Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Four wheels good, two wheels bad?*

I am about to upset any of my regular blog readers who are cyclists.

This morning I have witnessed some classic examples of bad driving(?) behaviour by cyclists. It started during my drive through Greenwich Park on my way to work. There is a speed limit of 20mph for ALL vehicles … and yet I was overtaken (and undertaken) by more than ten cyclists whilst I proceeded through the Park! One of the cyclists even rode his bicycle the wrong way through the exit gates so that he could overtake a car.

At the next junction, I indicated my intention to turn left. I stopped at the ‘Stop’ line and waited until it was safe to proceed … but as I began to turn left I was undertaken on the left by two cyclists who were travelling at some speed and who had no intention of stopping! They then cut in front of me … and turned right, causing me to have to make an emergency stop!

At the next set of traffic lights, three cyclists rode straight through red lights, oblivious to the fact that they were breaking the law … but the final incident was, in fact, the most annoying of them all. I stopped at a pedestrian crossing to let someone cross the road … only to have a cyclist who had been behind me undertake me on the left, ride across the pedestrian crossing, and proceed the wrong way up a one-way street! What was particularly galling was the fact that this particular cyclist was wearing a camera on her cycling helmet. These were introduced at the behest of several cycling organisations to record examples of bad driving … by car drivers!

Not all the cyclists I see are ‘bad’, but there does appear to be a direct relationship between the cyclist’s gender (and the amount of specialist ‘kit’ that they have) and how safe they are.

Every morning I see the same female cyclist riding to work on her bicycle. It is an old fashioned one, with a wicker basket of the front. She wears a safety helmet, always stops at traffic lights when they are red, and indicates her intentions to change lanes or turn.

I also see a male cyclist almost every morning. He has a lightweight racing bicycle, Lycra shorts and top, special cycling shoes, and a top-of-the-range cycling helmet. He also undertakes cars, exceeds the speed limit, changes lane without indicating his intention to do so, never indicates his intention to turn left or right, and shouts and swears at motorists and pedestrians who get in his way.

I know which of the two I think the safer cyclist is.

* This is a reference to "four legs good, two legs bad," which is a quote from George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM where animals (four legs) are good, and humans (two legs) are bad.

16 comments:

  1. If it is any consolation, sir, not all bad bike riders are in the UK.

    I've seen many in the US and here in Canada . . . however apparently a smaller proportion of bad ones here than you apparently have there.

    Eventually I suppose that the bad ones will end up as "road kill". This will primarily upset me because of the trauma it will cause those innocent parties who are the means of bad bike riders committing unintentional suicide.


    -- Jeff

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  2. Bluebear Jeff,

    The terrible thing is that I would love to see more people using bicycles in London BUT a lot of them need to learn that they are equal to other road users NOT better than them ... and that they have to obey the same 'rules of the road'. In the UK I have to pass a driving test, and have a roadworthy vehicle that is taxed and insured; I need none of those things if I ride a bicycle.

    In my local area we have cycle lanes ... but the cyclists seem to prefer to use the pavements (sidewalks) or the roads.

    You are right about cyclists committing unintentional suicide due to their poor cycling/driving, and especially the impact is has on other people. Not just family and friends, but also other road users who may be involved, and the emergency services that have to deal with the accident.

    As an aside, the Police recently set up a speed trap in Greenwich Park … and caught quite a lot of speeding cyclists. I heard one shouting at the police officer who was giving him a ticket for speeding (which automatically added points to his driving licence) that it was not fair because he was riding his bike not driving his car! The Officer did not seem very impressed by the ‘argument’, and as I drove off was he ‘advising’ the cyclist that he was in danger of being arrested for a Public Order offence.

    Rant over!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Its the same here in the US - When I was younger (yes bicyles were available even back then)The local police required a road test to receive a bicyle road tag (liscence plate). Without it, if found on the road, or if you broke some rule - your bicycle would be confiscated for a length of time, depending on the seriousness of the infraction. I lost mine for 3 weeks for passing too close to an older woman crossing the street - and not in a pedestrian crossing. Would that we could reprise that rule today!

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  4. Maximus Gluteus,

    When I was child, you were not allowed to ride your bicycle to school until you had passed a Cycling Proficiency Test.

    Now anyone can buy a bicycle (or even hire one in Central London) without having to show any ability to ride, let alone cycle safely ... and this is taking place in an environment where Health and Safety has become so important that you cannot buy a bag of peanuts without it having a warning sign on it that says that it may contain nuts!

    As I get older, I wonder if I am going insane ... or am I just beginning to realise the rest of the World is!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Bob

    I cycle to work regularly from May-October (ok when I don't wimp out and its not raining) and I'm not offended. Thre are good and bad cyclists just like there are good and bad drivers. Cycling does make me much mre aware of bikes when I am driving, which is not a bad thing.

    I agree with the "kit" comment, it does seem to be how it goes. For the record I ride a new-fangled hybrid bike that's kind of a mountain bike for old farts (I beleive it's officially a confort bike), and I don't own a pair of lycra shorts (although I threaten to get a pair when I feel the need to rankle my teenage daughter).

    Hope the day got better out of the car.

