I had promised atticus_frog my thoughts on cycling aaaaaages ago and never got the second part finished. First part here.Here's what pushed me to finally getting this published today.
At times, while cycling, I rant internally at the cars around me. Sometimes I rant out loud. If you endanger my safety, expect to get shouted at. For the LJ people, I'm not cutting this because it's important. It is not an overstatement to say that if you aren't safe around bikes, you could very, very easily kill someone. Also, I repeat myself a bit. Repetition increases retention, after all.
I find that many people talk about how great it is that people get out and exercise and don't sit around lazing. Other talk about non-car transport and how they'd love to see more people using alternative fuels. Somehow, that enthusiasm seems to leave most when confronted with an actual bike going down the road. Even when cycling along a straightaway, with my wheel on the outside line, cars will move over only enough that they clear my handlebars by inches. I get angry at this, though anger wouldn't help me much if I actually got knocked off.
I refuse to be apologetic for riding my bike. It's irritating that the government sets up bike lanes and designated spots at traffic lights, but no one does a thing to enforce them. And, even getting to those bits often seems to offend drivers.1
(Granted, I can see the difficulties in policing this sort of thing.)
I get even angrier with cars/drivers who take the attitude that the road is intended only for them and that I'm somehow inconveniencing them. I stay as far over as I can on busy roads. For those car drivers getting their hackles up, let me remind you of a few things.
- I can't help what other cyclists do, take it up with them. Those people that bounce on and off the pavements/sidewalks, wear no reflectives/lights/protective gear, and weave in and out of traffic? Yeah, they irritate me too.
- Doing unexpected things to a cyclist (shouting, throwing things, honking, etc) can cause them to lose their balance. Don't do it.
- Don't try to stop us going down the cycle lane. Yes, you might be irritated that we get ahead at a light, but guess what? If my top speed is usually 20kph, you'll beat me eventually. If I can keep up momentum, my cycle is easier. If I have to stop because your wheel in in the cycle lane, it's harder to get back up to speed. Your acceleration is at the tip of your toes and requires very little effort. Mine is hard won after a lot of pedaling. Suck it up. Seriously.
- On country roads, the wind eddies from your wake when you pass us can really affect us sometimes. Give us as much space as you can. That goes double for lorries. A big thanks to the considerate lorries who slow down when passing us (even when coming from the other direction). It is much appreciated.
- Don't cut us off, slam on your brakes, and then turn left from on our right. Granted I can't actually hurt you for it, but I'll curse you with the inability to find trousers in your size for the rest of your life. Is it worth it?
- In case I wasn't clear before, you have acceleration at a moment's notice, we do not. We also do not have brakes that are always as effective as yours. Having to slam ours on might cause us to go arse over elbow and into the ground. Please, try not to kill us. It's only a few seconds of your time.
And, stay out of the cycle lane! Argh.2
I suppose the overall point that many forget is that even if everything else was equal (size, acceleration, etc), the first thing you have to do on a bike is balance. You don't have to balance to keep a car going.
Have a few visuals for those that don't have the time to read the rest of the entry.
1. Give us space. These should be minimums.3
2. Don't turn left across our path. 4
Yes, there are times when you can pass, then turn, and affect us not at all. It's a judgement call, I agree. However, if you're on a city street and have to break the 20 mile an hour limit to pass a cycle and then have to slam on your brakes to make the turn safely, you're the type I'm talking about.
According to Transport for London (as reported in this .pdf
from ctc.org.uk), the two most likely things vehicles do that kill cyclists is to swerve into their path (17% of cyclist fatalities, as in #1
above) or cut across their path (25% of cyclist fatalities, as in #2
Finally, I know that most of this time it's sheer ignorance of the problems involved driving near cyclists that cause the problem. Hopefully, I (and the thousands of other places all over the internet saying the same thing) can dispel some of the ignorance.
What I can't dispel is the urge of some motorists to do these things intentionally, even maliciously. Never decide to 'teach a cyclist a lesson' or to 'just shake them up'. Regardless of their behaviour, your vehicle wins. Don't kill. It's especially irritating when you've looked, assessed, signalled and are threatened by a car. Example from today that brought this on. Aberdonians can reconstruct this in their heads.
I'm heading north on Rosemont Viaduct. I approach the intersection with Skene St. At the intersection, the left lane peels off/is left turn only, the right lane is ahead only. I look, signal, and move into the right lane in order to go through the intersection without having left turners cut across my path. Someone who is planning on turning left zooms up at well over the speed limit and passes me on the left leaving about 2 metres between their car and the kerb. This brings them within 12 inches of my bike. As they turn, one of them shouts something at me (don't know what, however). I've moved out of their lane, I'm not slowing them down, but apparently they decided to 'shake up the cyclist'. As my brother would say, 'InconSIDerate'.
I'd love to say this is infrequent, but it happens almost every other time I cycle.
1- There's some confusion about the rights to the bike box at lights. See Highway Code 61 here I've read elsewhere (though I can't find the reference) that one is allowed to filter up to the bike box if there is a cycle lane leading to it. I generally follow this guideline. Therefore, I will filter to them on Union Street, but would not on, say, Bon Accord St.
2- Highway Code 140 here
3- See Highway Code 212 and 213 here and 163 here
4- This is specifically forbidden by the Highway Code. See 167 here