BY ANDY COLLIDGE
Now this as a subject matter is in a class of its own, generating a multitude of different opinions. These opinions are normally defined by age, amount of time holding a full driving license, how much time spent on the road, and of course, as politically incorrect as it may sound, the gender of the person involved.
As a hotel owner and publican, I hear a lot about this subject. The observations I am about to share are taken from a cross section of people that have all had a gripe or two about other road users.
The main protest I have heard over the last couple of years concerns those cyclists who have an arrogant and dismissive attitude toward the highway code and other road users. I hear of the cyclists who wobble and swerve in unpredictable ways, change direction without indicating; cyclists who have no thought for other road users or pedestrians, ride two, sometimes three abreast and – when called to task for their actions – poo poo any criticism by either ignoring the argument or stating, ‘we have as much right on the road as anyone else’. Indeed you do – a very adult and informative response.
This statement of course evokes the other side of the argument – ‘no MOT, no insurance, no road tax, no number plates (which are necessary to be able to identify road traffic offenders) and, most of all, the way the Government seem to protect the cyclist, because at the moment, it’s environmentally correct to do so. Even a moped has to be insured and, often, these cannot travel as fast as pushbikes. Fear not, we can guarantee that all this Government backing and sanctioning will be greasing some private market along the way, somehow.
Then there is the modern cyclist’s dress code. This causes a fair amount of amusement because, frankly, for some obscure reason, the majority of them are attempting to look like velodrome contenders, which is ridiculous on Britain’s open roads. With their ‘budgie smuggling’ shorts, go faster helmets and of course, the special footwear – the clothing which, when they are not mounted on their bike, they struggle to walk in. Cyclists adorn our roads looking quite abnormal. A motorcyclist wears leathers for protection in case of a spill, lycra outfits are hardly going to be of much help in an accident, are they? Let’s face it, cyclist attire is totally impractical.
The question needs asking, how the hell did this happen? Especially as forty years ago, people used bikes as a sensible mode of transport, from adults to kids, for work and for pleasure.
Now we’re left with a fashion parade of over-the-top equipment. It is a fact that cycling is lighter, faster and more cosmetically pleasing than yesteryear, but the original concept remains exactly the same. In my opinion the change is down to a mindset that has been imposed by the manufacturers and then by media coverage, and bought by a percentage of the market who are gullible enough to think they are now ‘lookin cooool’.
Cyclist attire aside, and I’m still giggling at it, one of the main grumps held by other road users, is that to ride a bicycle all you need to do is buy one. There are no tests, no criteria, just the Highway Code (which is not the law). Just get the machine and hit the road.
Pavements, underpasses, traffic lights are all just things to scoff at as a cyclist. Sod pedestrians, why are they even allowed to be on a pavement? Even I have had a pushbike undertake me at traffic lights when I was at the front of the queue. The cyclist pulled in front of me waiting for the lights to change, taking a position that would make it impossible for me to get around him. As the lights changed, he pulled away, but so slowly that, from a car driver’s perspective he had become a hazard which now I needed to pass.
The West Midland Police have stated that they will prosecute a motorist passing a cyclist if the passing gap is less than 1.5 metres. Are they insane? Here in Devon on many of our roads that 1.5 metres would put the car in the hedge. So that suggestion really works!
Then there is the cycle lane. Please do not get me wrong, a good concept, but implemented in a completely half-hearted manner across Britain. Many a mile of so called ‘cycle lane’ is placed on public pavements – those areas designated for pedestrians. Now it’s open season – the foot walker versus the two-wheeled menace. Gets bloody messy at times.
Again, the question has to be raised, if special lanes are required for the cyclist, then surely the cyclist should be paying for them? They are always very quick to complain about ‘pot holes, loose gravel, mud on the road, nearly all other road users’, but with no real right or justification. It is time that the laws and licensing for the public roads in Britain should be applied to the cyclist.
On a lighter note, I have seen families out on their bikes, with Mum and Dad escorting and teaching their offspring to ride correctly. These people seem to have more respect for the dangers of moving traffic and cause less of a problem than the hobby cyclist, as their intent is to be safe in all aspects. Hey Mr & Mrs Lycra, perhaps you might like to watch and learn from these people.
I doubt it. You’re way too engrossed in your own selfish little worlds.
Andy Collidge was raised in Pershore, Worcestershire, then moved to Hertfordshire aged 14. Andy had careers in the Police Force and Fire Brigade, then later in sales. Now, with his wife, Andy owns a successful hotel in the Devon heartlands with an acclaimed restaurant. Although not a Devonian, Andy now regards the county very much as home. Andy has written 6 books, three that are published, with two more coming out this year.