Friday, 3 January 2014

Having come close to being killed

by a collision with a police car recently I am following with interest the renewed debate about bicycles in traffic.  After all I was doing absolutely nothing wrong when the police car came down the wrong side of a narrow back street at speed. It was so close that I could have slapped the driver's face - something I longed to do, except that I would no doubt have been had up for assaulting a police officer. He, of course, would have got off with nothing more than a reprimand and I would have been incarcerated. Hmmm... I would prefer to be free to prowl the streets.
But we do have a problem here. Our city is, as cities go, extremely flat - almost as flat as a country like Holland or Denmark.
Those countries have a great many cyclists. Their weather is much less favourable than ours and they still have more cyclists per head of population.  Yes, on the whole the distances they have to go are shorter but they still have many more cyclists and some of them do travel a considerable distance.
There are more cyclists on the roads here than there used to be - and motorists complain about them. It sometimes seems they complain constantly.  They just don't want to share road space with cyclists.
There are some "bike lanes" but these are (a) sometimes shared with buses (!!!) and often congested with parked cars or even cars themselves. There are also "bike routes" - streets chosen for much lower levels of vehicular traffic and some times blocked off to "through" traffic.
I know all about these things and I am also, as one who use three wheels rather than two, allowed to pedal on footpaths. That actually requires extreme care. Too many drivers come out of driveways without looking.
But, where I live should be bike friendly. It has all the right things - weather, terrain etc. Distances tend to be greater but, for a fit individual, they should not be insurmountable. What is more it is possible to take a bike on a train. There are brave souls who live in the hills behind us who ride down the hill to work and then put the bike on the train at the end of the day and ride a shorter distance at the other end.
The latest suggestion is that motorists and cyclists should be required to stay at least a metre apart. I cannot see that happening. It would also be quite impossible to police and, I suspect, potentially dangerous.  
Of course cyclists have to do the right thing as well - and many of them don't. I observe them as well. I remain, as always, genuinely fearful of traffic. I think I spent too long living in areas of almost no traffic at all eve to become really used to city traffic jams.
Perhaps what we really need here though is a different attitude towards cyclists and cycling. What puzzles me is that, while mentioned, nobody seems to emphasise the environmental benefits.
Could cyclists save the world?

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