Crime

I want to ride my bicycle

According to a Transport for London study:

Women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by a lorry because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot, according to a study.

The study states: “Women may be overrepresented in [collisions with goods vehicles] because they are less likely than men to disobey red lights.”

By jumping red lights, men are less likely to be caught in a lorry driver’s blind spot. Cyclists may wait at the lights just in front of a lorry, not realising that they are difficult to see.

I used to cycle extensively in London: making the trip from Stoke Newington to Marble Arch on a Monday, Stoke Newington to Waterloo on a Friday, and around town the rest of the week. It was a terrifying experience. I don’t do it any more.

The risks cyclists run in London are myriad. Negotiating a roundabout is a more thrilling experience than bungy jumping. Car passengers unexpectedly open their doors in your path. Buses – particularly bendy buses – have a tendency to edge you into the kerb. Cycle lanes are useless, because they are intermittent, and because cars park on them; making your way round them, you pop out into the path of motorists who do not anticipate your appearance, whenever your way is blocked.

In fact, the only time I really felt safe was when cycling in gridlock, where motorised vehicles were simply not moving at all.

Pulling away from red lights presents a particular risk. Cars accelerate more quickly than bikes, and so as you start to peddle from a standing stop, a series of protruding wing mirrors flash past you. You’re at your most vulnerable as you start up: as you battle to overcome inertia, you tend to wobble. There’s an enormous temptation to give yourself a ten second start, just before you think the lights will change, so that you’re far enough in front of the Routemaster to know that it can see you, and to give yourself a relatively safe position.

This is not an anti-car diatribe. I can’t drive, but I’ve no objection to others doing so, particularly when the passenger is me. In any case, cars are much less scary than buses, which are Public Transport and therefore at least as Morally Good as bikes. Neither is it an apologia for red light jumping. Certainly, the very young or the old and frail can be seriously injured or killed by irresponsible peddlers: although in fairness, your chances of survival following a collision with a bike is greater than that following an encounter with an articulated lorry. I do turn off, though, when I hear bores whinging on about the wickeness of cyclists who do not obey the letter of the Highway Code.

I think do think, however, that it is close to impossible to construct a sensible road policy for cyclists other than one which provides for a dedicated, segregated cycle lane, protected by a physical barrier from motorised traffic.

Any other solutions?

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