I am really sorry if I have angered you, as angering motorists is not something that I set out to do today when I got on my bicycle.
However I’d like to try and reason some of your anger away and respond to some of the typical issues.
Common Myths Regarding Cyclists
You Don’t Pay Road Tax
Please do not use this as an excuse for believing that cyclists have fewer rights on the road than you. “Road Tax” was abolished in 1937 because the government did not want those who pay it to believe that they have more rights than those who do not. The money you spend on your paper disc is not the sole funder of the roads. Roads are funded from general taxation, typically from central government for the main highways, and from local authorities for local roads. Therefore as a payer of income tax, VAT and council tax I pay my contribution towards the upkeep of the roads.
What most people call “road tax” is actually “vehicle excise duty” and is levied on the basis of emissions. There are many classes of road users who do not pay VED but still have the right to use the roads. Cyclists are one such class. In fact cyclists and horse riders have an automatic right to use the public highway. Motor vehicles are only allowed there by license after a series of stringent tests have been passed. Before flaming cyclists you need to ask if your driving was up to the standard required from the DVLA.
Please see http://ipayroadtax.com for further details.
You should be in the Cycle Lane
Cycle lanes are provided for the convenience and safety of the cyclists that choose to use them, however their use is not compulsory. The highway code has this to say about their use.
Cycle Routes and Other Facilities. Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.
Cycle Tracks. These are normally located away from the road, but may occasionally be found alongside footpaths or pavements. Cyclists and pedestrians may be segregated or they may share the same space (unsegregated). When using segregated tracks you MUST keep to the side intended for cyclists as the pedestrian side remains a pavement or footpath. Take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people, and allow them plenty of room. Always be prepared to slow down and stop if necessary. Take care near road junctions as you may have difficulty seeing other road users, who might not notice you.
[Law HA 1835 sect 72]
Cycle Lanes. These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140). Keep within the lane when practicable. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.
Cycle lanes are not always the safest places to ride. Sometimes they are too narrow and encourage cars to overtake too close. They may contain debris, potholes, snow, or sunken drains. They may take you into the “door zone” of parked cars, that area where a carelessly flung open car door could cause a fatal accident. They may be at the side of bus lanes and encourage cyclists to go up the left hand side of a larger vehicle which is extremely dangerous. Some of them are just downright stupid in their design. See here for some examples of brainless cycle lane design.
As mentioned earlier bicycles are allowed on the road by right, so the existence of a cycle lane does not mean a cyclist has to use it.
This brings us on to…
You’re in the middle of the road
By this I assume the middle of the lane, rather than cycling down the white line? It is a common misconception that cyclists should hug the gutter. There are several reasons why hugging the gutter is a bad idea.
- No escape route. If a pothole, drain or other obstruction appears you can only swerve right to avoid it, possibly into the path of the car that is overtaking you too closely.
- It encourages close passes. Some drivers are unaware how much space they should give a cyclist. If there is room to overtake without crossing the central line some drivers will do so.
- Visibility. You are more visible to traffic turning onto the road out of junctions or parking spaces the further out from the kerb you are.
- You are turning right. You should never overtake a vehicle that is signalling to turn right, and this includes cyclists. A right turning cyclist will move across the lane and should be able to do so unimpeded by overtaking motor vehicles.
The highway code has this to say about overtaking.
Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should
not get too close to the vehicle you intend to overtake
use your mirrors, signal when it is safe to do so, take a quick sideways glance if necessary into the blind spot area and then start to move out
not assume that you can simply follow a vehicle ahead which is overtaking; there may only be enough room for one vehicle
move quickly past the vehicle you are overtaking, once you have started to overtake. Allow plenty of room. Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in
Give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car
take extra care at night and in poor visibility when it is harder to judge speed and distance
give way to oncoming vehicles before passing parked vehicles or other obstructions on your side of the road
only overtake on the left if the vehicle in front is signalling to turn right, and there is room to do so
stay in your lane if traffic is moving slowly in queues. If the queue on your right is moving more slowly than you are, you may pass on the left
give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211-215)
Remember: Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre
You can see from this that a cyclist has the right to use as much of the lane as they see fit. If you cannot overtake safely then you should wait patiently until you can.
You should not be cycling two abreast
The highway code states that we should not cycle more than two abreast, and should cycle single file on busy or narrow roads and when cornering.
Particularly when out with a group it is often advisable to cycle two abreast. It means that the train of cyclists is shorter and so easier to overtake. It also means that you cannot overtake when there is oncoming traffic and so encourages safer overtaking.
You’re a bunch of red-light-jumping pavement-cycling hooligans
It is true that some cyclists are idiots that jump red lights and break other highway code rules. However, the same is true for some motorists. It is not intelligent to tar us all with the same brush and use this as an excuse for anger towards a cyclist whom you have not witnessed cycling in this manner.
Common driving errors that irk cyclists
If you are guilty of one of these manoeuvres then you can expect a cyclist to berate you and possibly post a video of your sin on youtube, since some cyclists have started using video cameras while riding.
The close pass
Not much needs to be said about this since I show above how to overtake cyclists. Please do so safely as no one likes to be cut up.
The left hook
If you are turning left you should not be overtaking just before you do so. Overtaking a cyclist and then immediately slowing to turn left is extremely dangerous. You should hang back for a few seconds and let them clear the junction before you turn.
“Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You”.
The misjudged pull-out
A cyclist can be travelling at up to 40MPH, typically in the high 20s on the flat. Don’t assume that you have loads of time to pull out in front of one.