Time to put the brakes on bad bikers

After a blind OAP is run down by a bike, Mark McLaughlin wonders if cyclists are becoming a menace

After a blind OAP is run down by a bike, Mark McLaughlin wonders if cyclists are becoming a menace

To some they are the health-conscious, eco-friendly, two-wheeled angels of the road. But to others it seems they are increasingly seen as a hazard on the city's roads and footpaths, almost as dangerous and often as rude as the worst of reckless petrolheads.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is not hard to imagine the views of blind pensioner Sandy Elliot on the worst two-wheeled offenders after he was left bruised and bleeding on a footpath by a hit-and-run cyclist.

Another cyclist stopped to help the 67-year-old retired baker after his accident beside Ferry Road, but he still suffered haemorrhaging behind his eye and a suspected fractured eye socket because one rider wasn't looking where he was going.

His case is far from an isolated incident. Other pedestrians have suffered series injuries recently, including David Hickling, 65, who suffered a dislocated shoulder, fractured arm, facial fractures and a dislocated jaw after being hit by a cyclist on Bruntsfield Links, and a 57-year-old man who suffered head injuries after a head-on collision with a young cyclist on the Forth Road Bridge.

Besides those more serious incidents, tales abound of near-misses and abusive behaviour by cyclists in otherwise tranquil spots like the Union Canal towpath and Hermitage woods.

The majority of cycling accidents in Edinburgh of course involve bikes and cars - with the cyclist obviously coming out of it the worst.

But the experience of Mr Elliot and others shows that cyclists are not always the innocent victim of reckless driving and their own failings can cause serious injury or distress.

And many drivers are growing ever more annoyed by what they see as increasingly aggressive behaviour by cyclists trying to force their way along the city's roads.

Hugh Bladon, co-founder and finance director of the Association of British Motorists, although broadly supportive of sharing the road with responsible cyclists, is fed up with riders who don't observe the rules of the road.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He says: "They cycle on the pavements, run through traffic lights, cycle the wrong way up one way streets - if they just observed the rules they wouldn't get the flak that they do.

"I just don't believe that 80 per cent of the problems that occur between drivers and motorists are caused by the motorist. if the cyclist goes through a red traffic light and gets hit by a car...whose fault is that?

"If they get hit driving the wrong way up a one way street can the motorist really be held solely to blame if the cyclist gets hit?

"The government should encourage cyclists to observe the rules of the road in the same way that motorists have to. It's impossible to license cyclists but they should at least have to take out some kind of third party insurance if they cause an accident and damage someone's property or hurt other people."

Every Edinburgh taxi driver has a story to tell about a reckless cyclist who has risked their life and endangered others, according to Edinburgh Taxi Association secretary Raymond Davidson.

"I've heard stories of cyclists riding about without any lights getting knocked over after running a red light, or flying over taxi doors when the driver wasn't able to see them in the dark.

"It's generally the teenagers that are the problem. Fifteen-year-old kids riding all over the pavement and getting in people's way, but I'm happy to say these people are in the minority.

"I see cyclists every day wearing their helmets and their reflective gear and they don't cause us any problem, but we need a few more cyclists like them."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ian Maxwell, of cycling organisation Spokes, points to a study done in Australia with cyclists wearing helmet-mounted cameras which suggested that 80 per cent of car on cyclist accidents were caused by the motorist, with cyclists to blame for the remaining fifth.

"One of the biggest problems drivers have with cyclists is those that appear to be cycling aggressively, but often you need to be more aggressive with your signalling to get the point across that you're moving a certain way as the cyclist is on the smaller vehicle so the danger to the cyclist is much greater," he says.

"While there's no excuse for someone on a shared footpath speeding along next to pedestrians and injuring one of them through carelessness, in a way the increasing reports of such incidents is good for us because it shows that cycling is becoming more popular.

"Cyclists make up about five per cent of Edinburgh traffic, compared to around 30 per cent in Copenhagen, but it is growing."

This is the statistic that most concerns city transport leader councillor Gordon Mackenzie, rather than the catalogue of complaints from motorists and pedestrians.

"Most people say they are put off cycling because they see it as too dangerous," he says, "and if we want to encourage more people to cycle, our first priority should be addressing this fear."



Slow down a bit and leave some room when you're passing cyclists. When there is a cycle lane, drivers still need to be aware, especially when making a left turn.


To be treated like other road users, you should behave like (the best of) them. That means no jumping red lights, stopping at stop signs and signalling before turning.