I stopped at a red light on my way home after work. I was the first car in the lane to turn left so I looked across the intersection to see what the on-coming traffic intended to do. If the driver in the right lane (his right) went straight, I’d have to wait for them to pass before turning. The cross street was four lanes wide so if they turned right, I wouldn’t have to wait.
As I looked, I noticed a cyclist come up to the intersection. He didn’t stop, but he slowed right down. He was barely moving, but managed to stay upright without putting his feet on the pavement. Examining the traffic, he waited from a break and then proceeded through the red light.
The cyclist wasn’t young. I’d estimate the guy was in his forties. He had one of those helmet-mounted rear-view mirrors and was riding what seemed to be a nice bicycle. I don’t know that he appeared to be a serious cyclist, but he certainly seemed to be a commuter who cycled. Adding credence to this thought was the time. It was 4:45 p.m. and although the area wasn’t jammed, it was rush-hour. Perhaps the worst example I’ve seen is a cyclist zig-zagging his way across five lanes of traffic during dense rush hour when he did not have the right of way. That joker was clearly relying on motorists to stop despite his doing what he shouldn’t be doing.
This summer there have been a larger-than-average number of cyclist accidents in town, and the cyclists are not pleased. I can’t say I blame them. But at the same time, cyclists are fighting a steeply-uphill battle. The problem is that cyclists aren’t a single uniform group. They span the spectrum from the serious biker who believes they are a vehicle on the road like any other, to person who treats their bike more like walking, but faster. This second group doesn’t act like their bicycles are road vehicles, on par with cars.
The cyclist I saw this afternoon had all the accouterments of the first group, but he acted like part of the second group. Honestly, when is the last time you saw a car driver stop at a red light, wait for an opening, and then proceed through the intersection, despite the red light? Though there are far more cars on the road, cyclists break this fundamental rule of the road more often.
The serious cyclists are fighting to be recognized as a road-vehicle like any other, and the others are sabotaging their efforts. Which type of cyclist is right? I don’t know, but as a driver, I’d certainly prefer cyclists to act like other vehicles because I’d at least know what to expect of them.
Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to say that all the accidents are the cyclists’ fault. They’re not. I’m just commenting on the wide range of cyclists, themselves.
Interestingly, while searching for something while writing this post, I came across an article published today in England’s Daily Mail called “Drivers ‘should always be blamed for cycle crashes‘.” The article begins:
Motorists should be made legally responsible for all accidents involving cyclists, even if they are not at fault, say Government advisers.
Cycling England, an agency funded by the Transport Department, wants the civil law to be changed so drivers or their insurers would automatically be liable for compensation claims.
The only people who would benefit from such a law would be the second group of cyclists I mentioned earlier. I expect the first group would fight such a proposal because it goes against what they’re trying to do.
I’d object to it as well. What do you do when a group of people refuse to follow the rules? I’d suggest that taking away what responsibility they should have is not the way to handle the situation.