Council chief says cyclists should "protect themselves"

Cambridge war of words heats up over "intimidation" comments

by Sarah Barth   June 15, 2012  

Nick Clarke

Cyclists should obey the rules of the road and 'assume responsibility to protect themselves' if they expect drivers' behaviour to change, a Cambridge council chief has said.

Councillor Nick Clarke, the leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, struck back in a war of words with Cambridge Cycling Campaign after it accused drivers of “intimidation” of cyclists.

The number of riders killed or seriously injured in Cambridgeshire rose by 14 per cent last year - a total of 64 cyclists in the city and wider county.

At a meeting of the council’s cabinet Cambridge News reports that , Cllr Clarke said: “It’s the responsibility of every user of our public highways to prevent harm, and that must include cyclists.

“We have a powerful cycling lobby in Cambridge, which is quite right, but I want to see that lobby turn its attention to its own members as well because I personally see numerous cases of cyclists going through red lights, not having lights on at night, and not having appropriate clothing to make themselves visible.

“That shouldn’t detract from the responsibility of car drivers but if I was out on a pushbike I would assume responsibility to protect myself, and the flagrant abuse of traffic regulations at the moment is not helping this.”

Last week we reported how Michael Cahn, co-ordinator of Cambridge Cycling Campaign, had concerns about the behaviour of some drivers in the city.

He said: “Pedestrians and cyclists are very vulnerable road users. Vehicle speed is their greatest enemy and 20mph zones will make us all safer

“Nobody wishes to harm a cyclist, but some professional drivers in Cambridge seem to try to teach cyclists a lesson and intimidate them.”

32 user comments

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Handlebar-mounted RPG launcher (a favourite fantasy of mine)?

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
15th June 2012 - 10:49

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Seriously, I suspect many Cambridge cyclists, even if they know the law, will not obey it until they see a majority of drivers obeying the law and being punished properly for breaking it.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
15th June 2012 - 10:51

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Funny how we never see the "we're not helping you until you all behave" argument applied to motorists, eh Plain Face

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7025 posts]
15th June 2012 - 11:10

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Imagine if the government said, "no more new motorways until everyone stops speeding" Big Grin

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7025 posts]
15th June 2012 - 11:11

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@antonio - I've always felt that the cycle jousting idea had some merit. Boxing glove on a long stick, some kind of solid face protection. I'd certainly pay to watch...

posted by Darkerside [56 posts]
15th June 2012 - 11:27

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He's got a point but whenever anyone says anything like this, they generally don't think before opening their mouths and it sounds like they're blaming cyclists. Just not thought about the tone or context of their comments.

To be fair, some cyclists are their own worst enemies, equally for every incident of bad cycling I see, there are plenty of other incidents involving motorised traffic - every single commute I will see people on their mobiles, jumping lights, infringing ASLs, overtakes & turn left, parking on double yellows or pavements etc etc.

What's needed is not some blame culture of "cyclist" vs "motorist" but far stricter road laws enforcement against ALL road users.

posted by crazy-legs [435 posts]
15th June 2012 - 11:40

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dave_atkinson wrote:
Funny how we never see the "we're not helping you until you all behave" argument applied to motorists, eh Plain Face

Isn't that bizarre? No-one looks at dangerous dogs and assumes every dog owner is a violent knob either, or the same with peds wearing earphones - why should cyclists all be lumped into one group?

Maybe it's time to devise a 'James Bond' bike, but instead of dropping oil or something, the end of the handlebar would project a hologram of a copper onto the road behind me - maybe that would constitute 'protection'?

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
15th June 2012 - 11:58

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never trust anyone who uses the term 'pushbike' to make a rational comment on cycling.

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posted by joemmo [689 posts]
15th June 2012 - 12:42

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I am being controversial here but I do have to agree with him to an extent.
I commute into work twice a week in Manchester (as well as weekends) and see way too many cyclists not wearing helmets, not having lights or lights that are barely visisble in winter and plenty of people riding straight through red lights.
I am no saint and have had to flout the law on occasion for the benefit of my own saftey but i certainly do not make a habit of it and will always try and obey the rules of the road. There is always going to be an us and them argument with cars and cyclists (even though i imagine 99% of us also drive cars) but I see plenty of people giving car drivers an excuse to bash us with the above examples.
This does not detract though that there are plenty of idiot, inconsiderate car/vehicle drivers on the road that also need to sharpen up and stick to the rules.
If cyclists do their bit then then is no excuse for vehicles any more.
Wear a helmet, get some decent lights (very cheap) and don't be riding through red lights. Not cool!

