Excuses, excuses

I’ll start again with the assertion that I really like cycling and I like most cyclists I meet. I cycle out of town for the most part and I rarely encounter problems with other cyclists or other road users apart from a few cars who come too close on country lanes. I ride with caution and courtesy and things rub along just fine.

Things are very different in the city and it’s London that worries me most. I started this blog after several narrow escapes in which careless or reckless bikes came very close to injuring me. What stuns me is how glibly the cycle lobby dismisses this. Of course the stats are clear – fewer people are killed by cyclists than cars for all kinds of reasons – but is that all we care about? Isn’t one death one too many? Especially when you consider that to kill someone while riding a bike you’d have to be riding pretty fast and in all likelihood, somewhat recklessly. And there are plenty of injuries not to mention the unpleasantness of having to worry about being hit by a renegade cyclist when you are using the road as a pedestrian. This blog is not anti-cyclist. It’s anti the cyclists who make us all look at bikes riding around us in the city with wariness, suspicion and anxiety because of the actions of what I still fervently believe is a minority.

What disturbs me most is what appears to be a growing view that cyclists are above the law. In one of the many cycling blogs online, this one based around Cambridge, I found this comment about a police campaign to stop cyclists riding without lights.

“One person I spoke to did get caught, but she just went out and bought a new set of lights the following morning, popped to the police station and the ticket was cancelled immediately.”

And if you think that’s staggering, try this:

Wow. Can you imagine any other kind of law breaker being treated like this? And when one of Britain’s most respected specialist cyclist publications appears to reject even demonstrably dangerous cyclists being responsible for their actions I honestly despair.

I know that the cycle lobby will argue that cyclists need to be encouraged but countering any reasonable complaints about anti social cycling with hyperbolic headline statements like this (in an otherwise excellent and very level headed post, I should add) is going to win you few friends. I am astounded that the positive encouragement for cycling has in some cases become twisted into allowing people who actively and knowingly break the law do so with apparent impunity and I can’t see how this benefits any of us.

And it’s going to get worse. Boris Johnson’s cycling manifesto for London is a joyous document full of positivity and a vision for safer more pleasurable use of the ‘Johnson velocipede’ BUT if he’s going, as he says he wants to, to vastly increase the number of cyclists in the capital, and, double the money spent on cycling, he’d better hope some of them start behaving better.

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