Cyclists can be the problem 14

December 13th, 2012 Christian Says

It is impossible to shirk away from the problem of problem cyclists. I can’t claim to be 100 per cent law abiding given that at times it is far safer for me to commit minor transgressions but I do pay attention to pedestrians, I thank motorists who let me through and I try not to get in their way unnecessarily. I do, though, tend to bang on their roof if they cut me up badly.

The huge increase in cyclists in London has delivered enormous benefits. Motorists for the most part are undoubtedly more considerate towards cyclists. In a way, they have to be. If they have half a dozen cyclists in front of them at traffic lights, they simply can’t try to squeeze past them all.So they just have to relax and go with the flow. This has had the bonus effect of, effectively, slowing down much of the traffic in central London although I bet this has had very little effect on overall journey times.

That leaves cyclists. Of course, most cycle reasonably and try not to make a nuisance of themselves. But there is a significant majority of macho cyclists who behave just as badly as traditional white van men. A friend of mine was cycling near the Oval on Monday when he passed a cyclist who then promptly deliberately cut him up from the inside, almost toppling him over towards the passing cars. My pal caught up with the mad cyclist and asked why he did that: ‘you were in my way’, came the reply, and he slithered away before punches were thrown. My friend, who is an experienced cyclist, was badly shaken by the incident the day after when I met him for breakfast – what on earth was that about, we both wondered.

One point we postulated was that Cycling Superhighways kind of send out the wrong message. They are encouraging speed and macho type cycling rather than the more sedate progress that one sees on the continent in places where there are considerable numbers of cyclists. Just a thought.

Oddly, on the way to meet him, I had been cut up by what I took to be an inexperienced young woman cyclist who had passed me but then was forced into my lane.

To end these musings on a good note, however, it is amazing that the closure to traffic of Farringdon Road for the Crossrail works means that only cyclists can get through in the southwards direction. Amazingly, special provision has been made for cyclists with a single track lane that wiggles through the roadworks and, at one point, even means that pedestrians have to use the other footway. This would never have happend a few years ago, and shows there is genuine progress. But cyclists have to do their bit, too, to ensure that they do not give easy excuses to opponents of cycling to stop further progress.

I am convinced of one thing. If  cyclists had proper provision, and could feel safe for most of their journeys, there be far less antagonism between motorists and cyclists. As I point out above, the sheer volume of cyclists has already changed motorists behaviour. If were there proper facilities which encouraged even more cyclists on to the streets,  behaviour all round would improve.

 

 

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  • Guest

    ‘Cycling Superhighways kind of send out the wrong message. They are encouraging speed and macho type cycling’
    I think this was demonstrated in the recent ‘Road Wars’ docu. on the subject of cyclists. The point wasn’t made then but my belief as a motorist (and ex-cyclist) is that, whilst I agree that most motorists are more cyclist-aware they just do not expect so come across so many of them travelling at such high speeds. I know that I am still surprised by the rate that many cyclists (who, after all, are much less visible than motor traffic) can suddenly appear – and disappear.

  • Guest

    ‘Cycling Superhighways kind of send out the wrong message. They are encouraging speed and macho type cycling’
    I
    think this was demonstrated in the recent ‘Road Wars’ docu. on the
    subject of cyclists. The point wasn’t made then but my belief as a
    motorist (and ex-cyclist) is that, whilst I agree that most motorists
    are more cyclist-aware they just do not expect to come across so many of
    them travelling at such high speeds. I know that I am still surprised
    by the rate that many cyclists (who, after all, are much less visible
    than motor traffic) can suddenly appear – and disappear.

  • http://twitter.com/davidmlondon David Mitchell

    I think its a mistake to conflate ‘speed’ necessarily with ‘bad behaviour’. When I’m on the bike there are plenty of cyclists that drift past me at a sedate pace when I’m stopped at a red light, because they can’t be bothered waiting. I’d agree some of offenders are going at quite a lick but the two things are necessarily connected. We should just be looking for all cyclists to exercise a modicum of common sense and consideration, regardless of speed.

