Yes, cyclists matter – but so does everyone else

Photo: Creative Commons courtesy

Photo: Creative Commons courtesy

You don’t need to go far to see their staggering selfishness, especially in London. Pedestrians and motorists both suffer, watching in anger while these two-wheeled terrors casually weave in and out of traffic, ignoring signs, signals, riding over pedestrian bridges and jumping the kerb. Roads and footpaths belong to them – nobody else.

Disregarding everyone’s safety, including their own, they wear neither helmets nor high-visibility jackets. Lacking lights for dark days and evenings, often in dark clothing as if trying to deliberately remain unseen, the only reason they have reflectors is because these came attached.

The poor woman probably scarred for life recently, after a callous cyclist hit and run on a Bermondsey footpath may be extreme.

But when newspaper headlines shout about another tragic cycling death, sadly few readers admit much sympathy. With little detail, no blame is directed toward the fatally injured cyclist. Readers, although wishing nobody harm, often recall nothing except the recent recklessness they saw or experienced. These images come to mind, not the poor cyclist tragically killed. Subsequently many readers rarely bother continuing past the headlines.

Yes, millions of responsible cyclists do follow road rules, are considerate to those they share streets with and wear correct cycling clothing.

Millions of drivers show similar respect for road safety laws. Most people no more condemn every motorist as irresponsible and dangerous for the few reckless drivers who blight the roads, than they do all cyclists.

One important difference remains though.

Motorists undergo lengthy theoretical and practical training before being allowed behind a car wheel and penalties, should they flout laws, are far more severe.

Cyclists comparatively, can jump on a bike immediately, whether it’s been years since they last cycled or never ridden at all.

The expression: “It’s just like riding a bike,” describes any activity you never forget or can pick up easily after a lengthy break. The irony is this should not apply to cycling, especially through London’s crowded streets.

Cyclists should not be permitted on roads until completion of practical and written road safety tests. If successful, a point-based licence, similar to motorists’ should be issued. Although these tests would be far simpler, cyclists breaking road law should also be penalised by losing points, with fines and, in extreme cases, imprisonment. Laws must include mandatory use of lights and appropriate clothing and a footpath cycling ban. Helmets and jackets should come included with any hire-bike.

This can only prevent, or at least reduce, those tragic cycling fatalities – the cycling campaign groups goal.

There cannot be one rule for motorists and another for cyclists. Yes, there should indeed be more cyclists on our roads, but not at any expense.

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