Now as you all know, I’m a cyclist. I’ve spent probably years of my life on the roads in various countries, roads that of course were built and designed primarily as a carriageway for motor vehicles. Shock and horror, I’m also a car driver and I regularly as most motorists do come up behind cyclists using those roads the same way I do when I’m on my bike and unfortunately, over the last 10 years I have noticed that the general cyclist common sense, knowledge and etiquette of occupying these roads and sharing these roads with motorists seems to have gone out of the window.
I still know plenty of excellent cyclists who have impeccable road riding skills and sense, so I’m not casting aspersions on everybody. However, The increase in popularity of cycling and its benefits have promoted the activity to many people who have entered the sport at a more mature age and I’m afraid the ratio of good to bad is swinging firmly into the bad.
This might seem like a strange thing, to hear a cyclist calling out cyclists, and I know that every cyclist out there has got a story about an a****** motorist with an obvious vendetta who tries to upset, injure or even kill as many cyclists on his two mile journey to his local pub or supermarket, but in my current opinion there seems to be as many bad cyclists out there as there are bad motorists. To compound matters, in the UK we have had recent law changes protecting cyclists on the roads that seem to be pointing at the motorist as being the main culprit in this ongoing war on the tarmac, creating a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of suburban Chelsea tractor drivers. These laws, in my opinion, were totally unnecessary and I’m afraid have done nothing more than inflame an already inflammatory situation.
As a cyclist, we have to accept that the roads were not designed for us, that the primary purpose of roads is of course to serve the motorist. However, cyclists are valid road users, even now promoted as environmentally conscious symbols of human transportation and we are allowed to use these roads so there needs to be some kind of conscious common sense placed from both sides of the car bike divide. Creating fixed, enforceable laws in favour of cyclists, I think, is just a stupid idea when the solution is so simple.
Having ridden from the 1980s until present day, the obvious change to me being a rider on the road is simply the volume of traffic and with that volume of traffic is the mindset of the congested, contained and restricted motorist versus the mind of the free unrestricted cyclist. Is it a kind of jealousy that the motorists are now feeling towards the cyclist? Because in the 1980s in my experience, this hatred of cyclists just did not exist because a motorist could easily get from A to B unrestricted and generally at whatever speed he wanted to travel at, whereas today the same journey will take three times as long in a car that cost three times as much. In fact, this theory is soundly represented if you ever, as a cyclist, have the opportunity to cycle in Spain or Italy. On roads that are bathed in sunshine with perfect tarmac like glass to ride on both the driving and cycling experience is one to behold, to love and enjoy. In fact, I have cycled on mountains in Spain where I have climbed for over 20 km and not seen one motor vehicle in either direction. When a motor vehicle does come up behind you the driver on the continent will have the patience and virtue to sit behind for as long as it takes to find a comfortable, safe place to pass. This is in a country where the Italians for example have a reputation for hot headedness, for losing their temper and also the Spanish for being aggressive, but not on the roads against cyclists… oh no, the respect for cycling is immense. Unfortunately this is not replicated here in the UK where a comfortable place to pass a cyclist is usually qualified by giving that cyclist at least a quarter of an inch between the wing mirror of your car and his elbow (having been clipped more than once by a vehicle’s wing mirror as I was passed, I know exactly this to be true). However, this situation is not helped by the actions of some of the cyclists.
The number of times I’ve come up behind a group of cyclists riding two or three abreast on roads that are simply not designed for that style of riding. On wide, straight, open B roads without any corners of course ride two abreast because any motorist has plenty of time to size up an opportunity and pass and give you at least half of the road to do so, But on a busy A road, even though it is wide with lots of traffic and parked vehicles on either side, cyclists must remain in single file, giving the cars as much opportunity to pass as possible in a more congested area because in the general scheme of things, cars must have priority on A roads and cyclists in return must receive that respect on B roads. Even on those quiet sleepy B roads groups of cyclists must always have what we call a ‘tail end Charlie’. This designated member of the group will sit at the back watching his friends and fellow cyclists riding two or maybe even three of breast in front but constantly checking behind for oncoming vehicles. This may be a long period of time where no vehicles appear and cycling is pure joy, but on the appearance of any vehicle coming up behind on a B road then the ‘tail end Charlie’ will utter the famous phrase “CAR BACK”!!! And this call will initiate the synchronised movements of all your cyclists ahead to file into a single file and stay in that position as the traffic passes and until your ‘tail end Charlie’ issues the second call of “CLEAR” from when normal cycling can resume and conversations can continue at 2 and 3 abreast. Unfortunately, this does not happen very often.
Being aware of your surroundings and being courteous to motorists in particular, is extremely important as a cyclist and I’m afraid the art of good cycling is, in my opinion dying out.
Now cyclists will always filter down rows of cars that are stuck in traffic at traffic lights and they will always try and get to the front of any slow moving traffic that is held up behind a tractor or slow moving vehicle, but I’m afraid Mr. Motorist, that is the prerogative of the two-wheeled warrior and while you sit in your air conditioned leather clad luxury the cyclist on his carbon frame and razor sharp saddle will use any opportunity to advance himself up the highway, so please don’t get angry at that. Just get angry at the fact that somebody is slowing you down and that certainly is not the cyclist!
However, cyclists should never undertake any vehicle even if stationary. If you’re cycling and you arrive on a set of traffic lights where there is a Queue of vehicles in front of you, please overtake the row of vehicles on the right hand side of the lane in which you want to continue. If the traffic starts to move before you have completed your journey to the front of that queue of traffic then it is important that you filter back to the left hand side of that lane behind the car in front. How many times I’ve seen cyclists undertake lorries and buses that then, at the last minute, turn left into a garage forecourt causing a horrible incident, in that case Mr. Cyclist, you are very much in the wrong.
It’s all just really common sense and courtesy and that is exactly how I would endeavour to improve the relationship between most cyclists and motorists out on the roads here in the UK. Yes we are over populated and yes the roads are extremely busy at all times of day but there still is room for both cyclists and motorists to inhabit the roads together without incident and without accident. Be courteous and apply your common sense to the situation in front of you. And if you do that, both as a cyclist and a motorist than the end result will be a lot more harmonious.
Finally, to finish off this blog I would like to point out that not all are born with common sense and courtesy and no matter how many times they will be told they are in the right or in the wrong they will just find a way to create a problem and an issue at any cost. I hate to say it but we are accompanied in this world by people who shall always remain d*******s… and whether they are walking down the street, riding their bike or driving they car, they will always be a d*******d.