As part of road safety week at work I was asked to write an article from a cyclists perspective about what it’s like to cycle on the roads. The idea from our H&S team was that with a cyclists perspective made available to staff, they might think a bit harder about their driving around cyclists. I was happy to do this and happy that they asked. I also asked that they avoid mentioning helmets and high viz which they seem to have done (I know from experience as soon as either are mentioned, that’s *all* people want to talk about.)
Naturally my article was edited to reduce the word count but the full article is below.
I cycle on the road pretty much every day, I commute to work and back most days, 13 miles each way which I appreciate is more than most people would be willing to consider. I also go shopping, visit friends, go to restaurants and cinemas and sometimes even cycle for leisure. Cycling is a fantastic mode of transport for all these things, there are no queues, no parking problems, you can carry far more on your bike than you may realise and of course, everyone benefits from the reduction in pollution and traffic when someone cycles. Sadly the UK is a nation in love with it’s cars and has been very slow to provide the one thing proven to get more people out on their bikes, safe, secure infrastructure. Even in Warrington which is light years ahead of a lot of places, the cycle lanes are intermittent, often badly designed and is not sufficient to convince those who want to, to get out of their cars. Most wannabe cyclists never make the leap because they simply don’t feel safe, especially women. This is why most cyclists appear to be fit, young, male, ‘lycra louts’, the roads are simply too toxic for anyone else.
Cycling is a great way to get fit, it’s free once you’ve bought the bike and will save you a fortune in vehicle costs in a very short space of time. I initially started cycling to work because I was tired of sitting in huge queues of traffic, it seemed such a waste of my time when I could be doing something far more enjoyable instead. I can cycle home faster than I can drive it most days. My car has cobwebs on and I’m certainly not wasting any money on buying a new one any time soon, there’s no point. Once you start cycling you realise how much of a money pit your car is. You’re working just to pay for your car for a significant proportion of your time, work it out.
So this means that a lot of cycling has to happen on the roads which can feel very scary for most people, generates animosity from some drivers who believe roads are their private preserve (local roads are funded by council tax and general taxation and are available for all to use no matter which mode of transport they choose – vehicle tax does not pay for the roads that cyclists use) and places cyclists in a risky position.
Near misses are common-place unfortunately, an almost daily occurrence for me. I don’t believe the vast majority are intentional (although some clearly are) but are usually just a lack of understanding by drivers about either how close they are, or why it is so dangerous for them to pass too close and too quickly. The highway code (rule 163) recommends giving cyclists plenty of room when overtaking. Cyclists have to deal with issues that drivers may be unaware of, potholes, grids, side winds, debris, so it is best to give plenty of room in case the cyclist has to swerve to avoid something. Waiting for a few seconds behind a cyclist could save a life and you’ll get held up a lot longer by other drivers so have some patience and wait for an opportunity when you can safely overtake. Is it worth overtaking? Will the cyclist just catch you up at the next junction or queue? If not, wait, you’ll save fuel and arrive no earlier.
If there were some key messages I’d like drivers to think about, it’d be to not consider cyclists an outgroup. They’re not cyclists, they’re husbands, wives, sons, daughters. They have children and parents. They’re often drivers too and completely understand the challenges of driving. They’re not cycling to hold people up or cause them grief, they’re just trying to get from one place to another safely in an efficient, green and healthy way. Every cyclist you see has reduced the number of cars on the road by one. They are helping your journey by reducing congestion, they are helping keep your children safe from pollution, they are helping reduce the load on the NHS, the amount of money we must pay to maintain the roads and even helping you find a parking space.
And for all this they are just asking for a bit of patience, a bit of extra room. Please pass cyclists with plenty of room when it is safe to do so.