Cycling safely – what are the issues?

Should all cyclists be made, by the law, to wear helmets like car drivers are made to wear seat belts? This link to the BBC web site discusses differing views on this issue:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45312756

My own view is that for adults the jury is out on this question but for children the matter is very clear, they should always wear a helmet. I always wear one, preferably in a bright colour as it helps other road users see you as well as offering some protection in case of an accident or fall. I’ve just bought one with a detachable visor and rear flashing red LED. The visor is great as it means I can keep my specs on and have protection from the sun. Wish I’d bought one like this ages ago; the visor is useful in the rain too.

Why do some cyclists ride on pavements? I try not to do this unless it is to avoid a dangerous junction because the most important thing on the public highway is the pedestrian. Also, I find pavement riding hazardous. Bouncing up and down kerbs at junctions, vehicles and pedestrians exiting driveways obscured by hedges and fences. I know that some cyclists ride on pavements because they fear traffic on the road but to my mind it’s safer on the road for cyclists.

And what about potholes? They are probably the greathest danger to cyclists as avoiding them or indeed hitting them can put you in conflict with traffic. My way of dealing with them is to be looking 20 to 30 yards ahead and to be very wary of puddles as they can hide potholes. Best to cycle more slowly on poor roads or even to avoid such roads as I do with the likes of Bold Lane in Aughton.

And what about cycle paths? Great if they are reasonably well maintained and have logical starting and ending points BUT. One ‘but’ is that many are not well maintained and that encourages cyclists, particularly those who wish to travel at speed, not to use them. This in turn frustrates vehicle drivers who, if they are not cyclists themselves, can’t understand why the cyclist slowing them down is not on the adjacent cycle path. The other ‘but’ is that often cycle paths begin and end in odd or even unsafe places or because they run for just short stretches of routes and cyclists are on and off them like a yo-yo. Coming on and off cycle paths into traffic is dangerous and the UK has great deal more to do to make cycling much safer via the development and extension cycle paths/routes.

An example of poor cycling facilities is the A59 from Ormskirk to Switch Island. You have to get out of Ormskirk well into Aughton before there’s a cycle path and when you reach it there’s both a pavement and cycle path side by side. Trouble is the pavement is well overgrown and the cycle path is rutted. It then gets much better until you reach Robins Island where through Lydiate and Maghull there’s no cycle path/safe cycle route at all until you reach the last half mile coming out of Maghull towards Switch Island. Thankfully Sefton Council has an eye to doing something about this but its not going to happen quickly.

Why don’t some cyclists wear bright clothes all the time and/or use lights in the dark? I really don’t know, maybe they have a death wish or in the case of teenage lads its probably not cool to look safe so they would rather be at risk as their mates approve of that. For goodness sake unless you are nuts put on some bright day-glow clothes; it’s called being safe!

Do car drivers hate cyclists? Well some car drivers hate anything that stops them driving around like a crap Formula 1 driver. But just think who are the most important on the road? – 1 pedestrians, 2 cyclists, 3 buses, 4 everything else!

Why do cyclists run red lights? Because they are trying to get themselves killed? Because it makes them feel cool? Because like many vehicle drivers they are in too much of a hurry? Take your pick but as a cyclist and driver I have no sympathy with cyclists who jump red lights.

Cycle in the gutter you are in my way say angry car drivers? No cyclists don’t cycle in gutters because they are too dangerous! Dropped grids broken kerb stones etc. Most cyclists will cycle a couple of feet away from the kerb.

Why do cyclists take up too much room where the carriageway is narrow? Because if they try to make the passing possibilities greater mad drivers will try to push past them causing danger. I will usually make the gap impossible for a vehicle to pass me where the road is narrow such as at pedestrian refuge islands. Drivers need to pass cyclists with care leaving as much room as possible. I saw a warning sign on the Kirkstone Pass in Cumbria the other day saying drivers need to leave 1.5m of space when they pass a cyclist.

Why do cyclists sometimes cycle in packs side by side? Don’t know really, would never do it on a busy road myself as it causes congestion but I guess some cyclists can be just as inconsiderate as some drivers. Lets be honest inconsiderate drivers who also cycle are probably also inconsiderate cyclists.

I love cycling, I used to cycle miles when I was a young lad living in Rochdale with Nigel Collison. Then as I got older I fell out with cycling and only got back into it in my late 50’s. It’s great exercise and you actually see things rather than speeding past them in a vehicle. Cycling fits with my love of taking photographs too as I can stop pretty much where I want which clearly you can’t do in a car. Oh and its good for the environment and for local journeys much cheaper than using a car.

Go on give it a go, but please cycle safely.