How the rest of the world sees us cyclists and how not to answer an interview

Recently LBC radio invited me to talk about an exciting topic: “How safe is London for cycling?”. I was glad that finally main stream media were asking the right questions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. The topic that was pitched to me was very much a trick and in fact the interview turned into a cyclist bashing session. You’ll be able to hear the frustration in my voice as I realised we were once again going to be covering old ground.

Listen to the clip below and let me know what you would have answered for these common complaints that were raised.

With a benefit of a little more preparation here’s what I should have said on each of these topics..

All cyclists jump red lights

Whilst it’s true that a small percentage of cyclists jump red lights focusing on this largely ignores the bigger issues. You have to ask: Why do cyclists jump red lights? The answer they are likely to give you is that they get 50 yards of traffic free riding. Being on a narrow road and cycling next to a heavy goods vehicle is not always a pleasant experience. Unfortunately, due to the lack of investment in cycling infrastructure and planning for cyclists on the roads this is the daily reality for anyone who does want to pursue a cheaper, healthier and pollution free mode of transport.

Whilst I definitely don’t encourage that behaviour and would myself like to see less of it, what we have to remember is that a cyclist jumping a red light is a very different affair to a car jumping a red light. The implications of the latter obviously being far more severe to an unfortunate person crossing the road or to fellow road users.

Cyclists should be licenced/insured

This is an ancient argument that has long been discredited. If you start to try to licence cyclists you make it more complicated for someone to start cycling. As we are living in a city struggling to meet its pollution targets and on the verge of major fines from the EU any pollution free mode of transport should be embraced. The bicycle happens to also solve many of the congestion problems in London.

All cyclists wear headphones and talk on their mobiles

That wouldn’t make them too different to drivers then would it?

Cyclists are a huge danger to pedestrians

If you compare the one recorded death by dangerous cycling in London versus all the deaths every year on roads from drivers then you’ll never make a statement like this. It’s true to say that cyclists shouldn’t ride on the pavement but to call a bike a huge danger to pedestrian is a gross exaggeration.

How the rest of the world sees cyclists

The one good thing to come out of the interview (apart from a bit of good promotion of London Cyclist blog!) was to be reminded how the rest of the world often sees cyclists. If similar questions come up in a future interview I’ll be a little more prepared to hold my own. What would you have answered?

Related link:

  • Bloody cyclists – covers the common arguments and provides some useful stats

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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138 Responses to How the rest of the world sees us cyclists and how not to answer an interview

  1. JdeP 19/01/2011 at 10:10 am #

    You wrote: “Why do cyclists jump red lights? The answer they are likely to give you is that they get 50 yards of traffic free riding.”

    Sorry, but as a cyclist who does not jump red lights, I simply cannot agree. It seems clear to me that many cyclists think that the rules of the road do not apply to them. It has nothing to do with wanting to be forward of the traffic for safety reasons, and everything to do with wanting to save 15 seconds off their journey time.

    I often see cyclists swerving around (and alarming) pedestrians who are crossing when it should be safe for them to do so, when the traffic light is red, and the pedestrian crossing light is green.

    It really is those selfish cyclists who give the rest of us such a bad name.

    • Tim Lennon 19/01/2011 at 10:40 am #

      JdeP, to be honest, I couldn’t care less why they want to run the lights. They’re endangering themselves, and that’s their decision. I normally wait, except where I consider that it’s safer for me to advance beyond the line, but that’s also irrelevant.

      I’m very happy for the Police to actually police this, but I’d like them to do it at the same time as they police motoring offences **which cause the same level of danger to others**. Examples like:
      - Obscuring your number plate
      - Having illegal number plates
      - Blacking out your frornt windows
      - Driving with an obscureed windshield
      - Stopping in ASLs without good reason
      - Parking in cycle lanes

      Have a look at Waltham Forest if you want a more strident view, but one I find it difficult not to agree with: http://crapwalthamforest.blogspot.com/search?q=red+light+jump

      I’m not particularly defending cyclists who terrify pedestrians, because I think they’re idiots, but given the challenges facing mass cycling in Britain, this is a tiny pin-prick of an actual issue, I think.

  2. Jimniod 19/01/2011 at 10:30 am #

    @JdeP

    Completely agree. Though I think there is a distinct difference to starting from a red early to just blindly blasting through pelicans and crossroads without even touching the brakes (which really gets my goat).

  3. Stuart 19/01/2011 at 10:32 am #

    Seriously, LBC (the cabbie’s radio station) asked you for an interview and you didn’t think it would take a view from behind the steering wheel!? All publicity is not good publicity.

    • Andreas 19/01/2011 at 2:52 pm #

      True I was definitely naive. Next time I’ll come prepared for battle!

  4. smbh 19/01/2011 at 10:50 am #

    As both a cyclist and and a car user, I can see how the disregard for the rules of the road by a lot of cyclists can frustrate drivers and the general public, giving all cyclists a bad name.

    You said in the interview that you wouldn’t like to see anything like bicycle licensing introduced as that would discourage cycling, but I think some sort of formal road use training for cyclists would be beneficial for all road users and ultimately making the roads safer for cyclists.

    • Andreas 19/01/2011 at 2:59 pm #

      I agree it’s frustrating as a driver and also as a cyclist when someone goes through a red. What we have to keep in mind is a driver going through a red is pretty lethal where as a cyclist is an inconvenience. Although I agree both situations could potentially prove dangerous.

      • smbh 19/01/2011 at 3:37 pm #

        I am not denying your point, a car driving through a red light would be pretty lethal. Thankfully this is something that is not that common, and we can all agree, its completely unjustifiable.

        But you are kind of justifying cyclists jumping through red lights by saying its an just an inconvenience, its not merely an inconvenience for the pedestrians who are at risk of being knocked down, you are also creating unequal use of the road, where the same rules don’t apply to cyclists as they do for drivers. Hence creating resentment towards cyclists.

        • Andreas 20/01/2011 at 9:25 am #

          An irresponsible cyclist will jump through a red at speed and not notice any pedestrians.

          Although still not justifiable, a cyclist who jumps through a red when there are no pedestrians around and does so at slow speeds is annoying drivers.

