James Daley: Cyclotherapy

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The Independent Online

I was given a sharp reminder why some pedestrians have so much resentment for cyclists the other day, when I found myself being shouted at by an angry biker as I was crossing the road near my home in south London. As I reached the kerb, the maniac in question was hurtling down the hill towards me at well over the speed limit of 30mph, but was still far enough away for me to make a dash across the road without causing any obstruction. By the time I reached the other side, at least two full seconds passed before he came whizzing by, yet he still felt the need to scream some obscenity at me, shooting me a look of pure hatred as he went.

Although I resisted the temptation to hurl an insult back, I was furious as I walked on. I had not caused him to brake or even change his trajectory, and it was he who was breaking the law by going too fast down the road. Surely I wouldn't have been so discourteous if I was in the saddle and he was crossing the street?

The more I thought about it, however, the more it became clear that, in all honesty, I probably would have been. People who run across the road in front of me when I'm on my bike drive me crazy, and the view from the saddle is always very different from the view from the kerb.

Even if pedestrians do get across without causing me to brake or swerve, I always get the feeling that they're more inclined to take the risk simply because I'm on a bike – ignoring the fact that the main difference between pedestrian/ car and pedestrian/ cycle collisions is that both parties end up getting badly hurt if it's the latter.

Although the guy that shouted at me was not in the right, I understood with hindsight why he was so wound up. Cyclists who nip up on to the pavement get all kinds of abuse from people on foot, yet pedestrians show cyclists so little respect when we stick to the roads.

I've lost count of the number of times I've nearly collided with pedestrians who walk out into the road without looking – or who don't check for cyclists coming up the inside when crossing a line of traffic.

I know I've been over the red-light-jumping debate a million times before, but I have to say, the most careless pedestrians on the roads are much more dangerous than any cyclists I've ever seen jumping red lights. Strangely, it's legal for me to hop off my bike and walk with it across the road – which will take much longer and cause a greater obstruction than staying in the saddle. Yet the moment I get back on the bike and jump a light, I'm breaking the law.

I've often wondered exactly where the line is drawn. Is it OK to keep one foot on the ground and use the other to pedal? And what's the legal status of doing roly-polies across the middle of a busy junction?

If the hard-liners are going to insist on cyclists' being fined for jumping red lights, then logically, jaywalking has to be banned, too. Personally, however, I'd much rather jumping lights (while giving way to pedestrians and traffic, of course) was made legal.

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