I’ve watched that BBC documentary, “War on Britain’s Roads”, about, effectively, cyclists versus other road users. It showed accidents or near-misses. It showed a cyclist being cut in front of by a cab driver, and the confrontation which ensued. It showed CCTV footage of a cement mixer lorry turning left, dragging a cyclist under it… It showed cyclists being idiots too. It showed one who goes fast along the road, who likes keeping up with the other road users. It also showed a pedestrian stepping out right into the path of a bike…
This alleged documentary focused on the negatives – the idiots, what they do, and what can and does go wrong as a result. At least one review says that it did a good job of scaring people off their bikes and into cars, another says “smug vigilante cyclists”; it seems that many say that it was unbalanced and sensationalist.
I have no real argument with those reviews; and, indeed, let’s be fair here – it did show one or two good things too, like a policeman stopping things getting out of hand (it also showed him racing after others; but, to be fair, he was at least making sure that his presence was known) and two who’d lost cyclist relatives to drivers who, certainly in one case and likely the other too, hadn’t seen them (and couldn’t).
People out recording footage of their journeys. I’d expect that what they record to be mostly fine, no incidents to chase up, nothing doing. But if you believe what was in the documentary, it’s all but ‒ nowhere did anybody mention that. Maybe some of them go out looking for incidents, and sometimes cause them so that they have something to report – certainly, the documentary gave the impression that those featured do that.
Then there’s that last bit. Seems to have been some film-maker and some idiot racers – the former I’d expect to have set up properly regarding safety, insurance etc.; without that, it’s just plain irresponsible if not illegal.
I’ve had a few vehicles (usually cars) cut in right in front of me, and it’s not nice. Each time, it seemed to me that the driver of the vehicle in question was trying to push me into the kerb or off the road. This is not nice. Even if you, as a driver, think that you’ve given the cyclist just enough space, the cyclist sees it as dangerous. Remember that you’re nice and safe in your big metal box-o’-death – and the cyclist is very much exposed. Is it any wonder that some react, seemingly aggressively?
Okay, I’ve chased one or two who’ve done that, and got ahead of one and pulled out into the middle of the lane for a while, moving back when I caught up with slow traffic up ahead. Nothing much resulted, unlike Mr. Speed Freak in the documentary, who got into a confrontation with the driver after banging on his cab. I’d not do that. I’d probably fall over.
I’ve been knocked off my bike once – in fact, almost twice – by vehicles turning left when I wanted to go straight on. In both cases, I had no idea that the vehicle was coming up (they were, after all, behind me) and turning. The first time was by a car driver who had no excuse regarding visibility (yes, the excuse was used)– came up behind me, turned left; I, not having encountered this before, had no chance to react. Result? Broken wrist. Pinned bone. A few visits to the local hospital to see a physiotherapist – who was a cyclist and is now another statistic.
The second time (the almost one), it was a larger vehicle – a small lorry. I was able to stop and retain my balance; no damage done, and after making sure of this, we were both on our way.
Due to that cyclist v. cement mixer incident reported on in the documentary (which resulted in one dead cyclist and one mother not letting go and, consequently, making a difference), there have been some safety improvements in the fleet owned by the company whose vehicle was involved in the accident. Sometimes it takes this kind of thing to improve matters…
Check. Check again. Youre coming up behind the cyclist, so it’s safe to assume that you haven’t been seen and that, in the absence of indication to the contrary, the cyclist will continue straight ahead, across the junction. Wait until you can see the cyclist again, safely away from you.
Okay, I get things wrong occasionally. I’ve gone through a few red lights, and that’s something which I try not to do – as a road user, traffic lights apply to me too. I’ve probably done one or two other things, but not realised. I’m wary about signalling because of drivers who don’t give you a lot of space. I do slow down for others when on a cycle path, enough that there’ll be no real damage should one suddenly step out right into my path – I certainly don’t want to fall off as a result of bumping into somebody!
I don’t try to keep up with the cars. It may be faster and, perhaps, better (from an exercise point of view); but it’s also a lot of effort and it’s riskier should I have an accident, and I think that I’d be concentrating more on that and on maintaining my position. Competitive where competitive isn’t needed or useful.
I do sometimes ignore cycle paths. I know of some roads where the cycle path repeatedly crosses it: I find that, by and large, rather silly, particularly where the path remains wide enough. Short sections may be ignored too; there’s one such stretch not far from home, where the path crosses the road, follows alongside then turns away from it. Unless I’m following the cycle path, it’s pointless using that short segment.
Where I have problems is turning right from traffic lights. I get in the right lane, on its left side because (usually) there’s already a car parked there, waiting. And, as often as not, the driver of that car wants to go straight on; so I watch then proceed when I think that it’s safe. Maybe I should take some advice given in that documentary: take “possession” of the road – after all, on my bike, I’m another road user. Perhaps I should line up with, not alongside, the cars when waiting at traffic lights; I don’t know.
Oh yes. That’s one thing which I don’t like: drivers who stop too close to the kerb when in stationary traffic. To any pedestrians who hate us for mounting the pavement to get past traffic, look at the traffic and see how much room it’s left us.
I’m not sure that it’s a ‘war’ by idiots – drivers and cyclists alike – on the rest of us. While we can all be idiots, some are much more likely to be than others. We all lose concentration occasionally. We all get distracted. We all make mistakes. It’s fair to be informed that we’ve done so should we not realise it ourselves. But some endanger themselves or others seemingly deliberately…