When one of the Bristol Post headlines is ‘Deliveroo rider seriously injured in Clifton Triangle road collision’, my first reaction is that I am not surprised by that. Deliveroo riders are right up there with the worst cycle terrorists who plague our city. Of course, I am very sorry when anyone is seriously injured and I certainly don’t know the circumstances of this unfortunate episode. Indeed, I wish the injured person a speedy recovery. But this was surely an accident waiting to happen.
No, it’s not just Deliveroo riders who are making life hell for pedestrians and motorists alike. I’m afraid that, in a city that has not been designed with cyclists in mind, we will see more incidents like this and perhaps even worse ones.
Full disclosure here: I have a bicycle which I have not used for a couple of years. I know that in itself it’s very healthy to cycle. In a world where obesity is becoming a very serious issue, I am well aware of the advice for us to step up exercise. That applies to me, too. What concerns me is the nebulous relationship many cyclists have with the rules of the road.
Just yesterday, I was undertaken at great speed by innumerable speeding cyclists, all of whom shot the red lights ahead. Few of them wore cycle helmets, most of them were listening to music through their earphones. I saw one very near miss as a car stopped on Bond Street to allow a passenger to disembark and a cyclist hurtled by on the inside. A second later and he would have hit the woman at high speed and maybe the car door too. The difference between nothing happening to serious, life-changing injuries was a heartbeat away. Meet someone who has suffered a major head trauma and then tell me this is a sensible way to proceed. Having your head collide with a car will not end well. So, what to do about it?
Answer: I am not sure what you can do about it. I don’t want to ban cycling because it is overwhelmingly A Good Thing. By the same token, I do not want to see cycle terrorists effectively holding the rest of us to ransom. There has to be a case for enforcing the use of cycle helmets and a ban on cyclists listening to music on their headphones whilst cycling. The latter, which I have actually done, is just plain mad. You don’t need me to tell you why. Perhaps, too, there might need to be changes to insurance legislation for cyclists. Once we have done all that, then it will be the right time to encourage people to cycle.
The fact that our ever gridlocked roads were not built to accommodate cyclists is in a way beside the point. Cyclists pay many of the same taxes as we do in order to have roads fit on which to cycle (car taxes are just taxes and have no relation to anything to do with cars and roads) so they are entitled to use them. Perhaps, it’s a question of how and where.
Where my family come from, the Netherlands, it’s flat and the roads are wide. Cyclists and motorists seldom meet. It is not like this in Bristol so all we can do is regulate. As part of that regulation, cyclists will need to play their part. Wear helmets, get insured, stick to prescribed cycle routes, stop speeding recklessly, stop zig-zagging across busy roads, don’t listen to music whilst cycling, stop undertaking and – please – respect traffic lights. My educated guess is that this time next year, we will still be mourning injured cyclists and putting up with many more who think they are invincible. They aren’t but no one seems to be listening.