Bicycle Diaries: Antisocial bikers?

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Antisocial bikers?

Bikers are typically an independent bunch. This is especially true when it comes to their attitudes towards the rules of the road. I have a sneaking suspicion that a significant number of folks enjoy biking because they can break the law with little or no chance of getting caught.

Who hasn't felt the thrill of cheating a traffic light, whizzing past those obedient cagers? Of course, a few bikers cheating one or two lights every now and then isn't such a big deal. But as increasing numbers of bikers crowd the streets, it will be.

In fact, I've always thought that the usual debate between bikers and cagers misses a big point. Eventually there won't be all that many cars on the streets. So we'll have to start dealing with the less than social attitudes of our fellow bikers.

So I wasn't surprised when Brian Hennigan touched off a minor furor with his op-ed piece in the Edinburgh Evening News: It's time to put brakes on antisocial cyclists (9 Jan 2007). Here it is; and I'm also including his reader responses to illustrate by point.
I WAS thinking the other day - what is it that stops some cyclists growing up? This crossed my mind after being sliced up while walking along a pavement designed for pedestrians by an adult on a bicycle, for whom the road was evidently a wee bit on the grown-up side.

Before I begin my assault on two-wheeled idiots, let me get my credentials in order. As some readers might recall, I am no fan of cars in the city; I am pro-cycling. I want more cycling in and around Edinburgh. I would like nothing better than an enormous network of cycling lanes going here, there and everywhere, yes even unto Asda.

Every major company should be compelled to provide storage facilities for all their employees who wish to cycle. The lack of a comprehensive infrastructure to help cyclists is laughable.

The provisions for cycles to be stored on trains and on buses - as they so easily are all over the world - is a joke. One can only hope that Edinburgh's proposed new tram system allows for the transportation of bicycles.

Having established that I am not one of those lunatic motorists who view cyclists as being pigeons with wheels, let me continue to rant against those too-many cyclists who seem to think that by virtue of using a form of transportation that is green, they are somehow excused consideration for others.

There is only one reason to be cycling on a pavement: you are a little child who needs adult accompaniment. All other cyclists should be on the road where they belong. If for some reason your traffic lane is congested and you are unable to make progress, tough. It is not acceptable to simply mount the pavement and continue as if you have been in some way sinned against. If you don't have stabilisers on, the road is the only place we should find you whizzing along.

Here is another fact that some cyclists will find shocking: those funny lights that you sometimes see at the junctions of roads apply to both cars AND bicycles. Red means stop. Red does not mean pedal smugly across thinking no-one can see you. Apart from anything else, your invisibility to other road-users might just be proven in a way you did not envisage.

While we are on the subject of meanings, No Cycling signs mean that there should be no cycling. It might seem cute for you to zoom across the Meadows the wrong way, but one day someone is going to get fed-up with your selfish behaviour and you will be amazed how far you can travel without a bicycle when someone jams a stick in your rear-wheel.

Occasionally cyclists are so stupid and selfish it makes you wonder if the wind has somehow whistled through their ears too quickly and sucked their brains out. Cycling without lights at night is not some environmentally courageous way of showing how you and the owls are as one; it's a way of being on a bicycle that says: "I don't care about anyone else other than myself. If some elderly person or small child crossing the road can't see me - hard cheese on them. I am on a bicycle and don't care."

What makes all of the above modes of behaviour inexplicable is that so many cyclists like to ride around as if they have some sort of cloak of environmental awareness flying behind them. Any degree of environmental awareness must take into account the welfare of your fellow citizens.

Rant almost over, but I couldn't possibly sign off without mentioning helmets. Anyone who thinks pedalling au naturale is fine deserves whatever non-indicating delivery van might lie in their future.

Let's just call it Darwinism - anyone who believes they can do without a helmet probably isn't a useful addition to the gene pool. All that remains is to find a way of billing those who don't wear helmets for any hospital-based repairs that are necessary as a result of their recklessness.

I want cycling to be the future, but I want selfish and/or stupid cyclists to become a thing of the past.