          I’m not saying either is a good idea I’m just trying to add a little more context to “cyclists knock down pedestrians” argument. Which according to the stats is a little unfounded.

          I feel for pedestrians when I see what some cyclists do and I personally always stop for someone to cross the road. Living in swiss cottage I know how much the road system is designed around cars rather than making the place pleasant for walking.

  5. nelaii 19/01/2011 at 10:55 am #

    I think your arguments are good and it saddens me that there is so much aggression still towards cyclists.
    Yes a portion of us do think we’re above road rules etc. etc. but sometimes we’re not really treated as being part of traffic so while I don’t necessarily agree with some cyclists attitudes I can understand where they are coming from.
    I would say that another justification of RLJing (not that I condone it) is that cars are too often in the ASZs which means we have to go a bit further, but then we’re in the pedestrian crossing, so a little further again and we’re in the street, well then why not cross and get out of the line of fire…? ASZs being disrespected are one of the things that angers me the most. They have made cycling in the city so much safer and drivers need to let us have them.

    Personally the feud started really upsetting me so I decided to try and understand both sides, as a result I’ve been taking driving lessons and am due for my test in a month. Now this is an incredibly expensive way of trying to understand the other side. I don’t actually see myself using the license that much, especially not in London, but I wanted it to make myself a better cyclist. I had hoped to have a massive eye opening experience and understand why drivers hate us so much, and in turn behave better on my bike. The only thing that has changed is that I now ride with brighter lights. Other than that I can only say that gaining the knowledge that drivers have only shocks me more as to how poorly they behave. Now on the other hand it would be free for them to try a bike to understand how it is for us.

    That said, there are some incredibly good drivers out there who have helped me when I ended up in the wrong side of a roundabout and slowed down traffic behind me to allow me through safely. There are those who understand the necessity of ASZs and those who understand to give us space even when there is no marked bike lane. And to them I am thankful.

  6. Jimlad 19/01/2011 at 11:03 am #

    As a pedestrian I won’t go out of my way to cross at a junction when the road is clear. Very frequently it is possible to jump a red light without endangering/alarming anyone or slowing anyone down.

  7. Will 19/01/2011 at 11:06 am #

    I don’t know where to start with the interviewer, she’s obviously paid to be aggressive and antagonistic but it still makes my blood boil.

    I think to all of her questions the phrase, ‘don’t generalise’ could have been used.

    The headphone/mobile phone issue – pedestrians are by far the worse offenders for this and car users are also guilty of it, but we don’t tar all motorists with the same brush. It’s stupid to have both headphones in while cycling, one in the left ear is acceptable by my standards, end of.

    Pedestrian issue – until all pedestrians start to only cross the road at proper crossings when the green man is on then they have no leg to stand on (pun intended)

    I think a video filmed from a cyclists point of view showing the number of pedestrians that walk out infront of cyclists would be a good counter arguement to this, I have a 3 mile commute each day from Liv St to Cov Garden, and it probably happens 2-3 times minimum.

    To sum up; I have given up trying to convince other people to change their views of cyclists, I’ve tried a number of times and generally failed. I cycle because it’s healthy, cheap (when I’m not buying new kit/toys!), and convenient, I do so in a manner which is generally law abiding, safe and which I find acceptable, and that’s all any of us can do,

    I encourage anyone else reading this to do the same.

    xx

  8. Jean-François Phillips 19/01/2011 at 11:06 am #

    I have to agree with JdeP on the red light issue but, I do think you were given a very hard time with the interview.
    The interviewer said “If I saw a cyclist obeying the rules of the road, I’d notice”. Well no, she wouldn’t. It’s quite obvious that it’s things that are out of the ordinary that heightens our observational ability.
    She also says that, on the show, she will get a large percentage of anecdotal evidence of cyclists behaving badly. Well yes, quite possibly. After all, that’s what the topic of the show is all about and asking for listener feedback about cyclists behaving badly is what she’s going to get.
    What’s the difference between wearing headphones and having your radio on in your car? She obviously assumes that all cyclists with headphones are listening to music at maximum volume. I have headphones on when I go out training. I generally listen to podcasts at moderate volume. I can also hear the traffic. I don’t feel that I’m jeopardising my safety by doing so.
    Unfortunately Andreas, your never going to win in an argument with someone like that. You did do a good job though and I thanks you for putting the cyclist’s side of the argument for us. Well done.

    • Andreas 19/01/2011 at 2:57 pm #

      I agree Jean – it was my argument too – that of course she doesn’t notice when someone waits at a red light. When I’m waiting at a red and a cyclist goes through I feel like screaming to the drivers to show I’m still here.
      Thanks for the pat on the back – I still have much to learn about arguments on the radio!

  9. eric 19/01/2011 at 11:10 am #

    what an idiot!
    “Oh I’d definitely notice if some one was obeying the rules.” – bullshit

  10. K 19/01/2011 at 11:11 am #

    All her complaints about cyclists also apply to motorists and pedestrians. No insurance, riding on the pavement (or walking on the road in the case of pedestrians), being on the mobile, wearing headphones, running red lights, generally not paying attention. But we all know which one of cycles, cars and pedestrians cause most damage.

    In any city of millions there are idiots on every type of vehicle imaginable. You just have to resign yourself to sharing your space with these people and do your best not to get into trouble.

    I really wish we could get past this debate, it really boils down to a battle of inconsiderate people vs considerate people and it will always be that way, so let’s just move on. What a dick move of that radio woman to make you stand there and speak for all cyclists who’ve ever done something wrong.

    • Andreas 19/01/2011 at 3:06 pm #

      Exactly – Cyclists seem to draw a lot of flack but you could easily reverse most of the questions to motorists as you say.

  11. Martin, CycleStreets 19/01/2011 at 11:15 am #

    Well done.

    The quality of her arguments was clearly low because of her generalisations about “cyclists do this, cyclists do that”. A good response is to pin her down: “What kind of proportion are you talking about?” and relate this to the very high levels of speeding, etc.

    Then publicly challenge people like this to confirm that they never park on pavements, never jump a red light, never stop on yellow lines, never speed on motorways or in town centres. I think it’s unlikely she’d truthfully be able to confirm this, exposing hypocrisy.

