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Cycling & Feminism

cycling and feminism

Cycle commuting in the UK at the moment is very much a male dominated mode of transport. This is often used as an argument as to why more money shouldn’t be spent on it – suddenly commentators who’ve never given even half a fuck about women and minorities decide they care when it comes to spending money on cycling – which is a really idiotic argument that ignores the fact that where you DO spend money on cycling, suddenly people who aren’t white, male young and fit join in. Hence why the Netherlands actually has more women making journeys by bike than men. A better argument would be quite the other way around- that if you have a mode of transport that only white young fit men use regularly, then there’s a big problem for access to that mode of transport that we need to fix. I mean, if only white young fit men were able to safely use buses we wouldn’t be saying BAN BUSES we’d be saying “how can we make buses safer so that everyone can use them?” Continue Reading

Bikes, buses, lorries oh my

bikesbuseslorries

 This last week hasn’t been great for cyclists in London, with 3 incidents on one day on Thursday leading to the deaths of a cyclist in South London and another in nearby Surrey; and a seriously injured unicyclist in East London. While the story of the hundreds of locals working together to lift the bus off the injured man went viral (with good reason as it was a powerfully heart-warming story of community action) the stories of the dead cyclists barely caused a ripple, despite the fact they were both hit by HGVs, bringing the number of cyclist deaths in London alone to 6 – with 5  of them killed by HGVs.

Despite the stats that suggest that the vast majority (98%!) of serious or fatal pedestrian injuries are caused by motor vehicles – even on a pavement, a pedestrian is more likely to be injured or hurt by a motor vehicle than a bike –  the rhetoric in the media remains the same. Cyclists are dangerous rule breakers who are a risk to themselves and others. While the story of a little girl injured by a cyclist was shared all over the place with comments like “HELP FIND THIS CYCLIST” (he handed himself in) the sad story of a 7 year old cyclist killed by a car barely made the front pages, even though the police are in fact appealing for witnesses. Perhaps this is because people are killed all the time by cars, but an injury caused by a cyclist is rare enough to make the news. We’re used to car-carnage. Depressingly so.

It’s strange to me that so much focus is put onto the behaviour of cyclists, or so much made of individual rare incidents, when it’s pretty damn obvious that we should be focussing on those motor vehicles which are causing serious harm to more vulnerable road users. Why do we find it so hard to point the finger at cars, HGVs and buses when they are demonstrably the ones causing so much damage?

Look at the stats – in London in 2011, HGVs made up 4% of the traffic, but were involved in 53% of the cyclist fatalities. Seeing as this year almost all of the cyclist deaths have been down to HGVs I suspect this statistic is unlikely to improve. And yet in Paris, where there are restrictions on times HGVs can drive, there were zero cyclist fatalities.

I am very wary of HGVs; not only because of the terrible safety record in London but because I actually saw the aftermath of a three-way bike/car/HGV collision on my usual commute. I also saw how much blame was thrown at the cyclists before any facts had been established at all. (Since this accident the council have actually made changes to that particular section of the road to make sure that cyclists are not having to veer out into the road.) I know where HGV blind spots are and do everything in my power to avoid ever being in one. I make an effort to make eye contact with HGV drivers so I know they’ve seen me. And when in doubt, I stay the fuck away from it. All this vigilance perhaps helps, perhaps not, I don’t know, but what it has made me realise is that it’s not HGVs that I have the most problems with on my usual commute. It’s buses.

I would guess that on average, out of the usual 5 days a week I cycle to work and back, I have some sort of bus-related incident, scare or weirdness at least once a day. Buses overtaking me too close, too fast. Buses overtaking me right before a stop and then suddenly pulling in across me – sometimes trapping me between the bus and the kerb, sometimes forcing me to either wait behind in their exhaust fumes or pull out into fast traffic to overtake them. (When this happens I often scream WHYYYYYYYYY because seriously? The stop is right there. RIGHT THERE. IF you wait literally 10 seconds I will be past the stop and will probably have gone a good half a mile before you catch up with me. If you ever catch up with me at all because I don’t have to stop every 3 minutes.) Bus drivers driving right up behind my back wheel when they can’t overtake because of traffic.

