Monday 23 September 2019

Terrors on two wheels finally shown red light

Paschal Donohoe's penalties for cyclists are welcome, says Sarah Caden, but first the culprits will have to be caught

GETTING HER SPOKE IN: Sarah Caden, above, says she doesn’t blame any motorist or pedestrian for regarding cyclists as a menace, because she herself is scared of some other cyclists
GETTING HER SPOKE IN: Sarah Caden, above, says she doesn’t blame any motorist or pedestrian for regarding cyclists as a menace, because she herself is scared of some other cyclists

Sarah Caden

Everyone hates cyclists. Even cyclists hate cyclists.

I say this as a cyclist, one who cycles almost every day, who loves the freedom of cycling, if not my fellow cyclists.

I don't blame any motorist or pedestrian for regarding cyclists as a menace, because I'm scared of the cyclists myself.

As a pedestrian pushing a buggy, before I bought my bike in May last year, I wrote about my fear of being wiped off a pedestrian crossing by a light-breaking bike. And since buying my bike, I have written about the lawless, reckless, self-righteous and often aggressive attitude of my fellow cyclists. So, one has to welcome the list of 36 cycling offences issued by transport minister Paschal Donohoe's last week. But you also have to note that the bullish and bullying mindset of the cyclist that is apparent in the list of offences will take some time and massive fine-imposing effort to change.

Seven of Donohoe's cycling offences will be fixed charge notices (FCN), which means that a cyclist will be stopped, asked for their address and sent a €40 fine in the post. Given cyclists don't have any requirement to carry a permit, they can, obviously, give any address they like.

But we have to start somewhere, and the seven deadly cycling sins are the obvious ones that we all know need tackling. They include no lights during lighting-up time, failing to stop for a school warden, failing to stop at red lights for a railway crossing or rising bridge, and the rather nebulous "cycling without reasonable consideration". Which could be called behaving like a thug just because you have two wheels under you, and which brings us to the most common complaint of all - breaking red lights and red cycle-lane lights.

Without fear of contradiction, you could safely say that in Dublin city, the cyclist who waits for the green traffic light or the green cycle-lane light is the exception rather than the rule. I'm one of them. I wait. I've been the pedestrian nearly hit by a speeding bike breaking a red light. I then watched another cyclist, without a helmet, go flying over his handlebars as he tried to stop to avoid hitting me. He was nearly crying, my child and I were both crying. The first light-breaker was long gone. And did not care. Good luck to any guard catching up with him to get his address.

But cyclists don't stop at red lights; they don't regard them as being for them. Nor do they seem to know that a flashing amber cycle-lane light means that it remains the pedestrian's right to cross, and that the cyclists must yield to those on foot.

On the stretch of the Grand Canal where I cycle almost every day, in a cycle lane, I see people utterly terrified to step out when the green man tells them they can. I've seen old people jumping out of the way of bikes that don't just fail to stop, but don't even slow down. I've seen people called every name under the sun for challenging the cyclists who don't stop, cyclists who look like normal, upstanding citizens and probably behave as such when off their bikes.

And this is where it all seems to go wrong with cyclists. It is said that people undergo personality transplants when they're behind the wheel of a car - but, bizarrely, that seems to be even more the case when people get upon the saddle of a bike.

And it's bizarre because at least in a car you're encased in metal, with seatbelts and airbags and all manner of protection. On your bike, you are completely exposed and completely at the mercy of your fellow road users, most of whom we cyclists have steadily made enemies of in recent years.

A helmet offers some protection, but not everyone wears one. And isn't it curious that while the Government is busy working on rules to make cyclists behave in a safer manner, they have not addressed the fact that almost no dublinbike users wear a helmet?

Dublin has become a better place to cycle, though the cycle lanes are not joined-up and the city centre remains a death trap, but this has done the cyclist's psyche no favours. A more cycle-friendly city has, however, fostered a sense of self-righteousness and aggressive self-entitlement on the part of many cyclists.

This mentality is evident in some of the more shocking offences on the minister's list, which won't be fixed-notice offences, but will incur a fine of €40. They include cycling in the Port Tunnel or on a motorway, turning right into a roundabout and entering a tram lane.

Never mind the offences that put other people in danger, these offences clearly show that cyclists are a menace to themselves, too. Mr Donohoe's measures are the beginnings of an effort to get cyclists thinking sanely again. They will, however, have to literally catch the cyclists first.

Sunday Independent

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