The cost of cycle safety

So yes, I think the Olympics and the raised profile of cycling has made a difference to the way drivers treat cyclists on the roads but in my limited experience, it’s confused and its negligible.

For instance, out on a ride yesterday, motorists reacted in a bewildering number of different ways to my presence, riding at a decent pace on the inside lane of some A roads and some country lanes.

Huge lorries gave me proper space. Vans varied – some gave me space, others slipped by within the width of the carriageway. Cars varied too. One motorist took it upon him or herself to move the whole vehicle into the oncoming lane to avoid me, which I thought was excessive. Most gave me some room as they passed. Some – and these are the really misguided drivers came very very close to me at increased speed, believing that somehow, it’s probably best to pass me breathtakingly close while putting a bit of a spurt on. If it’s going to be curtains, at least they’ll be closed really quickly.

The other very odd driver was a motorist in a car who gave me room but slowed right down to my pace as he passed, as though I was an exceptionally nervous horse. The other possibility  was that the passenger would wind down the window and pass me an energy bar and a fresh bottle!

So the picture of how motorists think they should behave while sharing the road with a bike rider, is mixed and varied.

I read just yesterday how a fellow cyclist on his way to work, counted cyclists without lights and cyclists without helmets… so it’s not just motorists who need safety advice. If you’re a “no helmet” rider, please don’t use the comments to lecture me about freedom of choice and how not wearing a helmet is somehow safer than wearing one. It’s a waste of reading time and yes, people should be free to bash their own brains out if they choose to…but they should at least spare a thought for the people who love them.

The lights thing is a particular bug-bear of mine. Sure, you can buy bike lights cheaply. You’ll hardly see them lit up though, especially in rain on a dark night because they are so weak! I followed a guy with a back light that wasn’t as bright as a dimly-illuminated smartie. His front light was the most pathetic flashing LED I’ve ever seen. This stuff is just inadequate to be seen in winter in the dark.

I can quite see why people buy this kit – because they want a set of lights for under £80 quid. But, the truth is, the only decent lights are the ones, which in night traffic will *compete* with car lights. Standard cycle llights just don’t cut it – they are eclipsed by the bright lights of cars, lorries etc. The cyclist just disappears.  The problem is that powerful cycle lights are ruinously expensive – over £100 just for the front lights.  So you are being forced to invest or die saving up for adequate lights. There is no ‘lights standard’ for bicycles. You’re just supposed to have some but they can be anything whatsoever.

There are undoubtedly more people cycling as a result of cycling’s raised profile but again, it’s by no means certain that they have much of a clue what they are doing and the dangers out there.

A teenager I met who’s intending to commute to work, had no idea about the hazards of cycling on the inside of lorries and vans – no clue that she couldn’t be seen in the drivers’ mirrors. Knowing that is potentially the difference between life and death.

But having delivered that brief lecture, I’m well aware that no amount of cycling experience will protect you from the SMIDSY  – the driver who will mow you down because they didn’t look properly, because they are distracted by their mobile phone, or lighting a fag.

There is no accounting for SMIDSYs – Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You – as Brad Wiggins and perhaps Shane Sutton, can attest.

Cyclists are being harmed and are being killed unnecessarily. The Department of Transport has to respond and cough up a budget to protest cyclists and educate all road users how to be safe and considerate on our roads.

According to this article the Government has ring-fenced a mere £30 million to make some junctions safer.

The Increased numbers of cyclists on our roads is a legacy of our Olympic success.

London 2012 cost £8.9 BILLION. 

I think it’s reasonable to see investment in a *massive* driver/cyclist education programme and roads infrastructure to keep them safe.

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About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
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12 Responses to The cost of cycle safety

  1. Pseu says:

    Shame I can’t double like this one!
    Time for a cycle safety aspect to be included in the driving test?

    Good lights are still way cheaper than a bus every day for a year….

    • janh1 says:

      Definitely time for cycle safety to be included in the driving test. If you drive, you should know how it feels to cycle – and how it feels when a fast vehicle gets in your space…

      • Pseu says:

        you are telling the converted…..
        it’s getting that out to the unconverted that’s the problem!

      • janh1 says:

        That’s where the Dept of Transport needs to spend some money! Bike shops also have a role to play, although many bikes are passed on second-hand to new bike riders.

  2. John Gamblin says:

    Well said Jan. I too have a thing about lights. I cannot believe the number of cyclists riding around Cardiff without lights or helmets. They must have suicidal tendancies. I nearly clipped a guy the other day and stopped to have a word. He said that he was riding along a road with street lights so I should have seen him – he had no intention of getting any lights – Grrrrrrr!

    • janh1 says:

      Thanks. Just crazy isn’t it? I don’t understand what planet these cyclists are on but some just seem terrifically, unrealistically arrogant.
      I agree that cyclists are entitled to their space on the road but you have to do the basics – protect your head and BE SEEN.

  3. IsobelandCat says:

    I read this the other day but didn’t have time to comment.
    Now I am worrying about the quality of my lights as none cost anywhere near £100. I do tend to have several front and rear, mainly because I had a scare when a rear light stopped working, and I didn’t know until I got home.
    Years and years ago, I said to a lad who was cycling in our street at night, “You don’t have any lights.”
    “You don’t have any tits,” he answered.
    It’s not just the ones who love you to remember when you cycle without a helmet, it’s those who have to clean your brains off the road.

    • janh1 says:

      How horribly rude of him!! Scallywag git.
      Thing is, when you think about it, if you want to be seen amongst car headlights, you need to be carheadllight-ish not a torch in a thunderstorm.

      Just doesn’t seem right that there are minimum standard light strengths for motor vehicles and not for infinitely more vulnerable cyclists!!

  4. Powerful write, Jan. A side of the Olympic legacy which hadn’t occurred to me.

    (flippant, but the idea of you as an exceptionally nervous horse tickles me)

    • janh1 says:

      It’s serious stuff Kate, with cycling casualties for this year already increased on last year… but hey. Flippant is my middle name 🙂 I was a horse for some time in my youth, you know. I was Champion the Wonder Horse and my friend was Black Beauty. We galloped around the place as only little girls can do and get away with it…. 😉

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