Monday, 18 November 2013

It isn't about cyclist behaviour.

Whenever a cyclist dies, and there have been 5 deaths in London in the past 10 days, there's always a chorus of voices saying "yes, but they run red lights". The word "They" is always a handy combat indicator of sloppy thinking. When you lump everyone who shares a characteristic, in this case people who use bicycles, together, you're rarely expressing much more than brute prejudice.

I've explained in some detail why cyclists generate such ire in some drivers. But it's the term "cyclist" which is problematic. There are many people on bikes. Few would self describe as "cyclists", any more than most people  driving cars would consider themselves "motorists" or even "drivers". They're just people listening to the radio while they get to work.

There are many tribes of cyclist. Just as there are many tribes of car-driver. Just as not everyone in a car is the kind of sub-human who chooses to drive a BMW twat-panzer right up your trumpet, not everyone on a bike is Lucas Brunelle.

Ignorning cycle lanes - The people who died in London seem to be disproportionately female, young, and they're being killed in the bike lane, usually by large, left-turning vehicles. The dead cyclists aren't by and large running red lights, over pedestrians, and into traffic. Those people aren't the ones being killed. I can't repeat that enough. The cyclists being killed are the ones behaving as the pedestrian and motorist think they ought. Cyclists are dying, not because they are taking risks, but because the infrastructure, such as it is, is badly designed and putting people in conflict with vehicles. The "filter lanes" at many junctions for example put cyclists on the left of left-turning lorries with tragic results. Many "cycle lanes" are full of parked cars which require a cyclist to repeatedly enter a stream of traffic. Each manoeuvre is a source of conflict. Many more cycle lanes take a cyclist into the "door-zone".

The experienced "lycra lout" is well out of the way of these hazards by ignoring the "perfectly good cycle lane" and instead can be found "riding down the middle of the road", a position known as "primary" to cyclists but "in my way" to motorists. Cyclists have a right to use the road, do not have to use a cycle lane, especially when it's unsafe to use it. Motorists have no right to pass, nor do cyclists have an obligation to let them. It is unlikely in London, any delay can be attributed to a cyclist as the motorist will only overtake to the back of the next queue. Motorists should understand a cycle lane you can park in or drive into, isn't a cycle lane at all.

Pavement riding - is anti-social. But anyone riding a bicycle on a pavement is almost by definition not a cyclist. They are people scared off the roads by vehicles. It is not something anyone self-describing as a cyclist would do. While I don't cycle on pavements, I understand why some feel they have little choice. Roads are scary, cycle lanes inadequate and councils do cycle infrastructure on the cheap with "shared use" paths bringing cyclists and pedestrains into conflict. Whatever the prevalence of this problem, the risk to pedestrians is so grotesquely over-stated by anti-cycling dick-heads as to be ridiculous. The solution to pavement riding is to make the roads safe-enough so that the people who currently ride on the pavement feels safe enough to get back where (s)he belongs.

Smug and Self-Righteous, thinking they own the road - This is a staple of the journalistic cycle-hate piece. Apparently we're "smug" and "self-righteous" for pointing out that the more confident and aggressive a cyclist is, the safer he is. Being meekly tucked up on the left, in the gutter, where the motorist wants us is by far the most dangerous place. It's not "smug" or "self-righteous" to demand better behaviour from people who pose a mortal threat to me. The fact remains that a motorist annoyed by a cyclist "in the way" has at least seen me, and if his irritation stems from an inability to pass, then he's not attempting a dangerous pass, so I am safer. Were I "out the way" in the gutter, amongst the potholes and broken glass, that motorist might be tempted to squeeze through, with potentially fatal results. Don't blame the cyclist for doing what is necessary to stay alive. Blame the road engineer for building in conflict.

Red Light Jumping - yes. I occasionally run the red light. Generally when the pedestrians have gone, I go before the traffic to get a head start. If there are no pedestrians, I'll judiciously roll over, if it is safe to do so. At large, complex junctions, or ones with multiple traffic phases, I'll wait. Basically, I regard Red lights as advisory. I don't care two hoots about "the law" which comes a distant second to my safety. Where the infrastructure is good, and the design clear, I'll obey the rules. Where the infrastructure has been designed without thought to my safety or comfort, I'll make my own way, thanks. It's not as if motorists don't break the rules. "Amber Gambling" is red-light jumping by another name, and everyone does it. Speed limits are not (to put it mildly) rigorously observed. I'll obey every red light, when every car overtaking me slows down and passes with at least 1-2m. The fact is jumping a red light is nowhere near as dangerous to the cyclist as it appears to the motorist. I'll say again, the red-light jumping lycra-nazi is NOT the cyclist dying on London's roads. Feel like making a comment here? I'm not interested in your anecdotes about "a cyclist you saw...". Any such comments will be deleted.

They wear black/don't use lights - riding without lights after dark is illegal and rightly so. But any requirement on cyclists to wear high-viz clothing must be resisted, for the same reasons as mandatory helmets must be resisted. Demanding cyclists wear unsightly high-viz clothing denormalises cycling and makes cyclists an outgroup. Some motorists don't see a person on a bike, but a "cyclist" and are tempted to "punish" that member of the out-group for the perceived transgression of another with a close pass. People should be able to cycle in normal clothes as they do on much of the continent which will improve motorist behaviour. There is evidence that cyclists (especially female cyclists) on upright bikes, dressed in street clothes and without helmets are treated better by motorists probably for this subliminal reason.

They think they're saving the world - This is just pure projection. I've never met a cyclist for whom environmental concerns outweigh the financial, health and fun (yes, most of us ENJOY cycling to work) elements of cycling. It's undeniable though. A cyclist isn't contributing to road wear, pollution, congestion, noise or taking up much parking space. A town in which there are lots of cyclists, and few cars is happier, healthier, wealthier, and simply a nicer place to be. Houses next to an upgraded bicycle lane rise in value, those next to an upgraded road, fall. Bicycles are undeniably better urban vehicles than cars.

I am sure there are some cyclists killed will have in some way, through recklessness or intoxication contributed to the situation in which they died. But they will be a small minority, and certainly far fewer than incidents where motorist recklessness, aggression or intoxication contributed to the fatality. Most of these people would have been calmly riding to or from work, and simply been crushed by a big vehicle as they meekly took what they thought was supposed to be a "cycle superhighway". The road shouldn't guide people into lethal road positioning. Inexperience shouldn't be lethal. Addressing driver inattention or misbehaviour and poorly designed roads are whole orders of magnitude more important in saving cyclists lives than addressing cyclist misbehaviour, a problem which exist mainly in the minds of angry, stressed motorists.

Yet every death ends up with a debate with motorists about red-light jumping; mere 'whataboutery' to deflect debate away from the elephants in the room - rubbish infrastructure and the attitudes of some drivers. Even more disappointing to hear Boris Johnson give air time to the trope that it's beholden upon cyclists to obey the rules, when in many cases, it's the rules that's killing them. The fact remains the consequences of bad behaviour in 2 tons of steel capable of 100mph is vastly greater than the consequences of bad behaviour on 15lbs of steel at 30mph. There is no moral equivalence between cyclist's bad behaviour and motorists bad behaviour, because the former is largely borne by the perpetrator, whereas the consequences of the latter are not borne by the motorist.

Proper infrastructure, which does involve taking space away from the motor vehicle, will make cyclists safer, and reduce conflict to everyone's benefit. 25% of rush-hour traffic in some areas of London is now bicycles. By numbers alone, cyclists now deserve proper safe infrastructure.

Update: As I wrote this, a further cyclist has been killed in London, bringing the total to 6 in 11 days.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Top Trolling from Rod LIddle in the Spectator.

Off yer bikes! Cyclists are a menace to society — and self-righteous to boot 

You are just pedalling, you plastic-hatted ninnies, not saving the bloody planet 

 Rather than the invisible cyclist, who's American, perhaps fat, out-of-shape, double-chinned Labour party member, Rod Liddle could have started his Spectator rant with an article about why stupid, working class, labour-voting ignorant chavs cannot control themselves around cyclists, written by someone who lives in the UK and who knows what they're talking about. Like this one, by me. Instead he finds a pretty harmless piece of hyperbole from a San-Fransico Blogger to start with.

‘Such anti-cyclist anger reminds me in many ways of the feelings about gypsies that I would hear expressed when I lived in central Europe. In Hungary, people would tell me they disliked gypsies because they were lazy and dishonest. The truth was that gypsies — like, I would suggest, cyclists — were unpopular principally for being different.
So he starts with a cyclist complaining that others treat them (us) as an outgroup. Liddle Then moves on to a classic piece of trolling - nice and controversial treating cyclists as an outgroup:
Like many people, I am worried that too few cyclists are being killed on our roads each year.
Q.E.D. Can you imagine being able to write that in the Spectator about any other group of people? Premiership footballers perhaps.
While the number of cycling journeys undertaken in the UK has risen enormously since 2006, and exponentially since the exciting, hirsute Sir Bradley Wiggins won a bicycle race in France in 2012, the official statistics show only a moderate rise in fatalities.
The first error of fact. Wiggins' win in the Tour De France came long after the number of cyclists started to rise.
This suggests to me that car drivers have become more accommodating in their behaviour towards these people and have lost their radical anti-cycling zeal.
This is a good thing. No-one is bothered by black neighbours any more either. The only people who still hate cyclists are stupid, ignorant, working class, labour-voters mostly in white vans, who hate anyone different. Hate. It's a bad thing, Rod.
They have been bullied out of it, one suspects, by official propaganda that insists that knocking cyclists over, deliberately or otherwise, is somehow ‘antisocial’, and by the effusions of lionised celebrity cyclists like Wiggins, and that also ennobled Scottish man who cycles round and round a track very quickly indeed, like a sort of thin-lipped ginger hamster with outsized calf muscles.
Wiggins and the Scottish man are both militant campaigners against the killing of cyclists, and they are also in favour of more cycle lanes (which cyclists like to see built, but never use)...
To understand why few cyclists use the laughable provisions in the UK, see the excellent Warrington cycle campaign's facility of the month.

