The cyclist in this country

The Quiet Man has a nice post below on the cyclists who jump red lights issue. He quotes the survey:

More than half of cyclists have jumped a red light, according to a survey. The offenders – some 57 per cent of bike riders – said their main reason for the risky manoeuvre was that it was safer to get ahead of other traffic. Around 14 per cent said they go through red lights regularly or sometimes, the poll by the Institute of Advanced Motorists revealed.

He comments:

Ok, first off is the fact that the survey is by the Institute of Advanced Motorists, this means that cyclists are unlikely to get a fair hearing, though judging by the declared results it does rather look to the jaundiced eye of this motorist that a great deal of fibbing is going on too.

I thank him for raising that. But he goes on:

Yet there are times I cannot blame cyclists for taking to the pavement, some roads are simply just too narrow and too busy to allow a comfortable coexistence, yet you can almost bet your bottom dollar that if road improvements are made it’s often to the detriment of the motorist. I also wonder just who the cyclists believe should pay for “improved cycling facilities on roads” I somehow doubt they believe it should be them alone.

That last part is fair – who pays? Cyclists currently don’t, except through their council and other taxes and there is the answer really – they do contribute, just as the motorist does. It’s just that they don’t pay road tax on their vehicles – footpath tax? And if so, will you tax every child who rides a bike?

I’d be willing to pay a levy for cycle path improvement and overall facilities for cyclists, for sure. In my impecunious state, I’d be willing to give £2.50 a week and if fully employed, £7 a week, if it was guaranteed:

1. That the money would go direct to cycle lane and general infrastructure improvement in our area;
2. I could have input on just what the money was spent on.

Not a problem. How many cyclists is this overall, in my area, to tax? I’d say not all that many compared to the drivers. And who does the most damage to the roads – the cyclists or the drivers? And let’s look at what the government wants – to reduce dependence on the car, which I’m fine with. But to do that, they must put the money up front and that comes from the taxpayer, of which I’m one.

Then there is the aesthetic aspect – the more wimmin we get on bikes, especially in summer, the better. [I’d be interested to know if Julia cycles to work.] More seriously, the more women who ride, the safer it will become because the motorist will be forced to acknowledge the sheer numbers.

The UK has an appalling attitude to the cyclist, often with good reason but it’s more infrastructural problems which are the killer.  Sort these out and you’d get the European situation where bicycles proliferate and are regulated better in terms of what can and can’t be done with them, even in taking them on trains.

Quoting surveys at us to vilify us solves nothing.


14 comments for “The cyclist in this country

  1. May 16, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Road tax does not relate to the roads and hasn’t done since the 1930s. It’s a vehicle excise duty, nothing more, an excuse for government to indulge in anti-car social engineering by whacking a premium on what it deems to be less green vehicles and goes into the general taxation pot. We all pay for the roads via general taxation, so no need to tax cycles separately to fund the roads.

    It would be nice, however, if they refrained from jumping red lights, creeping up the left hand side of slow moving traffic and, a bugbear of mine, where they are provided, use the discrete cycle paths put there for their use and not ride on the busy dual carriageway…

    • May 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      Granted the first part of this and let’s look at the second:

      It would be nice, however, if they refrained from jumping red lights, creeping up the left hand side of slow moving traffic and, a bugbear of mine, where they are provided, use the discrete cycle paths put there for their use and not ride on the busy dual carriageway…

      Yes, it would be nice for the motorist if we didn’t do that. How can it be stopped? We have a narrow road. Given that bicycles are allowed on carriageways, riders have three choices:

      1. They can either pretend they’re vehicles, as that old guy whose bike was kicked by the woman did. This slows the traffic even more infuriatingly and as you know, motorists in cars have no patience – they want to get there with no delays, no holdups, they want to be there within seconds of setting off.

      2. The bike rider rides on the footpath, thereby keeping away from the passenger vehicles and the latter are happy. But pedestrians on footpaths are not.

      3. They are forced to not so much “creep up” the left but “ride” up the left, creeping being an emotive word meaning the motorist thinks they have no right to be on the road.

      This is the appalling attitude I was referring to. Why shouldn’t they be on the road? why shouldn’t motorbikes? Why shouldn’t pedestrians when they legitimately cross roads?

      In the absence of infrastructural changes, then in the meantime, there needs to be a requirement on motorists, as fellow users, to respect the 80cm from the gutter out, i.e. they cannot pull up at lights any closer than that unless they’ve done the road law checking for other vehicles.

      There is then a requirement that the cyclist keeps to that space and if a vehicle is parked, he has to dismount, go up on the footpath as a pedestrian with bike and then hit the road again the other side. This is in fact what I do.

      On the occasions that the cyclist must pull out, e.g. turning right or where there is no path, then he must use full signals to show what he’s doing and get the hell out of the way of the cars a.s.a.p.

      Then motorists and cyclists can get on better. I take your point about poor cyclists who think they’re immune. I think police have every right to pull them up for that. Also, what about kids? Bike safety lessons on the curriculum at school?

      • May 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm

        As a motorcyclist, I use the terms filter and creep with no negative connotations. I avoid like the plague going to the left – and I notice often trucks have warning signs now to advise cyclists not to do it. Wise advice, frankly.

        As a driver, motorcyclist and cyclist (occasionally), I always treat cyclists as vehicles. I expect them to behave accordingly.

        On your final point – when I went to the secondary school, I had to pass my cycling proficiency test if I wanted to cycle – school rule. Not a bad one, I think. So, yes, why not teach it in schools, mine did.

      • David. A. Evans
        May 17, 2012 at 7:24 am

        Any cyclist who rides less than 4′ from the kerb is, in my opinion, asking for trouble. It leaves you nowhere to go when you are inevitably squeezed by some idiot car or lorry driver. I say this not as a cyclist but a sometime driver. I always wait until I can give a cyclist plenty of room but many don’t. (I’m sure I annoy the Hell out of car drivers.)
        My brother is a motorcycle instructor and teaches this as a necessary protection.

