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Cyclists have moral high ground, but two wheels isn't always good

PUBLISHED: 08:54 12 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:51 07 September 2010

BEFORE all else, let me declare an interest: I m a cyclist, an enthusiastic one. Once I cycled so far along the flat terrain of the Yucatan peninsula that the bicycle I d hired literally fell apart in my hands, leaving me to face a difficult and rather mo

BEFORE all else, let me declare an interest: I'm a cyclist, an enthusiastic one. Once I cycled so far along the flat terrain of the Yucatan peninsula that the bicycle I'd hired literally fell apart in my hands, leaving me to face a difficult and rather more arduous journey back.

I've tackled Highgate's toughest hills, biked up and down the Parkland Walk in every kind of weather and on one embarrassing occasion, found myself whizzing around Highgate Woods to the consternation of onlookers, blissfully unaware that the Corporation of London had designated it a bicycle-free zone. Lesson learned.

But I still have a problem with the way many cyclists behave, weaving around slowly-moving traffic, darting across busy roads and out from hidden junctions, ignoring road signs and traffic lights as if they didn't exist, travelling in the wrong direction along one-way streets and generally behaving like irresponsible louts - though doing so with a sense of superiority derived from helping to save the planet while we motorists poison the air without as much as a thought for the Future of Mankind.

I'm well aware that because they are automatically imbued with these 'green' credentials, criticising cyclists is tantamount to insulting The Queen, The Pope, the Church of England and Johnny Wilkinson, all in the same breath.

But while some of them simply shouldn't be allowed on the roads, two wheels or not, there's almost an acceptance that cyclists have the right to ignore the rules and that when they are involved in an accident or near-accident, it is always someone else's fault.

Often it isn't, though it's understandable that public sympathy usually lies with the cyclist. After all, when a mere bicycle frame comes into contact with a tonne or more of moving metal, there can be only one winner.

I'm pleased therefore, that in an effort to reduce the number of unhappy and often fatal encounters between cyclists and heavy goods vehicles, Transport for London is distributing 10,000 safety lenses to be fitted on lorries to help drivers see cyclists as clearly and as quickly as possible. Cyclists for their part get 'environmentally-friendly' wind-up lights while being pointed in the direction of free or subsidised adult cycle training.

And so while I subscribe to the view that some cyclists are their own worst enemies, it's shocking that of 35 killed on London's roads in the last two years, 18 were involved in collisions with goods vehicles.

Anything which tackles that sobering statistic has to be welcomed. For my part, I think I'll stick to the Parkland Walk.

Geoff Martin


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