Psychology, Society, Transport

The Road to Hell…

Road

Image by Jim Semonik from Pixabay

…is paved with good intentions – as we all know.

The recent changes to this country’s Highway Code were intended to improve road safety for the most vulnerable road users but it seems that they will only cause confusion at best, resentment in between and accidents at worst.

As a driver I disagree with the new requirement to give way to pedestrians crossing a junction you’re turning into. In principle the car driver should be slowing for the junction anyway so stopping shouldn’t be an issue, the problem is that there will be, at some point, a car following where the driver will either not want to stop, is following too closely, or not paying attention and will, not expecting a car to stop on the main road, run into the back of the stopped car. If this rule applies to roundabouts as well where people often don’t actually stop before joining then I can see many t-boned vehicles blocking roundabout entrances before long.

I’ve said before that I am both a cyclist and car driver and I admit that not all cyclists follow the highway code. I get just as annoyed as anyone else at cyclists riding on the road in the dark, in dark clothing without lights and expecting drivers to see them, I get annoyed with cyclists who don’t indicate, who just dart across the road etc – mainly because they are the ones held up as an excuse for car drivers to act aggressively towards all cyclists, not give us room, sound their horns at us etc. As it is the new rules will make no difference, those who break them will always have the attitude of “I’ll do what I want, nobody’s telling me what to do or how fast I can go…”

Since the new rules have come in I’ve had a white Fiat 500 sat behind me at a junction revving and edging forward to get me to pull out in front of moving traffic then another, or the same, Fiat pull out of a junction in front of me, causing me to brake sharply and two vans passing within inches of me, the last one almost pushing me onto the pavement – all the drivers no doubt thought it was funny and in most cases pedestrians nearby looked at me like it was my fault, that I shouldn’t have been there, which typifies the attitude these days.

As has been said recently the newspapers haven’t helped much by implying that drivers will be fined for opening their door with the wrong hand – it’s a recommendation in the highway code to use the hand furthest from the door, so you look in the wing mirror – and screaming and crying that cyclists will all be riding down the middle of the road and stopping everyone getting to work.  Sensationalist headlines sell papers and get websites ad revenue don’t they, even if they stir up aggravation.

Demands for licence plates, insurance, road tax etc, on the grounds of road damage, accidents etc is just sour grapes. The true source of the resentment that some drivers hold towards cyclists is, I believe, that firstly they are being delayed by the slower bike, their journey taking all of a few seconds longer; secondly their egos can’t stand not being in control – they want to drive at the speed they want to and they’re being prevented from doing so – when a car slows them down they can’t say “F***in’ car drivers, should be banned from the roads, oh, wait, er…” Thirdly there is a simmering jealousy that they don’t look so good in lycra, no sorry, I mean they can’t get round, and in-between, stationary traffic. Finally is an arrogant sense of entitlement, that it’s their road, that roads were invented for motor cars, to the degree that many drivers feel that roads shouldn’t be used by cyclists or pedestrians at all – well as for the ownership I think some Romans laid claim to that with their carts and chariots a long while since.

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Society, Transport

But Cyclists Don’t Pay Road Tax…

Bicycle

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I enjoy driving yet I am currently on bike number five but car number four, I did, however start on bikes when I was at school – a Raleigh Striker, then an orange Grifter, then an Emmelle Alpine in white and green which I had with me until I moved to the centre of Newark, left it chained up outside and some nice person decided they’d prefer to relieve me of it and sell it for scrap for a few quid, after all why would I miss it, it’ll be insured, I could replace it, etc, the usual thieves excuses. I was gutted, angry. I replaced it for practical reasons with a folding mountain bike that I had to carry up three flights of stairs to store outside my apartment. When I moved again to where I had a nice secondary section of garden where my dad built me a bike shed to store it securely I took the opportunity for a change, to replace the folder which was too small and caused my back problems just from riding it with a suitable replacement for the Alpine.

I now have a really nice mountain bike having traded in my old one and being the right size is a pleasure to ride, I recently even realised that my new Orange bike is perhaps a subconscious homage to my earlier bike.  I’ve recaptured the enjoyment of cycling I had years ago.

Mostly.

Here are a couple of myths some people seem to believe: Cyclists don’t pay road tax, and cyclists are obliged to stop and get out of the way of cars when the car is on the cyclist’s side of the road because the car always has right of way.

I pay road tax on the car I can’t use during the week even if I wanted to because the fuel isn’t cheap and there’s nowhere to park at work, mainly because of people parking in the work car park who shouldn’t be there but assume that because it’s next to their houses without off-street parking they’re entitled to use it.

The other myth is something I encounter every day – on a street where along one side is residents’ parking that leaves the rest as a two-way single carriageway road. According to the highway code I have right of way when I’m passing the line of parked cars, especially when I’m on the correct side of the road for my direction of travel yet whenever a car comes the other way on what would be the wrong side of the road from their perspective they just come barrelling towards me and expect me to get out of the way, one idiot in a BMW was actually grinning and drove deliberately at me.

Which brings me to the other point – people seemingly finding it amusing to drive too close to cyclists and cutting us up at junctions – this happened where a car passed me and immediately swerved at speed across in front of me into a junction on my left I was approaching, just as I was thinking that was close the Transit van which was following the car did the same, I had to brake sharply, thanking Halfords that the bike had great disc brakes, I’d only had the bike four days. The thing is that it seems fashionable to hate cyclists and this fashion has become like a game to some drivers, like it’s expected to do your part in driving cyclists off the road by intimidation. As I mentioned earlier such drivers find it funny and so many drivers just seem to think that cyclists don’t belong on roads, hence the Road Tax reference.

I admit that many cyclists annoy me, the weekend tour-de-Nottinghamshire peleton wannabes riding in a three or four-wide pack on high-speed roads rather than single-file as instructed in the Highway Code for example, or the lads I saw once who ignored any traffic signals and shot across a busy four-way junction in front of two lanes of moving traffic, almost causing a pile-up. Then there are the ones who, perhaps on principle, won’t use cycle lanes where provided.

As a car driver and cyclist I see both sides and try to be considerate in both situations, for example while taking my government sanctioned daily coronavirus lockdown exercise I was aware of firstly a lorry behind me on a narrow road in the town and another time a car behind me on a country road. Both times I quickly found a safe place to pull off the road briefly and let them go past and both drivers waved thank you too.

There are some cyclists who ride stupidly, there are some motorbikers who do the same, there are some drivers who drive stupidly too. It’s not fair to tar everyone with the same brush.

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