Can we share the road in London?

A recent storm arose on Twitter after @LDN, definitely a member of the London Twitterati, provided a link to the Sorry Mate I didn’t See You (SMIDSY) database for cyclists to report bad drivers.

Subsequently the hashtag #LDNcyclist was setup and I wanted to go through some of the responses to see what people thought about London’s Cyclists. As a bit of brief background this is where the “us” and “them” argument stands:

  • Some newspapers have called London Cyclists Lycra Louts to which there was severe denouncement in other newspapers and cycling blogs. Those killed include two fitness instructors, a film producer, a Goldsmiths’ graduate, a City director and an architect.
  • There has been various cases of road rage including recently in Australia where a bus driver was punched by a cyclist.
  • Recently in Cambridge cyclists have been given fines for anti-social cycling.
  • In cities such as Copenhagen where cycling is seen as the norm there is no “us” and “them” everyone just cycles but thinks nothing of it.
  • There is even a debate being held soon by the Spectator where speakers include the former Mayor of London asking: are cyclists a menace?

Moving on to some of the points raised on Twitter:

About not breaking the law

atlaz : @LDN Not sure how many are needed. How about don’t jump red lights, do ride on the road. Those seem to annoy most.

lucyinglis : Don’t ride on the pavement, then shout at me because I have my headphones on and don’t know you are there!

MrSnoobs : #LDNcyclist If you are on the road, how about you take notice of the colour of the traffic lights? 2 wheels doesn’t make you an exception.

alexecrawford : #LDNcyclist -cyclists- DO indicate, DO make eye contact, DON’T jump lights, DON’T cycle on pvmnts, DON’T cut people up, DON’T go near HGVs..

tristanprooth : And one more thing: Do NOT ride on the pavement, even if there is no cycle lane. You are road traffic. Behave like it.

It definitely does not help the image of cyclists that many of us go through red lights. Though there also needs to be appreciation of the danger of setting off at the same time as cars do. This is why in cyclists friendly cities such as Copenhagen the light turns green for cyclists before cars.

Violence justified

ajjmcd : @lucyinglis was the idiot wearing a helmet? it justifies knocking him over….

This is one of the more worrying and extreme sides of the debate and is also an angle some of the newspapers have taken.

Paying to use the road

mulene : the road is NOT yours. #LDNcyclist There are other vehicles on the road who PAY to use it!

alexecrawford : @mulene #LDNcyclist – who says we don’t pay? I do

I think this argument has been countered many times successfully. The one figure I will add is that £140 million will be spent on cycling in the next 3 years. This is about enough for four miles of motorway.

Advice to cyclists

ktcita : Cyclists: please wear bright clothes & lights at night. You are invisible otherwise and cannot complain about not being seen. #LDNcyclist

Excellent advice and also the reasoning given behind the recent Cambridge fines.

From Cyclists

jacquidarlow : @LDN please pedestrians don’t step out between parked cars, when traffic at a standstill cyclists are still moving!

djientan : @LDN I’m a cyclist who gets upset by reckless cyclists. Some of us a good road users!

contrabland : Dear pedestrians, try looking before stepping out into the road (even if you are on a phone call).

simonmdt : we aint perfect, but Pedestrians are far the greatest hazard. Don’t yell at me. here’s a clue in the name Bike Lane.

I too have bumped into a person stepping off a bus onto a cycle lane without looking. I think both cyclists and pedestrians need to be more mindful of each other.

Some helpful suggestions

TexCorie : If you cycle on the pavement, behave like a pedestrian. If you cycle on the street, behave like a car. #LDNcyclist

alexecrawford : as always when discussing cycling, talk quickly turns angry. I’m a cyclist and a pedestrian-It doesn’t need to be a war

With the Mayor aiming for an increase of cycling from 2% to 5% of journeys this debate is likely only to intensify. So what could be done to resolve it? Wired magazine recently discussed the success of the complete streets concept. This is where the road and pavement is shared out equally between all users. Also we could perhaps try the Toronto approach where thank you notes are given to courteous drivers. One final idea is car free cities. Is this somewhere you would choose to live?

It is clear that there is a growing animosity between pedestrians and cyclists. As always those few that break the law and cycle inconsiderately are causing a bad image of cyclists. In any case I think the worse thing that could happen is for the two groups to turn on each other. These are definitely the two most vulnerable road users and should be the two groups that get along the most. Let’s not forget we are all pedestrians at some point.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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