It’s an old rant among many in the bike world that motorists have it in for them on the public roads and that ramblers have a similar antipathy toward Mountain Bikers. To counteract the negative vibe, many bikers advocate a ‘be polite and set an example’ approach when they’re out on the trails.
Over the weekend though I witnessed two separate incidents that made me wonder why we bother and in both cases it was bikers and not other road users that were to blame.
First I was in Kingston where I had been lured with the prospect of a cappuccino by my wife (obviously against my will) when I saw a ‘Mountain’ Biker crossing at the lights in front of me, riding a Scott bike (although it may have been a ‘Scot’ masquerade). Anyway, the guy was dressed up in the classic all-the-gear outfit and was following his girlfriend’s bike as they tried to cross the road.
The trouble was, he was following blindly at a very busy pedestrian crossing where about 30 hard-core Saturday morning shoppers were trying to cross the road. A dangerous place at the best of times and not just because the majority of them were women (joke!). He just cut straight across in front of them all as if they didn’t exist, nearly riding over the toes of one chap who really was quite happily minding his business up to that point.
Now, why would someone do that? Why not just ride your bike, on the road, and follow the same rules of the highway as everyone else. Don’t go around p*ssing off other people when there’s no need to! Kingston happens to be littered with cyclelanes anyway, they even have their own traffic lights (yes, really) to get riders across the road and I bet this guy would be the first to bemoan anyone encroaching onto ‘his’ cycle lane.
The second less than impressive example of cycling craft was a road rider in Richmond Park. Now here, cars are restricted to about 25mph at the best of times, partly because there is a huge amount of activity, especially at weekends, including runners, ‘MTB‘ riders, horse riders, lots of deer etc.
At a mini roundabout in the park which led off the main route over to Richmond Gate a car was approaching and indicating to go right. Steaming down the hill towards the car but some distance out was a road cyclist. For some reason, the fact that the car was exercising its legitimate right to use the roundabout to make a right turn really got up the cyclist’s nose. He pulled out onto the roundabout in front of the car even though he was clearly second to arrive and with the car already halfway through its turn, then glared accusingly at the driver who was travelling at a very sedate speed before coming to a near halt.
The cyclist then rode slowly off, shaking his head in a manner indicating disbelief that anyone should want to do such a thing, looking back occasionally and shaking his head.
Just deal with it for God’s sake! You’re riding a road bike man! It comes with the territory, by definition you have to share with other road users and this was a well telegraphed manoeuvre at a low speed we’re talking about. The sense of mis-placed outrage was ridiculous and totally inappropriate.
As a cyclist the world is not out to get you, but if you ride in public spaces you have to expect to meet the public. I’ve ridden on the road for years and rode nearly everyday to school for six years in peak hour conditions. Yes, occasionally it’s frightening and it can be dangerous which is why as a result I always say ‘beware the idiot factor’ – there’s a lot of idiots out there.
But they’re not all in cars.