A law unto themselves?

I am not alone in being somewhat infuriated by the announcement of a review into whether a new law is needed to tackle dangerous cycling.

However, today I thought about it a bit more logically.

Now I’m even more infuriated….because I find myself agreeing with the government.

Hear me out here.

I have yet to hear anyone, cyclist or non-cyclist, defend the actions of Charlie Alliston. Riding a bike at speed without brakes is a stupid thing to do. For that matter, riding a bike without brakes at any speed is altogether a stupid thing to do. Unless you are riding it on a track where everybody knows that is what you are riding.

I completely agree that Charlie Alliston should have been convicted and jailed for his actions.

I completely agree that is is absurd to have to rely on a law from 1861 in order to convict and jail him.

So, I have to agree that a review into the law relating to cycling is needed.

So, why are all of us cyclists finding the announcement of such a review so infuriating?

Because we are threatened every day by motorists.

Because, despite the perfectly adequate laws which could prosecute those who threaten us, prosecutions are rare.

On Friday, a car pulled out to overtake me despite the fact that they were already indicating to turn left. I had to brake hard as they cut right across the front of me. The driver behind me felt the need to respond to this by beeping his horn and gesticulating whilst driving around 1cm from my back wheel.

This was one of the closer calls I have had but the behaviour of the two drivers did not surprise me.

As cyclists, I think we have come to expect threatening behaviour from drivers. I expect shouting, gesticulating, close passes and other aggressive behaviour from drivers (strangely, especially if they are driving an audi – is it just me?).

All cyclists expect this.

Many of us are very vocal about our experiences on the roads yet nobody is calling for an ‘urgent review’ into how the laws relating to dangerous driving are implemented.

More worrying yet is the fact that motorists expect to be able to behave like this towards cyclists with no consequences.

After all, cyclists don’t pay ‘road tax‘.

Nobody has the right to knowingly endanger other people.

It should not matter how you choose to travel, you should have the right to travel safely. You should have the expectation that other road users will treat you with respect. You also have the responsibility to treat others with respect.

So yes, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with the government that a review of the laws relating to cycling is needed.

But, a review of the implementation of the laws relating to dangerous driving is also needed.

Urgently.

 

But I do pay car tax

I man drove his car at us when we were on the cargo bike this morning.

By us, I mean myself, my 5 year old and my 3 year old. He drove his car straight at us.

He wasn’t driving particularly fast, to be fair. But still, he saw us. He pulled out to pass parked cars on his side of the road. This meant he crossed the middle line  and was on our side of the road.

Now, to me, in that situation, I had right of way.

I strongly believe in riding assertively, especially with a bike as big and slow as a cargo bike. So I stood my ground and forced him to stop.

So, we had a chat.

I pointed out to him that I had right of way as he was pulling out to my side of the road to pass an obstruction.

He pointed out that I have no right of way because I am on a bike.

According to him, I do not pay road tax for my bike, therefore I have no rights whatsoever on the road.

I did point out to him that nobody pays road tax and that I do indeed pay car tax…for my car.

He countered that this payment only entitled me to use the roads in my car, not on a bike. Apparently, if I had any intelligence whatsoever, I would know that.

What do you say to this?

My car tax only costs £20 per year. I pay it because that is one of the costs of driving a private car. I do not believe that £20 entitles me to drive at those I do not agree with. To risk killing or injuring or terrifying them.

Personally, I have never understood why any pedestrian would cross a busy road without using a crossing when there is one right by them. But I would never feel justified to drive at them for their choice.

I like to think that I would never deliberately drive my car at anyone.

I would love to believe that this man’s attitude was a one-off. Sadly, I don’t believe it was. I believe that there are quite a few drivers out there who would agree with him. I believe this because of the sheer number of times drivers look me in the eye and aim their cars at me and my children.

This is why I am so loath to let my 5 year old ride his bike on the road.

How did we get to this point? A point where motorists’ sense of entitlement leads them to believe that they have more rights than anyone else? A point where drivers will risk injury or death to children because they pay a nominal fee each year. Because to give way would be to add 10 seconds to their journey. 10 seconds. It took him longer to tell me how lacking in basic intelligence I was.

More importantly, how do we turn this around?

I do not expect priority on the roads when I cycle. I expect to give way when it is not my right of way. I expect others to give way when it is not their right of way. I expect to follow the rules of the road. I expect to wait at red lights. I expect to share the roads.

As a stay at home mum to two small children, I deal with issues around sharing very very regularly. Annoyingly regularly. Tediously regularly.

But I do not know how to persuade some drivers that they really do need to share the roads.

Car tax entitles you to drive your car. Nothing entitles you to use your car as a weapon.