Monday, 11 November 2013

Can cyclists and motorists get along together?

The answer seems clear to me - of course they can. Or at least they should be able to. In theory anyway.

The statistics say that most cyclists are drivers so therefore most drivers are also cyclists. They also say that 60% or collisions between cars and bikes are the fault of the driver which means the other 40% is the fault of the cyclist.  That tells me that both sides have more-or-less equal responsibility which makes the title of the Department of Transport's THINK! campaign launched today in Essex at police HQ so appropriate.

In most cases, the average cyclist and the average driver can and do get along with each other. It is true to say that everyone can always benefit from some reminders every now and then and as a cyclist and a driver I found the tips for both side from this campaign to be highly useful reminders.

Somehow, I missed out on a cycling proficiency test when I was at school but I very pleased that all my children have benefited from the modern-day equivalent which is called 'Bikeability'. I've been riding as a commuter since I started work 28 years ago and I'd like to feel I follow the rules, always wear a helmet, light myself up and provide clear signals of my intentions well in advance. So far (touch wood) I've not had an accident on my bike and I've never had anything bad to say about a driver. The worst I've experienced on my journeys to work is the death-wish attitude of boys walking to school who seem oblivious to all road users and have an unnerving  tendency to switch from the pavement to the road without looking into who's path they are stepping into.

As a driver, the most frustrating issues with cyclists I've experienced are those who will not use lights in the dark and those who don't wear a helmet. Both of these point were clearly made today at the launch of this campaign.
"If you don't take away anything else from today, take these two things; always wear a helmet and always light up in the dark."
My concern is for those drivers and cyclists who seem to hold extreme views on this subject.

I've already seem some Tweets from the 'extreme cyclists' this evening. It seems they are hell-bent on defending their rights and can't bear to hear anything which suggests cyclists are anything other than 100% perfect and that everything bad that happens to them is the fault of a driver. I'm quite sure there are drivers who demonstrate the same belief that they are the kings of the road where cyclists are nothing but a nuisance.

Everyone I listened to today was talking perfect sense. Like the campaign says, there are things both cyclists and drivers can do to improve and it is an undeniable truth that the roads are there for everyone so everyone has to share.

Finally, hats off to Alex Dowsett who was the car enthusiast/world class cyclist who put his name to this campaign and encouraged both drivers and cyclists to think about their actions when out on the roads of Essex. There was no targeting and no 'sides' were taken. Alex is a first-class young man who was a pleasure to listen to and meet and I know the vast majority of people will agree with his words and those of the campaign 100%.

Unfortunately, there is a minority who want to disagree 100%. No compromise. No time to listen. I fear these are the people who need to think on this occasion. However, I don't think they ever will.

And finally - here is a screengrab of some of the footage I shot today using a GoPro camera mounted on my cycle helmet. We rode out after the press conference with three officers and Alex leading the way and me following up behind. It was raining by the time we departed from Essex Police HQ, through Springfield via Arbour Lane and Lawn Lane, out onto Essex Regiment Way, Rectory Lane (past Anglia Ruskin University) and into Victoria Road as seen in the photo. Bearing in mind I only ever cycle 15 mins at a time on my commute to work on a heavy hybrid bike with full mudguards and panniers, I was quite pleased I managed to keep up. I say I kept up but when they got to Springfield Road they shot up the hill like it wasn't there so I gave up and lost sight of them.

View Alex ride-out 11/11/2013 in a larger map

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