Alastair Dalton: Are cyclists their own worst enemies?

Bicycles and cars are often like cats and dogs on the roads. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Bicycles and cars are often like cats and dogs on the roads. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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RED light-jumping, iPod-wearing cyclists may be a danger to themselves, but the real damage they cause is the loss of respect from drivers.

Bicycles and cars are often like cats and dogs on the roads – never the best of friends who grudgingly share the carriageway.

While people might talk about “bad drivers”, they usually mean a minority, and certainly not themselves.

But “bad” and “cyclists” are virtually synonymous in some drivers’ eyes, probably because the errant seem a higher proportion of the relatively few bicycles being ridden on Scotland’s streets.

Some cyclists exercise the right to ride on fast, busy roads some might regard as unsuitable, especially if there are quieter or off-road alternatives nearby.

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This has led to antagonism with drivers, especially those who cyclists accuse of passing dangerously close to them. Some back this up with helmet camera evidence which they post online.

That’s all the more reason for every cyclist to stay within the law – both for their own safety and so they don’t give drivers an excuse to bully them out of the way.

If some drivers think they own the road, some cyclists think they can use it too, but opt in and out of any traffic laws as they choose.

OK, at low speed and with good observation, a cyclist may not come to any harm running a red light, but that’s not how drivers see it. They know they risk a £100 fine, three penalty points and higher insurance premiums – or worse – for doing the same thing, while the cyclist breezes off, scot-free.

They are likely to be even more riled by seeing advanced stop lines for cyclists at traffic lights, and even dedicated filter lights, if cyclists don’t even bother to use them and tear through regardless.

The same applies to cyclists who ride wearing earphones, without lights, or on pavements with no respect for pedestrians.

Much has been made of the need for lorry drivers to go out on a bike to see the road from their perspective.

But I think the opposite equally applies – cyclists who don’t often drive should get behind the wheel of a car and see for themselves what their fellow two-wheelers get up to.

The Scottish Government attempted to get the message across in its much-lampooned Nice Way Code campaign last year, whose attempts at humour backfired by being interpreted as attacks on cyclists.

And if you think this is just another anti-cyclist rant from a driver, it’s not. Nine times out of ten, I’m on two wheels too.

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