What is the difference between these two images?
(Andy Catlin - Photo credit)
To me, these images are the same. They show me being happy out on two wheels, exploring, going from A to B and getting exercise all at the same time. However, it seems that the attitude of some drivers changes depending which bike I opt to ride on, on any particular day.
I enjoy riding my bike and will choose to cycle over driving when possible. It reduces my carbon footprint and also allows me to fit in exercise around a hectic working week. My beloved Gazelle (Glinda) is used to commute around Edinburgh and my trusty Raleigh (no name, as yet) road bike allows me to go longer distances at weekends.
When I chose the Gazelle with its (in my opinion) ‘fashionable’ pink tyres, I wanted a bike that allowed me to cycle wearing everyday clothing, which would enable me to carry the shopping but would also give me a larger presence on the road. What I had not completely appreciated was just how different people, in the confines of their metal box, might change their attitude towards me.
On my commute into the city centre, I will have double decker buses, taxi drivers and a whole host of other drivers almost go out their way to allow me out of junctions, give me space when filtering and even leave ample space when overtaking.
Of course, this is not all drivers. I do still have to contend with the odd close pass and near misses like any cyclist, but they are far reduced when I am on the heavy-duty Dutch bike. To me, I am the same person, on a bicycle. So why the change in attitude from some drivers?
There’s a lot of media coverage over the perception of cyclists on our roads. The image below is widely circulated. So why does the type of bike, clothing and presence change that?
If anything, I cycle slower and take up more room on the upright bike, but my experience is that motorists see me as a ‘person’ and not just as a ‘cyclist.’
The term ‘cyclist’ is also used negatively across the media. The ‘them and us’ mentality on the road helps no one and has become a deterrent to people taking up cycling in our cities and towns.
I am yet to come across anyone who identifies themselves as a ‘pedestrian’ so why is there a need to categorise one group of road users and consider them all to be the same? There are many different ‘types’ of people on bikes but there is a common theme that unites us all, we want the roads to be a safer place to cycle.
Until our infrastructure catches up with our European neighbours, we need to continue the good fight to bring down the barriers between all road users. I have always been of the view that the only way to achieve this is through education. There needs to be an understanding and acceptance that the majority of cyclists are also car drivers, so they will have passed a driving test, they should understand the Highway Code and many will even have insurance to cover them for third party damage.
Furthermore, Road Tax was abolished in 1937. As a lawyer, I am prepared to argue on almost any point but that is a simple fact! All taxpayers contribute to the upkeep or our road network, regardless of their chosen mode of transport.
Of course, as in any walk of life, you will get bad cycling. In the same way, we all observe poor driving and pedestrians who fail to notice they are stepping out onto a road. It does not mean we are all the same.
My pink tyres might not be to everyone’s taste but they get people talking, people notice me on my bike and every so often I even see people behind the wheel of their car crack a smile (potentially at me) but I am fine with that.
When I ride my bike, like the majority, I am just a person going from A to B. I am not trying to be an annoyance, an obstacle or a hindrance. I leave those character traits for my working life!!