    I think your point about giving drivers ‘easy excuses’ is exceptionally important. In the forseeable future we are not going to get a fully (or even mostly) segregated set of cycle lanes in London. So us and the cars will have to co-exist for many years to come. Every time a cyclist behaves poorly on the road it’s another excuse given to the petrol heads to do nothing, as it allows them to portray us as irresponsible and not worth of consideration The more we put our own house in order, more power we’ll get to force a change in other road user’s behaviour (which is also sorely needed) as well as improving our own safety.

  • racyrich

    I suspect that as London’s cyclist numbers have multiplied, the faster and/or more experienced riders are finding they can’t just motor along unimpeded as they’re used to. They’re having to dodge past the hordes of slower riders, a manoeuvre not entirely risk free with vehicles already overtaking you.
    What a paradox: more cyclists means cyclist traffic jams and the advantage cycling has over cars – the ability to ride past jams – being eroded. We may soon be experiencing the frustration of creeping along at the slowest rider’s pace, just like the motor vehicles we hope to displace have to.
    Those scenes of Peking 20 years ago may not be the nirvana wished for by all.

  • Anoop

    There is a need to build high quality cycle routes (Dutch-style segregated paths along main roads, motor traffic restrictions on minor roads etc.) to encourage the millions of people who are too scared to cycle to do so, and to end the discrimination against women, children and elderly people who currently do not feel safe cycling on the road. There are clear guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence and other bodies which recommend this, and there are road design standards such as the London Cycle Design Standards which engineers should follow. However, if the authorities disregard these guidelines in a direction that is worse for cyclists (e.g. cycle lanes too narrow, lack of safe segregation at junctions, inconvenient one way systems), it is unfair to criticize cyclists who are disobeying the rules in an attempt to stay safe. Why do we expect cyclists to rigidly stick to the rules on roads which are not designed according to the rules? If the roads were designed according to guidelines, there would be less incentive for cyclists to break the rules and millions more people would feel safe cycling.

  • Greg Tingey

    As a cyclist / pedestrian / driver / rail-user …
    I am particularly annoyed by cyclists, 100 meters fro my front door, using a segregated footpath, in front of a school. The parallel road is NOT crowded & meeting them, at night, head-on, when they have no lights, makes me stop, & raise my walking-stick to chest height across the path!

    There are far too many cyclists who think, that because they are on a bike, they are “virtuous” then everyone else can eff off – rather like car drivers on their mobile phones, in fact.

  • Joe Dunckley

    “But cyclists have to do their bit, too, to ensure that they do not give easy excuses to opponents of cycling to stop further progress.”

    Actually, cyclists have to do their bit by never allowing the absurd and dangerous idea that the bad behaviour of some should result in collective punishment of everybody else to ever be portrayed as an idea that could be considered a legitimate one. Especially since the “progress” that is required is more about enabling cycling for those who are currently excluded than it is about helping existing cyclists.

    If I suggested that we should not invest in new railway lines until train passengers stopped disobeying the “keep your feet off the seats” signs, you’d attack me for making such a stupid suggestion, you wouldn’t attack train passengers for “giving easy excuses to opponents of progress”.

  • http://twitter.com/davidmlondon David Mitchell

    If I truly believed that the sub-set of cyclists we are talking about, were disregarding the rules because it made them safer you would have a point. But if you look at what they do it simply isn’t the case. It is now not an uncommon occurrence for me to go through the lights on my bike at green and then have to dodge at the last minute another cyclist that’s sailed through the other way on red. How is that helping safety – theirs or mine? It isn’t, it’s just “I can’t be bothered waiting for the lights to change” How is it helping safety by a group of cyclists being seemingly unable to fit lights to their bikes when they use them after dark?

    I despair at our ability to make excuses for what’s essentially bad, selfish behaviour when we should be calling it out and making it socially unacceptable to everyone’s benefit.