    Perhaps also ask her if she’d prefer the increasing number of cyclists all to be in their cars (after all, most cyclists – at least here in Cambridge – do own and use cars), and whether the even-longer traffic jams is something she’d prefer?

    • Andreas 19/01/2011 at 3:07 pm #

      Looking back I wished I did use some of the techniques you mention. When she said “I’m a cyclist” I really wanted to challenge her on that.
      All your points are well argued Martin – maybe I can send them your way next time for a big victory for cyclists?

  12. Dave Escandell 19/01/2011 at 11:31 am #

    Andreas, It’s fair to say that that was a bit of a stich up. The least you could have expected was for the presenter of the show to be impartial and chair a debate between yourself and another.

    As a cyclist in an urban area I have one thing to say really – dominate your space, take the primary position when needed, cycle considerately and obey the law.

    I dont think it’s too much to ask.

    I’m not an advocate (yet) for complete segregation, and one of the main reasons being that we’ll never have segregation without the buy in of the wider general public, after all, we’ll all have to fund it. While the few continue to cycle irresponsibly it’ll take a long long time to be accepted.

    • Andreas 19/01/2011 at 3:10 pm #

      Thanks Dave – I think in the end they have a radio show to sell and listeners to please hence their one sided take on the issue. The big problem with a cyclist jumping a red is that they don’t see they are creating a bad imagine for cycling.

  13. Iain 19/01/2011 at 11:52 am #

    Can I have a job on LBC please? All taxi drivers ignore the highway code, all white van men have no concept of the highway code and treat the speed limit as a minimum. School runners should have guide dogs as surely they’d park better if they could see…Football fans are hooligans… There, I must have the necessary stereotypical thoughts to get in!

    Running red lights isn’t good, I virtually always stop, but what about all those motorists who think red and amber together means “hurry up” (don’t worry about the speed limit, or the pedestrians waiting for the green man…) Remember the “amber gambler ads? – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4TDEPP1R9Q

    Thinking back to those occassions where I’ve seen cyclists run reds, and I can only recall one where someone wobbling along on a Boris bike took on the Mall’s tourists by Buckingham Palace (if ever there’s a crossing to obey you’d think that one – how many Police are normally floating around!) Other than that most have been coasting through crossing where noone’s crossing, or junctions where the light sequence causes gaps (certainly on Sunday mornings) I’d rather see more zebra crossing than lights, as the lights tend to have daft radar that waits for a gap in the traffic before changing, of course the person who pressed the button did so because there was lots of traffic and they couldn’t cross, then having waited ages crosses when they see the gap so the crossing changes for noone…

    Distracted motorists are a huge problem – can you believe that if I want to listen to music on my bike I need to take a device with me, yet, they fit these things into motor vehicles and allow them to reach such volumes that they drown out the traffic noise (heck they even reach volumes where they make the ground shake…) That’s not dangerous then missus? How often do you see an emergency vehicle, lights flashing, sirens blaring and some idiot’s singing along to the radio clueless to vehicle behind them?

    We must ban hoods – how many pedestrains are injured because they have a hood up!?! HJmm, ban pedestrians think how safe it’d be… lol

    Like the bloody cyclists post btw.

  14. a-lp 19/01/2011 at 12:10 pm #

    I will jump a red light if no one is crossing and if it affords me protection (i.e. a left turn straight after the light).

    I rarely see other cyclists jumping red lights – I am in the minority.

    I have been cycling 20+ years in London (commuting 5 days a week). I have never hit a pedestrian (or even come close to) and have rarely experienced an incident.

    Daily, I see cabs, trucks, buses and cars jumping lights – far more dangerous but I have never heard anyone complain about this.

    I have pedestrians step out in front of me and vehicles cutting me up regularly, I don’t hear condemnation of them either.

    We’re all grown ups, lets all be careful and think for ourselves and respect each other.

    The LBC woman is a female Jon Gaunt – likes the sound of her own voice and prepared to be irrational and sensationalist as it makes for better radio. You managed to sound entirely grown up and rational – I think you did well.

    I’ll stick to radio 4.

  15. JdeP 19/01/2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Surely there is a fundamental difference between cyclists and motorists going through red lights?

    Motorists basically only do it when the lights are changing from green to orange to red (and for maybe a second or two afterwards), whereas some cyclists go through red lights even if they have been red for 30 seconds already. The latter is much more dangerous to pedestrians wanting to cross at the lights, and to motor traffic coming from each side beyond the lights.

    • Reuben 19/01/2011 at 3:26 pm #

      Um, I have seen several cars and motorbikes jump reds because the road was clear in front, frequently have cars accelerating on amber. I also frequently experience people overtaking to turn left, a fairly dangerous manoeuvre, and that’s to save much less time than jumping a red. While I don’t think jumping reds is appropriate for any road user, to say motorists don’t do it unless the lights are changing is as a big a sweeping comment as all cyclists jump em.

    • Tommi 19/01/2011 at 3:55 pm #

      Since you asked I find a fundamental difference that if there is a collision a car bumping into another car or cyclist or pedestrian is going to be much more dangerous than a bicycle doing the same.

      I also find the whole discussion about jumping red lights pretty loaded without more context as situations can be wildly different. Just consider speeding; 1mph over the limit in straight wide empty road with good visibility vs. 10mph over the limit on busy narrow bendy roads. Both equally dangerous, eh?

  16. ibikelondon 19/01/2011 at 3:32 pm #

    Well done for braving the deeply unpleasent depths of LBC, Andreas! I think you come across very well considering the amount of provocation you received. Mia Birk has an excellent piece on dealing with idiots who seek to portray all cyclists as evil / dangerous etc:

    http://www.miabirk.com/blog/?p=211

    • Andreas 20/01/2011 at 9:27 am #

      Thanks Mark for passing on the link.. reading now

  17. nicolep 19/01/2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Crikey, You were stiched up. But what can you do about an interview like that. Man in the pub stuff hopelessly ill-informed, generalised sinle-minded view of people who stop thme doing what thy want to do, which is run red lights. I have never seen a cyclist on a mobile phone or wearing a headset. Ever. Apart from me, once.

    Let’s face it, cyclists run red lights because they can, whatever the reasoning, be it safety, time or whatever. Car drivers don’t because they can’t and cyclists who do it piss them off because they wish they could. We all want to reclaim that nano second of our life which we feel is wasted stopping for others. What a sad little society we can sometimes be.