I had two particularly scary incidents recently where I genuinely feared that I would be hurt. Once where I’d pulled in on hearing a police siren, and was waiting for the car to pass, and a bus driver behind me had clearly decided to keep moving forwards for as long as he could before pulling in, resulting in him pulling in *onto me*. I’d actually looked at him while waiting for the police car to pass to try to work out what he was doing, and he looked me right in the eyes before he suddenly pulled in, so I find it hard to believe he hadn’t seen me. When I realised he was driving straight at me I leapt off my bike (thank goodness for drop frame bikes) onto the pavement and just avoided being squashed between the bus and the pavement. Another experience was when a ‘driver under instruction’ overtook me at a pinch point – very a narrow bridge with a barrier between the other lane (in fact, mere yards from the site of the 3 way accident I mentioned earlier) meaning the bus couldn’t move out to overtake me. Once again I was forced to fling myself onto the pavement to avoid being squashed. I knocked on the door of the bus and tried to point out that I could have been badly hurt, and while the trainee driver started to look over the instructor stared resolutely ahead, deliberately ignoring me, and I clearly saw him instructing the learner driver to ignore me.

I’ve also had cause to make formal complaints about buses at other times; amongst others when a driver on a route I wasn’t familiar with drove in a terrifying way; going through red lights, taking corners at speed, violently honking a horn at a cyclist who had the right of way, and just going far too fast for the narrow roads. Other passengers were gripping on for dear life, people standing fell over, and all the passengers were doing the very un-Londoner-like thing of making eye contact to make very Londoner-like ‘tut tut’ and ‘goodness me, what on earth’ faces.

The responses to my formal complaints were woefully inadequate, and they always followed the same course. That my complaint had been forwarded to the company in question. That either they were very sorry they were unable to identify the driver, or they were unable to verify the incident. On the rare occasions that they were able to identify the driver or ‘verify the incident’ the action taken was that the driver in question would be talked to and made aware of their expectations. The trouble with this approach is that it treats all incidents like this on a ‘one rogue driver’ approach, assuming that driver behaviour is all down to the individual. It doesn’t look at why there are so many incidents involving buses on the London roads, or consider how incidents like this add up to some really worrying questions over London bus safety.

London Buses have been run by various different companies since they were privatised in the 90s. That means that they are run for profit. There’s no cohesion across the services over pay, conditions, or how complaints are treated. Bus drivers have tight schedules to keep to, routes to drive where they are expected to complete the route within X timeframes, potentially leading them to have to drive too fast or cut corners. If you put difficult to meet targets on to an underpaid, overworked workforce, you are going to have accidents and issues. When that underpaid overworked workforce are driving a 12 ton metal machine? Ouch.

It’s no wonder that during the period 1 April 2007 to 9 May 2015, TfL Buses have been involved in 4714 Collisions with pedestrians and 1641 Collisions with cyclists. That’s an average of about 1 per day with cyclists and 2 collisions per day with pedestrians.

Since my ‘driver under instruction” incident I’ve lost a great deal of confidence in London bus drivers, as their bad behaviour towards cyclists, pedestrians and passengers, and their lack of care and attention is clearly something that starts right from the training stages. It’s a culture, not a case of ‘one rogue driver’. But it’s not the drivers I blame as much as the operators taking an individualistic approach to poor driver behaviour on the roads.

Bus companies need to take a more holistic approach to incident investigation and concern reporting, similar to those in the aircraft industry, so they can identify what issues require cultural change rather than just speaking to one individual driver and expecting that to clear the matter up. Because it won’t. A similar approach needs to take place with HGV drivers , car drivers, cyclists; taking the focus away from individual road user behaviour and addressing how we can systematically create safer ways for us all to use the roads. WHY are there so many HGV drivers killing cyclists? WHY are so many cyclists feeling safer on the pavement or jumping lights? WHY are bus drivers driving so fast? WHY aren’t car drivers seeing cyclists? We need to recognise and accept that this is something that needs systemic change, and that we have to stop treating every incident as One Rogue X and thinking that sanctioning or blaming that one person will solve the problem of the danger on our roads.

