A couple of weeks ago cyclist Charlie Alliston was charged with “wanton and furious driving” after hitting and killing a pedestrian who stepped out in front of him whilst he was riding a bike with no front break. The whole situation was enormously unfortunate; he should absolutely have had two breaks on his bike (it’s the law!), but to be killed by a bike travelling at 14mph is statistically very unlikely (this article in The Guardian does the maths), so Kim Briggs was extraordinarily unlucky.
Now, the whys and wherefores of this story have been hotly debated in the bear pits of online tabloid comments sections for weeks, so I have no intention of trying to single-handedly put the issue to bed or trivialising what is a thoroughly tragic event. But I do think we should acknowledge that this has done nothing to help the image of cyclists in the eyes of the media, motorists of pedestrians. It’s important that they know, notwithstanding Alliston’s questionable behaviour and words, we are not all terrible people.
So, in an effort to curb the ever growing us-vs-them mindset, these are my rules of thumb, from one cyclist to others, so we don’t come across as total c**ckwombles.
- Make sure your breaks work / actually have breaks
Some people think that fixies are cool. That’s fine, different strokes for different folks and all that, but if you ride a racing bike on the road, which doesn’t have a front brake, you’re:
a) breaking the law (you must have two working breaks to ride on a public highway) and b) a f*cking eejit. Excuse the language, but you are. End of story.
This also applies to getting all other types of bikes serviced on the reg. No dodgy break pads or cables, please.
Having a front break on Charlie Alliston’s bike may or may not have saved Kim Briggs life, but he should have least provided that extra chance.
2. Wear a helmet
I have to admit that I have on the odd occasion gone out without a helmet. Usually it’s because I’ve forgotten it, but on the odd occasion it’s because I’m only nipping down the road in my jeans and not in my full cycling kit, so bringing my helmet seems like a faff. HOW ABSURD IS THAT? It’s like getting in a car and saying “I’m not wearing my seatbelt because the gunmetal grey doesn’t go with my shirt”.
Do yourself a favour Kate, give yourself a fighting chance if you get into a collision. Wear a helmet.
Kate will stop referring to herself in the third person now, because it’s weird…
3. Use a mudguard
I cycle to work most days, come rain or shine. My biggest gripe with my fellow cyclists is without a doubt those who don’t use a mudguard. If I get stuck behind you I end up pebble-dashed with all sorts of crap (literal and otherwise). Lots of cycling clubs have a “No mudguard = No ride” policy, because it’s just common decency. The same should apply to all other cycling journeys.
Top tip (not an ad!), I bought a Plume mudguard that I can leave on my seatpost, which coils up when I don’t need it. A woman saw me unfurl it when it started raining the other day and she genuinely came up to me with wide-eyed wonder to ask me where I got it. I felt very smug. And I had a dry arse.
4. Use the infrastructure
This one is quite town and city-centric, but seriously guys, those of you lucky enough to live in a place with even halfway decent infrastructure for bikes are really lucky. Sure, it’s not always perfect, but having grown up in rural West Wales and recently spending a year in Cornwall, let me tell you guys, you don’t know you’re born. It is an actual dream to have a dedicated cycle path that is your own domain and that cars are aware of.
In London in particular, loads of major junctions now have extra lights or routes for cycles to navigate them safely – I just cannot understand why people then insist on then putting themselves in the way of other traffic, or worse, using the footpath to get where they need to go. People have spent time, energy and money on building this stuff, let’s use it in our droves to demonstrate that it’s money well spent and that investing in cycling infrastructure is worthwhile!
5. Stop at red lights.
No really, STOP AT RED LIGHTS.
Any other cyclist-to-cyclist gripes to air? We’d love to hear them so we know we’re not alone in being grumpy old women… Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter at @thesegirlsdo
3 thoughts on “Cyclists. Don’t be d*cks. (and no, I don’t mean ducks)”
At the risk of being a little controversial some of the cycle paths in london are massively unsafe… there is a huge junction in elephant and castle where the cycle path goes on the road between 2 bus lanes where the buses turn in different directions at the junctions… if you cycle down this bit whilst buses are stopped at the lights there is a high chance of being crushed between buses as they move… some of the paths are great, but some should be viewed with caution
I’m going to chime in here but will let Kate have her say as well seeing as she wrote it (!) – personally I am very much an advocate of “just because a lane is there, it doesn’t mean you have to go in it” (probably hated by the anti-cycling brigade always shouting “get into the cycling lane”) and I give zero f*cks if drivers or cyclists behind me are trying to bully me into it – if I don’t feel safe in it, I won’t go in there. For example, when there are buses too close for comfort! Even if it shaves 30 seconds off my commute or I need to nip through the lights or whatever.
However, I know not everyone feels comfortable doing that (and there’s a lot of pressure, particularly from other cyclists who sit behind you tutting and trying to push through – if people want to risk it go ahead and be my guest but I’m not doing it!) and there is a natural inclination to assume that the cycle lane is a safe place to be. So totally not a controversial statement at all from you!
I also see far too many examples of cyclists not respecting the cycle lanes – unless it is totally segregated, you are still sharing it with other road users and not just a once way ticket to invincible cycling that it has the perception of. Because guess what – drivers don’t respect the lines either! I mean, it should be a safe haven – but our current society has a long way to go before it is. I kind of preferred E&C before – at least I knew how I was supposed to be tackling the roundabout and could just sit in the middle of a lane as opposed to going across, left right, against traffic, with traffic, all over the place which is what it felt like when they first altered it!
The infrastructure is getting better and heading in the right direction, but there are still so many places where you get spat out of a cycle lane into fast moving traffic and it was safer to have just stuck with the traffic in the first place (Mitcham currently as they are doing the roadworks is a prime example of this)
(Sorry, bit of a long response but I get a bit over-enthusiastic at this topic…)
Totally fair from you Helen! I can’t really add much to what Katie said – cyclists should absolutely do what is safe for them, assuming of course this doesn’t make the road less safe for anyone else. I should probably have put a caveat in my post reading something along the lines of *Don’t put yourselves or others at risk, even if that means not following the cycle lanes and infrastructure to the letter*.
My main gripe is with cyclists who just to not give two figs about other road users and pedestrians and think that they are somehow superior. I also think we should all be having an open conversation with bodies like TFL who manage London’s superhighways so they are made aware of the problems with junctions like the one you mention – again, these things will only improve as we commit to using them (cautiously) and reporting on potential issues or suggesting improvements.
As a side note, there is a quiet route which takes a little longer but skirts around the Elephant & Castle roundabout completely, so some alternative routes are being put in place gradually. This is by no means a perfect solution though, I grant you.