They’re a total pain in the arse aren’t they? In fact the mere mention of them can get the blood boiling. Taking up the whole road, going too slow, riding on pavements, running red lights and they don’t even pay road tax!
I’d agree with aspects of those arguments whole heartedly, and I’m a cyclist. In fact more than that, I actually make my living educating potential ‘ride leaders’ on the most effective and safe ways of taking others on to the roads. I’m not going to disagree that the actions of some cyclists are indefensible, after all, some of them are just dickheads. What I’d like you, as drivers to acknowledge is that this isn’t that surprising, after all there are dickheads everywhere and many of them find their way behind the wheel too.
This is intended as food for thought, to allow you to consider why it is cyclists behave the way they do. Really we all just want to get from A to B, enjoy the open road as unhindered as possible and first and foremost survive the experience.
So why take up the whole road?
I know, and I can get just as annoyed as you when I’m stuck behind a pile of ignorant lycra wearers who are sitting up chatting, seemingly oblivious to the epic queue forming behind them. Let’s begin with the legalities, they have every right to do this. Doesn’t make it any less annoying but that’s the facts. So why?
The simple answer is that it’s a hell of a lot safer. From vast experience, when groups of cyclists ride in single file many drivers act as if they aren’t there and just pass with a gap so small I can smell their fag smoke, hear their conversation and feel the heat of their engines. In itself that’s just bad driving but it gets really dangerous when a truck comes in the other direction and the driver reacts by swerving into me, putting me in the kerb. By riding two abreast the cyclists are presenting a target big enough that drivers have to slow. What I then teach them is to make themselves easy to pass once the traffic behind is slowed. This doesn’t however mean immediately ‘singling out’ unless it will actually make it safe for the driver to get by. After all, if the cyclist instantly tucks into the side, they’re essentially inviting the driver round them even though there may not be room.
I got into a recent altercation with a woman who came flying over a blind rise behind my group and had to slam the brakes on to avoid smashing into the back of us. She then proceeded to get aggressively close before speeding past on a blind bend. She was so incensed that we cost her thirty seconds off her journey home that she waited outside her house for a few minutes to have a go at us! She accused my actions of being dangerous as she had to brake so hard. So let’s imagine that I was a cow, or a child, or a car that had just broken down and was sat in the road. At best she’d have had a write off and an angry farmer, at worst a dead kid or a coffin for herself. There’s a legal term for her actions, ‘dangerous driving’ and it’s illegal.
So yes, I agree that sometimes cyclists appear massively ignorant but at the heart of this is self-preservation and it always amazes me that people will sit in traffic for ages unquestioningly but will blow a gasket at being held up for a handful of seconds by other factors.
You’ve got a cycle lane so why the hell are you on the road?
Good question, but think about this for a second. If all the cycle lanes were fit for purpose then do you not think that everyone would gladly revel in the chance to ride without the constant fear of being maimed or killed by a vehicle? Some cycle lanes have been a huge waste of public money that would’ve been better spent on improving the surfaces of existing infrastructure for the benefit of all road users. Others are really useful, well designed and positioned and subsequently heavily utilised. Unfortunately many are commonly so strewn with road detritus that it’s impossible to avoid blowing tyres. Many also vanish for no reason, have dangerous crossings that lead over pavements and that’s not to mention the fact that some are legal to park in, and even the ones that aren’t still commonly have vehicles sat in them. I use the road to train on and can’t justifiably ride at full speed in a designated space that isn’t suitable and I’m far from the only competitive cyclist in the UK who is doing the same thing. Just look at the Olympic medal table for evidence.
Why do you ride on the pavements?
See above. Sometimes the road layout actually forces that situation, other times it’s simply for survival at dangerous intersections or extremely busy sections. Some cyclists behave in a way that is a danger to pedestrians. This is known as ‘dangerous cycling’ and it’s illegal.
Why do you go through red lights?
You’d have to ask cyclists who do. I’d ask many drivers who do the same thing the same question. Perhaps they’re in a hurry, or perhaps they’re just dickheads.
Why don’t cyclists pay road tax?
Well essentially because it doesn’t exist. It was abolished in 1937 and is actually now Vehicle Excise Tax and so only relates to motorised vehicles. A system of taxation for cyclists would be seriously difficult to impose and if there was any real revenue in it then do you not think the government would be all over it like a nasty dose? In reality, most cyclists also drive and so we do pay our taxes just like you. I love cycling for the freedom, the fitness and the cost effectiveness but it’s not much use for getting the shopping home or running my mother in law to the airport! And this for me is the essence of the whole argument. We’re all drivers, we’re all road users, it’s just that sometimes some of us like two wheels and garish lycra instead of the comfort of our vehicles. Sometimes we share your frustrations, sometimes we do stupid things but do we really deserve to die for it? Really? In my experience cyclists just want to stay alive, just like drivers, it just requires far more effort, technique and concentration because we’re so vulnerable. Hopefully if you, as a driver show a bit more consideration then the majority of cyclists will react accordingly. And as for the dickheads in/on all forms of transport, send them a link to this article, the hate mail and trolling will make an entertaining accompaniment to a cup of tea!
Thanks to Ian Bailey of Rock and Ride Outdoors from providing this great post.