A response to a well-meaning, but ill-informed driver.

Three days ago, a driver in Bristol posted a video that has got quoted in the local press. This driver was aggrieved because his car was damaged by someone who was unable to be traced. I can understand why he might be annoyed by this as I myself have had my nice car damaged. On one occasion it was by someone in a stolen car, who ran into mine several times in a car park at the hospital where my wife works. On another occasion, it was damaged by a careless driver whilst parked in an otherwise empty car park at a supermarket. There is damage on the nice car I have now, and I’ve no idea how it got there. However, I don’t fret too much over it; possibly because when my wife was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, it put a few things into a clearer perspective. (She is fine now – as far as we know.)

It just happens that the person who damaged the car of the video poster was riding a bicycle, which is what prompted them to get a mount for their mobile phone and start recording their journeys on video. I can understand that; after all, I do it on my bicycle because I so often feel endangered by the antics of some incompetent and some aggressive drivers. He has now posted on YouTube a video showing some of the heinous crimes committed by cyclists when he is driving, and I have linked that video below:

This video was intended to show the bad behaviour of cyclists, but it really says more about the attitude of some drivers – quite a high proportion of drivers in my view – including this one. So I wrote this article to respond to the points that he made in the video. The numbers refer to the numbers quoted in the text frames of the video.

  1. The left hand side, by the kerb, is often the most dangerous place to cycle. Bikeability, the national cycle training scheme, teaches cyclists not to cycle too close to the kerb, to cycle in the centre of the traffic flow when it is not safe to be overtaken and when keeping up with traffic. Overtaking is generally safer done on the outside (right), not the inside (left), as drivers often fail to check the nearside mirror before moving or turning left. Here are some examples of what can happen (as a result of the stupid actions of motorists) if you cycle close to the kerb:

    Filtering through motor traffic that is queueing is perfectly legal, and Bikeability Level 3 teaches cyclists how to do this safely. Motorists get upset primarily because they think someone is “jumping the queue”. This attitude is sometimes referred to as “dog-in-a-manger”; the fact that a motorist chose a vehicle that causes congestion and results in their having to wait in queues really is not the cyclist’s problem, so you just need to get over it.
    Whilst there is a great deal of research to show that there is a significant societal benefit from compulsory seat belts in cars, cycle helmets are of dubious value when cycling in traffic, and may even make cyclists less safe, and it is very clear that there would be a significant net societal disadvantage to making them compulsory.

  2. Cycle lanes in this country are usually of very poor quality. If you are not someone who regularly rides a bicycle as a mode of transport, you are not in a position to judge whether a cycle lane is acceptable. Reasons for avoiding them include: bad surfaces, unsuitable for someone riding often at 20mph and above; rubbish and detritus in the lane, causing danger and punctures; loss of priority over side roads (imagine if you, in your car, were expected to stop and give way at every side road); many of them are shared with pedestrians – again unsuitable for people travelling somewhere at a reasonable speed; and most of them are too narrow, encouraging some motorists to ignore the guidance given in highway code rule 163 and pass cyclists far too close. Here’s a fairly typical example of a “cycling facility” (which I generally ignore) on my route to work: http://youtu.be/512i2dTR9dE.
  3. Yes, people on bikes should stop when required (e.g. at red traffic lights, to give way to pedestrians, to avoid a collision, etc.). In the video you showed for this point, however, we see someone doing what certainly appears to be a strange manoeuvre, but is probably not in the least bit dangerous and, without seeing the context, is probably not illegal. If, as you say, there are so many cyclists doing dangerous things, perhaps you could come up with a more convincing example?
    Your assertion about what the police do or don’t do is just plain incorrect. Look up Operation Safeway in London and Operation Grimaldi in Manchester for example.
  4. Yes, cyclists should stop at red lights, and should not cycle on the pavement unless it is a designated shared use facility. Unfortunately, you illustrate this with video of someone who, whilst strictly breaking the law, is actually not endangering anyone. Again, given the huge proportion of cyclists you claim are guilty of these things (98%), perhaps a more convincing example showing someone acting dangerously would help? Here are a few examples of truly dangerous red light jumpers:

    Well done for stopping at the Advance Stop Line there, by the way. In my experience, very few motorists even acknowledge the presence of ASLs.

