Friday, January 14, 2011

The traffic pecking order

I would have to rate the bicycle as my preferred form of transport. When you get older you need all the help you can get in maintaining some level of fitness and burning the pounds that tenaciously accumulate around your waist. Which is not why I do it, I cycle because - well for a host of different reasons which don't always all apply at the same time. It is; refreshing, tiring, more efficient, quicker in the rush hour, more certain in the rush hour, greener, relaxing, healthier, versatile, smaller impact, quieter, cheaper, less intrusive, sociable, private, fun and so on. I could go on but I have other things to do and so do you!

So why is it that in the pecking order of the roads it is a marginalised activity. Why is it that in numerous situations the cyclist has to give way? In fact on many cycle paths cyclists have to give way to both pedestrians on the path and motor vehicles crossing the path. Now if that isn't being marginalised I don't know what is.

I do drive as well and at the moment my daughter is learning to drive. She is having lessons, however I provide her with additional practice and variety. One of the things about "teaching" someone to drive is that it makes you think about the whole process from when to brake or change gear through to the rules of the road and stopping distances. You also have to think about the proper way to drive - learners have to do it properly not what seems to be custom and practice by "old hands". What I do notice is that having L plates on a vehicle is worse than have a "Kick me" sign on your back. The reason for having L plates is to indicate to their drivers that they need to give some leeway for the safety of all. They do not mean "please drive within a few inches of my bumper and even though I am driving at the speed limit overtake me recklessly. Although come to think about it perhaps there is a secret society that believes exactly that - and its membership is growing.

I also think that larger vehicles tend to assume and get more priority on the roads. Although I don't have a motor bike any more I used to ride one regularly, whilst it is often believed that motorcyclists are not always seen (as in SMIDSY - sorry mate I didn't see you) there were often times when larger vehicles (cars and up) would exploit the motorcyclists vulnerability and force priority.


What has brought on this introspection "Motorists see red as lights for guided bus stop the traffic". In this case apparently the lights on the cycle track alongside the Cambridge Guided Way Busway (CGB) are being triggered by cyclists and so, shock horror, stopping the traffic on Milton Road every time a cyclist passes through. There is also a quote from a disgruntled motorist who did not wish to be named... So it seems that there is an implicit assumption that (maybe annoyingly) buses should have the highest priority and (definitely annoyingly) cyclists should have the lowest priority. WHY!


In the same "issue" it was also reported that a record number of motorists were caught using mobile phones (I presume in Cambridge). In '09 it was 2,223 and in '10 it was 2,498. I think that this is the tip of the iceberg and often see motorists driving around with a phone to the ear. It only needs one moment of inattention and a cyclist (or pedestrian) can get seriously hurt - this is an infringement of the vulnerable roads users civil rights. By the way it hurts when a car knocks you off your bike - I know.

A phone also features in an assault on a teenage cyclist, apparently the road ragers felt justified in 'admonishing' a girl for 'dangerous cycling' who had a phone in her hand. The Magistrates felt differently - fortunately (it was also fortunate for the cyclists that there were witnesses).

In case you wondered - I have some mild lurgy at the moment so no cycling for the time being. I also got a few packets of Jelly Babies for Christmas - now all I need is an excuse for a long cycle ride.



  1. Good god. Priority for cyclists?!; this isn't the Netherlands, you know(!)

  2. I went to the Netherlands on my honeymoon (quite a long time ago!)- we took bikes and a tent on the car and settled in a campsite - cycled around a lot and then moved to another campsite. It still stands out in my mind how even bus drivers treated cyclists with courtesy - even those on the wrong side of the road.

    I guess we do have flatness in common!