January 16, 2006

Cycling etiquette

Writing about Times journo – what a clown! from George Riches: Complaints from a middle aged layabout

Having followed the recent debate on George's blog, as a keen cyclist I feel spurred to make some contribution.

As a driver, I get completely fed up with irresponsible cyclists: those who ride on the pavement, jump traffic lights, and change lanes without signalling, for example. As a cyclist who always follows the Highway Code, I donít see why other cyclists feel like they have a right to persist in such an unhelpful, and sometimes illegal, manner. I learnt everything I needed to know from my cycling proficiency test, so why canít everyone else? I also resent the fact that motorists often treat me badly on the road as a result of their preconceptions about cyclists which I feel I do my best to dissipate by being a responsible road user.

However, although there is no excuse for breaking the law, I do have some sympathy for cyclists worried about being knocked over. I have been involved in several near-misses caused by unobservant (or just plain reckless) car drivers. If I was of a more nervous disposition I may well have migrated towards the pavement before now. The roads are a dangerous place for cyclists, made more difficult by a lack of cycle lanes or, where they are present, a complete disregard of them by motorists.

Itís quite a chicken-and-egg problem. Bad cyclists make motorists resentful and less accommodating. But irresponsible drivers reduce cyclistís confidence. Some might argue that as the more powerful and less vulnerable road-user, motorists should be more responsible than they currently seem to be, irrespective of the behaviour of the cyclist. Many would argue that making the roads safer for cyclists is not economically sound as there are so few of us. But equally would cycling increase enough as a result to justify the money and effort?
So what can we do about it???

A little storyÖ
Justin was driving his car out of his drive, when, before he could see past his gatepost, a cyclist using the pavement ran into him, leaving the car with a dent in the side. Ironically, as a result of the impact the cyclist fell off his bike and into the road: the one place he was presumably avoiding!

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  1. I agree about the terrible use of the roads by many cyclists (or non-use of the roads). It's irresponsible, illegal and not to mention incredibly dangerous.

    Although motorists should always be observant and take every care they can with cyclists, ultimately, if a cyclist is going to be totally reckless there's only so much we can do.

    I think there should be a multiple angle approach to cycling in this country – increase cycle lanes and road safety for cyclists, but also introduce some sort of compulsory test to prevent utterly stupid people from risking their lives on the road. There should also be incentives to get more people to cycle as, ultimately, it's so much better for the enviroment. Just look at Holland – they cycle absolutely everywhere!


    16 Jan 2006, 12:51

  2. What about the decline in cycling helmets? I worry terribly whenever I pass a cyclist whilst driving, as probably less than 1 in 10 of them wear a helmet.

    Mind you, I guess risking your brains decorating the pavement and road is a much more desirable option than wearing a helmet…

    16 Jan 2006, 13:22

  3. One of my old schoolmates was cycling home down a steep hill when a car pulled out in front of him, causing him to hit the car a be flung over the handlebars of his bike and over the car.

    He landed on the road headfirst!

    His cycle helmet split clean in two.

    Now without a helmet, that would have been his head!

    17 Jan 2006, 09:51

  4. Sunil Chhita

    The cycling helmet issue is a big debate. A lot of people are of the opinion that if you get hit by a car, you're in big trouble whether you're wearing a helmet or not. Alastair, are you really going take a risk and endanger a cyclist just because he is wearing a helmet?

    I personally think that both sides are to blame and a lot of it is due to impatience. There's been many occasions when an overtaking car has given me plenty of room, but failed to check if there is oncoming traffic.

    However, if you want to see some really dangerous cycling check out these videos link particularly the NY drag race.

    20 Jan 2006, 20:15

  5. I don't take a risks whilst driving as a matter of course be it with cyclists, cars or pedestrians; I was merely trying to state that I am unnerved by cyclists not wearing a helmet and will take extra caution because it almost scares me to pass them. They are the most vulnerable set of roadusers, and I don't like navigating around them when driving. I always give them as much room as I can; if the road is clear, I will leave them the whole of the lane, nearly.

    It was more a statement that a lot of people don't wear helmets because "they don't look cool" than anything else… :)

    25 Jan 2006, 10:02

  6. Andy

    There is no reason cyclists shouldn't ride on the pavements as long as they exercise caution with regard to pedestrians. I have no problem with cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders being on the pavement, as long as they recognise the circumstances require them to exercise some caution. If on the other hand they're careening about at maximum speed that is a different story, but even then should depend on their relative skill level – it is pretty easy to avoid hitting pedestrians. Perhaps panicky, fearful pedestrians don't belong on the pavement.