I have two flatmates, one cycles, one doesn’t. 5 years ago I’d have been all GET A BIKE, WHEEE to the non cycling flatmate, but these days things are so bad on the roads that I no longer feel I can say that. If I hadn’t already been cycling in London for around 10 years I am not sure I’d be cycling either! We need to look at sustainable holistic ways to improve the safety of our roads – for everyone.

All pictures used are copyright Bikeyface. Go check out the blog, it’s brilliant

a vicious cycle

gentleman-dino-riding-a-bike-27226-1680x1050Earlier in the year I wrote about my frustration over the ‘them and us’ rhetoric that dogs every conversation about improving road safety. EVERY conversation. On the internet, in person, in the pub – wherever there is a discussion about road safety someone will always point out that cyclists go through red lights and someone else will go well so do cars and someone else will say well what about buses and someone will go well what about pedestrians that step out into the road while texting and everyone agrees on that point at least but then someone else will complain about cyclists on pavements and BINGO we have reached derailment. Well done. We were trying to talk about safety, and now we’re just gong round in infinite circles talking about how cyclists are bastards and pedestrians are stupid and cars are dangerous, trapped in an infinite loop of blame throwing.

Earlier this week I decided to get the train into work instead of cycling. Alas, the trains were messed up so I decided to get a bus. Arriving at the bus stop there was clearly an issue with the traffic too, as there were about 150 people at the bus stop, so despite my tiredness I  headed home to get my bike. I’d wanted to avoid cycling because I hadn’t slept well, and was feeling pretty tired. I don’t like to cycle when I am tired, as part of my commute is pretty hair-raising and I like to be as alert as possible. I either have to tackle a big busy A-road with patchy cycle lanes, which often have cars parked in them, which is also frequented by buses and HGVs, OR I can go a back-roads route which in theory should be safer, but most of the time feels worse due to the rat-runners taking the narrow roads – at quite frankly ludicrous speed – in order to avoid that same big busy A-road. Therefore taking the big busy A-road actually feels safer half the time. Ok so there’s fast-moving traffic and buses and thundering industrial vehicles but at least I’ve never had to literally fling myself sideways onto the pavement to avoid being taken out by a rat runner unwilling to follow the 20mph speed limit on a narrow road with parked cars or witnessed nearly head-on collisions as a motorist decides that he’d rather overtake on the other side of a traffic island than wait until it’s safe to pass me.

As I neared the halfway point of my commute, having chosen the In-theory-less-safe-A-road route, I discovered the reason for the terrible traffic. It wasn’t clear what had happened from what I observed at the site, and I don’t want to assume – but I will point out that this particular section of road has a pavement-based segregated cycle lane which filters back onto the main road at the exact same point that HGVs turn out of an industrial site. It’s a section of my commute where I’ve always been particularly wary. It just isn’t very safe for anyone. Not the HGVs coming out, not the cyclists merging onto the road, not the drivers heading over the bridge. It doesn’t help that this section of the road is notorious for street racers due to the long, wide straight roads.

There were three different  vehicles in this incident, all occupants of which were taken to hospital, the cyclist most worse off, and in all the comments and conversations that took place over this terrible accident was how the cyclist probably deserved it, because cyclists. BLOODY Cyclists. GOING THROUGH RED LIGHTS. COMING OVER HERE, TAKING OUR ROADS.

I’ve felt this attitude on the road over the last few years, every time I’ve got out on my bike. I’ve felt the heat from the engine at a too-close pass. I’ve had “get off the road” yelled at me. I’ve had “I PAY ROAD TAX” yelled at me. I’ve had drivers deliberately swerve at me and then drive away pointing and laughing at me. I’ve started to fear for my safety on my bicycle in a way I’ve never feared before – and it’s all because of the increasing amount of hatred directed towards cyclists. Interestingly, the less I look like a ‘cyclist’ the better I am treated. On my new girly looking bike, with its little basket decorated with flowers and with my every-day clothes and my normal winter coat and normal shoes and with my long hair down, I am treated almost civilly (apart from the occasional ‘lucky saddle hur hur’ comment but that’s a whole other subject in of itself) but if I ever wear my cycling jacket, or have wet weather cycling gear on, or go out on my old single speed racer bike, then that instantly makes me a target. I’m no longer a girl on a bike, I am a BLOODY CYCLIST  BASTARD.

