So why do cyclists get a bad name?

by Eebijeebi   July 28, 2014  

I haven't cycled into central London to work for many years now but often have to drive in and out. Yes, there's bad driving and riding on both sides, but to give an idea of why so many have a downer on cyclists, here are my observations from just one short leg of a journey in this afternoons rush hour.

At cyclist coming towards me from opposite side of a crossroads who was chatting on a mobile phone, makes a left and all the way to the next lights and who knows where one handed still chatting.

A minute later, I overtake a lady well in front of red light cross roads. She rolls up my inside through the stop line, sees that the traffic crossing us is stationary, then swings a left straight through the pedestrians crossing on the green man.

A mile down the road, ladies ambling two abreast swinging out past stationary vehicles etc with not a look or signal or a care in the world. Only went to single file to get up the inside of queuing traffic before resuming two abreast in font of said vehicles.

Within another mile, three kids (teenage at a guess), all on one bike riding on the wrong side the road against the traffic (as in opposite kerb).

Why post? Admittedly they may have been 'fair weather' non-commuting cyclists this afternoon, but they were a let down. I see enough bad with the commuters too to understand both sides of the argument.

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PurpleDog wrote:
Sorry, I didn't intend you to think I meant you were wrong to ride where you chose - that is your choice of course - just that you were wrong to tell everyone who made a different choice that they were wrong!

I'm only making my point so strongly because I felt your statement was unjustified, wrong and dangerous. If others read it and thought there was some reason they should undertake rather than overtake, and put themselves in unnecessary danger as a result, that needs to be challenged.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2011/apr/04/cyclists-pa...
http://www.cyclescheme.co.uk/community/how-to/filtering
http://www.cyclelaw.co.uk/overtaking-and-filtering-whilst-cycling

As well as myself, my girlfriend, my kids, many of my friends all cycle on the roads, and safety is a big issue for me When I see statements like yours my hackles raise. I apologise if you think my point was just to be a git - that's the farthest thing from my mind, but the safety of cyclists is very important to me.

I don't expect you to change your mind (you are free to ride however you wish) but I don't want you to persuade anyone to change to a riskier behaviour in the mistaken belief that overtaking is "wrong" and undertaking is "right". Read the links, or don't, but if anyone here is unsure what to do, please read the links I included here before you decide how you will ride.

Really interesting articles and I've learnt something today. I believe I do make safe decisions on my bike and they've kept me safe for a long time, I also agree with some of the comments on the Guardian article about assuming drivers haven't seen you - It's generally what I do. You're right in that I shouldn't have said that you 'shouldn't' do it because you clearly can if the situation presents itself so it's about doing what's best at the time (mainly filtering by the looks of it). To be honest, I'd still stick to the inside in general unless completely blocked but I guess the wider point is to do whatever is safe, like you said. Please accept my apologies and safe riding! Applause

posted by MarcMyWords [69 posts]
29th July 2014 - 14:11

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MarcMyWords wrote:
Please accept my apologies and safe riding! Applause

No worries Smile
Hopefully, between us, we might even have ended up doing a little good?

posted by PurpleDog [37 posts]
29th July 2014 - 14:15

4 Likes

Shades wrote:
The 'occasional' summer cyclists; kind of entertaining in a scary sort of way Surprise . Only a few more weeks and they'll be hibernating again.

In addition, I also notice a lot of 'hardcore' cyclists on my commuter route that seem to disappear once the darkness sets in. Perhaps they 'retreat' to indoor training and fair weather weekend riding.

Shades

posted by Shades [208 posts]
29th July 2014 - 14:21

3 Likes

PurpleDog wrote:
MarcMyWords wrote:
Please accept my apologies and safe riding! Applause

No worries Smile
Hopefully, between us, we might even have ended up doing a little good?

I think that's problem solved as far as I'm concerned! Wink

In all seriousness, if even just a hand full of people read those articles, it's been a worthwhile conversation.

posted by MarcMyWords [69 posts]
29th July 2014 - 14:32

2 Likes

Shades wrote:
Shades wrote:
The 'occasional' summer cyclists; kind of entertaining in a scary sort of way Surprise . Only a few more weeks and they'll be hibernating again.

