hummer.

People in the US argue that they have to drive big cars to keep themselves safe from all of the other people driving big cars, because if they did choose a Mini, and got hit by said Hummer, they would come off much worse for wear. This is probably true, but it's a psychology that allows the motor industry to continue churning out these enormous gas guzzlers, and flouting their safety features.

The main difference between here and there is that in most places, there is ample space to accommodate larger vehicles. Not so, here. Roads there are wider, and usually have shoulders that are nearly the size of a travel lane itself. The fact that most US cities are relatively new by comparison means that urban streets are also wider, allowing for parking on one or both sides, as well as enough room for cars to pass each other. Even the size of parking spaces in say, a supermarket car park is hugely different to what we have here. They are commonly 7 feet wide.

It's distressing to see the UK move to larger vehicle sizes. People buy these cars without having the ability to understand spatial awareness. They get nervous when having to overtake something in a narrow space. Rather than slow down or stop until it is safe, they force their way through most of the time, and this particular aspect presents a different type of danger for cyclists.

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posted by TrekBikesUK [101 posts]
16th January 2014 - 10:31

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