  5. I expected to see a cyclist holding up an emergency vehicle here, but could not see that. Is this just the same issue as item 1, whereby you are just peeved that people on bicycles are able to make better progress than those in motor vehicles when the roads are busy?
  6. Yes, I find this annoying as well. The main reason I find it annoying is because it gives motorists the impression that all cyclists go through red and amber lights, which may result in those motorists making that assumption about me and hitting me from behind. Here is an example of a near miss in such a situation: http://youtu.be/lHUf5yGTMqs.
    Of course, the best solution to cases like the one you showed would be to make “left turn on red” legal for cyclists, as they have been trying in Paris and as is often the case in the Netherlands. This would reduce the danger that cyclists face when they find themselves stopped on the inside of traffic at a red light and then risk getting killed by a left turning lorry, something that may account for the disproportionate number of female cyclists killed in this way.
    The reason motorists are required to be insured is because they pose a massive danger to others. This is also the reason why motor insurance if so expensive, whereas organisations like British Cycling and CTC are each able to throw in £10 million of third party insurance as part of their membership fee of £32 and £42 respectively. The same point applies in relation to MOT testing and registration numbers.
    Helmets and “Hi-viz” jackets are of dubious value, and in som circumstances can actually increase danger to cyclists.
  7. Indeed, cyclists should indicate their intentions so that other road users know what they are about to do, particularly when failure to do so could result in a conflict. It is again unfortunate, though, that you chose to show a situation that does not result in any conflict at all; it would have been far better to show an example (from among the 98% you claim) in which the failure to indicate actually caused a problem.
    Of course, someone who has no training in cycling would not be aware of the issues surrounding a cyclist’s decision on whether to indicate. This requires a cyclist to take their hands of the handlebars, which brings increased danger due to loss of effectiveness in braking, steering and accelerating. In the book “Cyclecraft”, which is the set text for the Bikeability scheme, John Franklin (on page 93 of the 4th edition) divides signals into “safety signals”, which should always be used, and “courtesy signals” which “cater for those circumstances when, alas, signalling can impair rather than enhance your safety”. In some cases, the loss of safety results from the effect the signal has on the behaviour of motorists. In the example you showed, it is likely that the annoyance a driver feels is caused more by the fact that they were denied the opportunity to attempt to squeeze past dangerously on the left of the cyclist rather than any safety concerns. I’m not suggesting that is the case with you, but the worry about it would be a valid reason for the cyclist to avoid indicating.
    I was surprised, though, that you failed to note the real issue in that case, which was that the cyclist appears to be making an illegal turn past a no-entry sign; now that really is a safety issue!
  8. This is just a repeat of 6., so please refer to my response to that item as well as the links I provided in my response to 4.
  9. Yes, that’s a strange one as there was room to pass on the road. I have to say though that, even though cycling on the pavement is illegal and I don’t do it myself, I really cannot find it in myself to blame those who do, given the dangerous antics of a small but significant proportion of drivers. In fact, even the Government recognizes this in its guidance to the Police on the matter. In the example you showed, we see someone sedately pootling along the pavement, causing no problem to anyone; could you not have used, from your 98%, a more convincing example showing someone actually cycling in an inconsiderate or dangerous manner?
  10. This one is just weird. We see someone legitimately overtaking the cars, whose drivers have unfortunately chosen to use a vehicle that causes congestion and queues and consequently have to wait in those queues. The cyclist is exercising caution, finding a suitable position to move in and slow or stop each time there is an oncoming vehicle. Surely, this could not be another example of the peevish, dog-in-a-manger attitude that I mentioned in my response to item 1.
  11. I think I might have been a little more cautious there myself, but unfortunately we cannot see what the cyclist can see. As the scene unfolds, it becomes quite apparent that there is plenty of space for the cyclist to overtake even with the oncoming van, and it is highly likely that the cyclist could see that from the position they were in. Again, a more convincing example from your 98% would have been better. The comment about “wrong side of the road” is rather foolish; that is what is called “overtaking” and drivers do it all the time (except when they feel they’d rather give a cyclist a scare instead of using the available space).
  12. Now, I actually think you have a point in this case. Personally, I would have just gone with the flow there, staying in the centre of the traffic flow as there is little to be gained from trying to overtake. This cyclist does seem to have a similar attitude to many motorists that I encounter:

    Well, there are hundreds of these, but you get the picture. The main difference here is that these ones I showed pose a danger to others, whereas the one you showed poses a danger primarily to him/herself.

