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

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

IT Teacher

£22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A street in Rotherham, where the Jay report has exposed the abuse of 1400 children  

Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal - the lessons: We need solutions, not scapegoats

Paul Vallely
 

No menu! Dining doesn't get posher than this

Dom Joly
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution