Transport tribalism

There’s an interesting and thoughtful post from David Aaronovitch in the Jewish Chronicle, examining the fallout from a recent piece written about cycling by a friend of his. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to state that the article was this one, written by Linda Grant.

The thrust of Aaronovitch’s piece is – quite reasonably – that polarisation is bad. That seeing things in black and white terms is deeply unhelpful. The example given at the end of his article is a discussion – chaired by Aaronovitch – of a film on Zionism at a film festival. Constructive discussion about any merits the documentary possessed became impossible, simply because a large portion audience became swayed by an argument that the film was too anti-Zionist. The audience had became polarised and blinkered, too fixated on whether the film was pro- or anti-, when in reality being pro- or anti- anything might not even have been that relevant to the film itself.

By analogy, the debate about behaviour on the roads is apparently also polarised. As Aaronovitch argues –

…. even the “more in sorrow than in anger” critics of [Grant’s] piece could not admit, even for a second, that she might have a point. To do so would simply be to concede too much to the other side, to the enemy, to the four-wheeled cyclophobes and their allies. A line had been drawn: all virtue on this side, all sin on the other. To blur the line was to betray the cause.

Indeed, that would be unhelpful; just as unhelpful as those in the audience at the film festival who refused to consider a film on its own terms, but instead through an ideological prism of whether it was ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

But hang on. What was the point that Grant was making, that apparently critics refused to concede? Aaronovitch says

The point was that she had been frightened [by someone cycling], and many pedestrians in London could tell a similar story.

Is that really something that the people who responded to Grant would refuse to concede? I doubt it. There are something like 600,000 trips made every day by bike in London. That means it’s simply inevitable that people walking and cycling are going to come into conflict with one another, and that there will be collisions and near misses, and that a good number of these collisions and near misses will have been caused by people making misjudgements, and even behaving badly.

Because that’s what people do. 

People make mistakes, and people behave badly – and they do this regardless of the mode of transport they are employing, whether they are on foot, on a bus, on a train, behind a steering wheel, or behind some handlebars. To use Peter Walker’s memorable phrase, there are multi-modal arseholes, people who just don’t show consideration for others, whether they are barging to get the last seat on a train, pushing on to a crowded tube carriage before people disembark, running to get a bus, cycling home, or driving to work.

It’s totally unreasonable to expect people to behave well when they are using one particular mode of transport, because, frankly, humanity is imperfect, and the inner fallibility, or worse, loutishness, of some people will inevitably manifest itself, to a greater or lesser extent (depending on the person) as they travel around a city, whatever the mode of transport they are employing – bus, train, tube, car, bicycle, or shoe. So the idea that critics of Grant’s piece were upset because they refused to accept the notion that anyone on a bike could behave badly is pretty untenable.

The real issue with the piece (at least for me) was not that it pointed out that people can behave badly while using a bicycle. To deny that would be absurd, as absurd as maintaining that nobody from a particular city could possibly commit a crime, or that nobody with the name ‘Linda’ could ever behave badly. Instead it was one of curious framing, and context. For instance –

  • People behind the wheel of a car slow to let her cross the road; someone on a bike comes ‘barreling’ out of nowhere, ‘hunched’.
  • People behind the wheel of a car get out to help; the person on the bike is uncaring, and disappears.
  • People behind the wheel of a car ‘overwhelming’ obey traffic signals; people behind handlebars ‘repeatedly’ disobey them, and ‘scatter’ ‘screaming’ pedestrians.
  • ‘Arsehole cyclists’ are a minority; but no mention is made that there might even by a minority of arseholes behind the wheel of a car.
  • All road users transgress; but apparently the transgressions of people behind handlebars are hypocritical, because ‘only cyclists proclaim themselves to be standard-bearers for an ethical higher calling and mode of being, more suited to a Lycra-clad cult than simply a mode of transportation.’ (Really).

With a bit of reflection, is it sensible to pigeonhole people in this way, given that all of us will quite happily slip from one of transport to another without really thinking about our behaviour, let alone adopting any kind of transport-related identity as we do so?1

At what point does this family’s outlook on the world change as they move from being people on foot, to being people on bicycles?
Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 13.22.48Here? As they touch their bicycles?

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 13.25.50

Here, as they sit astride them?

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 13.26.26Or is it only here, once they are pedalling away, that they suddenly become ‘standard-bearers for an ethical higher calling and mode of being’? Are they suddenly more aggressive and unpredictable, compared to how they were seconds ago, as mere pedestrians? Are they more likely to ‘barrel’ somewhere, ‘scattering screaming pedestrians’, than would be the case if they were behind the wheel of a car?

