The time is overdue for cyclists to face their responsibilities

The time is overdue for cyclists to face their responsibilities

by Stuart Crawford
article from Monday 15, January, 2018

I HAVE TO BE totally honest from the very start; I’m not a great fan of cyclists. Not that I haven’t cycled myself in the past, mind, but I found it much easier to give up than smoking and/or alcohol, or putting sugar in my tea.

It’s not cycling per se that I find objectionable actually, it tends be those who do it, much the same as I find with the horse riding fraternity. There’s a passive/aggressive smugness that permeates the ranks of those who choose two unmotorised wheels over four, a sort of self-satisfied feeling of entitlement mixed with a smidgin of moral superiority that irritates normally easy-going folk like me.

Some of my best friends are cyclists, though, MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) generally, who regularly take to the roads of a weekend and gleefully ruin otherwise enjoyable family car outings by clogging up country roads with their vast pelotons and carefree disregard of the Highway Code.

Despite this, however, it appears that cycling may be here to stay, sustained by the grudging tolerance of wearied car drivers and a Scottish Government unwilling and unable to tackle the blight of the cyclist for fear of upsetting the Green Party which, of course, keeps the SNP in power. The Green Party, you see, is very keen on cycling, and in one of its more ludicrous pronouncements suggested, nay demanded, that 10 per cent of the entire Scottish Government transport budget be spent on walking and cycling projects. No further comment required here.

So it looks as if we’ll just have to thole cycling and cyclists for the time being, at least until wiser heads prevail. That being the case, I think it only fair that we, residing as we do in a free liberal democracy which respects and acknowledges the rights of minority groups no matter how rebarbative we might find them personally, should be able to at least suggest some responsibilities that might go hand-in-hand with cyclists’ rights.

First amongst these must be that cyclists be required to pass a cycling test and show at least a nodding acquaintance with the Highway Code. How many times have we seen our lycra-clad chums ignore the traffic lights or take to the pavements to avoid traffic hold ups? Sometimes they take their lives in their hands, but all too often they take others’ lives in their hands too. Having to pass a proficiency test before taking to the public highways might help all of us.

Next, it would seem a good idea that cyclists should have to have at least third party insurance. The cycling media – Cycling Weekly for example – seems to be divided on the issue. Certainly, organisations like Cycling UK and British Cycling offer insurance as part of membership benefits, but it isn’t compulsory. Others point out that the personal liability cover which comes in many home insurance packages might suffice.

But there also seems to be a blithe acceptance in some quarters that in any accident or collision scenario the cyclist is likely to come of worst and that the other party’s insurance will pay. Recent high-profile instances where cyclists have collided with, and in at least one instance caused the death of, pedestrians highlight the weakness of that argument.  On balance, it would seem that specialist insurance for cyclists should be compulsory. It is hardly going to cost very much, is it?

Third, we need to look at what many folk still call “road tax”, despite there not having been such a tax in the UK since the 1930s. In fact we’re talking about Vehicle Excise Duty, which is predicated on the CO2 emissions of cars and lorries. Now, I’m not going to argue that bicycles have anything like the carbon footprint of internal combustion engine propelled vehicles; clearly they do not.

However, it seems to me that if you take walking as the baseline mode of transport then cyclists should be asked to contribute something at the lower end of the walking – aircraft transport spectrum. Again, it wouldn’t cost very much and go some way to placating normal people when it comes to the freeloading accusation often aimed at cyclists by exasperated cab and HGV drivers, to name but two.

If I might finish with a few words of friendly and well-intentioned advice to the bicycle brigade? Please do NOT jump or ignore traffic lights. Avoid riding on pavements, which are the proper preserve of pedestrians. Try to dampen your sense of entitlement and treat other road users with consideration, as they should do with you. And please, please do not ignore the long queue of traffic behind you as you cycle two abreast on narrow country roads. An irruption (sic) of cyclists on the highway is amongst the motorists’ worst nightmares.

In return? We’ll put up with the lycra.

©Stuart Crawford 2018

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