Cyclists are law-breakers

“I’ll stop running cyclists down when they stop jumping red lights.” The response, apparently, of a good portion of British drivers to the current cull of cyclists by the haulage industry.

I’m not going to go into the arguments about whether cyclists breaking the rules of the road is justified. Those arguments being, briefly, that a lot of the rules are designed to solve the problem of motor-traffic that bikes simply aren’t; that obeying the rules can sometimes actually put cyclists in danger from traffic; that cyclists are forced to do so by a negligent lack of safe and continuous infrastructure. All true, but it’s still the case that most cyclists who jump red lights do so because they are assholes. So many do it even when it involves screaming through pedestrians who, after waiting and waiting, have finally been given right of way to cross the street without being mown down by truck drivers.

So I’m not going to defend it. What I am going to say is that it absolutely pales in comparison to the quantity of law that motor drivers break incessantly.

Running through red lights. On my average 20-minute urban commute I probably see three or four cars jumping red lights. Most are amber gambles gone bad, some are because after queuing at traffic lights forever they are going the hell through this junction right now. Others (black cabs, mostly, I find) scream across pedestrian crossings because they are dicks. Jumping red lights is not a distinctively bike problem.

Breaking the speed limit. Want to do an easy test? Drive down the motorway at 70mph. In theory you shouldn’t be overtaken. In practice, you’ll be the slowest thing on the road. My local council have made it easy to test how many drivers obey 30mph restrictions too, by installing vehicle-activated signs that flash a warning when people are speeding. My estimate is that a good 80% of vehicles are doing more than 30, some by very significant amounts.

Driving using a mobile. Technically 3 points on the license and a £60 fine, but scarily common. The head of road safety at the AA, has said that there are probably 100,000 people driving around using their phone on the roads at any one time. Ed Balls and Harriet Harman were both caught doing it, the latter actually crashing because she was busy chatting on the phone.

Driving without insurance. Hard to measure, but the amount of accidents on the 30mph residential street racetrack outside my house that end with participants just yelling at each other then driving off probably suggest it’s pretty common.

Driving with fog lights on. The Highway Code says: You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.” It can technically get you points on your license and a fine. Yet on the average commute I see maybe 20 cars and taxis with fog lights on. I can’t quite work out why this is. Maybe they genuinely don’t know how to use their car: I pointed it out to one driver stopped at a junction, and he just pawed at his dashboard ineffectually then shrugged at me. Maybe they are such bad drivers that they don’t know what fog lights are or what the glowing sign on the dash means. Maybe they think they are bling lights for added disco. Odd one.

Making illegal manoeuvres, driving the wrong way down one-way streets, making illegal turns: all entirely common.

Stopping in advance stop lines for cyclists and in yellow box junctions.

Use of the horn. The Highway Code states: “Use only while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence. Never sound your horn aggressively. You MUST NOT use your horn while stationary on the road or while driving in a built up area between the hours of 11:30pm and 7.00am except when another road user poses a danger.” You can technically be fined for using a horn, yet at any given time London’s roads sound like the Salvation Army band warming up.

Oh, and let’s not forget the thousands of people, mainly pedestrians, killed or seriously injured on London’s roads each year. That probably counts.

The point is that drivers are so coddled that their crimes are largely ignored by the police and the media.

Our roads, barely policed or regulated, are full of criminal drivers, speeding about in tonne-heavy steel boxes in a way that is negligent and dangerous.

Let’s get some perspective here.

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Published in: on February 8, 2012 at 7:18 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Cyclists are law-breakers – Stratagem XXXVIII blog […]

  2. Agree completely.

    FYI there is some quantitative research on speeding. The latest DfT study – 2010 figures, using automatic vehicle counters, so with a huge sample – showed that motorways were the worst for speeding. However, more serious (for non-motorists anyway) was the finding that in 30 mph zones 47% of vehicles were speeding when they crossed over these counters.
    Bear in mind that at least some of these would have been speeding if they hadn’t been held up by an inconsiderate driver in front who was obeying the speed limit.
    Disturbingly, the research showed that van and lorry drivers were more likely to break the speed limit than car drivers.

    I have seen other research that suggests around 1-2% of drivers at any one time are on a handheld mobile and that drivers encroach on ASZs 20% of the time (which seems ridiculously low based on the sample that my morning commute represents).

  3. […] it can be safer to break the law sometimes. Then again, why point the finger at cyclists when our streets are full of lawbreakers? A road raging driver deliberately runs down a UK cyclist, while another rider is nearly […]

  4. While I agree in the main, two quick comments. If the flashing signs you are talking about are the ones that just show the limit, treat them with a pinch of salt. Most around here are set at about 5mph below the limit on my speedo which itself reads fast. One I manage to set off by walking past it too quickly… The ones that actually show a speed are usually fairly accurate though.

    Also, you talk about people stopping in the boxes for cyclists. While there are far too many who do this carelessly, it isn’t technically illegal under some circumstances. The law is that you stop before the first line if possible – you can pass it and stop in the cyclist box if you can’t stop safely. That said, I see no end of people screech to a halt well in to and sometimes beyond the box well after the lights have changed…


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