I get on my bike and cycle to work and immediately I am judged not by how I cycle, but by the perceived behaviour of ‘cyclists’ as a group. That is the very definition of prejudice. Being judged as part of a minority group, being victim blamed,  being ‘othered’, is exactly what women experience when discussing street harassment or sexual assault. It’s how young black men are treated when discussing stop and search or police violence. They are told to behave differently, dress differently, act differently, be different. There is a constant message that if something bad happens to you it was somehow your fault simply  because of who/what you are.

I’ve always been a safe and confident cyclist. But that no longer feels enough. I am now starting to feel unsafe on the road simply for being a cyclist. The level of aggression on our roads seems to be getting worse and worse – and this is be backed up by recent research that suggests that Britain has a road rage problem – in fact the worst in the world. This right here? Not my shocked face.

I get it. I get that driving is frustrating. Sitting in traffic is annoying. I get that other road users piss you off with their failure to indicate and their crappy overtaking and their shitty lane etiquette. But you know what, that’s ALL road users. Ask yourself, next time you’re in a car, why it is you are so  much  more pissed off when a cyclists does X shitty thing than when a motorist does it? I am willing to bet it’s because if a driver does it and you have an accident chances are it’s an irritating loss of your  no-claims bonus. But if a cyclist does something and you hit them? You might actually kill them. And I get it, that’s scary. And that fear of what-might-have-been comes out in defensive anger. But actually, not every cyclist out there is actually doing something dangerous, or even wrong.

I don’t WANT to have to #notallcyclists every conversation about improving road safety. It’s not helpful. I cycle 5 miles to work and back every weekday, and I could list 100 incidents of dangerous, selfish and downright idiotic behaviour from road users of all descriptions. But if I do that you know what I am NOT doing? I am not participating in a productive discussion about how we can make this situation better. HOW can we reduce anger towards cyclists? HOW can we improve driver behaviour and reduce road rage? How can we encourage people to use their cars less?  How can we reduce the impact of car use on the environment? HOW can we stop cyclists going through red lights? I am not interested in the wheres and the whens and the how manys. I want to know what we can do to create safer and sustainable public spaces for us all. And until we can get over the prejudice that someone faces simply because they got on a bike, it’s going to be hard to have those conversations. And if we can’t have those conversations, we can’t make the changes that will make it safer and easier for us all to use the road.

 

Allysaurus

If you’ve been following this blog for a little while you may already have picked up that I am both a cyclist and a feminist. Looking back, I became a cyclist about a year before I became a feminist. My very first really angry street harassment rant that precipitated my discovery that I was a feminist was back in 2007 on my LiveJournal, and was prompted by being  street harassed 5 times in one day while out on my bike.

I discussed in my previous post   how I ended up posting less and less about street harassment and feminism, despite it being a subject about which I was very passionate, simply because I couldn’t deal very well with the sheer numbers of comments along the lines of

“Not ALL men are like this…”

“I’ve never seen anyone do that…”

“I got groped in a club once so women do it too…”

“It was probably a compliment…”

“Maybe you shouldn’t wear low cut tops…”

“My girlfriend says this happens to her a lot but it never happens when she’s out with me…”

Trust me. I have heard ALL of these before. REPEATEDLY. None of them are good arguments. All of them are deeply frustrating; particularly as they are usually said by guys who I generally think of as pretty nice blokes. Good sorts, who are on ‘my side’ when it comes to  thinking women are just as good at life as men and therefore deserve a fair shot at it. But what comments like these do  is, at best, derail the point I’m trying to make by niggling over  semantics or, at worst, completely deny my lived experience. I struggled to argue and debate the points raised and after a while grew so very tired of having the same discussion over and over  AND OVER again.  When you are shaking with anger because for the 5th time in a week a random man has said “smile darling” you are really not in the mood for calmly educating someone for the 30th time why this isn’t ok. So over time I just stopped posting.

