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Taxi Vs cyclist confrontation with riders taking part in flash ride to highlight illegal use of lanes

A group of cyclists in Birmingham have been described as “vigilantes” following an incident on Monday evening in which it is claimed a taxi was surrounded by riders, with one of the vehicle’s wing mirrors ripped off. The vehicle was attempting to use a bus lane from which taxis are excluded.

The cyclists were taking part in a flash ride organised via Facebook to urge Birmingham City Council to enforce rules that prevent black cabs, also known as Hackney Carriages, from being driven in some bus lanes in the city.

That includes the junction of Belgrave Middleway and Horton Square where Monday evening’s incident took place.

Writing on the event’s Facebook page on 7 October, organiser Toby Draper said:
“Too many cyclists have been injured, endangered or felt at risk at this junction due to motor vehicles using it illegally.

“This flash ride is being organised to send a message to the council that if the plans improve safety for cyclists, we welcome them.

“But we are watching closely and we expect enforcement to take place and fines to be issued in the event of ALL future violations.”

The junction is one that Birmingham City Council specifically identifies on its website as being subject to the next phase of bus lane enforcement in the city.

The council has launched a public consultation into its proposals for minor changes at the junction, saying:

In February 2013 Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet approved a city wide civil Bus Lane Enforcement (BLE) regime to be implemented on a phased basis, starting with the city centre where enforcement commenced in summer 2013. As part of the next phase, we are looking to introduce BLE measures at the junction of Belgrave Middleway with Longmore Street and Horton Square.

There is a bus gate situated at this junction allowing bus movements to and from the City Centre. The Rea Valley Cycle Route (NCN5) also crosses Belgrave Middleway at this location. Only buses, cycles and emergency vehicles are allowed through the bus gate.

According to the time logged on a series of still images from the taxi’s dashboard-mounted camera and accompanying a report on the incident on the Birmingham Mail’s website, the cyclists positioned themselves for at least 27 minutes in front of the vehicle to prevent it from moving straight on through the traffic lights.

The taxi driver involved, 42-year-old Abid Hussain, gave his version of events to the newspaper and claimed that inadequate signage and an inconsistent approach form the council as which bus lanes black cabs are permitted to use caused confusion for drivers.

The image from Google Street View above, assuming that the sign and road markings are unaltered since it was taken, suggests however that it is clear that only buses and bicycles are allowed to go straight on.

Mr Hussain said: “They [the cyclists] were a law unto themselves. I couldn’t move anywhere because of the sheer numbers.

‘‘These people on two wheels, who don’t even pay road tax, were acting like vigilantes.’’

Road tax was abolished in the 1930’s, as documented on Carlton Reid’s website, IPayRoadTax.com. Motorists now pay Vehicle Excise Duty, based on their vehicles’ emissions, with no payment required for some low-emission vehicles.

The taxi driver continued: ‘‘I’d picked up a lecturer from Aston University and was taking her to Kings Heath.

“I could see a gathering of cyclists in the road. They just blocked me off and said I couldn’t pass because it was for buses.

“I had nowhere to go and they were becoming increasingly aggressive. I was concerned that one of them would jump in front of the taxi and get hurt, so I stopped.

“My passenger told me not to speak to them and she was the one who called police.

“The police arrived and it all seemed calm. I tried to move around them but, as I was crawling along, one of them blocked me again and another came up the side and ripped off the wing mirror.’             

“We are a public service. We are here to serve the community but we are being attacked.

‘‘Part of the problem is the city council and the inconsistency in road signage and rules for lanes. The council needs to decide whether Hackney Carriage drivers are included in public transport networks.’’

Comments from West Midlands Police, who were called to the scene at approximately 6.40pm on Monday, suggest that there is also confusion among officers about the bus lanes that Hackney Carriages are permitted to use.

A spokeswoman for the force told the Birmingham Mail: “Three police officers and a police community support officer responded to reports that a group of cyclists were blocking the path of a black cab driver.

