Discussing the State of Cycling Report 2019
As a regular commuter to work on 2 wheels, I have noticed that I often see driving habits in a different light when on a bike rather than in the comfort of my car.
It takes a lot to get me worked up in a car, but even I have found how it seems to have slowly become socially acceptable to rail against other drivers for any minor offence, without a hint of realism that they are totally oblivious to your gesticulation. It cannot be lost on us that this behaviour always has more of an effect on the aggrieved rather than the chap who failed to signal 3 seconds too late.
But more worrying still is a report out today evidencing ever increasing hostility between cyclists and motorists. 71% of 15,000 cyclists questioned agreed that drivers are hostile towards people on bikes. Two thirds are concerned about their safety when riding on our roads. A quick search of twitter will show horrific examples of this. Footage of cyclists having items thrown at them, being driven deliberately into the kerb, and even being pushed over by a passenger leaning out of the window are all readily available on social media. More often though is the fear when 2 tonnes of steel passes you at 40mph with no more than 12 inches to spare. 87% of cyclists reported being ‘close passed’ by a vehicle once a week. Trust me when I say that this isn’t the most pleasant of experiences.
So what does the Highway Code say about overtaking?
Rule 162 states that ‘before overtaking you should make sure the road is sufficiently clear ahead, there is a suitable gap in front of the road user you plan to overtake’. Rule 163 goes further: ‘Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should not get too close to the vehicle you intend to overtake, move quickly past the vehicle you are overtaking, once you have started to overtake. Allow plenty of room. Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in’. Finally ‘give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.
Cyclists are also specifically referred to as a vulnerable group requiring extra care. Rule 213 refers to something that all cyclists dread. Having to move quickly to avoid a pothole, or a drain cover or a wet patch. There is little more hazardous to a cyclist and there front wheel than a pot hole filled with water. Drivers need to be aware that they are required to give them ‘plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make’.
The responsibility lies clearly with the driver of the vehicle. The risk is theirs if they choose to overtake a cyclist when it is not safe to do so, and they could be potentially liable both criminally and through the civil Courts if the cyclist is injured. There are times when it is not safe for a cyclist to cycle closer to the pavement, and they have to cycle nearer to the middle of the road. The law is still clear; the onus for overtaking in a safe manner is with the driver. I have lost count of the number of cyclists I have acted for who have been injured just because of a poor and unsafe overtake.
There are also simple techniques when exiting your parked car to avoid taking out a cyclist. The ‘Dutch Reach’ is an easy technique whereby you open the door with your left hand, forcing you to reach and turn your body. You will then automatically be in a position where you can see if there are any oncoming cyclists. Give it a go; it could save someone’s life.
Any regular cyclist will go on at length about poorly planned routes, where little thought has been given to the changes in the way we use roads, but we need to move or even pedal away (sorry), from endorsing anything that pits drivers against cyclists. As British Cycling has concluded, maybe now is the time for a new public mutual respect campaign for all road users.
The report from British Cycling can be found here. https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/stateofcycling