  13. Now this one is a bit of an own goal. You are clearly catching up with the cyclist, therefore travelling faster than they are, yet you are accusing the cyclist of breaking a speed limit that doesn’t even apply to him but does apply to you! You see, section 89 of the Road Traffic Act 1984, which is the relevant legislation here, states: “1. A person who drives a motor vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding a limit imposed by or under any enactment to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence.” The only offence committed in this one is your own offence of speeding in a motor vehicle!
  14. There appears to be no evidence of a cycle path in this clip. From the information available, all I can see is a cyclist riding illegally on the footway, and a driver (you) overtaking far too close to a cyclist who is using the road that he is entitled to use. Please read rules 163, 212 and 213 of the Highway Code and stop driving in a careless and inconsiderate manner around cyclists. See this illustration from rule 163:

Your video finishes with a number of text frames that show your true colours unfortunately. You recite the usual nonsense about “Road Tax”, which was abolished in 1937, and insurance, which most cyclists have anyway on their or their parents’ house insurance. (In fact I, myself, have £12 million of 3rd party insurance in total for cycling). The reason why motor vehicles are required to be registered, taxed, insured, and tested, and why those  driving them are required to be certified, is because each motor vehicle is between 1 and 44 tonnes of powerful, extremely dangerous machinery that, between them killed 1,713 people and seriously injured 21,657 in Great Britain in 2013 including 1,980 children. If, as you claim, you are concerned about safety, then perhaps you should look into this. In the meantime, try telling the parents, brothers and sisters of those 1,980 children about your damn scratched paintwork and broken mirror!

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7 Responses to A response to a well-meaning, but ill-informed driver.

  1. ifonlyyouknew says:

    Just thankyou. For taking the time to write that !!

  2. Alan Davies says:

    Well written
    Just a point of pedantry, Road tax was introduced in 1930 and abolished in 1937.

  3. Dan says:

    Was Winston Churchill able to see into the future?

    In opposition to the original Road Fund Licence he said:

    “It will be only a step from this for [motorists] to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created.”

    How prophetic, even all these years after it’s abolition there are people proving that his words were all too true

  4. Phil Fouracre says:

    Fantastic response

  5. EricD says:

    I confess to not having watched the video or considered every point in your response. Good work !

    Just wanted to add a couple of links:

    Women cyclists are more likely to be killed in traffic: TfL suppresses report | RUDI – Resource for Urban Development International
    ‘internal: not for publication’ is not quite the same as ‘suppresses’!

    I note you’re into ‘education’ – it would be nice if we could take it off the road, and not involve vehicles, weapons, fisticuffs, shouting and swearing.
    I think a large part of the problem is that motorists are trying to educate us !

    The historical problem is that Bikeability was introduced without any attempt to educate motorists how to react.
    We need to take the education process off the roads, and back into the laws, textbooks , lessons and tests.

    Particularly, we need to update the Highway Code to protect cyclists in line with Bikeability.
    Motorists need to accept that cyclists may use the lane.
    Driver Training and the Test need to cover overtaking.

    Do you feel the Highway Code needs changing ? Know of any campaigns ?
    I’ve started a blog, but it’s a huge topic !

    • MrHappyCyclist says:

      Thanks for that. Your analysis of the video on that page is spot on. Whilst I would certainly, nowadays, have just taken up primary position behind the MGIF driver, I can understand why so many try to make a point like this. I’ve spent too much time in police stations reporting drivers for extremely dangerous behaviour and getting absolutely nowhere. Also, I have no doubt that, had the cyclist taken up the correct position behind the MGIF driver’s car, the guy recording the video would have been incandescent with road rage.

      I agree that the highway code needs changing to reflect Bikeability principles. The problem, though, is that most drivers haven’t looked at the HC for years, or even decades, so I’m not sure what difference it would make. What we need is enforcement.

      Regarding education, you may be interested in the post that kicked off this blog nearly 4 years ago: http://www.happycyclist.org/?p=32

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