HANDS up who hasn't had a run-in with a militant, macho cyclist?
I don't mean just car users, where I expect the figure to reach about 100 per cent, but pedestrians too.
You know the kind of cyclist I mean: all is vanity. Dressed in tight Lycra, like Dafydd the only cyclist in the village, his arms are set on the handlebars to display his biceps, as his frog-like legs pedal furiously. He wears wicked shades, an insect-head helmet, and has athletic signage on his inappropriate habiliments.
He sees himself not as an ordinary, everyday, peaceful road user, but as a superior athlete using the public highway for sport. He is a danger, and you have to distinguish him from ordinary, decent cyclists just trying to get from A to B.
See, cycling has changed. Once it was a peaceful, pleasant activity, performed at a leisurely pace. Cyclists signalled and wouldn't dream of going through a red light. Today, many don't recognise red lights as applying to them. They don't even see them as advisory. They see them as irrelevant or as opportunities.
The problem lies, as so often, with young men, who are also a menace in cars and should not be allowed to drive until the age of 52 or maybe 53. I cannot recall one incident with a female cyclist. The militants are entirely male. I saw one aggressive bully cause distress to an innocent female driver inadvertently caught in the cycling zone at lights after the traffic in front of her unexpectedly stopped and she was stranded on the red.
Cycling campaigners stymie debate with whataboutery. We're aware there are aggressive, dangerous motorists (mostly, but not always, male). But we don't need their equivalent on two wheels as well, particularly when cycling requires fitness and particularly suits the young, making the ratio of macho bullies to decent road users greater than among motorists.
If boy racers in cars are a bad thing, why do we tolerate speeding sports types on bikes? And all this on public roads used for commerce and for leisure by the inoffensive, elderly and orderly, or indeed on public footpaths used by the peace-loving, the slow and even pets (a dog was killed by a cyclist on a path I used to frequent, before it became overrun by cyclists).
The other day, half-way up my favourite hill, I was taking in the view when - whoosh! - a scarlet-clad mountain biker came violently and silently speeding past me, missing my body by inches.
Back on the roads, even decent cyclists are often dozy. Encountering parked cars in their way they just pull out into the traffic behind without looking or signalling, and it's up to everyone else to brake and make way.
I'm a considerate driver and always give cyclists plenty of room, but on most urban roads there's no need for motorists to cross the centre-line into oncoming traffic. I've seen so many near accidents caused by this. The optimum position is with your right wheels on the centre line's inside edge. If another motorist from the opposite direction looks like having to perform a similar manoeuvre at the same time, let him go first.
Every motorist will also have experienced a cyclist sneaking up on the inside, an overtaking manoeuvre that's a no-no for motorists and that endangers cyclists themselves in the event of a blind-sided motorist turning left into their path.
As for cyclists using narrow, winding, 60mph country roads, that's a dangerous absurdity. The truth is that bicycles and cars cannot co-exist. It isn't fair on either side.
Advanced countries like Holland and Denmark quickly separated cyclists from other road users, but libertarian Britain has by and large just watched as the hassle grows.
We need a better infrastructure for the many decent cyclists, one that separates them from motor vehicles. On the few dedicated cycle lanes, you get the feeling the militants don't like the safety and would rather be warring with cars.
Indeed, you hear of them bullying decent, slower cyclists. Banning their lurid costumery might help to make them behave. But, like poor drivers, I suspect they'll always be with us.
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