West Midlands Police made an interesting announcement this week when thy confirmed that they are actively going to target and prosecute drivers who do not give enough room when passing cyclists. By the laws of road in the UK, drivers should give cyclists at least the same space as vehicles, widely considered to be 1.5m (4.9ft).
While this has been met with an overwhelmingly positive response from cyclists, many of whom who have been knocked off or rattled by drivers that are too close, the same cannot be said for the driving community. I don’t usually read the comments on internet sites as it is usually the territory of the uninformed and/or the unintelligent but some of them made me chuckle. For the very numerous drivers shouting “they don’t pay road tax!” there were an equal number of cyclists shouting “neither do you, it’s vehicle excise duty calculated on the emissions of your car. A bike has none, some cars don’t either!” and so it went on….. and on…. and on. Each side of the argument getting more and more frustrated as a few in the middle tried desperately to reason with everyone but failed miserably.
As a user of both methods of transport I resisted the urge to add my own thoughts to the comments thread, preferring to detail it here. The fact of the matter is this – there are bad drivers, there are bad cyclists, there are bad motorcyclists, there are bad pedestrians. The only thing that we can do is to make sure that we take it upon ourselves to be better, more respectful of the law and others and more conscientious in our approach to road use. Only then will things start to get better. Last week Adam and I were out and about in Surrey – we were climbing a short rise with a car behind us, when we hit the top and I could see the coast was clear so I waved the driver past and he beeped his appreciation as he went by. It just shows that we can all use the road safely and cordially if we’re appreciative of the fact that EVERYONE has a right to be there.
It infuriates me when I see a cyclist go through a red light or run a junction, just as much as it infuriates me when I see a motorcyclist overtake in slow moving traffic then cut a car up to get back in as traffic comes the other way or that car who doesn’t indicate or that pedestrian who crosses from a bad locations. It infuriates me so I make sure I don’t do those things, it’s not a difficult conundrum to solve. The growth in popularity of dash cams and helmet cams is a sad sign that we are more worried about what everyone else is doing and waiting for someone to blame rather than being better ourselves. I quite often see these on vehicles and bikes of people that are breaking one or more laws themselves, I’m sure they don’t use that evidence to shop themselves to the cops! What’s that biblical saying about those without sin casting the first stone?!
WMP have taken a positive step here to increase protection for cyclists and I hope this is replicated across the country but, when you’re out and about on your bike this weekend and any time in the future, make sure you’re obeying the road rules as marginal gains can work in all areas of cycling, not just the technical side.