There are many positives to riding a bike in exchange of a car; lower emissions and less traffic congestion to name a couple. Not to mention that the nation would most likely be in much better physical shape if more people chose to do so and I’m all for staying fit.
However, as a driver I can’t help but find them ever so slightly infuriating.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that a large number of cyclists show maximum respect for other road users and have no intention of putting anyone’s nose out of joint. Be that as it may, from recent experiences it feels like for every rule abiding, respectable cyclist on the road, there is an idiot on a bike to match them.
Just this week I made the mistake of expressing my irritation on Twitter, about an encounter I’d had that day with a particularly arrogant man on a bicycle using his mobile phone. Needless to say it didn’t take long before a cycling fanatic had jumped down my throat, accusing me of making generalisations. Though, he also made the candid point that a lot of drivers aren’t so innocent themselves, which I agree is a fair comment.
This particular individual was certainly very opinionated about the topic, along with a lot of other Twitter users and I have no doubt that by writing this article I may spark a few more opposing comments too.
My discussion with him however prompted me to look further into road regulations for cyclists and I was surprised to read that some of the habits which I, along with a lot of other car users get most irritated by are in fact encouraged by government approved cycle training schemes.
One term that I came across a lot was “taking the lane,” which is essentially riding in the centre of the lane.
Although I can see the safety benefits for a cyclist remaining central on the road, being that they are out of the way of hazards such as car doors opening, etc; this has got to be one of my pet peeves. I live in a village and driving down narrow country lanes is regular practice for me. All the same, my familiarity with rural driving does not make me any more tolerant of cyclists hogging the roads now, than when I first passed my driving test.
On a number of occasions I have found myself crawling along at snail pace behind a cyclist for a good minute or two before they finally decided to edge over to allow me past. This may sound petty and some may argue that cyclists have an equal right to the roads as cars; but when they’re travelling at a fraction of the speed, I think differentiations need to be made. It is just not realistic that cars should have to travel behind a cyclist as though they are any other vehicle, or there would be absolute mayhem (and don’t get me started on cyclists demanding equal rights on the road and then skipping red lights.)
Another apparent advantage of “taking the lane” listed in one article that I read, was that it prevents ‘unsafe overtaking’ and I fail to see how forcing a car further into the path of oncoming traffic is in any way the safer option.
I appreciate that a cyclist may feel safer with more space around them and having freedom on the road when it is empty is fair enough, but a little more awareness of other road users wouldn’t go a miss.
Something else that I was amazed to read is that it is perfectly legal for cyclists to ride two abreast. Whereas I can understand the reasoning behind “taking the lane,” I fail to grasp why riding alongside each other is at all necessary, other than to overtake of course. It is inconvenient for other road users and I personally cannot see any safety benefits behind it either.
Despite all that I have said and this may sound a little contradictory; I do not want to alienate cyclists from the roads and I do not place all of the blame with the cyclists themselves. Considering the government are making an attempt to encourage people to get on their bikes, which to your surprise I actually agree with, for health and environmental reasons; a large majority of roads just aren’t designed for cyclists. If the necessary changes are made, such as the introduction of more cycle lanes and clearer regulations, you never know, there may actually be more harmony between road users in the future.