    Mia Birk, and her, blog is excellent, Mike. She has a book out too, about the struggle to equip Portland with a better cycling infrastructure. Inspirational.

  18. nicolep 19/01/2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Must do spellcheck
    Must do spellcheck
    Must do spellcheck

    Embarassing

  19. chazamataz 19/01/2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Cuh, I HATE cyclists!!! With their dangerous, heavy, polluting machines! And their congestion-inducing ways! And their disregard for pedestrians/other road-users! And their flouting of the Highway Code! And their…OH NO WAIT. I meant cars. Cyclists are cool.

  20. Amoeba 19/01/2011 at 4:30 pm #

    How come the standard cry from a motorist who hits a cyclist is: I didn’t see them.

    But they somehow manage to see every cyclist who rides on the pavement or who jumps a red light!

    • a-lp 19/01/2011 at 7:52 pm #

      I agree. I didn’t see them = I didn’t look. My bf was knocked off by a guy pulling out of a car parking space who claimed he “didn’t see him as he was coming so fast” – can’t have it both ways mate.

  21. GL 19/01/2011 at 4:50 pm #

    I am so glad to see so many people here saying that there is no good reason to jump a red light! So true. If you feel you are in danger at a traffic light, just get off your bike and wait till the danger clears! Road laws are road laws. As road users, cyclists need to stick to them whether they like it or not. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be road users when it suits us and not when it doesn’t.

    A-lp: What surprises me most about your statement is you think the minority jump red lights. On my daily commute i am the only one waiting. Then to add to that I would say only a third of people bother with lights (on their bike) in the dark.

    On my cycle in at the moment a section of road is shut and a signs asks predestrians to dismount and go along the footpath. I am the only one to do it. All other cyclist don’t even slow down and just blast through the pedestrians.

    I hate this type of behavior simply because each and every cyclist gets the wrath. I think all law abiing cyclists have a duty to point out to non law abiding cyclists the error of their ways.

    Motorists will never accept cyclists while people stil cycle like that and we all get tarred with the same brush (rightly or wrongly).

    Andreas, just a quick comment on your answer above on the headphone question. It doesn’t make us different but it means we are not aware of our surroundings. That is why it is dangerous.

  22. Amoeba 19/01/2011 at 4:51 pm #

    Well done, you were set-up. It’s a warning to us all, but especially for bloggers.
    Let’s face-it her little closed mind couldn’t cope with the reality being different from her prejudices. She wasn’t interested in anything except hearing her bigoted views confirmed. Just like the typical bigot listener who enjoys that sort of crap.

    Journalist? Objective? Don’t make me spit.

  23. Snooks 19/01/2011 at 4:56 pm #

    Andreas,

    LBC anti cyclist? who’d have thunk that?

    Couple of points, first off well done for getting on and more so for keeping calm, the “more often that not line” she keeps using was jarring me.

    I think the main thing is to point out that like any other sector of the public, cyclists, like car, lorry, taxi, bus and white van drivers all have an element that gives them ALL a bad name. Just because we ride a bike it doesn’t mean we should instantly be pigeon-holed as antisocial. There are antisocial cyclists, but there are plenty of antisocial people as well.

    A few suggested comebacks
    Redlights
    “I like to set a good example by not jumping red lights, I agree with you that jumping red lights is (for the sake of argument) wrong. No one including drivers of cars, lorries, taxis and busses or white van driver have to jump a red lights, but there will always be a group who do. I don’t say that all cars drivers jump red lights, yet you seem to want to tar all cyclist with the same brush when it is clearly not the case. There are thousands of responsible cyclist out there, do you think it’s right that we are all branded as one group?”

    Do you think it’s jealousy that a cyclist can lawfully filter through miles traffic, while the drivers of cars, lorries, busses and white vans sit there causing the traffic?”

    Headphones
    “May be they want to listen to your radio station on their ride in!

    It’s not clever to remove one of your senses while using the roads, but it’s exactly what car, lorry, taxi, bus and white van drivers have been doing for years, either with glass or by turning their stereos up, and there doesn’t seem to be anything abhorrent in the public perception of them, so why is it when a cyclist does it? Jealousy again maybe?”

    Mobile Phones
    “Are you honestly telling me you see more cyclists than drivers of cars, lorries, taxis, buses and white vans on mobile phones? A lack of concentration while using mobiles phone in motorised vehicles is a bigger threat to pedestrian safety, than a cyclist who is more a danger to themselves. So as a pedestrian, which is really your greatest concern? Because I know as a cyclist, drivers using their mobiles are a greater danger to me”

    Licensing
    “I own a car, I pay tax on that, and while on my bike I pay tax for the amount of pollution I’m making, nothing. I am accountable for my actions on a bike, I have third party insurance when ever I cycle on the road, do you have insurance for when you walk down the pavement and bump into someone?

    You said cyclists need some sort of registration mark, because at the moment they can do what they like and break any law they want to. Correct? So would you like to see all pedestrians have number plates so they too are responsible for their actions. Cars have number plates, yet drivers continually speed, drink and drive, jump red lights and use their mobiles while driving, I think that proves that registration doesn’t work. Don’t you?”

    You don’t have to use them, but they might help trigger something more eloquent from you

    Anyway good work

    • Andreas 20/01/2011 at 10:39 am #

      Good come backs Snooks ;) Combining these with the blog post mentioned by ibikelondon and we are onto a winner!

  24. GL 19/01/2011 at 4:59 pm #

    Would like to add, that although I beleive the above, the arrogance and belief from drivers that they can intimidate cyclists and drive in a way that endagngers us is dreadful and i do not condone that in any way at all. I like all cyclists have a been a victim of that. But bad cyclists don’t help our cause, hence my beliefs above.

  25. cbleslie 19/01/2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Listening to this makes me so angry, and I live in the US! Her ignorance is painful.

    Andi, If you ever need anything, and your in the Los Angeles area, let me know.

  26. jtb 19/01/2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Mostly the same old tired arguments made by LBC, not a massive surprise though. Pretty aggressive tone from the interviewer as well.