“They were under the impression that he was not allowed to use the lane and the driver was saying that he could.

“Officers advised the group that they were causing an obstruction on the highway.

“The situation seemed to have been resolved, when one cyclist rode into the path of the driver who was moving away. A second cyclist broke off a wing mirror and rode off.

“The group refused to give details to officers at the scene.

“Officers are investigating a report of criminal damage and are examining CCTV.”

One cyclist who said she had taken part in Monday’s ride is Nazan Fennell, whose 13-year-old daughter Hope was killed by a lorry while cycling in November 2011.

Last month, the driver was jailed for six months for dangerous driving – as distinct from causing death by dangerous driving – with the court hearing that he had sent a series of text messages to his girlfriend in the time leading up to the collision, and had also deleted several messages afterwards.

Later in September, Hope’s mother staged a sit-down protest in front of a lorry during a ride in memory of her daughter.

Contacting the Birmingham Mail after Monday’s flash ride, Ms Fennell said: “This crossing is a vital link across the ring road for cyclists, but those cyclists’ lives are put at risk by other vehicles abusing this lane.

“The flash ride received strong support from passing pedestrians, cyclists and law-abiding motorists.

“Unfortunately a single taxi driver chose to block the entrance to the bus lane leading out of the city centre for over 30 minutes, and argued that he had the right to use the bus lane.

“Push Bikes is very disappointed that the first police officer to speak to this taxi driver was uncertain about the meaning of the clear signs at this crossing, and did not persuade the taxi driver to take the legal route out and argued that he had the right to use the bus lane.”

We have asked Push Bikes – founded in 1978 as the Birmingham Bicycling Campaign, changing its name a year later – for a statement on Monday’s incident, as well as whether Ms Fennell holds a position within the organisation and whether her comments reflect its views.

Ms Fennell added: ‘‘The message from Monday night is clear - our streets are made dangerous by a minority of bad drivers, and it is vitally important for the police and local authorities to punish drivers who think they are above the rules of the road.

‘‘Proper enforcement of regulations on highway infrastructure is vital to the success of Birmingham’s cycle revolution.’’

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

57 comments

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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Its "cyclists" like this that give others a bad name. Yes, the taxi shouldn't have been using that section of road, whether the driver knew it or not.

But to block him in for 27 minutes, with a passenger on board is a shocking display of behaviour.

This is why I am sick of seeing videos from critical mass in London and this "Space for cycling" get a group of people together, there are always going to be idiots if you have a large enough number. There should be ride "leaders" who stamp this out

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lakeland bimbler [17 posts] 2 years ago
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Agreed... this will do nothing to improve safety for cyclists and is likely to just antagonise other taxi drivers and the authorities.

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Ush [692 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm sick of this "bad name" meme. Cyclists already have a "bad name" because they are quite simply in the way of other road users. You can try to wish that we are a homogeneous group of saints, but we're not and we should not accept such attempts to make us into a group or class. No more than we should accept attempts to paint all vehicle drivers as evil, stupid fuckers that squash 13 year old girls on bicycles, or the cops as ignorant, lying tossers that don't even know the rules of the road.

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ribena [179 posts] 2 years ago
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Its drivers like that giving us drivers a bad name! Yes, its illegal, but simply driving up the bus lane is just antagonising cyclists and pedestrians! Access to bus routes will never improve until drivers start obeying the rules.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1198 posts] 2 years ago
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But this sort of thing wouldn't happen if the laws regarding motoring were ever actually enforced. Unfortunately the police seem to consider such matters insufficiently glamorous to bother with (and, to me, it appears that traffic wardens simply no longer exist - haven't seen one since the 1980s).

The only time motorists are held accountable is when it involves private land and cowboy car-clampers (and in that case I actually sympathise with the motorists as the abuse-of-power seems to be on the other side.)

