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Saturday 19 April 2014

The five most annoying things pedestrians do to cyclists

Wayward pedestrians are a bigger threat to safety

Thinkstock Images
Thinkstock Images

IN THE Daily Telegraph last week, I made the entirely sensible suggestion that there were situations in which it was plainly safer on London's roads for cyclists to go through red lights.

Not everyone, it has to be said, felt the same. Among the many expressions of warm regard (some of them almost printable) from many of Britain's road users, there were some very interesting comments, especially from other cyclists who suggested that advance green lights for cyclists to allow them a lawful head start, as in Holland, would make a real difference to safety. I'm convinced that motorists wouldn't mind waiting for those few extra seconds when cyclists' safety is at stake.

Of course, there were pedestrians who made very helpful suggestions, too, among them one that I think could be adapted to pedestrians themselves. Surely a registration scheme for pedestrians, involving insurance and the wearing of small number plates front and rear over outdoor clothing would have a positive effect on all but the most dangerous two-feeters.

London's new cycling tsar Andrew Gilligan (who also happens to be a Telegraph columnist) has made it clear he wants to stamp out things that cyclists do that frighten and annoy pedestrians. As a pedestrian, driver, and cyclist, I'm in no doubt as to which group is most endangered by the other two.

So I've compiled a list of things that pedestrians do that frighten and annoy cyclists - by which I mean put them in physical danger (except for number five). I've ignored the most obvious ("It's green or blue, it's got a cycle painted on it... it must be for walking on") and concentrated on some of the classics.

How about some action on the below?

1. Man walks into a road...

It sounds like the start of a routine by a Seventies comedian, but in fact that's the whole gag. No stopping at the kerb, no looking both ways, no listening. It's as if the green cross code had never been invented.

Often performed by pedestrians, men and women, on mobile phones or changing tracks on a music player. Never funny.

2. The Mr Magoo or Who Put That Cyclist There?

So regularly performed that you might almost call it old-school, this deceptively simple manoeuvre will surely have unseated the odd penny farthing rider in its time, perhaps even separated a fashionable gentleman on a velocipede from his top hat and teeth.

The pedestrian merely steps between two stationary vehicles - in the classic version of the Mr Magoo it will be two buses - and... who put that cyclist there?

Hard to avoid and very dangerous to cyclists.

3. The Lean, aka The Fall

"You're walking and you don't always realise it but you're always falling. With each step you fall forward slightly And then catch yourself from falling, over and over ..." Walking and Falling, Laurie Anderson, 1982.

In my mind, this Laurie Anderson track from her 1982 debut album Big Science is permanently funnelling through the earbuds of those pedestrians who like to practise the art of leaning into the space you are just about to cycle through. It is performed as if already falling forwards into the space, ready to fill it the instant you have vacated it.

The Lean, which may appear insouciant and cool when used to cross between passing cars, is really unnerving for cyclists who are only one minor clip away from "falling" and "catching themselves from falling" by hitting the pavement hard.

Spot fine, please.

4. The Chris Ashton / Emmitt Smith

Practised on roads with three to four lanes of stationary traffic at the precise moment when red lights turn to green. The pedestrian may or may not be aware of the imminent change in priority at the time they begin to cross, but the response is a daring cut through the traffic as it gathers pace, performed with the skill of a running back.

A spurt takes them between the Skoda and the moped in lane one, a little sidestep and shimmy takes them beyond the black cab in lane two, before they break into a run to clear the white van in lane three, and... Yes! Except... No, they've gone straight into the path of a cyclist.

No touchdown. No try.

5. The 'We Are Many, You Are Few'

A particular favourite of commuters accustomed to the communal feeling of being part of a solid wave of pedestrians all travelling in the same direction, sweeping aside lone innocents desperately paddling up the Keep Left channel, as they themselves Keep Right and Keep Going.

The 'We Are Many, You Are Few' has been adapted for use on the small bits of pavement where a cycle lane meets a main road. These often have a crossing controlled by traffic lights, set to ensure cyclists wait for as long as possible before being granted an infinitesimally small amount of time to cross. The rules of this particular game dictate that, however short a time the light stays green, the passage of pedestrians along that particular stretch of pavement should not be interrupted. Nay, if there are enough of them, will not be interrupted!

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