    The one point you make I have to take issue with is that jumping red lights is a “small minority”. I’ve heard this for years from LCC and on this blog before, I wish i could say its true but its not. Perhaps its a smaller percentage outside of central London but I’d say when I’m stopped at a red light in central London at least 50% of other cyclists skip the lights. When it comes to pedestrian crossings, its more like 90%.

    Its a real problem amongst the cycling community and just putting our fingers in our ears and pretending its only a few amongst us is naive. I also don’t buy into this notion that it really can only end up hurting the cyclist who jumps the lights themselves. This interview is a prime example, everytime someone jumps a light it will wind up other road users more. So I end up getting less space and respect on the road because motorists have such a negative view, based on the actions of others. I’ve been dangerously cut up by drivers a few times who’ve shouted things like “f-ing cyclists” and “you guys don’t know the law”. Where is it you think they are getting this impression from?

    • a-lp 19/01/2011 at 7:54 pm #

      I’m not lying when I say I don’t see others do it!? I have nothing to gain by making myself look like a lone renegade. Perhaps I am just on a particularly mannered stretch of the A23…

  27. John 19/01/2011 at 7:09 pm #

    Hi,

    I have to meet up every few weeks with someone like your interviewer with cyclists do this and that etc. I now turn around and just say as a cyclist we have to obey the high way code no question about it. The response is – yes but cyclists do this and that. to which I reply – If the police see them and wish to stop them then they will get booked, if they don’t see them or don’t bother with them they won’t, just the same as you in your car, you must have been speeding now and then, parked on double yellow lines now and again and got away with it haven’t you? The argument soon starts to dry up until we get to insurance, then I show them I do have insurance and it is a personal option of cyclists wether or not to have it, personaly I think we should, but just like cars try and enforce it is very difficult, last figures I heard was for every fourteen vehicles that pass you one won’t have insurance.
    You just need to be ready for them Andreas, you were not, but you will be next time, just don’t defend the inexcusable, you won’t win.

    John

    • idavid 19/01/2011 at 9:09 pm #

      @John

      Agree. Yes you could perhaps have said that when police do enforce, see City and K&C, they often FPN as many drivers as cyclists – and there are many more cars.

      But overall you did fine. And anyway, good training for Top Gear.

  28. Amoeba 19/01/2011 at 8:44 pm #

    As people who ride bicycles, we all have a duty to ourselves and each other to obey the Highway Code and other laws as applicable.
    We also need to educate those who we see who will spoil it for everyone.

    It doesn’t matter what kind of bike we ride, or why we ride, as long as we ride. It does matters how and where we ride and sometimes when.

    We all need to be ambassadors for those who ride bikes. And be ready to debunk the misconceptions and anti-cyclist myths promulgated by the anti-cyclist brigade.

    http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/

  29. Phil 19/01/2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Oh Andreas! Didn’t you feel like Don Quixote fighting against windmills?
    How did you do to keep that calm? I think I would have just screamed and hung up.
    You’re a hero in cyclist’s world. ;-)
    In fact, you’re doing a really great job and personally I thank you for that.

    Phil

  30. benji 19/01/2011 at 10:43 pm #

    According to a TFL study ~90% of cyclists do not in london do not jump red lights http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/businessandpartners/traffic-note-8-cycling-red-lights.pdf

    Somewhat more reliable than anecdotal evidence that “no cyclists obey road rules”

    • jtb 19/01/2011 at 11:21 pm #

      Don’t get me wrong I’m a cyclist to my core. Everytime I go out on my bike I make at least one evasive move to avoid being hit by a negligent motorist. Looking at the study you link to they seem to focus on pretty major junctions, ie; jump the lights and get mushed by a truck junctions. Maybe I just end up riding in the wrong place at the wrong time but in central London (A13, A40, Holborn, Piccadilly, TCR, Waterloo) I estimate that at least half the other cyclists skip red lights. Obviously this is far more prevalent at minor junctions but thats exactly the point. The law is the law, a red light means stop. I spent a lot of time sat a lights that would be seemingly safe to skip but doing that is exactly how we get a bad rep.

      • Gaz 19/01/2011 at 11:23 pm #

        It’s debatable if the RLjers give us a bad rep or not. As this bad reputation is usually handed out from people that hate cyclists. If cyclists didn’t RLJ, they would just find something is to complain about.

      • GL 20/01/2011 at 10:30 am #

        jtb, I totally agree.

        People stop at major junction because of the risk to them. I cycle in from far East London, through Walthamstow, Hackney and London Fields. In Hackney and London Fields particularly I am often the only one who stops at a red light out of maybe 15.

        As I said before at the moment their is a section at the bottom of London Fields where the road is closed and cyclists asked to disomount and walk along the pavement. Yet again today, I was the only one to do it. I counted 12 cyclists cycle past me on the footpath. One elderly chap nearly got hit and shouted at them, but they just ignored him an carried on!

        Please stop making it harder for cyclists to change our image!

  31. Christiaan 19/01/2011 at 10:45 pm #

    You’ll see me wearing one headphone in my ear sometimes, but that’s because I’m listening to sat nav directions.

  32. Gaz 19/01/2011 at 11:08 pm #

    Some of us break the law, but is that no different to the amount of vehicle drivers that break the law? Why are we all being singled out as law breaks, when as Andreas says, it is only a minority of cyclists who red light jump. And more often than not, they do it in complete safety.
    As Andreas mentioned, something like 1 pedestrian has died due to a collision with a RLJing cyclist in the past 10 years. And i think only a handful of the deaths in the capital over the past 10 years have been due to RLJing.

    As i wrote about recently in my blog, there is only one way to make the roads safe for all. And that is for more traffic police, who target anyone that breaks the law and gives them a fine and points (if applicable). People can essentially get away with murder on the roads and thats not just cyclists!

    I must add, well handled Andreas. Sneaky of them to hide that from you.

  33. Mike Smith 20/01/2011 at 12:33 am #

    I would think that the percentage of cyclists who break the law is no higher, and possibly far lower, than the percentage of motorists who break the law.
    The real question is: While breaking the law, who kills/injures most third parties, cyclists or motorists.
    Stick that in your pipe, LBC, smoke it, and see if you suddenly turn sensible!
    Mike

  34. Chutzpah84 20/01/2011 at 7:49 am #

    Hi Andreas,

    As some constructive feedback – you were strong when you quoted evidence (such as more accidents are caused by cars jumping red lights than bikes, but weak when you didn’t.