In addition, I also notice a lot of 'hardcore' cyclists on my commuter route that seem to disappear once the darkness sets in. Perhaps they 'retreat' to indoor training and fair weather weekend riding.

It all depends what their motivation for cycling is. I suspect a lot of the 'hardcore' don't really have any great interest in utility cycling but use their commute for extra training miles rather than considering the bike as a primary form of transport. When it comes to lights and mudguards these guys aren't interested. It's a shame but really no different to runners who turn to the treadmill in the winter.

posted by Matt eaton [408 posts]
29th July 2014 - 14:34

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Cyclists are human. Most humans are f**king stupid most of the time.

posted by LinusLarrabee [36 posts]
29th July 2014 - 14:35

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LinusLarrabee wrote:
Cyclists are human. Most humans are f**king stupid most of the time.

This is the absolute heart of the matter.

I shout at cyclists doing stupid things on my commute. I also see an enormous amount of dozy driving and dozy walking.

Difference is: other pedestrians and cyclists irritate me; drivers risk my life.

posted by HKCambridge [144 posts]
29th July 2014 - 15:03

11 Likes

Eebijeebi wrote:

Killing potential does not relate to 'fault' in an accident.

Killing potential does relate to liability.

Not taking the additional amount of care appropriate for wielding additional killing potential does relate to fault.

Eebijeebi wrote:

That kind of attitude is what really gets up the decent drivers noses

Quite the contrary, I've found that it's the decent drivers who are fully aware that they bear the higher responsibility. People who let something that should be common sense get up their noses are usually road raging idiots.

Work harder. Buy a tank.

userfriendly's picture

posted by userfriendly [288 posts]
29th July 2014 - 15:10

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userfriendly wrote:
People who let something that should be common sense get up their noses are usually road raging idiots.

Quite correct.

posted by farrell [1500 posts]
29th July 2014 - 15:16

5 Likes

userfriendly wrote:
Eebijeebi wrote:

Killing potential does not relate to 'fault' in an accident.

Killing potential does relate to liability.

Not taking the additional amount of care appropriate for wielding additional killing potential does relate to fault.

Eebijeebi wrote:

That kind of attitude is what really gets up the decent drivers noses

Quite the contrary, I've found that it's the decent drivers who are fully aware that they bear the higher responsibility. People who let something that should be common sense get up their noses are usually road raging idiots.

Absolutely agree with this...

I would also suggest that the 'decent drivers' are also the ones that are not looking out for all the minor indiscretions of other road users to fuel animosity for particular groups.

What I mean is... if a guy rides through a red light when it is clearly safe to do so, and in no way inhibits your journey, is it really your concern?

If someone does something that forces you to take avoiding action or unreasonably inconveniences you, I understand the frustration, however for everything else, the problem is with you and your reaction.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [301 posts]
29th July 2014 - 15:34

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Van driver parked on yellow lines - van driver is an idiot

Car driver on mobile phone - car driver is an idiot. And a dangerous one.

Lorry driver speeding - Lorry driver is a dangerous idiot.

Cyclist goes through red - gives cyclists a bad name.

Cyclist filters legally - gives cyclists a bad name.

Cyclist doesn't wear helmet or high vis - gives cyclists a bad name.

What gives cyclists a bad name is the perpetual label that whatever any one of them does should be reflected on all of them. It has to stop.

posted by bendertherobot [299 posts]
29th July 2014 - 15:49

10 Likes

They have a bad name simply because car drivers generally don't want them on the road. It doesn't matter what we do as cyclists it doesn't seem to improve much. It will only happen when there are so many more cyclists and they will have to take note, and many of those drivers become cyclists.

I personally don't see what the fuss is about, but of course we come from one of the most 'tribal' countries in the world where everybody is labelled and scrutinised and judged on what they do. You can see the way people look at you sometimes...funny enough I do the same in that respect and say, Daily Mail reader. I simply don't care what others think of me but i remain polite as best as I can.

Richie

posted by richiewormiling [2 posts]
29th July 2014 - 16:13

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Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
userfriendly wrote:
Eebijeebi wrote:

Killing potential does not relate to 'fault' in an accident.

Killing potential does relate to liability.

Not taking the additional amount of care appropriate for wielding additional killing potential does relate to fault.

