Cycling Positivity

It was interesting, after my rant at misbehaving cyclists, to find myself angered by people who rant at misbehaving cyclists on Thursday.  For the record I Tweeted: “Why why WHY invite a nice man from Sustrans to come and talk to you about the importance of cycling and then rant at him about bad cycling?”

This may sound like hypocrisy, but let me explain.

My frustrations with misbehaving cyclists stem from the fact the cyclists get a bad reputation. I think it’s fine to tell off red light runners, lane splitters and pavement cyclists because:

  • I don’t do those things.
  • They are dangerous and, in most cases, illegal.

I think bad cycling causes people to dislike cyclists and makes cycling less safe. Though I have no stats to back this up.

However, cycling in general should be encouraged. Does this mean that bad cycling should be encouraged? Well, put it this way: I would rather encounter a bad cyclist than a bad driver on the road. The former is always safer.

Thursday evening’s activity, that prompted my tweet, was a talk by a man from Sustrans organised by a local group that are working to create a better Swindon.

The talk was fascinating as the Sustrans man outlined the need for cycling, the benefits of cycling, and the obstacles to cycling.  There was plenty of science and statistics, lots of photos demonstrating possible improvements to cycling infrastructure, and so on.

There then followed a question and answer session.  During which I slowly boiled.

I’d been thinking that such a group of people would be excited by the possibilities of bettering people’s health, reducing congestion in the town and allowing people to see more of the place by encouraging them to get outdoors.

But…no.  The questions were mostly asking the Sustrans man why cyclists and cycling cause so much trouble.  Why don’t people have lights, or bells?  Why do people cycle on pavements?  Why isn’t there a cycle path where the council have been promising one?  I sensed that most of the group thought that cyclists were reckless and that the idea of getting more cyclists on bikes was a dream if not a bad idea in the first place.

So my reason for being annoyed at bad cycling is somewhat validated.  A lot of people don’t like cyclists because they break the law and aren’t courteous to other road users and pedestrians.  Is this fair?  Or is it a stereotype that’s applied too sweepingly?  I suspect bits of both.  In any case, it seems that we have work to do to convince people that, not only is cycling safe for the cyclist, but that it’s safe for everyone else too!

I should add that at no point was it pointed out that cars break the rules too and that’s a LOT more dangerous.

I think it’s OK to criticise bad cycling, if you’re doing it from the point of view of wanting to change that and make the roads better, more friendly, safer places.  The poor Sustrans man was asked about loads of things that aren’t his fault, and I was annoyed that the group didn’t take the opportunity to ask him what we can do to support Sustrans’ work.

After all, it seems they have a lot of work to do.