    You said that a small minority of cyclists jump red lights, and she said “we’ll have loads of people ringing in saying anecdotally that that’s not true”. Well fine, but the plural of anecdote is not data. Studies have shown that actually, it is a small percentage.

    Many of the behaviours she was holding up as dangerous can easily be attributed to other road users (mobile phone use, not being aware of your surroundings etc.) and I would have picked her up on this.

    So she could just jump on a bike now and do whatever she liked without regard for her everyone else? Well congratulations, but that’s hardly an argument. You could do that with anything. I’m not licensed to drive a HGV, but I could steal one tonight, cause chaos and then do a runner before anyone sees me.

    And as for her starting point… well… the “arrogance of cyclists”. I would have picked her up on that straight away. How many motorists do you hear moaning about speed limits and speeding fines? How many fight them? How many think none of it applies to them?

    I think you mainly did OK, but you did sound surprised at the direction the talk was heading, and she used that to her full advantage. I would have pointed out where she was being a numpty and been assertive when I said so.

    Maybe you just had more patience than me :-)

  35. BT 20/01/2011 at 9:01 am #

    If you’re going to have a debate on something, at least make it an informed and educated discussion involving actual evidence and data and not merely a exercise in innate nonsense revolving around the odd anecdote regarding a tiny miniority of cyclists.

    The interviewer was quite simply cringeworthy in her efforts, sporting a clip board of cliched questions we’ve been trudging over for years. I thought Andreas did a decent job of it considering.

    How can you genuinely expect to move forward on this issue when you are dealing with people that believe every single cyclist is seemingly a danger to the general population, on their mobiles daily and seeing red lights as merely a hindrance to their journey?
    The equivalent would be to label every single driver a potential killer because they speed or have the occasional accident through not paying attention.

    Insuring all cyclists? Do we insure kids that want to hop on their bikes to the park? What about someone who’s use of a bike is limited to popping round a friends house half a mile away once a month? Should they have insurance? I mean, c’mon… other countries seem to manage, why can’t we?

    I don’t agree with the red light nonsense either. I cycle into work every day from north east london and do as most cyclists do; that being, edge forward infront of the traffic without skipping the light. The argument of getting a headstart on the traffic is too often regarded as merely an excuse but put that person on a bike, ask them to ride in the gutter the entire time (which is often filled with potholes, rubbish and huge holes around drains) and see how they get on when traffic wants to turn left and / or fly past you as you quite simply aren’t seen as a road user at all by certain individuals. Not all of course, just some.

    If all cyclists are a danger to society because one person per month is seen on their mobiles – whilst I see drivers reading maps, writing on pads and using their phones daily – or listening to music (left ear is fine by me, both is idiotic), then by the same token, we should have every single radio in cars removed as surely the same applies?
    Again, it’s nonsense.

    And a point earlier made by someone concerning a camera is a good one. Of all the issues a cyclist causes by hopping a red light (very little generally as they are usually flying through them whilst people are crossing, only when they’re clear), drivers cause near daily problems through bad driver, of which, they can cause quite nasty acccidents.
    I’m having to take inept drivers actions into consideration with my cycling just to make it home of an evening but rarely do you see mass anger towards drivers from cyclists as you do the other way round.

    As I said before, it’ll take a proper, adult conversation before we’ll see any real change. Stations like LBC are not helping the issue, they’re part of the problem.

  36. Jamie 20/01/2011 at 9:09 am #

    You were far too soft. She was obviously trying to bait you and you basically rolled over. You were being far too polite while she was rude and only trying to get her pre-conceived response out of you. I don’t mean to attack you, but you didn’t do much to really defend cyclists in your few minues on air, especially given the views of the presenter and presumably her audience.

    • Andreas 20/01/2011 at 9:13 am #

      You mean I should have unleashed the anger?

      • Amoeba 20/01/2011 at 3:04 pm #

        Don’t angry, get even.
        It is far more effective to do a Gish-Gallop. A Gish-Gallop is bombarding the journalist with a steady stream of questions, preferably rhetorical, one after another, without waiting for an response. It’s a tried and tested technique. But one needs to be firm and keep on talking.

        Of course one needs to be prepared, with plenty of statistics with the sources. So some handy short hand notes are always useful, just in-case one gets unsettled, because it’s live radio.
        One also needs a number of killer ripostes to the standard myth-lies.

        • WallToAll 20/01/2011 at 8:12 pm #

          Amoeba,
          You have it well sorted. A radio interview on ‘local’ radio is like paddling in shark infested custard. But the barrage of rhetorical questions is neat! Andreas is a great guy and he will learn the technoiques.
          WallToAll

        • Andreas 21/01/2011 at 10:25 am #

          I’ll train up to become a ninja interviewee – I’ll never be invited on radio shows again!

    • Roberty Bobberty 21/01/2011 at 12:10 pm #

      What really interests me and to be honest annoys me is why so many people are so very very agressive about cyclists as though we are a differenet type of person altogether. There are also a lot of odd assumptions ie cyclists are not drivers, (most of us are) or pedestrians (all of us are). It is very strange. I have given it much thought and conclude that deep down the cycle bashers are aware that the cyclists are generally morally superior (only whilst actually cycling) so the anger is a disguise for their sense of inferiority. Its similar to charity worker bashing “they only do it for the perks” and “all politicians are liars”. I’m no bettter than anyone else, but cycling is better than driving a car – fact – for about 15 separate reasons.

