Aren’t all cyclists just red-light hopping, pavement-riding menaces to society?
Ask yourself a question, do you ever see vehicles parked on the pavement? Do you ever see drivers doing U-Turns in hugely inappropriate places? Do they change lanes without indication? Of course they do, but does everybody? No, of course not, and as in any walk of life you will find a fraction of the people who take part in an activity do it badly, just like cyclists, drivers and pedestrians do. We aren’t here to start political debate about the appropriateness of cycling, the need for safer bike lanes, the passing of law to make helmets mandatory or any of the other arguments that seem to swirl around the cycling Vs driving debate, but we can tell you that we do both. It’s pretty essential to be able to drive sometimes, for work, to visit family in far flung places and to get the ‘big shop’ in, but when we can, we like to ride to places, and in the vast majority of cases, we can get to where we need to go a lot quicker than we can in a car. If you include the ability to ride almost to the door and not have to pay to park or find a parking spot and then walk round to the final destination, we also think you arrive in a much more relaxed state of mind. We can assure you that we don’t ride on the pavement, we don’t jump red lights and we aren’t guilty of ‘wanton and furious cycling’, but that doesn’t mean we’re perfect and we are the first to stop and apologise if we make a mistake and inadvertently get in the way at the junction or commit any of the other heinous crimes that cyclists commit occasionally. The vast majority of car drivers are the same, they occasionally get in the wrong lane and have to change and they don’t always look for us on our bikes before making the switch, they sometimes forget to indicate at junctions, thus causing us to lose all that precious momentum that we worked so hard to build while we slow down at the last second to avoid ploughing into the back of them, but they normally put their hand up, acknowledge their error and everyone moves on with the rest of their day happy with their life choices. Occasionally however you will see bad cyclists, mounting the pavement, jumping across the junction when it’s not their right of way, cutting across traffic to change from major to minor roads and generally being an inconsiderate plonker, as you will see drivers who drive too close to you, forget to indicate and stop on double yellow lines outside school in the morning.
So let’s ask ourselves the question, what can we do to work together?
How can we make sure that everyone gets to where they are going safely and without undue delay? We as a company deliver Bikeability to children in Primary School, showing them in practical and realistic terms how the road works and how they should behave in the traffic. When they leave the course they are in no doubt as to how the road should work, and how it often works in a ‘real world’ sense. We teach them that drivers should stay behind them at junctions, but we explain that often they won’t, and give them the tools to deal with both situations. We teach them that they must warn a driver behind when they are slowing down or stopping to avoid being hit from behind, but we understand that they often get intimidated by the presence of vehicles and forget and rush to stop to get out of the way. We spend 8 hours with them going through as many scenarios as we can until they feel confident to start riding on the road independently. When was the last time you did that in your vehicle? Just as an example, if you’re 40 then the last time you had any tuition whatsoever could have been 23 years ago…you may have picked up some bad habits in that time right? So what we do is offer Bikeability courses to drivers and families, so they can come along and see what the riders are learning and understand how they should react to cyclists based on understanding their way of riding. Once a driver has ridden on the road and felt what it is like to have cars overtake and can feel the big differences in speed and size between the vehicles they often have that ‘Aha!’ moment when they realise how intimidating it can be for even the hardiest of cyclist.
So, I would encourage all drivers out there to go along to a Bikeability session and learn what cyclists are being taught and see why they ‘ride in the middle of the road’ and get an understanding of why the 1.5 metre pass law is in effect, as I would encourage all bike riders who also drive to remember how difficult it is when you see a cyclist and they are riding erratically and remember to project the right image, make sure you can be seen, make sure your road position is correct and remember to obey all the rules of the road.
It’s a busy old world out there and it’s only getting busier so we all need to remember to be kind, be patient and please be careful around each other. All Cyclists are somebody’s daughter, son, wife, husband, mother, father, friend and fellow human being, if you take a risk and the worst happens then think of how that will affect everyone…could you pass a bit wider? Could you wait until the road is clear before overtaking? Please, please, please work together and we can all get where we’re going safely.
If you would like to talk to us about Bikeability and road safety sessions then please do send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Marc has been delivering cycling sessions since 2007 and Sole Cycling is a registered Bikeability provider, having taught thousands of primary and secondary aged children to learn to ride safely on the road. Sole Cycling also work with Avon and Somerset Police to deliver community based cycle safety and bike maintenance courses.Follow us on Social Media or Blog post updates.