I’ve been struck down by the winter cold / flu in the last few days which means I have been doing some thinking off the bike, rather than on it. I have been thinking about the whole argument of sharing the road and the truth is that I have come to the conclusion that none of the issues we face as users of the road system in the UK will be solved by cycle super highways, speed limits, roundabouts, segregation, tax, signposting, VED, ongoing debate or any other method that I can’t think of right now.
Because the reason is very simple. It is down to each and every one of us. Yes YOU the driver. Yes YOU the cyclist. Yes YOU the pedestrian. Yes YOU the Horse rider. Yes YOU the skateboarder. Yes YOU the electric ride on user. Yes ME The MAMIL. Yes YOU, the other road users that I have forgotten.
Quite simply we ALL hold a responsibility to use the road system with complete and utter consideration to others. Once the populous mindset has changed, the number of “accidents” on the roads of this country will start to fall, and fall dramatically.
No single party is to blame for the current state of the transport system on the roads; that given some new law or restriction will magically cause the number of road deaths to disappear all together. It won’t happen so you might as well stop focusing your energy on a single group. That’s not how to fix this.
That means using the road with respect for the laws that ALL road users should adhere to regardless of your mode of transport. We ALL have that responsibility. That means:
Not running red lights.
Not overtaking unless it is completely safe to do so.
Not crossing the road anywhere you feel like in built up areas.
Not cycling on the pavement.
No double parking.
Understanding if a car is trying to overtake and making it as safe for them to do so (i.e. not riding 3 a breast, or even consider going single file for 10 whole seconds to allow a car to pass you more easily).
For me, the real trouble is that we are all living in a world and a society where we are all in such a rush, where we consider a little bending of the rule a justification to save that crucial 10 seconds, not realising the impact on other by our selfish actions. And we also think that we have utmost right to the use of the road and that everyone else using it can go and swivel.
Let’s take for example, a cyclist who decides that red lights don’t apply to them and runs a light at a junction. Immediately pedestrians around him have to heighten their awareness and become susceptible to increased danger and at the same time stops sharply and suddenly, causing the elderly person in the electric ride on to veer sharply to the right into the path of another pedestrian who is trying to cross the road safely and is now stranded in the road playing dodge with the elderly gent. Drivers observing this become focused on the cyclist and the pickets if distraction being caused by the cyclist that they don’t see the other cyclist who has stopped at the light and is turning left. At the same time their sense of injustice that the cyclist should run the red light is increased that they feel the need to make sure they gun off from the light as soon as humanly possible, with reactions faster than that of Ben Johnson at the Seoul Olympics, and unfortunately with the tunnel vision the same, that the cyclist turning left has to slam their brakes on for fear of being run down, being knocked from behind by the next cyclist who had maintained their speed into the lights, thinking their changing would mean they didn’t need to slow down. And so on it goes. The act of 1 selfish cyclist (in this case) causes a number of micro reactions elsewhere from other road users, that in turn cause other problems.
And for what? The 10 seconds the original cyclist “saved” from not stopping at the red light. And the chances are no one got hurt and within 3 minutes everyone has forgotten the incident and moved on to the next set of lights, and so it starts again. Except this time maybe the pedestrian isn’t so lucky. Or the cyclist. Or maybe even a car driver. The an accident happens and in the aftermarth everybody clambers onto their soap box to blame the <insert road user of choice here>.
Yes cyclist have the right (according to the highway code) to ride 2 abreast. However, I have quite often seen cyclists do that with 100% inconsideration for the car drivers on the road and have caused quite some angst as a result of their actions. That sucks. I have seen car drivers who simply cannot believe that they are expected to wait 10 seconds to allow cyclist to make their way safely on the road that they attempt overtaking techniques that quite frankly will simple kill someone one day. I have seen inconsiderate horse riders, and even inconsiderate electric ride on owners. No one group is worse than the other.
A small minority (but growing minority) in every group are the ones who seem to have lost patience for everybody else, lost their manners, lost their sense of good judgement, and lost their ability to control themselves very well. But let’s not focus just on them. Let’s focus on EVERYONE. If we all took that second look. We all had an open mind to considerate and responsible road practice. If we all just slowed ourselves down that little bit. Well I think the impact could be huge.
Because above all, whatever else anyone ever tells you, please remember – Better late than never.