There is a War Being Waged On Our Roadways

What I saw the other day was pretty horrifying.

Three blokes – late twenties – with football boots slung over their shoulders - rode their mountain bikes along the wrong side of the road then, when it suited them they swerved across a zebra crossing and up onto the opposite pavement forcing their way between a man pushing a baby buggy and a pregnant woman.

It was thoughtless, and they knew it.

But, whilst they looked a bit sheepish, they just continued off down the pavement as if nothing had even happened.

Most cyclists now are old enough to be smarter than this, but more often than not they seem to forget to use their common sense out on the open road.

The number of bicycles on the roads has increased about 30% in the past 10 years.  It seems like the growth in the popularity of bicycles has been far more explosive but I think that is because the demographic of the cyclist has changed over the past few years.

In the cities, more and more commuters are choosing bicycles.  This should be a good thing.  Anytime a motorist decides to cycle to work it means one less car on the road which means one less car to be stuck behind in rush hour traffic and one less vehicle spewing out harmful tailpipe emissions.

Another positive to try to bear in mind is that cycling generates £72m in economic benefits to the UK each year in terms of healthcare.

Yet motorists still seem to be very angry with cyclists.

I’m sympathetic to the plight of cyclists but there are some obvious reasons why motorists would be pissed at cyclists.  There is an aggressive minority of cyclists who ride on the pavement, go the wrong way down one-way-streets and straight through red lights.  If cyclists do manage to actually stop for a red light, even if they’ve been behind you, how many times do we see packs of them roll up and spread themselves out in front of the cars who were there first wait for the lights. This then slows up traffic as the driver who was at the front of the queue waits for the cyclist to get up to speed and eventually move out of the way.

You wouldn’t do this in a queue in a shop or a bank or somewhere similar and this behaviour isn’t acceptable in this scenario either.

And, what about those cyclists who zip past and straight through the red light?  The horns start blasting, voices and middle fingers are raised and one day one of them is going to get wiped out on a permanent basis.

There is an assumption of superior virtue amongst cyclists which confers an air of effortless entitlement and some cyclists believe they can break laws with impunity.  And, if they mow down any pedestrians? Well, it’s the pedestrian’s own fault.

It is sanctimonious self-righteousness sealed in Spandex — and the rest of us just have to get out of the damned way.

There is a theory about a deeply recessed psychological trauma where the motorist, stuck in traffic, is jealous of the cyclist’s ability to move unhindered through the standstill of cars. They’re frustrated that a pedal powered vehicle is able to overtake them. The very fact that cyclists filter through traffic really grates on many motorists – it irritates them and they take that out on the cyclists.  These cyclists often cause property damage by scratching cars and damaging wing mirrors as they weave their way through traffic. When you sit in a line of cars and you see these cyclists going by, you have  plenty of time to watch their wrongdoings.

It really pisses people off.

It makes people very frustrated to see how easily bikes can move.

It’s not just the cyclist who needs a little attitude adjustment.

Some motorists believe they have a greater right to be on the road because they pay road tax and cyclists don’t.  Fact is, 85% of cyclists also drive so therefore DO pay road tax.

But, motorists often don’t understand the rules and behave poorly towards the cyclists.

We all need to remember the The Highway Code

The Highway Code is a set of rules that applies equally to ALL road users.  This includes motorists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and, believe it or not, even cyclists.  Yes, I said, “even cyclists”. I phrase it this way to be somewhat provocative because there is an undeniable war being waged between [many] cyclists and motorists of late.

The Highway Code applies equally to all road users and all road users have a right to use the roads.

Interestingly, despite being poorly drafted - Rule 66 of the Highway Code allows for cyclists to ride two abreast.  Riding side-by-side is something that annoys motorists more than almost anything else.  Motorists who are unclear on the law might see this as dangerous, illegal or just downright rude and inconvenient.  Think about it from a different point of view for a minute and it actually makes sense for everybody.

I think we've all witnessed all-out road rage when cyclists are riding in a pack, two abreast.

The main reason that cyclists ride-side-by side is for safety.

