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The issue of cyclist conduct has come to the fore again, with proposals for specific offences related to dangerous cycling. But, given that the number of people injured or killed by cyclists is minuscule in comparison to the numbers involved in accidents involving cars, why do people get so worked up about this?

It occurred to me that part of the reason might be the unconscious assumption inherent in that last sentence of mine. Thinking about it, it seems to me that I - and a lot of other people - tend to think of 'cyclists' and 'cars' rather than 'cyclists' and 'drivers', or even 'bikes' and 'cars'. I realise that I'm certainly likely to say "I was nearly hit by a car" but "I was nearly hit by a cyclist"; why is this?

One reason might be one of personal space. OK, if you get hit by either a car or a bike it's pretty clear that your personal space has been impinged on! But what people tend far more to complain about are near misses, and in my experience close encounters with bikes are more likely than ones with cars to take place in what pedestrians think of as 'their' space. I know that two sorts of cycling that annoy and upset me most are cycling on pavements (particularly weaving through pedestrians) and not stopping at zebra crossings. Pavements and crossings are my bit of the highway, and it's (thank heavens) very rare for cars to trespass on them. (Well, some don't stop when you're waiting for a non light-controlled crossing, but it's rare in my experience for a car driver to try to go round you once you're on the crossing itself.)

I think what we're seeing here is a failure by some cyclists to appreciate that what from their point of view feels like a perfectly safe manoeuvre is, for a pedestrian, a sudden and shocking intrusion on personal safe space. Mind you, it works the other way too - as an occasional cyclist I know that one of the most annoying and dangerous things a pedestrian can do is to step out into the gutter, seemingly on the assumption that an oncoming cyclist can just weave around you.

Another factor could be proximity. If I have a near-miss with a car the driver is insulated from me by glass, metal and usually a good metre or two of distance. Moreover, most of the time the reason there's been a near-miss is that the driver hasn't noticed me. With a bike the cyclist is much closer and a lot of the time is very aware of me, having just calculated how much to swerve to miss me by six inches.

And this leads on to another point: cyclists can often seem to pedestrians to be much more personally aggressive than car drivers because of these factors, be it passively (by cutting them up) or actively (I've certainly been told to get the f**k out the way whilst on a zebra crossing). Significantly, cyclists have exactly this issue with drivers, and as far as I can tell it's the same set of reasons - sharing of space.

In short, whilst it's doubtless true that if there is a collision a car is much more deadly to a pedestrian than a cyclist, in the far more common circumstance of a near-miss the cyclist can, perversely, feel like the bigger threat and affront.

Pedestrians should remember that they are vanishingly unlikely to be hurt by a cyclist. Cyclists should remember to treat pedestrians the way they would like to be treated by drivers. And drivers should pay attention to people on or near the highway who aren't in a ton of steel.
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Interesting Guardian article (and comments) on the problem of inconsiderate cyclists on the Regent's canal towpath.

I can understand the concern; walking up the towpath the other week, I say a wheelchair user subjected to abuse from a pair of cyclists who seemed very aggrieved that he had the temerity to take up as much of the path as he did. (Sad to say, this is by no means the only example of anti-disabled prejudice I've seen from members of the outdoors-and-active fraternity.) And many parts just aren't good cycling territory, with narrow paths under bridges and little space to pass pedestrians. Born-again cycling proponent as I am, the RC towpath is one of those routes I really am not sure cyclists should be encouraged to use in its present state.
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I cycled in to Holborn this morning. And then cycled back. All without getting run over or even rained on - although the last was a close-run thing.

Major Clanger v London Roads )

So, more route familiarising and optimising needed, but an encouraging start.
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Yes, I went for a folder in the end and got the Mezzo I4 I was admiring. I rode it home, and managed not to get squashed or lost, although I will need to familiarise myself with the best routes, not to mention the bits to avoid at all costs (i.e. Bank).

Even over four and a bit miles, and with me not having ridden a bike for a year or so, it was comfortable and easy to ride. The only thing I do notice is that riding very slowly, for instance to creep between parked vehicles and stationary traffic, the small wheels make it a bit wobblier than I am used to, although they also make it rather more nimble.

The City itself wasn't too bad, although it's clear that I will do best by getting south towards Fleet Street / Cannon Street as soon as possible. Once past Tower Bridge it's onto the Cable Street cycle route, which is a joy to behold - a dedicated two-lane bike path, actually grade-separated from the (relatively quiet) road for much of its length.

I reckon on allowing 40 minutes for the journey, which should come down a bit as my cycle fitness and familiarity with the route improve. There are also some other ways in and out I could explore; the TFL cycle planner offers the option of going up to Mile End and in along Mile End Road, which I can see working - although I doubt it will be as quiet as Cable Street. And whilst I wasn't too uncomfortable, I can see myself following [ profile] purplecthulhu's advice to pick up some padded cycling shorts soon.


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Simon Bradshaw

September 2017



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