It seems highly unlikely to me. Frankly, it just doesn’t make sense to look at the world in this way, to define people by the mode of transport they happen to be using at a particular moment in time. To talk of a ‘cycling community’ is as meaningless as talking about a ‘hatchback community’, but to read Grant’s piece again it’s almost like reading about a different species, and an invasive one at that, a new, unpredictable and even incomprehensible threat to London’s pedestrians, as if people cycling could never themselves be pedestrians at any point in time.

In fact, it’s as clear an example of polarising debate as anything that appears in Aaronovitch’s article. And in a follow-up piece, I’m going to explain why this matters.

1. Just to give a little bit of context here, around 1/5th of inner London residents ride a bike at least once a month. It’s as meaningless to generalise about such a large swathe of the population as it would be to generalise about tube users.


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60 Responses to Transport tribalism

  1. rdrf says:

    The “evens-stevens”/We are all in it together/ idea is crucial to “road safety” ideology: it is based on the neutralising of the difference in potential lethality of the different modes. It is absolutely neccesary to demolish this ideology.
    I look forward to the follow-up ASAP.

  2. Simon says:

    I read the Linda Grant article at the time and made a number of comments on it.

    One of the things that annoyed me the most about it was that her whole article was predicated on the incident she described, yet she couldn’t see that she was actually at fault.

    She is, I understand, partially sighted. She stepped out into a road full of slow moving traffic (not at a pedestrian crossing) thinking that the cars had stopped to let her cross. A cyclist “comes out of nowhere” by filtering through the traffic, startles her, she falls over. This, apparently, is the cyclist’s fault and thus also the responsibility of other cyclists who are clearly part of some wider club.

    But, despite this being cyclists’ fault, apparently the converse isn’t true – pedestrians have no responsibility to cross the road safely. She couldn’t see that responsibility for this (non) incident was more hers than the cyclist’s.

    That’s what caused the polarisation – the article was a huge vat of steaming manure, dreamed up on a slow news day in an apparent bid to get more site traffic. Cyclists reading it were inevitably defensive against someone given a soapbox to criticise them for using the same form of transport as someone she had recently (albeit through stupidity rather than malice) nearly had an accident with.

    • Simon says:

      PS. I might be wrong about the partially-sighted bit – I could have imagined that. Sorry if that’s the case, although not particularly important to my little rant.

    • Charlie Ullman says:

      Why is responsibility for the incident more hers than the cyclist’s? If I saw cars stopping to let a partially sighted person cross, and then a cyclist carry on through regardless, I’d be enraged.

      I think the twitter reaction to Grant’s article was over the top. I think a lot of pedestrians are scared of cyclists, and I think that’s important to discuss. I agree cars present much more of a danger, but I don’t think that should prevent discussion.

      I’ve often been cycling home of an evening, and I’ll see pedestrians halfway across zebras nervously stopping to let cyclists through – I’ve sometimes had to put both my feet on the ground and say loudly “it’s OK, it’s your right of way, you can cross”. I can see that they’ve become gun-shy about cyclists, and I think this is a tragedy, because pedestrians and cyclists ought to be natural allies.

      I realise I should be really saying “people who cycle” “people who walk” etc., but I have no problem identifying as a cyclist rather than as a person who cycles, probably 99% of the miles I travel in London are by bike.

      • D. says:

        But how do you know that slow moving traffic is “stopping to let a partially sighted person cross”? How do you know that they’re partially sighted? How do you know that the traffic isn’t just slow moving generally? Sorry, but if someone’s crossing the road not at a zebra/pelican/toucan then it is their responsibility to check that it’s safe to cross. They shouldn’t presume that because someone has slowed and gestured for them to cross that it’s actually safe to do so.

        • unironedman says:

          Good point D. One well-meaning motorist can cause carnage by waving someone through or across, without realising the potential for harm in their blind spots.

        • Paul M says:

          I once asked the City of London Police to provide some statistics they held about injuries to pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists in the City, and their assessments of who was at fault in each case – they had referred to these at a Police-Community Liaison group meeting hence the request.

          A few highlights:
          – on the CoL Police assessment (which others might not share), 66% of all injury incidents involving pedestrian injuries were the fault of the pedestrians themselves. A small proportion of these were attributed to “inebriation”. They didn’t cite other causes but in conversation suggested that distraction by smartphones etc was a major factor
          – the number of injury incidents involving cyclist injuries was very similar to pedestrians (319 v 333) but only 25% (81) were judged to be caused by the cyclists themselves
          – more cyclists were injured due to pedestrian actions than vice versa (20 vs 15)

          Separate reporting by the Westminster division of the Metropolitan Police apparently produced quite similar results ie that about 2/3rd of pedestrian injuries were self-caused, although other findings were quite different – car drivers seem to have been the cause of far fewer City injuries than in Westminster, where about 2/3rds of cyclist injuries were laid at the door of motorists.