I have to say I sometimes think it should be legal to vandalise an illegally parked car. Because there's no other sanction on parking on pavements and in cycle lanes or dangerously close to junctions or on the zig-zags outside schools, etc. The 'authorities' certainly don't do anything about it.

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zanf [836 posts] 2 years ago
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GKam, youve never had anything good to say about Critical Mass despite admitting a while ago that you didn't understand what it was about, nor having ever attended one.

Not a good look.

The frank truth: its these people (and people like Hope Fennells mum) that will get changes made in how liveable our cities are, not wet liberal campaign groups like the LCC, who have existed for 35 years yet have achieved very little in that time.

If youre going to moan about people taking direct action to get things changed then quite frankly, fuck off and moan in private.

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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*fucks off and moans in private*

Get a grip moron

I never said I didn't understand what its about, but I have never attended one, because of the way that those involved conduct themselves

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mrmo [2076 posts] 2 years ago
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as said in another thread, and got poo poo-ed, unless the law does something about law breaking drivers there will be far more of this sort of thing.

Traffic enforcement needs to be taken seriously against ALL parties, zero tollerance of any motoring offence for a starter.

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jellysticks [95 posts] 2 years ago
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I saw the title of this article and thought 'ah..another group of well-intentioned, no doubt legitimately pissed-off but perhaps too excitable cyclists who end up going overboard on an individual motorist', and initially felt quite sorry for the taxi driver. Then I read his 'don't even pay road tax' comment. Oh dear.

BUT, despite my huge enthusiasm for promoting cycling, making it safer, and my despair at reading all the stories where existent laws fail to be enforced, I don't think ripping off wing mirrors is going to do anyone any favours. Even though I probably want to do it to at least one vehicle a week.

Oh to have the Dutch/French drivers' attitudes on our roads...

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zanf [836 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

*fucks off and moans in private*

Get a grip moron

I never said I didn't understand what its about, but I have never attended one, because of the way that those involved conduct themselves

If I could be arsed to go through past articles, I would dig out where you say exactly that.

Face it, you're another moaner who indulges in pathetic childish tribalism, especially when it involves people empowering themselves.

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zanf [836 posts] 2 years ago
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...

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Sadly Biggins [269 posts] 2 years ago
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jellysticks wrote:

Oh to have the Dutch/French drivers' attitudes on our roads...

As an OT aside, I cycled a lot in the Vendee this summer and I thought France would be the land of milk and honey for cyclists. It was in general only slightly better than my experiences here, although I could still guess the English cars coming past due to the totally butchered rather than iffy overtakes.

Back on topic, I don't think this group of cyclists has helped at all. Wouldn't it have been less antagonistic to photograph vehicles illegally using that turn rather than blocking the junction (although I suspect it would have done a fat lot of good)?

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Al__S [1031 posts] 2 years ago
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Or block thge junction, but in a way that would have made it easy for the taxi to back out and take a legal route?

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djgorey [37 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm sure that somebody said somewhere that women throwing themselves in front of horses gave women a bad name.

I don't condone criminal damage and at the moment that has not been proven. However, a bit of peaceful protest, even not so peaceful is a good thing. I've never been on a critical mass ride or anything like it, but if their actions raise awareness of people on bikes and as a result my journey home is safer then I thank them.

The wing mirror aside, the worst thing that happened here was two people got inconvenienced for half an hour. Compared to the daily dose of close passes, punnisment passes, MGIF's and SMIDSY's, any one of which could kill me, it's nothing.

As for giving me a bad name, I'm not certain that every driver on the road now thinks less of me, but if they do, I think I can probably live with it.

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paulfg42 [387 posts] 2 years ago
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Never understood why taxis should be allowed to use the bus lanes in the first place. How on earth can taxis be considered part of the public transport network? Is getting in a taxi any more transport friendly than getting in your own car?