  • Dr. Robert Davis

    Christian,

    NOT one of your best posts I’m afraid. Joe Dunckley has it
    right here on blaming cyclists.

    On the “if there were proper facilities “argument – actually
    you contradict yourself, because:

    There is indeed a definite Safety in Numbers effect you
    describe – where motorists just HAVE to
    watch out more for cyclists. When cyclists are separated away from motorists
    (which is not always a bad thing, but let’s not go there at the moment) you don’t
    have this effect. You have something quite different.

    Also, if you do have a pleasant environment for cyclists, there
    is no guarantee that all will behave nicely. We live in a quite chaotic
    multi-cultural society with people from all sorts of backgrounds, many new to
    cycling, who will not necessarily behave themselves. I strongly dislike being
    cut up by other cyclists, BUT

    (a)
    It may well happen if we get a lot more cycle
    traffic

    (b)
    We notice it because it hasn’t happened very
    much before

    (c)
    It really is not the problem for cyclists or other
    road users that bad motoring is – so take a look at Dunckley’s post.

    I recently saw a young Polish man hammer along the local
    Overground station platform scattering people waiting for the next train. I don’t
    like it, but it really is different from what motorists get up. And it won’t
    disappear with cycle facilities. And the anti-cyclists who sue it as an excuse
    to bash cyclists will be bashing cyclists anyway – metaphorically if not literally.

    Ain’t life messy.

    Dr. Robert Davis, Chair Road Danger Reduction Forum

  • christianwolmar

    I agree, Robert, my post is a bit messy and not entirely well worked out – but that, in a way, is the point. It is sometimes difficult to see the way forward. As one of the other posters put it, even in Copenhagen, there are unpleasant cyclist on cyclist incidents. I think we need to address that, at least. Of course it is not as bad as being flattened by a 40 ton lorry,but nevertheless as my friend found out, it can be very unpleasant. We do need to ensure that there is considerate cycling.

  • Jon

    Well, I think cyclists are generally not a different tribe to car drivers, and suffer from the same proportion of psychopaths and idiots as the car driver population. But generally I find cyclists are more friendly, sociable and forgiving than car drivers, and I wonder why? It may be that cyclists have more opportunity to talk to each other, as they are not locked up in a steel and glass box, and are more exposed to other people’s reactions. I also suspect that that isolation, and particularly the stop-go nature of driving in a city adds to anyone’s stress, and increases the chances that someone will react badly to some trivial annoyance. Of course cyclists are in handling much less kinetic energy, and therefore rather less likely to injure someone else when they do lose control.

  • Keith

    Shared-footway cycle lanes are a real problem and seem to be popping up in every new development. I’m sure the planners mean well but I can’t believe they ever cycle anywhere. Who in their right minds wants to take constant detours over pedestrian crossings and often through broken glass?

  • Dr. Robert Davis

    Thanks for response Christian. Encouraging responsible , courteous etc. cycling , particularly with regard to others’ safety, is all very well and desirable. But “ensuring”? Do we “ensure” that pedestrians don’t cross roads carelessly and cause problems for cyclists?

    There are all kinds of behaviours we may regard as wrong, and I think we have to prioritise the ones most dangerous to others. And we have a big problem that potentially lethal rule and law breaking by the motorised is not seen as the problem it is. It is often seen – in numerous “Share the Road” type campaigns, for example – as being equivalent to inappropriate cyclist behaviour. I think it absolutely crucial that we have to specify the difference – not just because bad driving is more of a threat to cyclists than bad cycling is, but becasue it is more of a problem to ALL road users.

    On the day when we have had two verdicts that your ightly describe as “shocking”, we need to emphasise that.

    best regards,

    RD

  • dan

    Would ‘nicking’ (or really I mean say a traffic enforcer pulling up from time to time) some of the worst offenders help?

    I often wish this happened more for car drivers than it does (I don’t mean camera based enforcement – that should happen automatically anyway) so why not for the occasional cyclist?

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