Lawlessness. Anarchy. Reckless idiocy. Time and time again, when the cycling debate hots up, this is the picture painted by motorists who lack empathy, interest and intelligence. All cyclists run red lights. All cyclists ride on the pavement. ‘Road tax’? Let’s not go there. It’s a tired old cliché. My particular favourite is this little chestnut; ‘When cyclists start obeying the rules of the road, I’ll start respecting them’. Surf any of the online debates and you’ll cut across that one sooner or later (and it’s usually sooner rather than later).
Recently we’ve been having this debate at the Odoni head office. One of my colleagues – a fellow cyclist – guiltily asked if I observed red lights. I answered truthfully; ‘Yes if there are other vehicles on the road’. But if there’s no-one about and it’s clear, I’ll nip through (I see no difference between that and hopping off my bike to push it across. Let’s face it – we’re pretty benign as road users). The rest of the time I’ll stop. Potentially we’re all ambassadors for the bike. But the next time that a motorist shakes an angry fist at the rights of cyclists – In particular our RIGHT to a safer environment in which to ride them – I’ll think of the white van I saw at 9.05 this morning, easily pushing 40mph along a packed side street that contains a comprehensive school and a nursery (Ysgol Glantaf and Miri Mawr). I’ll think of all the cars that cross Gabalfa interchange at more than 30 mph each day (that would be almost 100% of them. Try driving over it at 30 and see what I mean). I’ll think of the delivery vehicles that stop on double yellow lines dangerously blocking the road on Fitzalan place. I’ll think of the pointless zebra crossings in Whitchurch that motorists increasingly fail to stop at. I’ll think of the half-dozen people I’ll see this evening using a mobile phone while driving. Then I’ll try not to think about the drink drivers, the dangerously erratic drivers or the hopelessly distracted drivers, all in charge of a powerful deadly weapon. No guarantees though; when you’ve been hit by a wayward driver on a zebra crossing as a child (Whitchurch Road, Cardiff mid-1980), this type of stuff tends to stay with you. So much for Tufty eh? I even followed his good advice. So please Mr hard nosed the-road-is-just-for-me motorist*, do not even think about waving the red light/pavement/road tax card at me.
Incidentally this blog post was compiled at 20 mph (20 moans per hour) which by amazing happenstance is also the speed limit that would make most sense in urban areas. I’ll even promise to stick to it.
The sun is shining through my office window but I’m still incensed by this morning’s speeding fool and the remorseless idiocy displayed in online debates. If you feel just as strongly as I do, sign-up to the Times’ ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign. The streets may just get safer for everyone (motorists included).
*As I’ve said before, I also drive and most of the motorists I know a fairly reasonable. I even like one or two of them 😉