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FluffyKittenofT... [1198 posts] 2 years ago
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"Never understood why taxis should be allowed to use the bus lanes in the first place"

It seems pretty obvious - taxis (at least London Black Cabs) are used heavily by the wealthy political, financial, and media classes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZiL_lane

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nostromo [55 posts] 2 years ago
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My view: The taxi driver inconvenienced his passenger by trying to take a short cut he wasn't entitled to. I do not believe he was confused. I think he - and probably most of the taxi drivers locally - think it's OK to take that route, but this time got owned.

That said, the people on two wheels should have let him back out of the junction rather than trapping him there. Stopping his progress was enough - kettling him and his passenger inside the vehicle was over the top. Ripping off a wing mirror is unacceptable and counter productive.

The police need to sharpen up their act. No change there.

Sorry, meant to add, this incident will have done more to highlight issues with the junction (and perhaps others) than any 'normal' action could hqve. The council, police, media and taxi drivers have all been put on notice as a result. Whether you agree with the means or not, you can't buy that sort of publicity.

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Leviathan [1984 posts] 2 years ago
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Well my bike isn't public either. I do have sympathy for Taxi drivers who find themselves excluded from some lanes but not others, although they should know which ones if they have the knowledge. Still, blocking him and passenger for 27min in uncalled for.

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Coleman [335 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

Its "cyclists" like this that give others a bad name. Yes, the taxi shouldn't have been using that section of road, whether the driver knew it or not.

But to block him in for 27 minutes, with a passenger on board is a shocking display of behaviour.

This is why I am sick of seeing videos from critical mass in London and this "Space for cycling" get a group of people together, there are always going to be idiots if you have a large enough number. There should be ride "leaders" who stamp this out

He wasn't blocked in. He could have turned left but refused to. Have a look at the newspaper article.

As to this 'give others a bad name' business - how does that work? I don't subscribe to this collective guilt nonsense. A speeding driver doesn't give me a bad name when I get into my car.

Rider leaders for Critical Mass? I think you've missed one of the fundamental aspects of CM. A critical aspect which means it can continue.

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Mikeduff [24 posts] 2 years ago
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[Is getting in a taxi any more transport friendly than getting in your own car?]

If you mean environmentally friendly, then yes. Whilst the trip itself might not be any different in terms of emissions than your car, if occasionally taking a taxi means you don't need to own a car, and that applies to X number of passengers, then the existence of that taxi has saved the world the embodied energy of making X number of cars. Which is significant.

But in terms of congestion, I take your point. Bus Rapid Transit and bikes are the way forward!

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Chuck [546 posts] 2 years ago
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nostromo wrote:

I do not believe he was confused. I think he - and probably most of the taxi drivers locally - think it's OK to take that route, but this time got owned.

That said, the people on two wheels should have let him back out of the junction rather than trapping him there. Stopping his progress was enough - kettling him and his passenger inside the vehicle was over the top. Ripping off a wing mirror is unacceptable and counter productive.

The police need to sharpen up their act. No change there.

This. I don't believe for a second that the taxi guy genuinely didn't know if he can use that lane or not- he knows full well that in practice he can and that's enough for taxi drivers. I can't get behind the actions of the cyclists though.
Interesting that they chose that junction though- I use it pretty often and it's never struck me as being any sort of hotspot.

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Chuck [546 posts] 2 years ago
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Coleman wrote:

As to this 'give others a bad name' business - how does that work? I don't subscribe to this collective guilt nonsense. A speeding driver doesn't give me a bad name when I get into my car.

I sort of agree but I don't think it's the same thing- it's that out group stuff. People don't cut the same slack to a minority group they don't belong to that they do to their own- they're far quicker to tar everybody with the same brush. The issue is whether or not it manifests itself on the roads.

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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If there was enforcement of the bus lane then this wouldn't have happened.

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Colin Peyresourde [1724 posts] 2 years ago
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I feel a bit ambivalent to all of this. On one hand, like Gkam, I don't like Critical Mass. The members attitudes to ordinary folk is alienating and gives 'cyclists' a bad name, and certainly doesn't create a wider empathy for common cycling issues (which I presume it is trying to do).