1. Henry / 3:14pm 9 Jan 2007
It must be great getting paid to connect a keyboard to your bum and letting it all flow out. Great, you don't like bad cycling but you don't hate all cyclists. How interesting. What a refreshing viewpoint. Yeah, but no, but yeah.
Have you seen that blog that calls Brian a thieving tw@t over some story about Polish folk? Now that is proper opinion.
2. David - another one, Edinburgh / 6:13pm 9 Jan 2007
There is too much to comment on in the rant, so I'll stick to the last bit.

I assume that Mr Hennigan also wants a way of billing pedestrians and motorists for hospital-based repairs they incur as a result of their recklessness if they don't wear helmets. It is quite clear that car and pedestrian helmets would prevent more head injuries than cycle helmets.

Should he wish to educate himself on the subject then is the place to start. He should be warned though, unlike his article the site presents a depth of well researched argument.
3. Beqi, Edinburgh / 8:14pm 9 Jan 2007
I was about to applaud Mr Hennigan's refreshingly realistic take on cyclists in the city, and then it all went wrong. David from #2 is spot on; if I were to cycle without wearing my helmet, and Delivery Man hits me at 30mph and the impact gives me two broken legs and arms, but my head is fine, what then? Should I have been cycling wearing full body armour? I don't plan on being hit at 30mph, but if I do I'm not convinced a piece of polystyrene is going to help my head that much.

Anyone who cycles on the road should do so in the knowledge that the majority of motorists are not out to kill people who aren't in metal boxes, but learning to avoid accidents in the first place is a *hugely* important skill for anyone using the road. In six traffic-related incidents in my last ten or so years' cycling in Edinburgh, four were non-incidents due to my early anticipation of what could happen, and two were caused by motorists not looking and driving straight into me.
4. David G, Edinburgh / 8:32pm 9 Jan 2007
Brain doesn't always play to the motoring gallery - he's had a go in the past at 'lardy arsed' drivers that can't tell the time on their mobile and get there cars towed away.

Cracking down on drivers that run red lights is something I'd agree with him on. Story is at bottom of page - should have been top as this behaviour results in serious injuries and death.

I would suggest that anyone that drives a red light is more likely to break the law outside of town. The roads are overcrowded so banning drivers that clearly disregard this law is good for everyone.

I witnessed two long distance buses simply drive through a red light across the path of a police van waiting on green. They did nothing. Now if it had been a couple of bikes...!

£1.3 billion pounds - the cost of road accidents in Scotland every year.
5. James (1) / 11:34pm 9 Jan 2007
BRIAN HENNIGAN states "Let's just call it Darwinism - anyone who believes they can do without a helmet probably isn't a useful addition to the gene pool. "

Does that include Sikh's? They do not need to wear crash helmets whilst driving motorcycles or pedal cycles and if we believe the statistics, its the speed that kills.

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Anonymous publicenergy said...

This is part of a bigger picture I think. In all aspects of life there are a subset of people who ignore the rules and just look after themselves. I ride and I drive and I see other cyclists doing stupid things on the roads and pavements and I see other cars chancing red lights and blocking junctions and a whole host of other things.

A future where cyclists treat each other like motorists treat each other now doesn't bear thinking about. Can you imagine multiple lanes of cyclists shouting abuse at each other and giving each other the finger and pushing in in front of each other!

14/1/07 14:08  
Blogger Da' Square Wheelman, said...

I agree. I got the idea when I noticed that bike traffic has increased exponentially on my daily commute route along Lincoln Ave. But frankly, that's the curse behind the growing success of the bike community here in Chicago.

15/1/07 13:26  
Blogger SueJ said...

I think serious planning needs to take into account the effect of success of bicycling communities. Our bike paths are tolerable in long as cycle and auto traffic are all very light.

Our path system, though, actively encourages exactly the kind of scofflaw being scoffed at in this article. To follow the paths, riders need to disregard, well, common sense. The inconsistency of the facilities sends the message loudly and clearly that a cyclist might as well make up her own rules - the ones set out there clearly weren't done with my safety in mind.

15/1/07 22:46  
Blogger Da' Square Wheelman, said...

We also need to confront the culture of confrontation which may have been appropriate in the Stonewall Years of bike activism. Now we need to define what it means (what are responsibilities are) in the soon-to-be bike-dominated streets.

15/1/07 23:58  

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