10th December 2012

Dear Motorists,

We’ve had enough.

We’ve had enough of you not giving us enough room on the road. We’ve had enough of you ignoring our cycle lanes (rule 140 of the Highway Code). We’ve had enough of you stopping in our advance boxes (rule 178 of the Highway Code). We’ve had enough of you being impatient behind us just because you didn’t get up early enough, only for us to catch you at the next set of traffic lights anyway. We’ve had enough of you overtaking us and then turning left straight in front of us (rule 183 of the Highway Code). We’ve had enough of you overtaking and then cutting right in the curb just so we can’t pass you. We’ve had enough of you being on your mobile phones. We’ve had enough of you beeping your horn at us. We’ve had enough of you pulling out at junctions and roundabouts without looking. We’ve had enough of you bullying your way past us in rush hour traffic. We’ve had enough of you making our journey dangerous when it shouldn’t need to be.

Yes, we know some cyclists behave like idiots. They run red lights. They hop onto the pavement. They weave in and out of traffic. They ride with pedestrians through pedestrian crossings to avoid stopping at red lights with the rest of the traffic. And to be honest, we’re sick of them too. They give us proper cyclists a bad name. However, their behaviour is not a good enough reason to treat all cyclists with contempt or make the roads dangerous for us.

You see a cyclist. You see someone in your way. You see someone slowing you down because you’re in a hurry (why ARE you in a hurry by the way?). You see someone you think can’t afford a car. A nuisance. What you SHOULD see is someone’s dad. Or someone’s mum. Or son. Or wife. Or boyfriend. Or someone’s very reason for living.

Now imagine that cyclist in front of you is your loved one. Are you still going to ride too close? Are you still going to cut them up? Are you still going to brake in front of them?

No, I didn’t think so. Every cyclist, whether they are related to you or not, has as much right to be on the road as you, and have the right to complete their journey safely.

As cyclists, we’ve heard the various anti-bicycle arguments. We’ll address these briefly:

“Cyclists don’t pay road tax!”

It’s not “road tax”. It’s “car tax”. It was Winston Churchill who started abolishing “road tax” back in 1926! All sorts of road users are exempt, including mobility scooters, powered wheel chairs, historic vehicles, electric vehicles, steam vehicles, and agriculture vehicles. Cars themselves are taxed based on emissions, so a lot of cars are exempt also. Car tax isn’t a tax to allow you to use the road, so we don’t need to pay car tax to ride our bicycles on the road. The money used to maintain the roads come from other taxes, which cyclists do pay. Additionally, cyclists usually own a car too, and pay car tax anyway! So that argument is invalid.

“Why don’t cyclists use the cycle lane or cycle path?”

In most cases, we try to. However, it’s not as black and white as that. Firstly, the cycle lane infrastructure in this country isn’t great.

Road markings fade and are not touched up so motorists ignore them, making the cycle lane irrelevant in some cases. In times of poor weather, slippery mud, wet leaves, and large puddles make the cycle lanes a treacherous place to ride a bike. When there has been a road traffic accident, the debris and broken glass invariably ends up in the cycle lane, making it dangerous and increasing the likelihood of punctures and accidents. As cycle lanes are at the very edge of the road, it is more often than not also the location of drains, manhole covers and other road furniture. These get wet and slippery, and sometimes they are badly maintained, which again makes the cycle lane a dangerous place to be. UK roads are not well looked after at all, and bicycles do not fair well over large potholes and such like. These are also frequently found in the cycle lane. Cars park on the curb, so their cars are in the cycle lane. We need to give a car at least a metre in case the driver opens the door, which is well out of the cycle lane. So, whilst we try to use cycle lanes when we can, it’s not always safe to do so, but rule 63 of the Highway Code states to “keep within the lane when practicable”. There is no law to say we MUST stay in the cycle lane.

“Why do cyclists ride so far out into the road?”

Let’s face it, the road is only a certain width. If we cycle right in to the curb, it’s sending out a clear message that it is ok to pass us. However, there will be certain times where it simply ISN’T safe to pass us, and it is our right to prevent you from passing us if we don’t feel there is room to do so. We are not only protecting our safety, but also yours.

“Why do cyclists ride two abreast?”

Cycling, as well as being a form of transport, is also a social form of exercise. Rule 66 of the Highway Code states to “never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends”. We are perfectly entitled to ride two abreast, where it is safe to do so.

The inevitable fact that you must realize is we are not going anywhere. As both a sport and as a mode of transport, cycling is only ever going to become more popular. As the cost of driving increases, more and more people are going to see the light and ditch their cars for a cleaner, quicker and healthier method of transport. The sport of cycling is going to become more and more popular, and the sight of groups of cyclists on the road is going to become a more common sight. The best way to deal with this is not to persecute us, not to intimidate us, not to make our lives difficult and unsafe, but to embrace us and share the road with us. We are entitled to use the road just as much as you are, so remember that the cyclist in front could be a friend, colleague or loved one.

Have a safe journey home.

The Cyclists

 

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