I love cycling. I love the freedom, the affordability, the freshish air. But I am starting to get pretty bored of many of the other road users. But perhaps not the ones you would think.
To start, I love sharing the roads with White Van Man, Mr Ranty Taxidriver, Bus Driving Belinda and Mr Polish HGV Driver. They are professionals. Trained in the art of driving safely and navigating the chaotic London streets. They indicate, try and allow for undertaking cyclists, give extra space when overtaking and have the patience of saints. Their vehicles are maintained to a high degree and have mirrors that aren’t broken, signs warning cyclists to stay back and brake lights that work. And, most importantly for them, driving is their livelihoods – they can’t afford to maim, injure or kill someone as that would put them on the dole.
No, it isn’t these usual suspects I have a problem with. But there are four categories that I do get snippy with that are usually portrayed as the martyrs rather than the sinners.
Firstly, other cyclists. It is not OK to wear headphones. I am deaf on one ear and I completely understand how much one relies on hearing to judge what is going on, So I know that people with two working ears rely on sound on a bike almost as much as sight. These headphone wearers are oblivious to everyone else on the road and have no idea what is getting close to killing them. Then there is the going through red lights. It is even worse to go through red lights that have been designed for cyclists and designed to make cycling safer. Or those who think zebra crossings aren’t for stopping at. And these actions understandably piss off other road users and pedestrians who then hate all cyclists for what the minority have done. That leads to anger, more near misses and that then affects my safety. Then there is the undertaking of HGVs at lights -despite them being 500 times heavier, blind and carrying warning signs – the number of peddling people who think it is OK to dip down that narrow gap is mindblowing. Out of all the urban cyclists who die they are almost all wearing headphones, all going through red lights and all undertaking HGVs. Yet it is these truck drivers who get the blame. Why aren’t campaign groups and the police doing more to target these cycling idiots? They should be.
Then there are the pedestrians. Peddle down Whitechapel along the dedicated cycle lane and you will be met by individual after individual so gormless that they walk in the middle of the blue highway. Even after being told to shift they blame you for being there. Or the ones that simply step into the road or cycle lane without looking. Or the rising tide of selfish lemmings that walk whilst being so engrossed in whatever pointless crap they are oggling on their smartphone and are so up self involved that they think it is everyone else’s problem to get out of their way.
Thirdly, the motorbikers, or more accurately, L-plated 50cc moped drivers. I don’t understand how they are allowed to drive their waspy deathmachines without passing a test. At junctions, cyclists are given a 5 metre safety box designed to allow they to escape the clutches of motor vehicles and keep everyone safe. It is illegal for any other vehicle to enter that box unless caught on the light changing. It is 3pts on a licence. Yet, mopeds think they are cyclists when it comes to these boxes and will happily jam themselves in putting cyclists at risk. But these same cretins will never ride down a bike lane. So they know they are breaking the law but they know they get away with it.
And finally. The non-commercial car driver and more specifically, those with cars more than five years old. Nose pressed to the smartphone even though texting at the wheel is illegal. Or holding the phone in their hand in front of them and not to their ear to pretend that isn’t making a phone call at the wheel. Oh no officer, I am just swotting flies with it – heaven forbid I was making a call. These people know it is dangerous., They know that research has found that phone calls, handfree or not, are akin to being drunk or stoned at the wheel. Yet people will happily carry on calls whilst their children are in the back seats – putting their own flash and blood at risk – all to ask little Willy what they want for tea. Meanwhile, thanks to the brilliant ideas of government to digitise tax disks, these same people aren’t now renewing their road tax, which means they don’t need insurance or an MOT doing – not to mention to £200 million less in just six months in the government’s bank account. These cars have faulty brake lights, damaged wing mirrors and dangerous drivers who don’t bother wearing seatbelts. They are too lazy and selfish to indicate or say thankyou when you give way. They are lethal and literally getting away with murder.
What do the police do? Time and again I have watched as they ignore these misdemeanours and actually all too often do them themselves.
Does it matter? Well, aside from the deaths and injuries increasing increasing for the cyclists and other road users in the latest figures available of 2014 – it also sends a signal out about the country and the people in it.
It says that you can be better than everyone else. It says that you can be selfish. That you can break the law and get away with it. That driving and roads, despite 200,000 people killed or injured on Britain’s roads every year, are safe even when the machinery and behaviour isn’t. It celebrates rudeness and arrogance. And it makes the world a less pleasant place to be.