    PD

    PD

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  6. As both a cyclist and a motorist I've seen good and bad on both sides.
    As a cyclist I've been yelled at, had cars swerve in close very deliberately, and had things thrown at me - always from cars occupied by more than one young male.
    I have also seen plenty of cyclists guilty of the things you describe. Apparently oblivious of the safety issues for themselves if nothing else.
    "4 wheels good, 2 wheels bad"? Nope. As you describe, there are "2 wheels good", too. You might say it's a 2-way street.

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  7. The cyclists in Minneapolis, once a month, have a 'Rally' to protest how abused they are by drivers. A whole pack of them riding slow shutting down some fairly major streets and generally be bigger pains than usual.

    Because they are 'special' and can run red lights to conserve momentum.

    It's already the most bike-friendly city in the country. What more do they want?

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  8. Peter Douglas,

    As I said in my comment yesterday, I wish more people in London (where I live) would ride bikes as it would be much better for the environment, and if I did not live at the top of one of the steepest hills in London, I would certainly give it a go.

    You are also right about there being good and bad drivers and cyclists ... it is just that yesterday I seemed to get a full month's 'dose' of bad cycling in the space of less than a mile of driving.

    The day did get better when I got to work ... but that is another story (Question from a student: 'Do you know here can I get hold of a dozen Santa hats in the middle of May?')

    All the best,

    Bob

    PS. Resist buying the Lycra shorts. The sight of numerous male bottoms wobbling up and down in Lycra shorts as they pass mey on their bicycles pollutes my visual environment most mornings.

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  9. Fitz-Badger,

    Well said, sir!

    I was being a very Grumpy Old Man yesterday ... but you are right, there is good and bad on both sides of the two-way street.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Bad cyclist end to kill themselves. Bad car drivers tend to kill others. Saying that we seem to be living in a country where the laws are no longer seen as enforceable, not cost effective, which then reinforces the feeling that both can get away with whatever they want. OTOH, punishment doesn't stop crime, it just makes people more careful about not being caught.

    The answer is somewhere between laxness and punishment, for instance promoting awareness and encouraging social connectivity.

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  11. Gratuitous Saxon Violence,

    Some cyclists have tried to organise similar 'events' in the UK ... but the Police usually make sure that other traffic is not inconvenienced too much.

    I like the excuse about maintaining momentum. I must try that if I ever run a red light in my car!

    What do some cyclists want? The moral high ground!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  12. Ashley,

    I totally agree with your comments about the enforcement of the law in the UK. We have too many laws that people blatantly ignore because they are too expensive or too time-consuming to enforce ... and when they are enforced, the penalties do not often seem to make sense.

    Regarding cyclists and drivers, I think that situational awareness training would be a good thing for all road users. I think that matters have got worse in this respect since the introduction of things like iPods, satnavs, and smart phones. I see too many drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians who have their earphones plugged into their ears, and are either listening to music or talking on their phone when they should be paying attention to what is going on around them. That split second between being ‘zoned out’ and fully aware of what is happening around you can be the difference between life and death on the road. A pedestrian stepping into the road whilst talking on their mobile phone and not being aware of the car coming towards them, the cyclist listening to their iPod whilst riding through traffic and not hearing the ambulance that coming up behind them with its ‘blues and twos’ on (I saw this happen earlier this week!), and the car driver trying to send a text whilst they are parking and only just missing another car (again, something I saw this week!) are all examples of people who think that they are paying attention to their driving but who are – in reality – not doing so.

    Banning the use of smart phones whilst people are driving has not stopped it happening … and you have to be very unlucky if you get caught. Which I suppose brings us back full-circle to your point about enforcing the law.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Bob,

    A lot of cyclists' arrogance seems to stem from a conviction that they alone are helping to "save" the Earth. Hmmm--unless their bike is made entirely from recycled wood (wouldn't want to cut down any trees!) instead of various metals and rubber, I don't think they are "saving" much of anything.

    I also see a death wish on the part of some cyclists. In my part of Virginia we still have a lot of colonial-era roads: narrow, with no shoulders, and many blind curves and hills. Riding blithely along in the middle of a lane is a recipe for eventual disaster. And that's just the guys who are riding WITH traffic--imagine the chances taken by those fools riding AGAINST it!!

    Weirdness abounds,

    Chris

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  14. Chris,

    Some cyclists do exhibit a somewhat 'holier than thou' attitude when it comes to the environment ... but as you say, never seem to realise that they bike they are riding around on was manufactured using a lot of unrecoverable resources.

    Virginia sounds like it is a lovely place; very like some of the rural parts of England I have lived in, worked in, or visited ... even down to the cyclist in the middle of the road!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  15. Complaining about this to a teacher when I was in school I asked if a cyclist is counted as a pedestrian or a vehicle.

    He replied "it depends if they're on the path or the road"......

    Sadly I have developed tricks of stance and balance to prevent injury to myself when a cyclist crashes into me as I cross a street. It's happened far too often in this city that they shoot through a pedestrian light from behind a bus or truck or tram or whatever is stopped by the red light.

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  16. Arquinsiel,

    In the UK the 'Highway Code' is very clear on this matter ... cyclists are vehicles, and as such they have to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicles.

    I am sorry to hear that Dublin is afflicted by the same problem with cyclists as London is. I have only been there once, but went everywhere by coach and did not have to do much walking in areas where there were many cyclists ... although I did see a horse and cart going the wrong way up a one way street!

    All the best,

    Bob

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