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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