        • May 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

          My brother is a motorcycle instructor and teaches this as a necessary protection.

          So am I and so do I.

    • May 16, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      The discrete cycle paths are, to be fair to the cyclists, sometimes less than useful. There’s a good one here that’s widely ignored by most of the cycling fraternity despite running for quite some miles from Port Melbourne all the way down to the bayside suburbs somewhere. It used to puzzle and then annoy me that with the exception of parents riding out with their kids few cyclists ever seemed to use it until I talked to someone who cycled a lot and pointed out the reason why. All the access points to the cycle route along a long stretch were shared with cars, typically car park entrances and exits, and cyclists with expensive road bikes aren’t all that keen on bumping up over high kerbs. Worse, for all the commuting cyclists it’s simply a longer trip to use the cycle path because it’s narrow width and occasionally wiggly layout works against getting up to a decent cruising speed, and up near town where it’s wider and straighter it’s shared with the rollerbladers (and if James wants to encourage women cyclists in the summer I’m sure he’d be as keen on female rollerbladers, some of whom will do so in their swimming togs – chaps, form an orderly queue at the airport :mrgreen: ). Other cycle paths are no more than cycles painted on a bit of road that they may have narrowed the driving lanes a bit for… but equally they might not have. Frankly, looked at from their point of view the cycle friendly image Melbourne likes to present is better than lip service, but not vastly so, and that’s before you consider unique problems such as all those tram lines to trap a bike wheel in.

      Having said all that they get absolutely no sympathy from me if they’re in the habit of jumping lights and come a cropper as a result, particularly as it’s equally possible for them to skittle some poor sod on a pedestrian crossing. Again, I can understand why they do it. They want what everyone else on the road wants: to get there as soon as possible. It’s also more work regaining lost momentum than just pushing one foot down a bit. In the absence of dedicated cycle routes that achieve a faster commute than using the roads I think wanting to share the road is justified, but they’ve still got a responsibility to do it sensibly.

      • May 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm

        The cycle path I am thinking of, runs directly alongside the associated road with easy access points at each road junction. So no excuse, frankly. However, I do take the general point. It all depends on who came up with the plans and whether they thought about the end user.

        • May 16, 2012 at 7:40 pm

          The problem about ‘creeping’ up the left is that drivers are not always looking there because they don’t expect anyone there, so the vehicle pulls away and the cyclist gets squished. I have had this happen while indicating a left turn and the bike has emerged up my left side just as I pulled away. It’s a highly dangerous manouvre.

          • May 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm

            It can be, Woodsy but you learn to read the idiot at the wheel. Firstly, one must regard all of them as potential idiots/blind/simply didn’t see. Anyone with mobile or compact in use, headphones, boy racers. Women are bad too, especially mothers who are dealing with the little darlings or racing to go collect them.

            So, only do it if the traffic is stationary and keep the eye on the lights. The moment they go yellow, stop just front left of the car you’re beside and look at the driver directly through the glass, smiling sweetly. Let all those ahead of you go off as they wish.

            Get out of the way of the one you’re beside a.s.a.p. Show respect to the driver. Take off super quickly before they’re even in gear, which always surprises them and let’s them get going. If it was one of the idiots you were beside though, up on the footpath until they go.

            Never, ever mess with vans.

            It’s not so bad.

  2. lurkingmeggie
    May 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I usually respect red lights, except that sometimes they won’t change if there isn’t a car waiting. In these circumstances it’s a case of “if the traffic lights are going to ignore me, then I’m going to ignore them”.
    Regardless of percentages, in absolute numbers,in my experience there are far more car drivers who go through red lights, usually with their foot down trying to beat the lights, than there are cyclists jumping the lights.

  3. May 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    So far I can’t disagree with any of your points here. There needs to be some serious rethinking by cyclists on how to proceed on roads but I fear that becoming licencing and fees. Perhaps if that 80cm from the kerb rule came in and was publicized, as well as a determination for police to pull up cyclists acting dangerously outside that rule, then that’s a start.

  4. May 16, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Lurkingmeggie, a tip for you with regard to not tripping traffic lights on your bike:

    Get a powerful permanent magnet (there are some pretty fierce neodymium ones on ebay)and glue it to the lowest point of your bike, like under the crank. The increased magnetic field will induce enough current in the detector coils mounted in the road surface to make the system think you are a car.

    I’ve done it to a couple of bikes in the past and it works, as long as you get a powerful enough magnet.

    • May 16, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Wow – never knew that. And there was I, waiting like a good boy at the lights. And waiting, and waiting …

  5. Mudplugger
    May 17, 2012 at 9:14 am

    There are good cyclists and bad cyclists, just as there are good drivers and bad drivers. However, the key ingredient which keeps most motor-drivers away from the ‘outrageously bad’ level is their traceability. Because the lycra-louts enjoy complete anonymity, there is never likely to be any comeback for their frequent contraventions of either traffic laws or common sense safety, hence they continue with impunity.

    It is inevitable that, sooner or later, we will need to apply identification numbers to cycles on public roads, ideally accompanied by mandatory third-party insurance and formal training.

    Yes, I hear you squeal, “it was never like that in my day, we all learnt as kids and the absence of any entry-barrier to cycling is what made us do it in the first place”. All true, but the world’s moved on, city roads are not those idyllic country lanes, they are public facilities shared by all types of high-paying users, who deserve to have confidence that all their fellow road-users are similarly and adequately trained, skilled, covered and accountable.

    It may be regrettable but number-plates, licenses and insurance are the only way to resolve this growing discord.

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