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