But equally I feel like our police force and government (I should really say governments) are not doing enough to police our country and enforce its laws.

It is therefore not surprising that this sort of group and critical mass are gaining momentum. This may actually make the local police force and government confront some of the issues.

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paulmcmillan [96 posts] 2 years ago
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This article has made me think long and hard about how cyclists can get the respect they deserve on the road.

On one hand I am impressed that there are people who care enough about cyclists safety to stand up and highlight the fact that there are other road users who break rules and by doing so put vulnerable road users at risk. However I think that the way you put your argument across is often as important as the point you are making.

Deliberately causing obstruction while on a bike, to a taxi which was driving in a bus lane shows only that both are in the wrong.

As cyclists we have probably all been intimidated by other road users - a deeply unpleasant experience. Action like this highlights the issue, but it does something else.

It makes the driver of the taxi appear as the vulnerable road user.

You hand them one key thing that I rely on to be safe; the recognition of and respect for my vulnerability on the road.

If the roads are to become safer to me as a cyclist it will be because of mutual respect between those I share the road with, not by other road users being afraid of or intimidated by my actions.

It was clearly possible to make the point that taxi drivers use this road illegally without overshadowing it with a cyclists vs motorists confrontation.

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Al__S [1031 posts] 2 years ago
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Taxis do form part of public transport- the help with moving people that would find especially bus or Metro systems awkward or even near impossible (mobility issues, lots of luggage etc). But in many places they're poorly regulated, and even where supposedly well regulated (London) there's endless tales of borderline murderous driving.

The one that does annoy me a bit is the even-less-well-regulated minicabs using bus/taxi lanes. In London, at least, this is clearly against the law and prosecuted (see the Addison Lee fuss).

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Flippa [38 posts] 2 years ago
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I guess it would have made more of a point if a bus had blocked the bus lane to prevent the taxi driver from using it.
From that photo the cyclists shouldn't have been in the bus lane either, they have their own cycle lane.
But it has brought the whole problem to the public attention, and while cyclists may not be popular with a lot of drivers, taxi drivers aren't that popular with car drivers either.

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KiwiMike [1202 posts] 2 years ago
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Looks like the taxi driver was the typical arrogant arse that most of them seem to be. If I was the passenger I'd have gotten out after 2 minutes.

And it sounds like he went for one of the cyclists at the end - if a cyclist was in front of him ***he can't fucking well legally proceed under any circumstances***. So not at all surprised he lost a wingmirror. He's probably lucky he didn't need a micropump removing from a bodily orifice.

Personally, I blame the police. They fail to enforce the law regarding the bus lanes, fail to understand the law, side with the motorist, and end up looking dumb. I don't go in for hero worship. They are paid to do a job, they hold the most important position in civilised society as the enforcement arm of the state, but they systematically fail to protect and enforce. They are accountable.

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kie7077 [877 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

This is why I am sick of seeing videos from critical mass in London and this "Space for cycling" get a group of people together, there are always going to be idiots if you have a large enough number. There should be ride "leaders" who stamp this out

Are you serious, I think you've got a bloody cheek, there were approx 10,000 cyclists at London's last Space for Cycling ride and as far as I'm aware it went without incident. There were both police and stewards at the ride.

And if you don't like the videos, then why are you watching them? Fool.

 14

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shay cycles [324 posts] 2 years ago
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Flippa wrote:

From that photo the cyclists shouldn't have been in the bus lane either, they have their own cycle lane.

Yet another post showing a lack of understanding of the rules of the road. The presence of a cycle path does not mean that cyclists either "should" or "must" use it, it is simply available to use if they wish to but they have every right to cycle on the carriageway except in specific cases such as motorways.

This reinforces the point I have made in various places that most on road cycle lanes serve no purpose other than to make drivers think that cyclists should be in the cycle lane and not in "their" carriageway.

So many drivers, so little driver education and so little chance of getting them to understand and then follow the rules!

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