  37. Andreas 20/01/2011 at 9:15 am #

    Some interesting stats to follow on this post from what a reader sent me:

    First, national pedestrian casualty stats analysed by cyclists and motor vehicles can be found on the Parliament website here. Unsurprisingly, cyclists account for a fraction of a percent of all pedestrian casualties, whether slightly or seriously injured (0.75%), or killed (0.3%)

    If we make the assumption that total injury accidents to pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists equal the combined total (333+319+224) less duplication, ie cyclists injured in collisions with pedestrians and vice versa represent partly the same incidents, ditto motorbikes) – let’s call it 30 incidents – equals just under 850. Of these:

    · More cyclists were injured by pedestrians than pedestrians injured by cyclists (20 against 15)
    · Ditto cyclists v motorcyclists although the difference here is not statistically significant
    · More motorcyclists were injured by the actions of pedestrians than vice versa (28 against 9)
    · 21 other road users were injured due to the actions of cyclists (15 + 6 – I am assuming perhaps unjustifiably that car/taxi/lorry drivers are not injured when they collide with a cyclist). Four times that number were injured as a result of either their own actions or possibly the actions of another cyclist. Not a good statistic, but hardly a basis for the Barbican pedestrian paranoia
    · Three quarters of injuries to cyclists were caused by other road users, ie only one quarter by their own actions, compared with 66% of pedestrians and 26% of motorcyclists

    Two trends appear here – the experience of cyclists and motorcyclists seem quite similar as regards whether they are sinners or sinned against, and in terms of their match scores against pedestrians.

    • WallToAll 20/01/2011 at 11:13 pm #

      Andreas,
      I’ve only now had time to listen through your interview . Been there done that and I can tell you there was nothing wrong with what you said and how you said it. Next time, if you have to deal with someone as appalling as that Feltz woman, try a little (or a lot) of aggressive retorting and actively sabotage their line of questioning. She had her agenda and it was not for the good of London cyclists; the huge rant at the beginning set the scene. She works H24 at being aggressive and nasty, so you actually got away lightly.

      I rarely see cyclists plugged into MPS and headphones and I’ve NEVER seen a biker on a mobile phone while cycling. In fact, very few cyclists I meet charge through red lights as she was suggesting. Those I do see, are those who move away before the lights turn to their favour. But they are observing the whole situation at the junction. They are aware of the pedistrian lights changing , of vehicular traffic pulling up etc. In a word they know EXACTLY what they are doing. You dealt well with the stupid suggestion that cyclists should have compulsory insurance and their bikes should have registration plates.

      By all means lets LOOK at those ideas. Yeah and let’s include baby buggies, invalid carriages, segways and skateboards and dolly trollies too. let’s register anything that has wheels on it.

  38. Castors 20/01/2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Whilst it’s true that a small percentage of cyclists jump red lights focusing on this largely ignores the bigger issues.

  39. Rob 20/01/2011 at 8:39 pm #

    “All cyclists jump red lights”
    Not “all” no, but some do and some have various reasons for doing so, many believing it to be safer for them. You must also understand that “red lights” are used for many different kinds of unique road traffic controls, where often a cyclist going through on red poses no danger to anyone (such as certain left turns).

    “Cyclists should be licenced/insured”
    Cyclists who are members of the LCC, British Cycling and the CTC (confirmation needed) do have insurance, and remember it cuts both ways as they can use this insurance to pursue a claim against drivers, many of whom do not have insurance themselves. As for a license, what purpose would this serve? revenue? cyclists already pay vat on their bikes and accessories, should pedestrians also have a license in order to use crossings?

    “All cyclists wear headphones and talk on their mobiles”
    Maybe some do, but many, many more drivers talk on mobiles, exceed the speed limit, jump lights and drive carelessly, aggressively and selfishly. Which poses the greater danger to other road users?

    “Cyclists are a huge danger to pedestrians”
    This is simply untrue, apart from cyclists riding illegally on the pavement, pedestrians actually cause a huge danger to cyclists, walking into the road without looking etc. In a collision between cyclist and pedestrian the cyclist will usually come off much worse.

  40. christhebull 20/01/2011 at 9:57 pm #

    See here. 17% of cyclist KSIs were caused by other road users ignoring junction controls. Only 5% were caused by cyclists ignoring junction controls.

  41. Richard 20/01/2011 at 11:18 pm #

    The part at 6.12 annoyed me most, bringing up “illegal cycling” and saying that you can do whatever you like to anyone you choose, wherever, whenever. That just seemed to come out of nowhere and I think she was calling all cyclists psychopaths!

    • Andreas 21/01/2011 at 10:23 am #

      Yeah I didn’t quite get that comment. I don’t think you can do “whatever you want, wherever you want” – she was queen of the exaggerations.

      • Phil Russell 22/01/2011 at 9:41 pm #

        Andreas,
        What Mrs. Faults meant was, “You lot can do what you want, wherever you want, and we drivers can’t! Boo-hoo! I think I’m going to cwy! Whaaaaaa! It’s not fair!
        P.R.

  42. Kevin Campbell's Blog 21/01/2011 at 9:52 am #

    she sounds like a *****, actually i think she is

  43. nadjonion 21/01/2011 at 10:15 am #

    Oh My god!

    I didn’t know who this woman was. I listened to the radio show and I thought: “She just sounds like a fat ass frustrated bitch!”

    I have just googled her name and I found my answer!

    Thanks Andreas.

    Feel not guilty for not being a media whore.

    • Andreas 21/01/2011 at 10:22 am #

      Haha thanks nadjonion

      • nadjonion 21/01/2011 at 10:30 am #

        Apologies for the many bad words in my post but in nine minutes this woman managed to distill the worst out of me.

        Sorry!

  44. Andy 21/01/2011 at 10:25 am #

    Wow, what an evil b*tch. Its one of those things in hindsight, you could put together a great response to all of her questions, many mentioned above. But it was one of those instances that any educated person would realise that she is exaggerating massively, and Im still not sure why she is given the time of day.

  45. Tina 21/01/2011 at 10:53 am #

    Hi Andreas,

    First off, nice to hear your voice!

    I actually disagree with previous comments. This interview shows that the general non-cycling public perceives cyclists jumping red lights as disrespectful. And I agree with that. Of course all the arguments regarding safety etc are valid, but on my daily commute between Shepherd’s Bush and Soho I feel like the exception, for stopping at all red lights. Most cyclists I see do jump red lights, especially if there is no crossing but just a pedestrian crossing light. I also see cyclists with headphones (could be they are listening to a GPS guiding voice as I do sometimes though!) and also saw people cycling while being on their mobile phone.

    My point is, it’s not them against us, or reasons why cyclists jump red lights, and least of all calling Mrs Feltz names. It’s about perception. And at the moment the perception is that cyclists are disrespectful in their behaviour, and it’s due mostly to red light jumping in my opinion.

