Published by Matt Polaine | Filed under Campaigns, Cycling, Cycling infrastructure
Any cyclist reading this will at some point have listened to a motorist telling them that they have a right to use the roads because they pay Road Tax and you, the cyclist, don’t have the right because you don’t pay it.
Would the same person say that all children should not have an education because they don’t pay for it? Band A VED tax is zero, so surely the same applies to a bicycle? Road Tax revenue doesn’t come near to covering the costs that the UK highways place on society, so who tops up that amount? Fuel duty doesn’t, nor the VAT on all car related purchases. The most expensive roads in the UK are motorways. The UK government spends about £50million a year on cycling across the whole of the UK, about the same cost as just two miles of new motorway - which cyclists can’t use, and certainly wouldn’t want to.
As blogged elsewhere the root of this conflict is ignorance. Far too many drivers have not bothered to learn about sharing the highway, how it is paid for, and what the Highway Code says about giving cyclists space and time. All too often a cyclist is treated as a road obstacle to be got around quickly, squeezing past, to save a few seconds.
For the driver the obstacle is just one of many and blurs into the potholes, speedbumps, traffic lights, and road debris. Ask a typical driver how many cyclists they passed in the last 10 minutes and they will never know.
For the cyclist, close passing cars, which in urban areas often then brake in front of them just metres up the road or turn left across their path, will be shocked that a complete stranger could play so loose and fast with their safety and be so rude and aggressive.
This last point is worth remembering, because it is a cultural interaction that drivers think they are oblivious to because they are inside a metal bubble. They feel as though it is the car’s presence - not them - that dominates the road giving them ‘the right’ over others.
Take this approach into another shared social situation like a restaurant. If I walked over to a table where people were dining, lifted my buttocks up to their food level and farted the most obnoxious day-old curry gas this would be culturally unacceptable. Yet I have injured no-one, not threatened life, not broken any laws or rules.
Yet it is socially acceptable to many drivers to cut up cyclists, squeeze very dangerously past them at high speed, and sometimes shout abuse at them. Someone tell me why this is OK yet farting on someone’s food is much worse?
Back to the point of this blog, get the T-shirt etc.
Finally, for newish cyclists reading this, don’t dispair. About a third of drivers are cyclists and will treat you as they would like to be treated. Sometimes this influences those ignorant drivers behind when it comes to passing space. Don’t write off motorcyclists either. Contrary to the more extreme cycle forums, motorcyclists have very similar problems with drivers, and will always leave you plenty of room and stop to help.
In all cases, never assume the driver or rider has seen you until you get a good stare back or an indication.