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S Wigglesworth

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  • Comment on: Profession reacts: make London safer for cyclists

    S Wigglesworth's comment 16 April, 2015 11:45 am

    The UK suffers from a cultural problem over who has a right to the road, and we need to shift this attitude. As Roger Hawkins points out, car drivers drive more aggressively in the UK, and as a long time cyclist, my perception is that drivers feel cycles should not be there. If we are, we should act demurely and defensively. I think this relationship should be inverted.

    Taxis dislike sharing bus lanes with us, and regularly do their best to squeeze us out, then race past us only to cut us up at junctions or manoeuvre without signalling, as if driving were a sport. Cars drive too closely to the kerb, giving us scant space, and don't use their mirrors. At traffic lights, I have found junction boxes regularly occupied by cars, as if they haven't noticed them, or understood what their function is. I have pulled up several drivers doing this. One driver's reaction was to roll their eyes and look away.

    There is a prevailing attitude - exemplified and legitimised by people like Jeremy Clarkson - that cycling is for wusses, while driving is for the macho hero. So when cyclists behave badly it's considered offensive. Yet drivers behave badly all the time. I reject this double standard. Joe makes a good point that drivers should be required to use a bike on the road as part of their test, to see how vulnerable it feels.

    We have a health and obesity crisis in the UK. Cycling could help this, and provide for our well-being. We should be discouraging cars, dedicating central London streets to pedestrians and cyclists. Vehicle access hours should also be restricted. The speed of movement would be no worse - in fact, it might improve. By privileging pedestrians and other forms of self-propelled transport, including cycling, we will have a generally more enjoyable city and a better public realm, as we sort out what living well in the city is all about. We need the political will to counteract the very powerful vehicle lobby. If other cities can do so, so can we. BTW we also need better cycle parking provision. Boris found space for all those hire bikes, yet often, close by you can't find a Sheffield hoop for love or money on which to fix your own.

    And in answer to those drivers that complain I can't voice and opinion because I don't pay road tax using a bike, I am fed up with my income tax subsidising the roads and giving me little back.

    One final point: two years ago I was knocked off my bike by a mobility vehicle, and went to hospital with a broken wrist. With an ageing population there will be more pressure on roads and pavements from these vehicles too.

    Sarah Wigglesworth - cycling in London since 1978