        • Jake says:

          I disagree, since the pedestrian is the other road user who has no license or testing obligations. Neither driver nor rider should assume that a pedestrian at the kerb is going to stay there.

          Appropriate adjustment of speed and position will give a driver or rider time to deal with any pedestrian action. Just picture every pedestrian as an unrestrained toddler.

          Your mass and velocity determine your ability to cause injury; you can’t shed mass, so slow down and prepare to stop.

          Without jaywalking laws, the logical conclusion of this is that in busy pedestrian areas, all traffic moves at close to walking pace.

          That includes filtering cyclists, who should reasonably expect movement between slow or stationary vehicles that they are passing, just as drivers should expect kids to pop up around an ice cream van.

          • D. says:

            You have seen motorists driving cars through areas with a lot of pedestrians on the pavements, at walking pace? Pray tell, where was this utopia?

            • Charlie Ullman says:

              So because cars drive aggressively and bully pedestrians, it’s OK for cyclists to do so? I think it’s exactly this kind of logic that Linda Grant was referring to in her characterisation of cyclists as refusing to accept criticism.

              • D. says:

                Charlie, that really wasn’t the point I was trying to make. I was being slightly sarcastic in that I have *never* see cars driving and (apparently) anticipating that pedestrians might not stay on the footpaths.

                Anyway, pedestrians are more likely to stay put when there are motor vehicles coming along. I imagine they have a pretty good idea that being hit by a car is *not* a good thing to happen to you.

                But I particularly notice one behaviour when riding where I often do on my way home (along a road which goes between two ‘pedestrianised’ shopping areas): I have to presume that *all* pedestrians are going to see me coming and then just step out anyway. Which happens pretty much every evening. And pedestrians are like flocking birds or herd animals: once one steps out the others all follow them and step out too. If I stopped and just let them cross (a main road, mind, not a marked pedestrian crossing) then I would be waiting there for *ages*.

                And what makes me grumble more, is that if I didn’t manage to successfully avoid any of these people and either – unfortunately – did clip one or came a bit too close, then they would be complaining about eeeviiil rogue cyclists to all their friends or to the local paper…

                Which is actually a pretty unpleasant riding experience.

              • Charlie Ullman says:

                D. – I can see how annoying that is. But, my point is just that I think cyclists have a duty to look out for pedestrians anyway. Even if pedestrians behave like idiots. Even if other vehicles behave like idiots. And I sympathise with people who believe that pedestrians are plagued by anti-social cyclists.

                Of course, like the other commenters here, I think that the solution is decent segregated infrastructure. And I agree that “othering” of cyclists is unhelpful. All that stuff I agree with. I just don’t think Linda Grant deserves anything like the abuse that’s been directed at her on Twitter, as I thought her article was actually fair.

              • pm says:

                Your logic doesn’t work, because its a question of which articles get published and in what numbers.

                How many similar articles has the Guardian carried on aggressive and bullying behaviour by drivers?

          • pm says:

            “Without jaywalking laws, the logical conclusion of this is that in busy pedestrian areas, all traffic moves at close to walking pace.”

            As I can’t just “like” D’s comment, instead I have to just repeat it – if you think traffic moves at close to walking place in busy pedestrian areas you really need to look again!
            (Maybe it should, because if it did that Glasgow dump truck tragedy, among many others, would likely never have happened, but unfortunately it really doesn’t)

      • Simon says:

        The point is that there wasn’t an incident, at least not one involving the cyclist. The cyclist managed to avoid the person stepping out into the traffic in front of him. I don’t see how it’s the cyclists fault at all for an incident in which he managed to avoid someone who stepped out in front of him (and who then fell over).

        (BTW, I checked and partially sighted is not quite correct – Linda Grant describes herself as having an astigmatism and poor depth perception so has never learned to drive a car.)

        • Eric D says:

          Check your reading comprehension – “I was last behind the wheel of a car in 1991, … after passing my [USA?] test in 1983, on the third go.” Astigmatism can be corrected by glasses, to some extent by contact lenses. Depth perception relies largely on both eyes working well. I believe only professional drivers (HGV,PSV?) need two good eyes in the UK.

          Take it as an exercise in “See ourselves as others see us” (you can look up James Joyce or Robert Burns as the source of that quote). ‘Othering’ is the noun that has recently been verbed.

          You really doubt that “pedestrians have no responsibility to cross the road safely” ?
          What is the minimum permitted age/training/fitness standard for pedestrians ?