Eebijeebi wrote:

That kind of attitude is what really gets up the decent drivers noses

Quite the contrary, I've found that it's the decent drivers who are fully aware that they bear the higher responsibility. People who let something that should be common sense get up their noses are usually road raging idiots.

Absolutely agree with this...

I would also suggest that the 'decent drivers' are also the ones that are not looking out for all the minor indiscretions of other road users to fuel animosity for particular groups.

What I mean is... if a guy rides through a red light when it is clearly safe to do so, and in no way inhibits your journey, is it really your concern?

If someone does something that forces you to take avoiding action or unreasonably inconveniences you, I understand the frustration, however for everything else, the problem is with you and your reaction.

1. Riding through a red light? What's good for the goose.

2. Problem with reaction? Reaction was to come on a cycling forum and effectively say, "From what I can see I understand why many have a downer towards cyclists on the road'.

3. Re fault and killing machines why should the cyclist not give the same attention and ride to the same standard as you would expect the driver to adhere to?

Forum rudeness is for the weak - pity them.

posted by Eebijeebi [61 posts]
29th July 2014 - 18:48

2 Likes

That kind of attitude is what really gets up the decent drivers noses, especially the inference that it's only the drivers who should be judged.

I don't see anyone here suggesting that only drivers should be judged. Everyone is subject to the same rules of the road. What I am challenging is the popular assertion that cyclists have a bad name and have some collective responsibility to assume the moral high ground before they can be taken seriously.
Speaking personally, as a motorist, all the factual evidence I can see suggests that we are the problem, not cyclists, and the roads would be far safer if there were more people cycling and fewer driving.
I don't think it would actually transform attitudes if every cyclist behaved perfectly, and as Michael Hutchinson said "Why should my safety be dependent on the behaviour of other people?"
There's nothing tribal about this, and there are very few adult cyclists who are not also drivers. I think we need to challenge the notion of the "bad name" whenever it is trotted out. Not in a sensationalist or confrontational manner; simply by asking people to look at the facts and consider if they have really thought about what makes the roads dangerous, or if they are just repeating what everyone else said.

posted by kcr [64 posts]
29th July 2014 - 21:06

6 Likes

Quote:
I think we need to challenge the notion of the "bad name" whenever it is trotted out.

Absolutely.

Try this: next time someone says that xxx "gives cyclists a bad name" try asking them to replace the word "cyclist" with any other "group"
Black people, gay people, Jewish people. Anything you want really.

Then ask if they'd use the same kind of contextual argument. Of course they wouldn't - at best they'd be accused of putting forward a stupid argument, at worst they'd be up on charges of inciting racial/religious hatred or homophobia.

As mentioned above, if a "cyclist" jumps a red light and it doesn't affect you or anyone else, is it a problem? Now let's say a pedestrian crosses the road on a red man and it doesn't affect you or anyone else, does that give all pedestrians a bad name?

Pointless argument and one that's easy to refute.

posted by crazy-legs [531 posts]
29th July 2014 - 21:38

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The actions of the people mentioned would be bad regardless of what they were on but it's more polarised as unlike driving anyone can get on a bike and ride. This I feel leads to having more road users with little or no idea of how to act safely. We all have our horror stories of seeing what these inexperience riders do,

I know it's not popular or probably even remotely enforceable but I do feel if you are going to be on the road with a bike you need to prove you can be.

Also considering how small a % of road users are cyclists their actions are far more noticable and I feel because they are more likely to impact someones journey , slow them down , get past them in traffic etc they have a higher chance of been remembered over other more commonplace traffic. You could even argue that good roads users will remember them more as they will be cautious around them.

And as much we would like to think it's only inexperienced riders who contribute to the ire cycling can get we cannot discount the more experienced ones who seem to have an entitlement complex exhibit poor behaviour as well.

posted by Saturday [9 posts]
29th July 2014 - 22:06

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Human beings are selfish c***s whether on four wheel, two wheels or two legs.

I know, it sucks.

posted by HalfWheeler [72 posts]
29th July 2014 - 23:02

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Got to get this one off my chest. To the complete Darwinian f#ckwit who was cycling on the A368 in Somerset last night (opp direction to me) at 2115 in dark clothes, no helmet, no lights, reflectors, nothing!...barely visible. WTF do you think you were playing at! Like me, every motorist who saw you (at about 2 car lengths!) must have said WTF!! and non-cyclists would have had 'zero sympathy' for reports of cyclists who get 'totalled' on the roads. Highly likely he's never heard of this forum anyway.