P.S. Bike lanes are for bikes so get your bloody car out of it!

posted by hardgrit [16 posts]
15th June 2012 - 13:27

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Hardgrit I don't think that what you have said is controversial. Just common sense. I drive a car and ride a bike and i believe in keeping to the highway code, (observing red lights, not parking in cycle lanes, etc.) regardless of the vehicle i am using.

posted by SevenHills [140 posts]
15th June 2012 - 13:39

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hardgrit wrote:
I am being controversial here but I do have to agree with him to an extent.
I commute into work twice a week in Manchester (as well as weekends) and see way too many cyclists not wearing helmets, not having lights or lights that are barely visisble in winter and plenty of people riding straight through red lights.
I am no saint and have had to flout the law on occasion for the benefit of my own saftey but i certainly do not make a habit of it and will always try and obey the rules of the road. There is always going to be an us and them argument with cars and cyclists (even though i imagine 99% of us also drive cars) but I see plenty of people giving car drivers an excuse to bash us with the above examples.
This does not detract though that there are plenty of idiot, inconsiderate car/vehicle drivers on the road that also need to sharpen up and stick to the rules.
If cyclists do their bit then then is no excuse for vehicles any more.
Wear a helmet, get some decent lights (very cheap) and don't be riding through red lights. Not cool!

P.S. Bike lanes are for bikes so get your bloody car out of it!

Because wearing a bike helmet helped those poor sods crushed underneath HGVs?

Also - what's this collective guilt thing? When I'm on a bike it's me on a bike. If someone else jumps a red light why should I be associated with that person? Absolute nonsense.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
15th June 2012 - 13:40

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hardgrit wrote:
and see way too many cyclists not wearing helmets

Helmets are not compulsory. Moot point.

hardgrit wrote:
not having lights or lights that are barely visisble in winter

Instead of bitching about this, I make a habit of buying lots of cheap lights from deal extreme and when I see people with no lights (or barely functioning ones) I give them a pair and emphasis that if I was a car, I could have hit them for not seeing them.

hardgrit wrote:
and plenty of people riding straight through red lights.

Do you say anything to them or sit there all passive aggressive, muttering under your breath, saving all your vitriol for online forums?

If I see a cyclist RLJ where they risk getting hit by a vehicle then that's on their head. On a collision, they will come out the worst.

When I've seen cyclists RLJ through pedestrians walking, I have chased them down and bollocked them.

hardgrit wrote:
Wear a helmet, get some decent lights (very cheap) and don't be riding through red lights. Not cool!

Again, helmets are not compulsory and really provide only the illusion of safety.

posted by zanf [374 posts]
15th June 2012 - 13:43

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Coleman wrote:
Also - what's this collective guilt thing? When I'm on a bike it's me on a bike. If someone else jumps a red light why should I be associated with that person? Absolute nonsense.

Exactly!

By the same standard, every black cab driver is a rapist by association with John Worboys

posted by zanf [374 posts]
15th June 2012 - 13:45

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Hi

you're correct in that helmets aren't compulsory but in my opinion you have to be pretty stupid not to wear one.
Not an illusion of saftey. I have flown over my handlebars on a couple of accasions and hit my head. Without a helmet I would have had some sort of head injury. Not much use though if a truck roles over you head.
As far as saying anything to anyone jumping lights, no I haven't but you are right maybe I should. I am not a confrontational person so it isn't in my nature really but if you don't speak up then no one will ever change. If i get a smack in my mouth for the troubles though then i will be blaming you Smile

you buy people lights. Where you based? another set is always useful

cheers

posted by hardgrit [16 posts]
15th June 2012 - 14:03

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you carry on not wearing a helmet if thats what you prefer. Me, when I have gone over my bars and hit my head I was thankful that i one on. your point about HGV's is ridiculous, of course it won't help you if this god forbid ever happened.

