Inconvenient truths to help ease motorist v cyclist aggravation – Alastair Dalton

Of all the contentious transport issues that I’ve broached in this column, equating bad cycling and bad driving has provoked the greatest and most vociferous reaction.
Cyclists have no option but share roads with drivers for many journeys. Picture: Greg MacveanCyclists have no option but share roads with drivers for many journeys. Picture: Greg Macvean
Cyclists have no option but share roads with drivers for many journeys. Picture: Greg Macvean

It has also proved hugely divisive, highlighting the “two tribes” mentality of some riders and motorists.

For some drivers, seeing cyclists running red lights, riding on pavements and not having lights sparks fury.

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But some cyclists retort that not only are some motorists guilty of similar offences, the potential impact of them doing the same is much greater.

Their argument goes that a driver is much more likely than a cyclist to kill someone by jumping a red light or driving onto the pavement.

Motorists might counter by saying that since cyclists are also using the road, they must obey its laws or suffer the penalties, just like everyone else. It’s not optional for some and compulsory for others.

As predominantly a cyclist rather than a driver, I tend towards that point of view - but for a different reason.

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Just because some drivers break laws does not mean it’s ok for cyclists to do so too, believing that for them there are unlikely to be any consequences.

The roads are an unequal place, errant drivers are far more likely to kill or injure cyclists than vice versa, and the focus should be on educating them to give cyclists more respect.

In my opinion - and some riders will vehemently disagree - the way to do that is for cyclists to be beyond reproach themselves. The inconvenient truth is that cyclists need drivers to change their ways more than vice versa.

That means riders not sailing through red lights as queuing drivers fume at their arrogance. Not forcing pedestrians to duck out of the way on pavements that are not designated for shared use. Not blithely cycling at night without lights (even worse if accompanied by a lack of reflective or hi-vis clothing).

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Of course, there should be equally zero tolerance of drivers doing the same - this is absolutely not one side must behave better than the other.

Perhaps I’m naive, but my impression is that drivers who see that cyclists are respecting the rules of the road are more likely in turn to respect riders - not stopping in cyclists’ advanced stop lines at junctions, not driving in cycle lanes and giving them more space when passing.

What’s brought this to mind is the rise of the delivery driver and rider, particularly those conveying hot food, such as Uber Eats and Just Eat.

I fear that more of these type of drivers and cyclists on the roads, where speed is the essence, will make things worse.

I saw one rider cycle onto the pavement to dodge a red light, and you know what? He had no lights on his bike either. “My battery has run out,” he said. On both front and back lights?

That’s not how cyclists who ride for a living should operate.

In an even more unbelievable case, a rider with no lights pulled onto an off-road cycle path in Glasgow city centre at night right in front of my bike so we almost collided. “I don’t need any because I’m not on the road,” came the extraordinary reply.

Come on folks - respect each other, whether you’re a driver or cyclist, on a road or a cycle path.