Cyclists need more than wheels of fortune

Share
Related Topics

A friend has just upbraided me in the gentlest way. "I thought I saw you on your bike," she said. "Then I knew it couldn't be you because this cyclist was wearing earphones." Well, of course it was me. And she knew it. But that's classy diplomacy.

It's true I had some Bach in one ear: it makes me pedal faster and helps to blot out the abuse of van drivers. But I can still hear that more than well enough, and I can also hear the lorry behind me and the yelp of the pedestrian whose knee gives way just before they drop in front of me. And I wondered whether my friend, in her weather-sealed car with music coming from all four corners, could say the same. I know she is worried for me but it takes others to keep me safe, too. "I didn't see her," is the common cry of the lorry driver who crushes a cyclist.

So the new on-the-spot fines for drivers who enter cycle boxes at junctions, one of several "minor" motoring offences that may prompt a retraining course as well, sound fair to me and, like most sensible measures, are about protecting the benign majority from the folly of the few. Roads are for cyclists as much as for drivers, and a person on a bike shouldn't have to think of herself as a potential victim any more than someone walking home late at night. The alternative is that we feed a culture of vulnerability.

This government nibbles at the notion of a safer street, but is mightily confused. Three weeks ago, Eric Pickles wanted householders to turn their drives into public car parks; last week, Health minister Anna Soubry backed local authority schemes to close residential roads for children's outdoor play. It was not clear whether the drives-for-hire and the outdoor play were to be in the same streets.

Also last week David Cameron earmarked £77m to encourage cycling in cities and rural areas. But a price index showed that a car is one of the few household purchases that costs less than five years ago, and rail fare rises were announced of up to 9 per cent, none of which makes roads emptier and safer for pedestrians, cyclists or drivers.

Not for the first time, this country is being left behind. In Los Angeles, the car capital of the world, there are good cycle lanes and regular warnings to drivers to give cyclists room. In car-loving Italy, coastal cycle paths take riders around roundabouts, instead of dumping them at junctions.

So forgive our British cyclists when they are a little bullish: if they trickle along in the gutter they are hard to see and have nowhere to go in an emergency. Indeed, cyclists are urged to occupy the centre, not the edge, of a lane. It stops them being decked by the opening doors of stationary cars.

Yes, cyclists could pledge not to jump the lights – and police are now hot on that, too. But they can't promise not to listen to the odd cantata; they may even sing. What they are unlikely to do is smoke, argue with a passenger, consult a map, send a text, read an email, change a CD, eat a sandwich, break the speed limit, pollute the air or take 1,750 lives a year. Drivers have those things covered already.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?