As far as the collective "we" you are correct you shouldn't be associated but the fact is that some road users will just associate you as an idiot on a bike because 2 miles previous they went passed some idiot on a bike with no lights or who had rode straight through a red. Wrong I know but that is the way some people think.
This is the first time I have ever written on this or any site as the subject makes my blood boil. There is right and wrong on both sides. Work to improve the situation is needed by everyone.

posted by hardgrit [16 posts]
15th June 2012 - 14:16

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I only stated on Wednesday evening to a rider coming the other way having almost jumped the red lights (they changed as he had edged all the way forward and then started off) "Red lights are intended for everyone". It isn't any skin off my nose what others do. Oh actually yes it is because I am so frustrated by how much I get accused of the sins of "other" cyclists. I have got to the point now where I am trying very hard now not to rise to the bait. But it is very hard. "We" seem to be only slightly above the level of child molesters in the opinion of a lot of the general public.

Last week I had someone pulling out/filtering on me from a side road on to a dual carriage way, that I was already on. "this is a dual carriage way" he shouted. "Yes" replies I "and I'm the one already on it".

I hope that CCC do all they can to stop Councillor Nick Clarke from getting re-elected.

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posted by bikeandy61 [361 posts]
15th June 2012 - 14:53

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Oh Christ on a Bike Hardgrit! Are you new to this site or just felt "Wtf! I'll start the helmet/no helmet debate yet again..."? Don't make eye contact and follow me slowly to the door... Wink

I agree with all you've said btw. It's all about sharing. At present some drivers and councillors don't want us: on the pavement, on the road, filtering to the front of the queue at the lights, on A roads, B roads, country lanes... Sheer weight of numbers is changing this but the battle with never be over.

Freedom for Tooting!

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [929 posts]
15th June 2012 - 14:59

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Hi

Hahah how did you guess i was new? was it the 3 posts all on the same topic?
didn't know i had started a helmet debate? others replying to me seemed to do that.
Maybe i should just stick to reading the articles and leave the forums alone Smile It has made my afternoon a little more interesting though.

posted by hardgrit [16 posts]
15th June 2012 - 15:26

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perhaps cyclists - who wear helmets, obey all the rules, have lights, wear hi vis gear and have a bell should be permitted to wear a sidearm.

This would allow them to protect themselves fully - as the councillor suggests by equalizing the level of risk for drivers who break the law and/or intimidate cyclists.

robbiec

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posted by robbieC [62 posts]
15th June 2012 - 15:34

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hardgrit wrote:
Hi

Hahah how did you guess i was new? was it the 3 posts all on the same topic?
didn't know i had started a helmet debate? others replying to me seemed to do that.
Maybe i should just stick to reading the articles and leave the forums alone Smile It has made my afternoon a little more interesting though.

don't worry mate - it's not hard to start the 'helmet debate' with some folks on here, i think some have the debate on their own in an empty room. easier than starting a drinking session in a brewery.

posted by matt637 [52 posts]
15th June 2012 - 15:55

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I stopped my supervisor dead in his tracks whilst he was 'ranting' about 'bloody cyclists, two abreast, getting in the way, etc' with aremark that they should stop 'vehicles' doing the same. After a quizzical look, I just said "shut all the Dual carraigeways and motorways" argument shot down in flames. damn it felt good!

posted by stealth [146 posts]
15th June 2012 - 19:28

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If the law were changed so that it was 'open season' for motorists to run down cyclists with no helmets, there'd be carnage on the roads. If on the other hand the law were changed to declare open season for cyclists to run down any motorists using their mobile phones while driving, no-one would notice the difference. Anyone cycling aggressively,challenging the guy in the car or truck nearby to a verbal duel, or perceived by their friendly testosterone charged neighbourhood motorist to be aggressive, is taking a short cut to the mortuary. Sad but true.

ChrisS

posted by Chris S [41 posts]
15th June 2012 - 19:59

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"I personally see numerous cases of cyclists going through red lights, not having lights on at night"

Got to agree. I see it alot too and it does my head in. It gives us all a bad name.

posted by paulfg42 [349 posts]
15th June 2012 - 21:10

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How does Councillor Nick Clarke know that every cyclist who in his words are "going through red lights, not having lights on at night, and not having appropriate clothing to make themselves visible" are members of Cambridge Cycling Campaign. MI5 should definitely recruit this man just think of the money the government would save on internet snooping!

