Listen to a cycling podcast or read a cycling campaign website and you’d be forgiven for thinking that all of the issues with cycling in the UK are down to motorists, poor road design, and the mixture of large vehicles and vulnerable cyclists.
So, as I wandered from Vauxhall station in South West London to my hotel this evening, I was flabbergasted to see just how few cyclists had adequate lighting. Perhaps as many as a quarter of the cyclists I saw on the Albert Embankment just after dusk had either no lights, or lights that were so dim as to be useless. I even saw one rider, in black clothes and with no illumination, concentrating more on operating his mobile phone than watching the road ahead. I also watched as a concrete mixer truck pulled out of a petrol station, then waited for a barely-visible cyclist who appeared a few feet away: nice road bike; nice gear; no lights; death wish?
It’s not an isolated incident either. This morning, I had a ringside seat from the top deck of a bus as I watched a cyclist cut down the inside of a construction lorry, despite large warning signs on the rear of the vehicle warning cyclists of the danger (and the tragic loss of life earlier this week when another cyclist was killed after a collision with a tipper truck – for the record, I’m not suggesting that the cyclist who died was at fault – we simply don’t know – but that there are clear and evident dangers and the cyclist this morning was being reckless). This is in spite of the efforts of organisations like TfL and RoadPeace with campaigns like See Me Save Me trying to warn of the danger presented by large vehicles. There was an excellent piece on ITV’s The Cycle Show about the issues that truck drivers have in seeing cyclists – and even the dangers that advanced cycle stop lines can present (it’s a pity it’s not been released as a public safety film).
It may be a minority that give the rest of us a bad name (I’m a cyclist as well as a motorist – and I can recount stories of idiot drivers too) but it’s a significant minority and the consequences could be fatal. Maybe the Times’ Cities Safe for Cycling campaign should focus on educating cyclists on the dangers they present for themselves and others, rather than just on the dangers that they face from other traffic.
[Updated 21:56 with reference to yesterday's tragic death]