Bikes versus cars: the Cambridge experience
So far as the rules of the road go, there seems to be one basic principle: when you are driving a car you hate bikes, when you are riding a bike you hate cars (and I guess pedestrians hate everyone).
There is an obvious difference of perspective built in here. It wasn't until I started to drive a car (almost 20 years after I had first whizzed round on a bike) that I actually realised that you could not see a cyclist at night without lights. In fact I now want to shout at late night cyclists without lights (like motorists once did at me): "You'll get killed, sunshine, I can't see you."
The problem is that cyclists do ride headlong into danger. It's not just not having lights. It's biking on pavements (and so threatening to mow down a load of innocent pedestrians in the process) and biking blithely down one way streets the wrong way.
I confess that I do bike the wrong way down a one way street sometimes. My (feeble) defence is that I try always to do it as if I know I was doing wrong. That is slowly, with an apologetic look on the face, and ready to get off at any minute. I cant bear the guys (usually, but not always it is guys) who do it as if they owned the place, and at high speed.
So cyclists are not entirely innocent. But the dice are stacked against them, because the bottom line is that a car or a lorry can kill a cyclist and not vice versa. And motorists are too confident that they are in the right. Even when they are wrong, as I just discovered.
A cfew days ago we -- that's me and the husband -- took a cab to the station. Chat with the driver fell to the evils of cyclists, to the lack of training given by foreign languages schools (true, many of them do seem to let the students out on the road with precious little preparation), and their misunderstanding of the highway code.
Sometimes, he conceded, the cycle tracks do mislead them. I thought he was referring to the end of our road in Cambridge, where suddenly the cycle track in the middle of the highway just disappear and motorists are encouraged to cross it. What, I have always wondered, is a cyclist supposed to do if a car just cuts them, as is apparently allowed.
But no, he was referring to a standard road junction.. to which we were just arriving (from a side road). Look, he said, pointing to the main road, that cycle track suggests they do have the right of way, when they come up Station Road, but they dont.
Had I been brave enough , I would have said that (cycle track or no cycle track) they DID have right of way. They were on the main road, he was coming up on the minor intersection. But I fear I chickened out. The fact is, though, that this Cambridge cabbie (and I am sure it's not true for all Cambridge cabbies ) thought he -- as a car driver -- had right of way at a junction, even when he was on the minor road. And I am sure if I had explored further, he would have thought all other falsehoods about how cyclist were supposed to give way to him.