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [153 posts]
15th June 2012 - 23:20

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hardgrit wrote:
Hi

Hahah how did you guess i was new? was it the 3 posts all on the same topic?
didn't know i had started a helmet debate? others replying to me seemed to do that.
Maybe i should just stick to reading the articles and leave the forums alone Smile It has made my afternoon a little more interesting though.

If you track back thru the site and look at the CTC comments regarding helmet wearing then you'll appreciate the opinion the majority have on the site on helmet use. Dunno how long you've been cycling but there are some very experienced cyclists on this site who don't wear helmets for road riding and don't see the need.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
15th June 2012 - 23:28

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Most of us who are experienced cyclists will make an informed decision about helmet wearing and our behaviour may or may not be influenced by it being on our head - we take the decision and accept the consequences based on our collective experiences and knowledge (I personally wear a helmet on most rides but there are times when I do not).

If a friend or relative of mine were taking up cycling from scratch I would advise them to wear a helmet to start with and then with time they will make there own decision.

posted by Stedmonkey [14 posts]
16th June 2012 - 8:03

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What I dislike about Cllr Clarke's rant is the presumption that cyclists are a nuisance to drivers that should only be tolerated if every cyclist follows the Highway Code to the letter.

In Cllr Clarke's world, it would appear that one random maverick who jumps a red light is justification for all drivers to bully all cyclists.

It needs to be underlined forcefully that a bike doesn't have safety belts, airbags and crumple zones to protect us. We are vulnerable on the road and expect consideration.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
16th June 2012 - 9:25

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For those who haven't already done these debates to death...

Here's CTC's campaigns briefing on cyclists and the law:
http://www.ctc.org.uk/resources/Briefings/Cyclists-behaviour-and-law_brf...

And a couple of briefings on helmets, one setting out CTC's policy stance:
http://www.ctc.org.uk/resources/Campaigns/Cycle-helmets_brf.pdf

...and a second providing an overview of the evidence:
http://www.ctc.org.uk/resources/Campaigns/Cycle-helmets-(the-evidence)_brf.pdf

Fuller coverage of the evidence on the helmet debate is on the website of the Bicycle Helmets Research Foundation:
www.cyclehelmets.org

Roger Geffen
Campaigns & Policy Director
CTC, the national cycling charity

posted by Roger Geffen [28 posts]
16th June 2012 - 14:26

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These kinda discussions ALWAYS come down to a Human in a box that can kill - respecting another human that would be killed if 1st human is up their own ass !

I do agree with him as per cyclists getting lights etc..as he points out a No. of car drivers like to play big person p.o.v - this is very very very wrong and should be enforced but at the same time - with police No.s going up the wall...whos gonna do that ??

And so, we fight amongst ourselves.

posted by yenrod [87 posts]
17th June 2012 - 17:51

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The treatment of others predicated under threat of all others obeying the law or a distorted version of it is the sign of a sick society. This is reminisent of Hitler or the KKK being in charge of our morals and laws. I obey the laws. I am discusted by how many motorists don't obey the law, then believe they can mistreat me. I promote the hammer technique. For this to work you need to be prepared to do what is necessary. Put a hammer hook where your hammer will be easily accessible. I mount mine on the handlebar. I have a little three pound hand slege. Just the sight of this little thing being waved in the direction of the motorist who is intentionally to close is enough to diswade them from there brazen disrespect for human life. Yes I believe even someone on a bicycle is a human being and should be treated with respect. Before retirement I drove large trucks and heavy equiptment across the US. I never endangered others. I do not care if they are drunk, crazy, or just plain stupid they are still human beings and I respect that. Some European contries respect human life and do not tolerate this kind of brazen lack of respect for human life. So Nick Clarke unstuff your head from your lower extremities and quit attempting to put the liability of bad illigal drivers on the bicyclists. If there are bad bicyclists then there are bad motorists and the police should treat them equally. Yes this is a job for the police not some miniscule politician with a personal vendetta. Have a happy joyful day etc.

posted by reb1 [4 posts]
18th June 2012 - 19:20

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