Friday, 18 October 2013


I have been accused of not liking cyclists. This is odd, because a) I have been a cyclist and b) I know lots of cyclists, and they are all lovely people. And yet, what I have seen from them, from their experiences of cycling (especially in London), I think cyclists are very poorly treated overall.

I should point out, for the record, that I used to cycle to work each day, and I did that for a couple of years. In London, in the peak hours.

I should also point out that I do try to give cyclists room and consideration when I am driving. I try to give them space to pass and when I pass them.

Cycling in London is very difficult. There is a lot of traffic all busy, some of it fast, and it is traveling on roads that are not always wide enough for the load. It requires a lot of bravery (or something). There are cycle paths in some places, but the system is woefully inadequate, and, as the news reports have shown of late, they are not safe cycling routes. Sometimes they seem just to direct cyclists into busy junctions, and abandon them there - the Bow roundabout being one example.

When traffic systems are being looked at, development made, most of the time the cyclists are not given priority, and any provision is often a last-minute hack to stave off criticism. Even outside London, where some of the problems are eased, cycling provision on some of the major commuting routes is inadequate, making cycling along these (usually busy) roads dangerous.

Of course, the other side to this is that cyclists do not always do themselves any favours. I see cyclists running red lights, cycling across pavements, ignoring zebra crossings, using pedestrian lights while still on their bikes. These are all dangerous. Now people point out to me that cyclists jumping red lights is not as dangerous as a car jumping a red light - as if that made it acceptable. It is true, and it is also the case that cars jump red lights sometimes. However as a pedestrian, a bike jumping a red light is usually harder to see than a car doing the same. I can see a car from some distance away, but a bike may have just been weaving its way through the cars, and might charge into me suddenly. And usually with some disdain that I am getting in their way.

The injuries that a bike hitting a pedestrian can cause should not be underestimated. They can be serious and even fatal. I have been at the top of Greys Inn Road in London, as a busy crossroads, when the lights have gone red for traffic, and seen dozens of bikes zipping across the junction in all directions. We are not talking about a very few bad eggs, but a significant number of cyclists, especially in London, but not exclusively.

So not I don't hate cyclists. I have a lot of sympathy for them, and do not envy anyone who cycles in London. But they must accept that they are part of the road traffic, and should follow the accepted rules of the road (not precisely the same as the written rules). I don't mind when they pass me to move to the front of a queue at the lights - it is the safest place for them, and they are narrow enough to pass other vehicles. I do object when they them cycle straight through the lights when they are on red. And yes, cars should abide by the accepted rules of the road too. But just because some members of one group break the rules is no excuse for members of another group to also break the rules. That is madness.

Can I find some spiritual or Christian message in this? Not a great one, just that rules are there for a purpose. The purpose is not that we should not break them under any circumstances - that is the pharasitical approach. They are there to guide us, to point out the way, to indicate the direction.

If we break the rules there are consequences. That does not mean we should not break the rules, just that we should accept the consequences.

And mostly, the message I get is that when I was cycling, it was then that I most contemplated my eternal future, because, many times, I felt that it was due to begin shortly. Cycling does wonders for your prayer life. But rather less for your nerves.

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