    When it comes to red lights if it is safe for the cyclist to proceed then there is no reason they should not do so, just as pedestrians should not be compelled to cross at marked crossings and wait for the light. If we're talking about cyclists just riding out into an intersection against the light without slowing/stopping to check the situation first, then well they deserve to get run down, and I'd have no problem not bothering to slow or swerve my vehicle. Same applies to pedestrians who just cross without looking (crossing busy roads without the assistance of a crossing light is not exactly a difficult skill and perhaps those who can't should be stripped from the gene pool afterall, instead of stupid laws and fines for those with eyes, ears and basic co–ordination).

    Helmets should be a personal choice. It is none of your or my business how much risk another person is allowed to engage. And a cyclist without a helmet is not at any greater risk than a pedestrian without one when it comes to interactions with motor vehicles.

    "He landed on the road headfirst"

    A serious lack of co–ordination. Should someone this clumsy be riding a bicycle at all? Tell him to go do some judo and learn to roll. Perhaps fall training should be compulsory for cyclists?

    20 Jul 2006, 14:50

  7. Perhaps panicky, fearful pedestrians don't belong on the pavement.

    So such people must be imprisoned in doors all their life?

    Cyclists belong on the carriageway. The pressure to force them onto the pavement only arises because the authorities want to allow excessive traffic onto the roads. So they build junctions which allow/encourage motorists to use at speeds in excess of what cyclists can achieve (thus forcing cyclists out) and squeeze so many lanes into a road that motorists cannot overtake cyclists without crossing the lane markings.

    Many studies have shown that cycling on the pavement, whether legal or not, is more dangerous than cycling on the carriageway – as the cyclist is not in a place where he/she will be seen by motorists.

    Adding cycle lanes and tracks in existing built up areas is generally a bad idea. There are a few exceptions, generally where it is a issue of laying down new tarmac, but mostly schemes of putting white lines on existing pavements or carriageways do more harm than good.

    20 Jul 2006, 15:19

  8. Andy, I disagree with your second paragraph. According to the Highway Code and to the law cyclists riding in the road must obey all the same traffic signals as other motorists. If a kid presses the button at a pedestrian crossing as a joke and then doesn't cross the road all motorists are still required to stop at the red light. You argue that a cyclist should be allowed to skip the red light because it's safe to do so. So why must the rest of the traffic stop if there is no obstruction and no risk to others? Should I as a cyclist really be allowed to queue–jump at junctions whilst cars are forced to wait at the lights? The rules of the road are there to protect the more vulnerable. If the rules are blurred it will only harm those that are most vulnerable: in this case the pedestrian.

    And a cyclist without a helmet is not at any greater risk than a pedestrian without one when it comes to interactions with motor vehicles.

    A pedestrian travels at an average of 3 mph, a cyclist at maybe 15. In a collision with a car the combined speed of the two will be much higher in the case of the cyclist and the car. Cyclists are further off the ground and less stable on their base. Is there really no greater risk for the cyclist?

    20 Jul 2006, 15:52

  9. I'd have no problem not bothering to slow or swerve my vehicle.

    I'd like to see whether this holds out when the situation actually arises and you are faced with the possibility of putting another person's life on the line.

    crossing busy roads without the assistance of a crossing light is not exactly a difficult skill and perhaps those who can't should be stripped from the gene pool afterall, instead of stupid laws and fines for those with eyes, ears and basic co–ordination.

    Erm, for blind people particularly (and to some extent, deaf people too) it is actually very difficult to cross the road. And what about people in wheelchairs? I have helped my grandparents cross the road many times, acting as their eyes, simply because it is not safe for them to do so on their own; I also take issue with your comment that such people should be "stripped from the gene pool".

    "He landed on the road headfirst"
    A serious lack of co–ordination. Should someone this clumsy be riding a bicycle at all?

    Yes. This does not imply a "serious lack of co–ordination"; it takes far more co–ordination to stay on the bike in the first place than it does to roll to break a fall. I did Judo for three years or so, and whilst I never got very good at it (mainly because I'm a wuss and it generally involved too much pain), I do know that we learnt to roll in the first lesson or so and it didn't take anyone very long to pick it up at all.

    21 Jul 2006, 09:18

  10. Link —> Stop at Red

    21 Jul 2006, 09:25

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