    I estimate it takes about 5 minutes more in my commute to stop at every red light. And yes, it can be frustrating to stop/start all the time. But after all we’re part of traffic when cycling, and shouldn’t we play by the same rules than motorized vehicles are supposed to play by?

    Tina

    • nadjonion 21/01/2011 at 10:56 am #

      “shouldn’t we play by the same rules than motorized vehicles are supposed to play by?”

      No, we should not since we are not the one to pollute the earth, employ petrol that still smells of blood and in average – unless you are a freak devil on your bike – can kill pedestrians.

      Thanks.

    • chazamataz 21/01/2011 at 10:58 am #

      No. What a ridiculous response. From a cyclist too.

    • Tommi 21/01/2011 at 11:26 am #

      “shouldn’t we play by the same rules than motorized vehicles are supposed to play by?”

      Yes-ish, and no-ish. As (long as) bicycles are considered vehicles I agree certain rules should be followed, e.g. giving way, signaling, not making restricted turns, basic common sense things to make traffic run smoothly.

      However as bicycles are not motorized vehicles – or maybe because the driver isn’t as removed from the environment as when packed into a metal box – I find there are some rules that are somewhat questionable in context, like the current hot topic of coasting the red light of pedestrian crossing when there’s no one crossing.

      I just find treating bicycles as if they were the same as semi-trailer trucks is just not quite right. (I come from Finland where bicycles are categorized as “light traffic” which also includes pedestrians and mopeds. Light traffic is generally treated equally, but exceptions are explicitly stated, “no mopeds” or “no cycling”)

      • John 21/01/2011 at 5:43 pm #

        Yes, but with all due respect to you and your country this is Britain and our rules are the Highway code to which we have to obey.
        I agree with your thoughts and Finland’s view of ‘light traffic’ it does make a lot of sense, but here we are and should abide by our laws.to have any stance when an accident happens to be able to say ‘I was in the right’.

        John.

        • Tommi 22/01/2011 at 1:32 pm #

          But no matter what the rules are the rider (driver) is always expected to use their own judgment based on the situation as following rules can get you or someone else killed while breaking the letter of the law in such situation would avoid it. So I’m certain cyclists and car drivers alike are using their judgement when they decide to run red lights or speed or break whatever rules because they deem the risk – of injuring someone and/or getting caught – to be negligible.

          Of course there are those whose judgement is impaired and those who are just pricks, but in general I think level headed people making those judgement calls is acceptable by which I mean one shouldn’t be punished for running a red light or speeding per se, but rather for endangering someone or interrupting the flow of traffic and such. No harm no foul. But then again zero tolerance is easier to define.

          On bicycle I find it acceptable risk to carefully run a red light on pedestrian crossing when it’s empty – on cycle I can see the whole junction clearly and if I didn’t the risk of injury is negligible. If I did startle someone or cause them to slow down (never happened so far) I’d reconsider my position. With a car I’d never do that, not enough visibility and risking almost certain injury.

          Guess that makes me a bad cyclist.

          I go by the Britain rules, don’t ride on pavements etc., but I still reserve the right to use my own judgement and accept the consequences.

  46. Middle aged cyclist in a skirt 21/01/2011 at 11:14 am #

    I’m with Tina actually – I’m not perfect but my general rule is to stop at red lights unless there’s a good reason not to (eg sometimes I do put my own safety first if trying to be visible to an HGV. But just wanting to get to work a bit faster is not a reason for disobeying the rules.)

    One substantial reason for doing this is that it increases the general level of respect and civility between all road users. I’ve been aggressively sworn at by pedestrians twice in the past week. On both occasions they eyeballed me and then proceeded to step out in front of me. My theory is that they take out their general frustration with cyclists on ‘soft targets’ like me (middle aged, female, Brompton) when it is generated by fast moving ‘lycra louts’ on racing bikes, who they don’t dare take on. So let’s model the behaviour we want to see from others.

    • nadjonion 21/01/2011 at 11:21 am #

      Of course I DO stop at red lights and I am not a road pirate.

      What I am saying is that cars and trucks should be more careful since their potential to kill a cyclist is way bigger than a cyclist to kill them.

      It is a question of respect it is not a question of rules.

      • Tina 21/01/2011 at 11:29 am #

        Nadjonion, I do agree with both points you make. I just wanted to point out that the bad picture the public currently holds of cyclists in London is based on the perception that cyclists jumping red lights are behaving in a disrespectful way. And non-cyclists are probably not aware of reasons for red light jumping other than maintaining speed and getting from A to B quicker.

    • Phil Russell 31/01/2011 at 9:39 am #

      Dear cyclist-in-a-skirt,
      Many jaywalkers obstruct cyclists because they’re not prepared to obstruct the endless motor traffic, and whether we’re in skirts, lycra, jeans, touring shorts, track bottoms or whatever, we’re all targeted by these frustrated road-crossers…..quite apart from the dreamers, and mobile-phone users, who don’t bother to look. My advice is to wear some dayglow clothing.

  47. Dunc 21/01/2011 at 11:26 am #

    what an awful woman.

  48. Tina 21/01/2011 at 11:31 am #

    Do you guys really need to get so personal just because I have a different opinion than you?

    • nadjonion 21/01/2011 at 11:34 am #

      Hi Tina,

      I surmise Dunc was referring to the woman in the radio interview and not to you, when he says: “What an awful woman”!

      That would really be getting too personal.

      I didn’t mean to do so whatsoever and thanks for your post.

    • Dunc 21/01/2011 at 11:47 am #

      it was a new post, nothing to do with you Tina

  49. Rob 21/01/2011 at 11:33 am #

    Andreas – I think you did well not to rise to her bait. You came across as level-headed and totally the opposite of the kind of cyclist she tried to portray. Yes – you could have taken a more aggressive stance, but that can easily go wrong during a live interview, so well done for keeping your cool. And I guess next time you’ll be prepared for an ambush like this…

  50. Middle aged cyclist in a skirt 21/01/2011 at 11:34 am #

    I’m with you Tina. Please, everyone, don’t abuse people you don’t agree with. Surely other cyclists are not the enemy?

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