Shades

posted by Shades [208 posts]
31st July 2014 - 9:43

1 Like

THAT WAS ME! Not really - he sounds like a pillock.

There are loads of kids in South london who cycle around on black bikes, wearing black clothes and no lights at night time...quite often with more than one kid on the bike. Is there any kind of cycling education now? When I was a bairn it was all cycling proficiency tests and public service ads about safe cycling. It was boring as a kid - but at least it instilled a bit of common sense about safe riding.

posted by bamilton wackad... [49 posts]
31st July 2014 - 9:49

1 Like

I think we should be a bit ballanced in our attitutes to unlit/low-viz cyclists.

On one hand, cycling on a 'proper' road at night without lights is maddness, no argument there.

On the other, I don't get upset when I see kids without lights in well-lit, built-up areas. I went out for a spin last night after dark and saw 4 or 5 of the usual suspects: young lads, no lights, on the pavement, one of them giving their mate a backie. I had no trouble spotting them and the same goes if I'm driving the car. I just don't think it's a big deal and I'd rather see these kids outside and being active than indoors locked onto games consoles, even if they don't play by all the rules.

posted by Matt eaton [408 posts]
31st July 2014 - 10:15

6 Likes

Eebijeebi wrote:

1. Riding through a red light? What's good for the goose.

2. Problem with reaction? Reaction was to come on a cycling forum and effectively say, "From what I can see I understand why many have a downer towards cyclists on the road'.

3. Re fault and killing machines why should the cyclist not give the same attention and ride to the same standard as you would expect the driver to adhere to?

1. Its not though is it? All road users know its wrong and that's why we don't do it... we get frustrated by those that do run them because we'd all love to be doing what they are doing really. That doesn't mean it should dictate how I see all other road users... The way some car drivers 'interpret' the lights in my home town is laughable... however I don't right off all car drivers as red light jumping lunatics.

2. As mentioned so many times already, this isn't a tribal thing, its a bunch of individuals utilising a particular form of transport, what one person on a bike does has nothing to do with me in exactly the same way that one car drivers inability to understand red means stop doesn't mean you are going to jump every light.

3. Do you not feel that the car driver, in control of the machine that is more likely to do serious damage should bare more responsibility? But in answer....
- as a car driver, you have undertake mandatory tuition and should have reached a level of competency that means you know how to conduct yourself appropriately on the roads.... many cyclists/pedestrians have not had the luxury of this schooling.... you could look at it like this... when a cyclist is being an idiot, at least he has the excuse of ignorance, where as those idiot car drivers have consciously chosen to flout the instructions of their schooling.
- As touched upon... a cyclist will be a bit annoying, hell may even hold you up on your journey a bit, but chances are, they are ultimately only going to really hurt themselves. Every time a cyclist seriously hurts another road user its national news... that is a stark example of its rarity as an event. Being late, being a bit frustrated is never good, but it pales into insignificance compared to being seriously maimed or killed.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [301 posts]
31st July 2014 - 11:09

4 Likes

Saturday wrote:
The actions of the people mentioned would be bad regardless of what they were on but it's more polarised as unlike driving anyone can get on a bike and ride.

I think you're missing the word 'legally' there. Estimates for numbers of unlicensed, banned, uninsured drivers on the road is actually quite frightening.

That is also assuming that having a license is a badge of quality. I have my doubts.

posted by HKCambridge [144 posts]
31st July 2014 - 12:25

3 Likes

One point that is often ignored is that many traffic lights are for controlling traffic so that certain roads and junctions don't get blocked by motor vehicles.

So, in these cases, what difference does it make if bikes go through on red?

If there was a bike lane, how is that any different to someone walking down the pavement?

posted by farrell [1500 posts]
31st July 2014 - 12:38

2 Likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
many cyclists/pedestrians have not had the luxury of this schooling.... you could look at it like this... when a cyclist is being an idiot, at least he has the excuse of ignorance,

Everyone took the cycle proficiency when I was at primary school. And that was 40 years ago. Perhaps times have changed.

posted by truffy [345 posts]
31st July 2014 - 13:16

2 Likes

truffy wrote:
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
many cyclists/pedestrians have not had the luxury of this schooling.... you could look at it like this... when a cyclist is being an idiot, at least he has the excuse of ignorance,

Everyone took the cycle proficiency when I was at primary school. And that was 40 years ago. Perhaps times have changed.