This week I posted  link to an interesting article about cyclists cycling in the middle of the road. It prompted a number of comments from acquaintances who drive using my post as a platform to inform me that they hated cyclists because they go through red lights, and ride on the pavements, and hold them up. Several quoted various clauses from the highway code to counter the idea that cyclists might possibly have an equal right to be on the road as them (this argument boiled down to ‘we’re faster so you have to let us pass’). I dealt with this very badly. I got upset, frustrated and had to back right out of the thread before I told them exactly where they could shove their dipsticks.

Being an overthinking sort of person, I had a long ponder (after I’d had a cup of tea and some chocolate and a bit of a stamp around the house saying AND ANOTHER THING but to the cat rather than the people on the internet and therefore calmed down a bit) about why it was I had reacted with such frustration, anger and irritation. I realised that the overall tone had made me feel exactly the same way I felt when I posted about street harassment. The comments were the same ones I always hear when I post about a near miss on my  bike, or when I witness some truly dreadful dangerous driving; cyclists somehow ‘deserve it’ because of the behaviour of ‘those other cyclists”.

“I’ve never run a red light…”

“I always give cyclists room…”

“I saw a cyclist yesterday going through a red light…”

“You were probably in his way…”

“Maybe you should wear a helmet…”

I’d heard them all before, and debated them all before, and countered them all before, and PEOPLE WERE STILL GOING ON ABOUT IT. So I got cross and disengaged.

What interested me, once I’d calmed down and re-read the comments, is that these commenters had inadvertently pushed the anger and frustration back onto the cyclist, in the same way that the negative comments on an article about street harassment  can push back against women’s experiences. The writer feels unheard and frustrated, the commenters feel misunderstood and attacked.

When I am cut up on my bike by a dangerous driver, I don’t assume that all drivers are dangerous. But perhaps when I discuss this I I make drivers feel as though I am attacking them. They react with their frustrations about ‘bloody cyclists’ and that they are not one of  ‘those drivers’  and so I then feel like they are attacking me – after all I am a cyclist – so I take great pains to point out I am not one of  ‘those cyclists’ and thus we end up back in our infinite loop of mutual frustration.

The common enemy here, for us ‘not those cyclists’ and those ‘not those drivers’ is of course ‘those ones’. The bad road users that made the rest of us look bad. I shouldn’t pick fights or have long debates over semantics with a driver who uses the road well and is respectful to cyclists and that driver shouldn’t squabble with me; we actually all agree that bad road users suck. The same rings true for those men making defensive comments on articles about feminism. The ‘enemy’ here is not the woman raising the problems she faces on a daily basis. The ‘enemy’ are ‘those men’ which are giving the majority of men (who would never even consider going ‘smile darling’ or ‘show us your tits’ to a woman on street) a bad name.

Looking back to my last post about cycling I’d made the point (in my typically rather longwinded way) that just SOME road users being shit is not an argument against improving the infrastructure for ALL road users.  We ALL agree that shitty behaviour is shit behaviour. So perhaps instead of having these repetitive and cyclical arguments amongst ourselves we need to recognise the real enemy and join forces against that; be it a poor road infrastructure and road use culture that encourages bad driving and dangerous cycling or be it a patriarchal society that tells men they must be tough and never cry and tells women that ‘oi nice tits’ is a compliment.

If you are a member of  (x majority group) and you find yourself angered by something someone from (x marginalised group) raises, before you respond ask yourself this: Are you really angry/hurt by the words or actions of (x marginalised person) or are you angered by the actions of the (x majority person) that has reflected badly on yourself? If the answer is the latter, consider being an ally, rather than an adversary.