...and further speed restrictions on the people who actually pay for the roads (car drivers), but the government is on board too.
Of course car-drivers don't "pay for the roads". Most cyclists also own a car, and indeed are more likely to do so than the average member of the public. Cyclists are drawn from two populations: those too poor to own a car, but these are now outnumbered by affluent people for whom cycling is an enjoyable way to get to work. Of course Rod Liddle, being a member of the Labour party, is not concerned with tiresome research, or so-called "facts".
My concern is that if killing cyclists is no longer allowable in a free country, then it is the thin end of the wedge and it may be that down the line cycling will become an ‘acceptable’ pursuit for normal people. We have seen this happen before with homosexuals, single mothers and some foreigners; one moment we are enjoined not to victimise them, the next they are clamouring for equality. Somewhere, surely, we have to draw the line.
OK he's trolling. Good work.
Well, ok, I jest, in predictably bad taste. And you were probably aware that I was joking, unless you are a committed cyclist who is determined to be outraged. By ‘committed’ I do not mean that you are the recipient of state protection in a secure asylum....
Thanks for admitting you're joking. But what... there's more to this article?
...but rather that you are one of those people with an expensive bicycle, a lot of Lycra, a pompous little pointy plastic hat, hilarious goggles, a fatuous water bottle and the fervent conviction that you are a Victim as a consequence of your Vulnerability. And that in being a Victim as a consequence of being Vulnerable you are somehow empowered to take it out on everybody else you see on the public highways, especially car drivers and pedestrians.
Oh, so having said you're joking, you then start with the SERIOUS BIT? About how we're all so insufferable for not wanting to get crushed by a fucking truck? Or for expecting drivers to respect our safety? Is that what you're saying Rod?
There is nothing quite like considering yourself a Victim to bolster the self-esteem, nothing like resentment to make the hours go by a little quicker. Not all cyclists fall into this category of course, far from it. But plenty do. Dare to disparage the cycling fraternity and all hell will break loose; when you are a certified Victim all sense of proportion — and humour — departs.
Well forgive me for not wanting to be crushed by a truck.
I discovered this when I mentioned in a blog recently that I was not sure why I had to pay, through my taxes, for my friend to have a new bicycle — there’s a government scheme on offer which effectively gives you a bike on tick, interest-free.
No there isn't, Rod. There's a scheme which lets some people (but not soldiers or the self-employed) to buy a bicycle out of pre-tax income via their employers. It saves at most £400.
Ooh, the fury. But it was nothing compared to the opprobrium heaped upon the head of my colleague Matthew Parris who jokingly suggested that life in his village would be improved by piano wire strung across the roads to decapitate the hugely annoying cyclists.
But this has actually happened. And so some of us don't think it funny.
Cyclists — or some of them, a lot of them — have become, these last few years, full of themselves, puffed-up with righteous anger. Part of this has been encouraged by the success of Wiggins and the Scottish hamster-man. But part of it too is because these people don’t think they’re simply pedalling from High Holborn to Paddington; they think they’re saving the bloody planet.
This is a charge often levelled, but it's a straw man. Most people cycling from High Holborn to Paddington (a route containing some of the best infrastructure in London, incidentally) will do so because it's cheap, healthy, fun, sociable and pleasant way to travel. Few cyclists think they're "saving the planet". And if some do, so what?
And they think that the rest of us are destroying it. As the anonymous blogger put it in that quote at the top of the page, they think that they are different.
No we don't think we're different, the blogger you quote doesn't think cyclists are different. But you clearly think we are different, don't you Rod? You're projecting your own prejudices.
No — you’re not. You just can’t afford a car or are deluded about the impact cycling a few miles makes to the environment. And you can’t be bothered to walk.
Interesting how Labour members think they're allowed to sneer at the poor. Of course even Jeremy Clarkson admits a city without cars littering the place is simply a nicer place to be. Cars do ruin the environment. It's not just about Carbon. It's why we pedestrianise streets. Because cars scare people away.
Cyclists are another one of those things about which the government and establishment are of one mind and the general public another. There is absolutely no doubt that the behaviour of some cyclists, the militant lot, enrages both pedestrians and car users — i.e. the vast majority of the British public.
The militant cyclist is unlikely to be the same person as the pavement cyclist, who's much more likely to be from the tribe openly sneered at by Liddle - too poor to own a car.
I had always thought, when I saw two cyclists riding abreast on a narrowish road, holding up the traffic, that they were unaware of the annoyance they were causing. That maybe they didn’t know there was a car behind, and another 50 cars behind that car.
If it's not safe to pass two cyclists, it's not safe to pass one cyclist. There's no extra delay.
Oh, but they do, they do. Check out the cycling websites and you will learn that they ride two abreast precisely to stop cars overtaking them, because on narrow roads they are convinced that car drivers will cut in too close to them as they pass.
Convinced, because IT HAPPENS.
So they block the entire road and feel good about it, because they are Victims. The law states that they are allowed to ride two abreast
...on any road, not just...
...on a big, wide, straight road, no bends and curves, where there is plenty of opportunity and width for cars to pass by in comfort; but a hefty majority of the posts I saw on several websites revealed very different strategies. Their view is that unless a car has room to pass two cyclists, it shouldn’t be trying to pass one. And with that they wrap themselves in self-righteousness as the queues of traffic tail back further and further.