I suggest it may have at least as much to do with _where_ your school was as what era it was.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [688 posts]
31st July 2014 - 13:41

2 Likes

I'm a cyclist and your post here is giving me a bad name. In no way do I want to be associated with your judgemental twattery.

posted by Bikebikebike [78 posts]
31st July 2014 - 14:11

4 Likes

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
truffy wrote:
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
many cyclists/pedestrians have not had the luxury of this schooling.... you could look at it like this... when a cyclist is being an idiot, at least he has the excuse of ignorance,

Everyone took the cycle proficiency when I was at primary school. And that was 40 years ago. Perhaps times have changed.

I suggest it may have at least as much to do with _where_ your school was as what era it was.

I think times have changed. Cycling proficiency no longer exists and Bikeability does not seem to have been universally adopted by schools in the way that cycling proficency once was. Some schools actively discourage cycling these days (on safety grounds) or dictate to pupils who choose to ride to school on matters such as high-viz and helmets (although I can't understand how they enforce such rules).

posted by Matt eaton [408 posts]
31st July 2014 - 15:01

1 Like

Cyclists get a bad name because its socially acceptable. Most car drivers think they are the best drivers in the world. A lot of Cyclists think they are beyond reproach. A lot of really poor car drivers are now in the 'Pro-Peloton' at the weekends.

All I can say is that I ride everyday of the week, 48 weeks a year. Sometimes I ride way too quick for the conditions and I have to reign myself in. But I never run lights, I always thank drivers for waiting and I'm getting better at not chasing down poor drivers and threatening to beat them senseless - I prefer just to keep my head down now.

I think better training all round is the answer. Car drivers should be tested more regularly and Cyclists should do some kind of CBT and defensive riding instruction.

posted by dunnoh [176 posts]
31st July 2014 - 23:41

1 Like

dunnoh wrote:
Cyclists get a bad name because its socially acceptable. Most car drivers think they are the best drivers in the world. A lot of Cyclists think they are beyond reproach. A lot of really poor car drivers are now in the 'Pro-Peloton' at the weekends.

All I can say is that I ride everyday of the week, 48 weeks a year. Sometimes I ride way too quick for the conditions and I have to reign myself in. But I never run lights, I always thank drivers for waiting and I'm getting better at not chasing down poor drivers and threatening to beat them senseless - I prefer just to keep my head down now.

I think better training all round is the answer. Car drivers should be tested more regularly and Cyclists should do some kind of CBT and defensive riding instruction.

I've given up trying to reason with poor drivers too; it achieves nothing other than putting you in a bad mood. I've also given up reporting dangerous drivers to the police; they just seem totally disinterested.

I agree with you on the need for better training but I disagree that there should be compulsary training for cyclists. The world would be a better place if more people cycled (even if they cycled poorly) and we need to removed barriers to cycling rather than introduce them.

posted by Matt eaton [408 posts]
31st July 2014 - 23:53

2 Likes

dunnoh wrote:
Cyclists get a bad name because its socially acceptable. Most car drivers think they are the best drivers in the world. A lot of Cyclists think they are beyond reproach. A lot of really poor car drivers are now in the 'Pro-Peloton' at the weekends.

All I can say is that I ride everyday of the week, 48 weeks a year. Sometimes I ride way too quick for the conditions and I have to reign myself in. But I never run lights, I always thank drivers for waiting and I'm getting better at not chasing down poor drivers and threatening to beat them senseless - I prefer just to keep my head down now.

I think better training all round is the answer. Car drivers should be tested more regularly and Cyclists should do some kind of CBT and defensive riding instruction.

This!

absolutely agree. How is it acceptable that someone could do a test once, at 17 and then never be checked again until they are 65+. Personally I think retests every 10 would be sensible - given that's how long your photocard driving licence last before you need to renew it why not test people at that time???

posted by md6 [156 posts]
1st August 2014 - 10:31

3 Likes