It’s very easy to debate and belittle the experiences of a minority or  marginalised group; and it’s easy to shut down that debate by saying “well I am (x marginalised group) and you are (x majority group) so you wouldn’t understand”. It’s much harder to step outside of those well travelled debates and realise the common interest to become allies, but perhaps it’s the best way to effect real change in an unequal society.

no spoke without fire*

I have been cycling to work since around 2006. It started as a vague attempt to get fitter and save money, but ended up becoming something I genuinely enjoyed.  Nowadays I only commute by public transport if I really have to and it makes me so grumpy and irritable that’s it’s best all round for everyone if I just get on my bike. The biggest unexpected benefit of cycling to work was far fewer illnesses – not just because you are a little fitter and healthier but because you are not in the plague pits of the tube or a London bus during rush hour. One zombie-lurgy ridden commuter sneezing on the tube can infect the entire carriage. I try not to think too hard about what sort of gross things that might be living on the seats or handrails.

I took the cycling proficiency test as a child, and cycled pretty much everywhere up until my bike was stolen shortly after graduating from University.  With my massive graduate debt and having got a job far from where I was living I didn’t bother to replace it. Therefore  before I took the plunge into full time cycle commuting six years later I dusted off my copy of the highway code and re-familiarised myself with the rules of the road.

Full Disclosure: I don’t drive. In fact, I can’t  drive. I owned a copy of the highway code from taking driving lessons in my early twenties. I struggled a great deal with the driving lessons. An hour into my second lesson my driving instructor said, “It’s ok, some people just aren’t meant to drive” which in retrospect was not as reassuring as he probably intended it to be. My problem with driving wasn’t about using the road so much as using the car. I couldn’t understand the gears. I couldn’t get a sense of how much space on the road I took up. I didn’t like not being able to feel or see where I was on the road, or be able to judge or control my speed. Reversing was completely unfathomable. I particularly didn’t like the way I couldn’t trust any other bugger on the road.

Cycling is completely different – you know where you are and how much space you take up because you can see it, you don’t have to sense it. You know exactly how fast you’re going because you can feel it, and you can control your speed with your own body. Cycling feels so natural to me, and every bike I’ve owned that I’ve truly loved has felt like an extension of my own body. Having a bike you love stolen almost feels like someone has stolen a part of you.

I enjoyed commuting by bicycle from my very fist week – discovering new parts of London by accident when getting lost, exploring different routes (fast ones by main road, longer but safer back streets, pretty but muddy off-the-beaten-track routes…) and was never without my battered A-Z in my bike bag (this has been replaced with a smartphone with GPS navigation app – because we LIVE IN THE FUTURE). It amused and irritated me in equal measure when people said “Oh you’re so BRAVE cycling in London. I wouldn’t dare!” or “Isn’t cycling very dangerous?”. I always reassured those people that it was wonderful – as long as you knew what you were doing and cycled safely it was no more dangerous than walking to work. I had a few near misses over the years – a few car doors nearly opened into my face; a few incidents where I was run off the road by boy racers or white van men; one nasty incident where I was actually groped by a man in a van while trying to turn right off a main road. But the near misses were occasional and the benefits of cycling to work far outweighed the downsides.

Things have started to change though, which is strange because over the last couple of years cycling has become hugely more popular – particularly in London and in the area in which I live/work in East London.

While  cycling has become more popular over the last few years it also feels like it’s become far more dangerous. I am having near misses regularly, and experience considerably more aggression from motorists. I am regularly run off the road by irritated, angry or oblivious drivers and am frequently verbally abused, often being told that I ‘don’t belong on the road’.

I’ve thought a lot about why this might be. There’s been much discussion over the last few months about cyclist safety, following a series of tragic accidents where 6 cyclists were killed in London within a fortnight. Every article, be it pro-cyclist or pro-car ended up the same – with a big debate in the comments section full of the same complaints. Motorists don’t look. They don’t indicate. Cyclists run red lights and don’t stop for pedestrians. Cyclists are too slow and get in the way. Motorists drive in bike lanes. Cyclists ride on pavements. Motorists kill baby seals. Cyclists steal the souls of first born sons. And so on.