First off, a group of cyclists riding two abreast will be easier for drivers to see making it less likely that they will be hit from behind.  But, the main reason is to make sure that drivers give them enough room when overtaking.  Although the Highway Code says that motorists should give cyclists “at least as much room as when overtaking a car” (which we would suggest to be 1.5m), not all drivers abide by this.  While there is bad behaviour on both sides, it is an unequal relationship. The driver is protected by a metal shell while the cyclist is exposed.

If a group of cyclists were riding down a road in single file, then drivers may be tempted to overtake too close to the cyclists even if there were oncoming traffic, potentially causing an accident if the cyclists have to move out into the road to avoid a pothole or other obstacle.  Even without the obstacle avoidance, there simply isn’t enough room on most of our roads for cars to overtake the cyclists while oncoming traffic is in the other lane.

However, if the cyclists are riding side by side, then the motorist is forced to wait until there are no vehicles approaching in the opposite direction meaning that there is enough space to safely overtake.

This may seem frustrating if you’re a driver who doesn’t ride a bike, but one of the other reasons that cyclists ride side by side is that it can be more convenient for motorists.

For example, if you have a group of ten riders riding in single file, then even if every rider is riding very closely to the rider in front, the group will be 20 metres long.

But if the riders are riding two abreast, then the group will only be 10 metres long, meaning that it will take less time for vehicles behind to overtake.

What sticks in the craw is the monumental arrogance accompanying such irresponsibility or legitimate remonstration with them is all too often met with obscene gestures, swearing or other abuse. 

There are deliberate attempts to scare cyclists. Many cyclists have been on the receiving end of 'punishment passes' which can be extremely close and are extremely stupid.  If the cyclist is injured, or worse, as a result, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Cyclists aren’t the only road users that piss people off.  The Highway Code gives guidance on how various road users should safely use highways and byways, but doesn't say that a horse has priority or right of way.

Ultimately all road users have a duty of care to each other to act in a safe manner and do their utmost to avoid endangering other road users.

Horses are living creatures and can become spooked by passing cars.  Horses don’t have any specific historical right of way, but they do have an equal right to use the roads.

And, another thing about horses and horse riders...

(It may seem like I’m about to go off at a tangent here, but bear with me...)

Dog owners can be fined for not picking up after their dogs, and rightly so.  It is as socially unacceptable now to leave poodle poop on the pavement as it is to smoke in public.  So why not with horses?

Horse owners should be fined when they don't pick up their horse's "droppings"! The main reason is for the danger it causes on the road for cyclists and or motorbike users who might slip and crash!!! No, I don't hate horses, but if there's a law for dog poo to be collected and disposed in a therefor purposely made container, then so it should be for horse owners.

I agree that dog owners should pick up their pooch poo. It is filled with bacteria and is unhygienic. It also gets stepped in and tracked into cars and houses and simply isn’t very pleasant.

Whilst not the cesspit of bacteria that doggy doo-doo presents, a pile of road apples can make for a dangerously slippery, squishy obstacle for cyclists.

Let horse riders carry a bag on the back of their horse, an army foldable shovel, and a small traffic triangle, by law, and cyclists and motorbike riders will have a much safer ride to get back to their loving families.

I’ve heard from horse riders that they cannot do this because they struggle to mount their horses in the paddocks, let alone on the side of the road, so they couldn’t possibly dismount and clear up the poop.  I say, if you can’t get off and on your animal, is it really safe for you to be riding it on the public highways?

The thing is that we should all try harder to be a bit more considerate of the people around us. As my dear old mother always says, “Ride a mile in the weird looking shoes of the cyclist but remember they’re probably clipped onto the pedals”. Well, that’s not exactly what she said, but you know what I’m trying to say.

Next time you see a group of cyclists, take a deep, relaxing breath and pass them when it is safe to do so and give them some space.  Cyclists, have some respect for the property of others and if you clip someone’s wing mirror, stop and make sure that you’ve not caused any damage.  Horse people, please pick up your poop and don’t shout down at me to tell me that my roses will thank me if I clean it up and put it on my flower bed.

Perhaps, if we can all be just that little bit more thoughtful...