Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Cycling "recklessly and to the common danger."

I was re-introduced to cycling in my two years of Voluntary Service Overseas in Malaŵi. There we were each issued with a bike as a means of getting about. The bikes were of "sit up and beg" design with rod brakes and no gears, and prompted condescending remarks from our Peace Corps contemporaries, whose bikes were VTT with 234 or so gears and fancy tyres, on the lines of: "Gee, do they still make those things! "

Fortunately the college where I worked was downhill from where I lived so I arrived each morning without a great sweat, and the five mile up-hill journey in the evening provided exercise which obviated the need for jogging. This Malaŵian experience prompted me on my return to the UK to buy a bike before I bought a car, and I use it for short journeys when it isn't raining and I don't have a lot of shopping to carry.

The above is to show that I'm really on the side of the cyclists, because I am appalled by the behaviour of the many who seem to think that the law simply does not apply to them. My own cycling conduct was learned in the 40s and 50s when you cycled on the road, stopped at halt signs and traffic lights, gave hand signals and displayed lights in the dark. I doubt if the proposal for a new a new law of "death by dangerous cycling" is really necessary, but we do need to change cyclists' culture and get the "lycra louts" to obey the existing laws.

One law I would like to see changed, however, is the use of the pavement. Within towns and villages these should be exclusively for the use of pedestrians, but there are many stretches of pavement between towns which are sparsely used by pedestrians and would provide a safer haven for cyclists than the road. This is the case, for example, in the two mile stretch between my house and the nearest supermarket, where the road is relatively narrow and has been made narrower still by little-used "pedestrian refuges." Lorries in particular rarely slow down for a cyclist when passing one of these and there is a real possibility of the cyclist being flung into the gutter. The law could usefully be changed to legalise the use of such pavements by cyclists, with the clear understanding that pedestrians had priority and cyclists should be limited to a moderate speed rather than emulating Mr Toad

Finally, all bikes should have a bell which should be used as a warning of approach rather than a demand to "get out of the way," and motorists should be fined heavily for parking across cycle tracks.

1 comment: