This is the hashtag that got Emma Way into trouble when she tweeted “definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier. I have right of way – he doesn’t even pay road tax! #bloodycyclists.” earlier this year. She admits it was a stupid thing to tweet and a stupider thing to do in the first place. She was found guilty on the charges of “failing to stop after a collision” and “failing to report an accident”.
This also comes at a time when we have seen several deaths in London of cyclists getting caught up in the traffic and paying the ultimate price. So here are three questions:
1. Have you ever seen a cyclist ignoring the highway code and laws of the road?
2. Have you ever seen a car driver ignoring the highway code and laws of the road?
3. Have you ever seen anyone else ignoring the highway code and laws of the road?
The answer to all is probably “Yes” unless you’ve never been in a built up area or road in general. What we have to be aware of is that just because there has been a statistical grouping of fatal accidents involving cyclists of late, doesn’t mean the problem is getting worse. in fact the stats tell us that year on year it is safer to cycle on the roads, and drive on the roads, and be a pedestrian at the side of the road. We have some of the safest roads in the developed world.
Anyone who has been or driven on the continent will attest to the fact that compared to here they are lunatics. In countries like France, italy and The Netherlands I have seen lane dodging, corner cutting, undertaking, crashes, ignoring signs and road rage that I’ve never seen the like of here. We have reasonably safe roads.
The tragic deaths of these cyclists or of anyone on the road should never be belittled as they are someone’s relative, spouse or friend – statistics don’t matter when someone dies. At the same time charities and political pressure groups should not use these deaths as a tool to raise their profiles and agendas. We need to take a step back and look at the issue without bias or prejudice. There are calls to ban large lorries during rush hours in our city centres, even to ban cars and leave it to the cyclists and pedestrians. These are nonsense and non-starters as business will not allow it to happen.
There are issues with all road users – I include myself in that too – in that we take chances we shouldn’t, risk red lights or speed limits. In the case of the HGV vs. The Cyclist perhaps cyclists need to be aware of the view that drivers have of the sides of their trailers. But by the same token lorry drivers have to acknowledge that they don’t own the roads. No-one in this situation is faultless and if I’m honest I have had more issues personally with cyclists not having lights on or wearing fluorescent patches at night; ignoring red lights and continuing through the traffic regardless; swinging across roads without due care for the other road users. Doesn’t mean I run them over though or ignore them if they are hurt on the road – that’s just callous and ignorant.
Rather than rush to point fingers and make snap judgements on policy, politicians should consider that perhaps we need to make roads wider by a foot on each side to accommodate cyclists, or enforce a law that ties them to the same restrictions as vehicles with regard to lights and being seen. The media are jumping up and down on this trying to make it a bigger issue than it is, but we need to ignore the hysteria and educate kids in school on riding a bike in public as well as ensuring larger vehicles are equipped with mirrors to help them see the cyclist alongside them. Solutions are needed – not blame.