Thursday 13 December 2018

Here's how some busy bee cyclists are bending the rules of the road

A cyclist makes his way along the North Quays in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney
A cyclist makes his way along the North Quays in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

RSA Expert

We Irish have taken to cycling in a big way.

It's great to see the numbers pedalling to work each morning, reducing carbon emissions and keeping themselves fit.

On a wet November morning, I admire how cyclists battle the elements and traffic as they make their way to earn a living.

But - and there is always a but - some of these busy bees seem to bending the rules of the road.

Perhaps it's because there has been such a huge uptake in cycling in such a short space of time, with city infrastructures struggling to cope with the swarming masses?

While their country cousins are happy to slot into a leader's slipstream, some city cyclists are battling it out for first place on the cycle path.

No one wants to be stuck behind the poor struggling climber (who is just short of being pushed up the hill), but weaving in and out of traffic and clipping wing mirrors is risky for both cyclists and others.

I'm not saying that motorists are without fault - far from it.

Some veer into cycle lanes like they're part of the road and exit left without so much as a glance in their wing mirror or, more importantly, the blind spot.

The RSA's recent advertisement asking motorists to give up to 1.5 metres of space to cyclists when passing has, by and large, yielded a positive response.

So, if we are beginning to see motorists respect cyclists more, then equally cyclists need to respect the more vulnerable pedestrian.

I recently stood at a pedestrian crossing and watched as bike after bike broke the red light, even though the green man crossing light was on.

The worst part of it was that it was in a school area and children were crossing.

We teach our children to always wait for the green man, so what kind of a message does it send when cyclists are whizzing past at speed, ignoring the fact that pedestrians have right of way to cross the road, or the school warden for that matter?

On one particular occasion, I witnessed a parent hold out an arm to prevent a cyclist crashing into their child.

The green man couldn't get any greener.

All the cyclist could say was "sorry", after which they hurtled onwards, minus any helmet or high-visibility gear.

This is not an isolated incident. I see cyclists breaking pedestrian lights all the time.

And it's not a case of 'there's no one crossing. I'll just edge past slowly'.

I'm talking flat out, Tour de France-style as pedestrians on opposite sides frantically bump into each other to avoid being flattened.

I accept that stopping to wait at an empty pedestrian crossing can be extremely frustrating.

But in a city, you'll still get to your destination quicker than either the pedestrian or the motorist.

On a more serious note, there is also the law.

Apart from the obvious danger, breaking a red light (pedestrian or otherwise) is a fineable offence for cyclists, as is disregarding a school warden's sign.

There's no grey area here, just red and green.

Section 17 of the Rules of the Road provides detailed safety advice for cyclists, and it's free to download.

Another good resource is the Cycling Ireland website, which offers practical cycle safety and skills training in line with national standards.

Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians have to share the road, so we all need to learn to live in harmony and avoid dangerous behaviours.

As the saying goes, if you want to gather honey, don't kick over the beehive (Dale Carnegie).

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