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Archive for March, 2012

Pedestrians vs cyclists

Pedestrians. I’ve been meaning to discuss you for some time. When I am one of you I like you. I am like you. When I am on my bike I really don’t. And I’m not.

I’ve been pondering this for some time after having an argument with a friend (a 100% pedestrian, 0% cyclist and 0% driver) who reckons cyclists are all law-flouting idiots who try to run him down on purpose. (I am paraphrasing and we’d had a lot of pints but I think that’s the jist of his point.)

Then the Times began their cycling campaign for better understanding between road users, and I thought that probably deserves a mention because it would be really great if I didn’t have to dodge homicidal motorists or iPod listening pedestrians every single morning. We do need more sympathy and awareness and we do need more people to accept Jon Snow’s excellent explanation of why we cyclists do sometimes ride through red lights. Better cycle lanes would theoretically remove the conflict entirely.

It’s a great campaign, begun from a terrible, horrific accident to a young journalist not all that unlike me. So as flippent as I am about running red lights and getting peeved at pedestrians, it’s impossible to forget that to cycle through the city every day, you are risking life and limb and you need to be really bloody careful. Sign up to it.

But back to pedestrians.

In the argument my friend berated cyclists for running red lights, not stopping at pedestrian crossings and nearly knocking down pedestrians right, left and centre.

But what he wouldn’t accept is that as cyclists are so much more aware of what’s going on than pedestrians, we’re far less likely to hit them than they are to walk out in front of us. As a pedestrian you’re on autopilot, putting one foot in front of the other. As a cyclist, you’re defending your life.

I promise you I have seen you thinking about crossing the road 10 metres before you even reach the zebra crossing and I know that if I carry on going at this speed, I’ll either sail in front or behind you if you continue to walk at the same trajectory. Sorry it’s annoying but have you tried to start a bike again in first gear? It takes some serious thigh work just so you could potter across the road in your own sweet time glued to your phone.

I got very upset this week when a woman swore at me because I nearly hit her. She had walked out into the road without looking, not on a crossing, and I didn’t mind- read her intentions in time. I shouted back something to do with crossing on an actual crossing and got called a “fucking bitch”. Charming. I was feeling a bit emotional anyway and it ruined my commute.

Every journey I make at least one person does this – steps out in front of me, either in the road or on the bike path. There’s no warning and usually I get shouted at. I’m going at speed and usually have to swerve ridiculously or slam on the brakes, nearly sending me over the handlebars. Occasionally I get an apology. Normally I get yelled at.

So this is why we need more respect between road users. I cycle, walk and drive in London so I’m better placed than many to understand the complex and dangerous interaction between the three type of me. When I’m a cyclist I hate drivers and pedestrians. When I walk I think cyclists are knobs and when I drive I’m fed up with everyone while being petrified of killing them with every turn.

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