So the motorist vs cycle row rages once more, with either side blaming each other over a myriad of misdemeanors, both major and minor. With social media and the comments sections below some news resources, both sides bat insult after insult back and forth at each other in a game of verbal tennis, sometimes with verifiable facts and figures and other times with complete and utter nonsense......this war seems to be more amplified between taxi drivers and cyclists in particular. Its as though on goes the camouflage mankini, the computer or phone gets powered up and then the brave men and women that hide behind a keyboard with an anonymous nickname go at each other with gusto. The vitriol and bitterness between both sides is almost tangible, thankfully it seems to only comes from a very small but highly vocal minority. Does any of this help make cyclists safer, the simple answer is no. Does any of this make the average motorist or those within the taxi industry completely responsible for any accident involving a cyclist, again the answer is no. The pseudo Orwellian maxim of "two wheels good, four wheels bad" resonates around social media like a maniacal mantra, specifically designed to stir up anger. Conversely the "over the top" reaction from those that this diatribe is aimed at beggars belief. Let's try and be objective about the relationship between the motorist and the cyclist. Can drivers help to make cycling safer, absolutely. Can cyclists help make motorists more aware of their presence and make cycling a much safer practice, again the answer is yes. To do this one or two myths need to be dispelled, firstly no motorist, whether they be a taxi driver, bus driver, HGV driver or the driver of any other motorised vehicle sets out on their journey to injure or kill anybody, whether it be a cyclist, pedestrian or another motorist. Conversely, no cyclist has ever set out on their journey to end up under the wheels of a moving vehicle or colliding with a pedestrian.
So how can we work together, both motorists and cyclists, alongside each other to ensure that accidents are minimised?
Let us start with education. Cycling proficiency lessons from a young age, maybe six or seven years old should be the norm in every school across the country. These lessons should be part of the school curriculum. This in tandem could be taught alongside Roadcraft, the software that is used at driver awareness courses could be installed onto school computers thus giving a child the ability from a very young age to learn and understand what both a cyclist has to encounter and what a driver sees around them, teaching the child about the hazards from two different perspectives. Legislation is an important factor when using the UKs road network. Drivers are rightly subject to a whole raft of legislative measures, sadly not all drivers comply with this legislation, but in the main they are fully identifiable and traceable via their vehicle registration and are therefore potentially subject to sanction upon breaching any given aspect of legislation. The system generally works reasonably well. There are also a raft of legislative measures that apply to the cycling community, however these measures cannot be applied because cyclists are in the main untraceable. This therefore brings the law into disrepute because if you cannot enforce any given aspect of law what is the point of having that law. So should the law surrounding cycling be loosened in some areas and tightened in other areas. We all know that when a car passes through a red light it is an offence that is punishable by a fine and points on your licence. It is also an offence for a cyclist to cycle through a red light, however, cyclists rarely get caught. Therefore should we now be looking at changing the law so as to allow cyclists to legitimately pass through a red light if it is safe to proceed, with the responsibility, should there be an accident involving this manoeuvre, initially passing to the cyclist unless there is proof that they were not to blame for any given incident. Given that this is already occurring on a daily basis there is a strong argument to change the law so as to facilitate this. Should there also be a change in legislation which compels a cyclist to use a purpose-built cycle lane should one be available, and should those cyclists be prohibited from using the roadway where those cycle lanes exist such as the cycle superhighway along Victoria Embankment, this surely would increase safety for all concerned. There is a freedom attached to cycling, that said freedom should not contribute to a laissez-faire attitude which dictates "I don't care if you are trying to make cycling safer I am going to do as I please."
Visibility is one of the most important things where is cycling is concerned. From a driver's perspective there is nothing more terrifying than realising that you have a cyclist in close proximity and are dangerously close to colliding with them because you haven't seen them or can't see them. We have all seen cyclists wearing dark clothing with no lights no helmet no high visibility sash and the bike itself may be black. During the day this generally is not an issue but at night, sadly, it can be fatal to the cyclist. One of the ways forward is for all cyclists to be required to wear some form of high visibility sash, and all new bikes fitted with lighting on both the front and the rear at point of sale. All new cycles could also be chipped and registered in the same way that a motor vehicle has a logbook and a registration, with a small levy placed on the purchase of a brand new bike to cover the cost of third party insurance as a basic minimum. This insurance could work in the same way the motorist insurers bureau works. The issues surrounding the wearing of a helmet is a contentious one, this really should be up to the individual, the cyclist must be able to take that responsibility for themselves. From the driver's perspective there is absolutely no excuse for any driver not to indicate an intention to turn or pull into the kerb in good time. There is also no excuse for not checking both the nearside and offside mirrors and looking over the shoulder. mirror, signal, manoeuvre is an integral part of driving, a failure on any aspect of that can prove fatal. Moving forward the war between the cyclist and motorist has to end. We can all throw statistics around like confetti, and lets be honest, a large proportion of statistics that are bandied about on all sides are quite frankly nonsense, used as nothing more than self-validation or as a stick to beat the opposing side with. The most important statistic is that one death or injury is one too many. Cyclists are here to stay, motorists are here to stay, a large proportion of driver's are cyclists and a large proportion of cyclists are drivers, the two have to co-exist. Both cyclists and motorists should have equal rights but with those rights come responsibilities that neither party should be able to shirk. Education, common sense and respect are the way forward.