I personally feel that part of the problem is this increasing media and Government rhetoric that pitches the cyclist in opposition to the motorist which actually creates conflict and defensiveness on both sides. Setting up cyclists and motorists against each other in to some sort of War of the Road is only going to exacerbate the problem and prevents meaningful change.

Personally I am a law abiding cyclist who obeys road signs and crossings and rides to the highway code. I find cyclists who run red lights and have no regard for other road users hugely frustrating. I also  find pedestrians who run out in front of me on a red pedestrian light, and drivers who run red lights hugely frustrating. I don’t dislike ALL car drivers, or ALL pedestrians, or ALL cyclists simply because I witness SOME of them doing Really Stupid Annoying Shit. A rhetoric which encourages Group A to hate Group B (and vice versa) because some of the Other Group occasionally do Really Stupid Annoying Shit is unhelpful and ultimately dangerous. It has the effect that people can feel justified in shitty behaviour towards each other.  A motorist feels it’s ok to cut in front of a cyclist or pass by too fast or too close because “fucking cyclists go through red lights bastards” and a cyclist feels it’s ok to scrape the side of a car or shout WANKER at someone because “fucking motorists never look and they all hate cyclists”.  Don’t even get me started on the motorists who feel I shouldn’t be on the road because they “pay road tax”. 

As a law abiding road user, I try to share the roads, and would like all road users to do the same, be they cyclists, motorists or pedestrians. I am fed up to the back teeth of every discussion – both in real life and online – of how to increase safety for cyclists being derailed by circular debates on who is the worst road user. Poor road use by some cyclists should not be an argument against putting in safer cycle routes or improving existing dangerous ones.  Poor road use by some motorists should not be an argument for banning cars from certain areas. To be effective it is vital that changes to the transport infrastructure in London  are made holistically; taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) as well as those of the majority of road users (car drivers) and the needs of London’s economy (public transport, delivery vehicles, HGVs). And I say that as a cyclist.  A fully integrated transport system is possible, but to truly visualise what that could be like we have to drop the Them vs Us/Road Entitlement mentality.

Having said all that I am going to be a massive hypocrite, but this is my blog and I’ll do what I like, YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME. I have a few requests to  make of my fellow road users, and to try to lessen the hypocrisy slightly I will make three requests from each group.

Pedestrians:

  • It’s Stop, Look, Listen. Not Listen, I Can’t Hear Anything So I’ll Suddenly Step Off The Kerb With No Warning While Texting Oh Shit I’ve Just Been Hit By A Cyclist.
  • Your child is not a canary. Please look before shoving your pushchair out into the road.
  • A cyclepath is a CYCLEpath. The clue is in the name. No, I am not cycling on the pavement, and it’s not called Smallchildonascooterpath.

Motorists:

  • They are called INDICATORS because they INDICATE. If you don’t INDICATE how is anyone to know where you’re going? Magical unicorn mind reading powers?
  • Please learn what this sign means and stop making rude gestures at me for cycling down this street the opposite way to you.
  • This is rule 163 of the highway code and it’s a good one. Please to be following.

Cyclists:

  • If you see this sign, GET OFF YOUR SODDING BIKE YOU BASTARD.
  • Look behind you regularly, especially if you are planning to move to the right. It is possible that someone is trying to overtake you, and if it’s a cyclist you won’t hear them. If you’re listening to music on headphones you won’t hear anything at all, so how about you especially look behind you if you’re wearing headphones. Or just don’t wear them.
  • Don’t go through red lights. They are either red to allow pedestrians to cross or to allow traffic to pass in the other direction. Also, it’s stupid and dangerous. Oh, and ILLEGAL.

I could go on, but I’d be here all night. And really, all of my bug  bears and annoyances of other people on the road could be resolved thusly:

All road users:

  • Obey the highway code
  • Share the road
  • Use some common sense.

Actually, I could boil that down to one rule, which I try to obey every time I am out on my bike:

  • Don’t be a dickhead.

Thanks to Mr RPD for the punny title.