James Daley: The Cycling Column

Motorbikes are a menace – it's time we took them on
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I've decided to open up a new front in my war against other road-users. Already, I count regular motorists, lorry drivers and bendy buses among my sworn enemies on the daily commute to work – each of which regularly make attempts on my life (consciously or carelessly, I'm still not sure).

Until now, however, just about everyone else on the road – with the exception of other cyclists – I've merely considered a nuisance: pedestrians darting across lines of stationary traffic without looking out for cyclists, regular bus drivers who insist on intimidating me by sitting on my back wheel – and, until now, motorbikes.

But over the last few weeks, I've experienced a string of incidents where motorcyclists have joined the attempted murder club and, I've quickly come to realise that these motorised two-wheel maniacs can be the worst of the lot.

The usual dangerous encounters are when cycling down the outside of a line of traffic, where the chain of events will go something like this: motorcyclist rides up behind cyclist and starts revving his engine in an intimidating manner. Eventually, motorcyclist attempts dangerous manoeuvre, pulling out to pass cyclist just as another vehicle is heading towards them at speed in the opposite carriageway. Motorbike then sharply cuts back in, forcing aforementioned cyclist to brake suddenly or swerve into oncoming traffic.

Other fun with motorbikes includes the regular games of "chicken", when you're riding down the outside of a line of traffic and come across a biker doing the same in the opposite direction. Can you guess who swerves first – the guy on top of a 1,000cc engine or the bloke on the flimsy piece of carbon fibre?

Worst of all is the number of accidents I've nearly had when motorbikes have forced cars to pull in because they first hear, then see, them overtaking them on a narrow road. If you're cycling across Tower Bridge, for example, there isn't a whole lot of room on either side of each car, so as soon as a driver hears a motorbike roaring down the outside, he naturally pulls in, nearly hitting the kerb as well as any unsuspecting cyclists on the inside.

So the safer option for cyclists is to come down the outside of the lane too – in which case you risk playing your own part in encouraging drivers to splat cyclists on their left, and will also find yourself caught up among the intimidating motorcyclists once again.

Motorbikes – especially scooters – also have a nasty habit of using cycle lanes when it suits them, and will almost always sit in the advance stop sections for bicycles at traffic lights. This too can prove dangerous, trapping cyclists on the inside, ready to be squashed by any left-turning vehicles.

If you are lucky enough to safely jump the lights, you can also be sure that on main roads during the commuter rush you'll suddenly be engulfed by a fleet of motorbikes as soon as the lights change – and most of them will be involved in some sort of macho race. Needless to say, watching out for cyclists is never upper-most in their minds in the testosterone-fuelled battle to see who's got the biggest... engine.

There's still talk of motorbikes soon being allowed to use bus lanes, along with cyclists and taxis – and I hope to God it never happens.

However great my frustration may be, I'll have to be a little careful how I fight on this latest front. Motorbikers are, alas, much better placed than drivers to catch you up once you've thrown an insulting hand-gesture their way. For the moment, I'll have to settle for winding them up in this column. I'm glad there's a motorbike article on the same page as me this week.

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