In this week’s Guardian bike blog, Laura Laker describes the UK’s roads as feral. This view results in part from her reflecting on the results of British Cycling’s ‘State of Cycling 2019‘ report, published this week. Having reviewed it myself, it makes for pretty depressing reading, especially the lack of improvement in conditions for cyclists.
One statistic particularly stood out for me: “Almost nine in ten (87%) cyclists are ‘close passed’ at least once a week.”
If I was only close passed ‘at least once a week’ I would be delighted. Unfortunately, it happens to me every single day, and usually several times a day. Vehicle drivers simply don’t give enough room to cyclists, when both parties are occupying shared road space (indeed, when you read the full report, it states that 40% of cyclists experience a close pass every day, so I’m most definitely not alone … and that figure is very worrying).
Here is a brief summary of my own experience, mostly while commuting daily to work by bicycle:
- Close passed (buzzed) by vehicles: happens daily (interestingly, cars are usually worse for doing this than commercial vehicles);
- Riding in cycle lanes partially or completely blocked by vehicles: happens daily;
- Near miss (i.e. nearly being hit by a vehicle) due to motorist inattention: probably happens monthly; (the most recent being this week, when someone simply didn’t see me in the cycle lane while crossing a main road, cutting me up as a result);
- Being sworn at for highlighting when someone does any of the above: probably happens every couple of months (I’ve got to the point where I say nothing, because people can be so verbally aggressive, even when I am politely highlighting what they have done).
When I’m out for day tours or multi-day tours, my experience is usually much more positive. My theory is that, since most of these trips are at weekends, I am sharing road space with less commuters in vehicles and, therefore, less people who are in a hurry.
I ride assertively – usually 1m from the kerb, holding my line around roundabouts, giving very clear hand signals when manoeuvring, and making full use of green zones at traffic lights – and this does help, because I remain more visible to vehicle drivers. But in my experience, some people in motor vehicles take offence when I do so, perhaps because they think I should be getting out of their way. Much close passing is preceded by a fast-revving engine, or sudden acceleration (both of which suggest that some part of the problem is the impatience of vehicle drivers).
It would be unfair to tar everyone with the same brush. The majority of vehicle drivers are polite, considerate, and alert. But it only takes one person to get it wrong – especially lack of alertness – and the consequences can be dire.
You can read British Cycling’s full report here: ‘State of Cycling 2019‘ (pdf)