There is no right for you to get past at will, and no obligation on cyclists to "get out of the way". That you, a fat, slovenly, Labour voter is so filled with a massive entitlement complex that you think you have a right to get past, just shows how fat, stupid and selfish you are. Your 30 second delay (and it really is just that) is more important to you, than another human being's safety. Which is just fucking grotesque when you think about it.
Likewise, riding on the pavements and thus maiming pensioners. The law is clear about this, for a change. They should never do it.
And if you go to "cycling websites" you'll find the "militant cyclists" pretty universal in their condemnation of pavement cyclist, but never let the facts get in the way of a good rant, Rod.
But they do it because they feel safer there, of course.
Most pavement cyclists are poor people trying to get about. They feel threatened on the road. Because you think you have a right to get past.
Listen, you plastic-hatted ninny: if you don’t have the balls to cycle in the road, then ditch the bike.
Most pavement cyclist don't wear helmets. Unless they're small children. Who ARE allowed to cycle on the pavement. Facts, Rod. They're out there if you look....
It is still the case that, mile for mile, pedestrians are far more ‘vulnerable’ than cyclists. Mile for mile, more pedestrians are killed. They — we — are the real victims, even if we do not whine about it continuously.
Yes, Rod, they're killed by motorists, not cyclists.
And the number of pedestrians maimed by cyclists is also rising by the year, to the extent that legislation has been proposed to ensure that cyclists respect the laws of the land the same as everyone else.
The grotesque exaggeration of the number of pedestrians hurt by cyclists is a tiresome trope of this sort of piece. How many people are hurt by cars, and how many by cyclists, Rod?...Rod?
And of course, there are other irritations and dangers. I get infuriated by the cyclists tearing past me on the rural footpath where I live, scattering dogs and kids like confetti, believing that because they are allowed on the path, they are under no obligation to consider anyone else who might be using it.
This happens occasionally. But equally frequently, the 'shared use' path has pedestrians wandering about on the bit set aside for cyclists. Who's to blame? The council for engineering conflict.
I am thinking of training my dog to attack cyclists who behave like this, catch up with them on the uphill stretch and chew their tyres off. I think I will use, as a signal to the animal to launch its attack, the word ‘Hoy!’
Funny, using the name of the cyclist whom you pretend to not remember. Well done, you fat, Labour-voting twat.
And of course there is the running of red lights, a continual complaint from car users, and the weaving in and out of traffic with an expression of rectitude on their faces.
It had to come. The "red-light" crap. Car drivers too regularly run red lights. At least as frequently as cyclists. It's just for reasons that are obvious, only one motorist will see a motorist do so, whereas dozens of motorists will see a cyclist run a light. It happens. But cyclists running the occasional red is simply not a big problem. Cars doing so is.
And while it is true that by far the greatest number of pedestrian injuries and deaths are caused by car drivers...
...Nice of you to admit it... a pedestrian you always have the sneaking suspicion that, in general, car drivers will try their best to avoid hitting you, while cyclists not only don’t care but will happily blame you for any injury which occurs.
"Sneaking suspicion" of nothing except Rod Liddle's brute prejudice. A straw man, ideas put into the heads of cyclists (THEM!) whom he has not bothered to consult.
It is the last point which is the crucial one. It is about attitude.
Yes it is, Rod. If you see a cyclist and think, "I'll slow down, pass when it's safe, I'll probably not be delayed at all", then you won't feel the hate. Calm down, Rod. You're fat and out-of-shape. Your heart might not take the stress.
For a long time car drivers have had it drummed into them that what they are doing is antisocial and undesirable and have been subjected to ever greater strictures about what they can and can’t do in their cars, how fast they should travel and why they should leave the car in the garage to ease congestion and save the planet.
Well, Rod, it's not cyclists causing congestion is it? And you think people should be allowed to go as fast as they like, or abandon their vehicles wherever they choose? These "strictures" aren't for the cyclists' benefit, but for pedestrians. And motorists.
As a consequence, they have become mindful and cowed. By contrast the cyclists have been told that they are doing a Good Thing, that it would be better if we all cycled (it wouldn’t — it would be better if we all walked) and so believe they can do no wrong.
Simply not true. This is a mere projection of Rod's own feelings of impotence when stuck in traffic. Traffic of course being created by other fat people like him in cars.
They have the moral high ground, which includes the pavement, since you asked.
I've dealt with the Pavement issue.
I think we need a bit of legislation to sort them out, to penalise adult cyclists who ride on pavements, to book them for dangerous driving when they’re cutting lights or riding two abreast on unsuitable roads. And either to make it compulsory for cyclists to use cycle lanes or for local authorities to stop providing them (and turn the existing ones back into normal roads). Then the cyclists will feel an even greater sense of victimhood, and thus be happier.
Or maybe, just maybe, proper, segregated infrastructure will encourage those people who want to cycle to do so without enraging fat, idle, Labour-voting inadequates as the fat about in their fat-mobiles, and indeed making their lipid lives a little easier. More, better cycle lanes will engineer out the conflict. But that would involve giving "THEM" (a word which along with "They") appears 71 times in Rod Liddle's article) what they want, and that would not appease Rod "fat labour" Liddle's sense of victim-hood which flows through this article. The word "They" usually indicates a lack of thought, a generalisation about another group, and such generalisations rarely stand up to scrutiny.

This is an embarrassment to the Spectator, riven with ignorance of the subject and full of internal contradictions.

Did I mention Rod Liddle is a fat member of the Labour Party?

Update: Before you comment, be sure to check your "thoughts" against this Cyclist-hate Bingo card. I want to collect the lot:

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