          Only ‘MUST’s are Motorways, Railway Crossings, Loitering, Holding a moving vehicle.

          Many cyclists are very quick to say ‘victim-blaming’ when police innocently campaign for helmets and high-viz.
          We are appalled when a driver (Dr Helen Measures) is exonerated by a jury, despite overtaking bikes close on a bend where she failed to see oncoming bikes – the defence effectively “I can’t help it if a cyclist falls into my path” even “It was your mistake to choose to cycle, putting yourselves in danger”.
          This is the other side of the same coin – can we object to drivers who say ‘Keep out of my way or I’ll kill you”, and not respect peoples’ right to cross the road ?
          In this case, the party with enough kinetic energy to kill and questionable observation and stopping-distance is not a motorist, but the cyclist. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

          Basic UK culture problem is ‘hurry’ – most people feeling they have to drive/ride ‘to the max’, eroding safety margins as far as they can get away with. Dutch approach is primarily respect for life, so that a mistake won’t even cause conflict, let alone injury. Tolerance. People looking out for each other – literally and metaphorically. Respecting the vulnerable – not even assuming that the person crossing (who is not using a red-and-white reflective cane) is not blind and deaf. Not quibbling legal niceties of ‘MUST’ or ‘SHOULD’ in different interpretations of the Highway Code, or relying on loophole legal ‘defences’, deflecting blame onto the other. That’s UK-think.

          Yes, this is idealism, and I’m not perfect either – but what’s wrong with idealism ? Be the sort of person you want society to be !

          • Paul Luton says:

            It is the long-windedness not the idealism – 😉
            OTOH if anyone crosses the road whilst traffic is temporarily jammed ( I frequently do so myself) they would be well advised to check carefully at each gap.

      • Nico says:

        I blame the scaremongering media squarely for that: I get peds frequently stopping to let me pass even when they have right of way when I am on my bike (and riding slow to let them through), yet jumping out from between buses in front of my people carrier. Trust me, you’re better off hit by the bakfiets than by the seven-seater.

    • “(non) incident”, “nearly had an accident”

      Linda Grant: “… causing me to jump out of the way to avoid him, trip and go down flat on my face in the middle of the road.”

      Taking her story as given, there as been an incident. A pedestrian crossing or not, the slowing down of cars has to make a driver, even a cyclist, carefully and slowing down himself. Clear speaking: The cyclist bowled her over.

      Many of her points are near to some kind of hate speech against cyclists, that’s right.

      But that kind of hate speech, of course in a sophisticated manner, only works because she has a point.
      In Hamburg, that is now at ca 14% bike modal share, you can see the same behaviour of cyclists. I am cyclist. I know what it is like. Traffic is dangerous, you are filled up with adrenaline to the upper lip because you are in urgent need of it to escape from the crowd that is out to kill you.
      Londons bike share is much less, that increases the danger to each cyclist. as a result there are more male cyclists. More testosterone and more adrenaline. This could be a vicious circle.
      It’s hard to keep your temper and shift to a more civilized mode: giving way to a pedestrian for example. As always: Practice makes perfect.
      I’ve visited Copenhagen. There I’ve learned that flow is not the most important thing on cycling.
      The possibility of communicating, the possibility to give and to get a smile is much more.

  3. Paul M says:

    There is no denying that some people, certainly among older age groups or people with disabilities, fear cyclists, more so than they fear motorists and their vehicles. I would say that their fear is largely irrational, citing statistics available from the DfT which tell us that a pedestrian is about 250 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by a motor vehicle than by a bicycle, and about 70 times more likely ditto *on a footpath*.

    However, I could say the same of cycling, cyclists and barriers to more cycling: fear of injury on the roads is a powerful disincentive, and it is probably equally irrational – statistics will tell you that you would have to cycle daily for x hundred years, or over y million miles, before you meet your death, on average, statistically. You would be more at risk of death playing tennis, or golf, or walking even. And so on.

    Both arguments of course miss the point. Fear doesn’t have to be rational to be real, and telling people to man up, their fears are irrational, isn’t going to help. If pedestrians are by and large less fearful of motorists/their vehicles than of cyclists, it might very probably be because they have a degree of physical separation and protection (not always convenient, eg underpasses, bridges, railings along a kerb) from motor vehicles, which they don’t have to the same extent from cyclists, whether that is illegal pavement cycling or sanctioned shared-use.

    Cyclists meanwhile very rarely have that kind of separation or protection from motorists, even less so than they are separated from pedestrians (because they can’t cycle on pavements).

    Simples! Build separation between all three modes, pedestrians from cyclists from motorists. Problem solved.

    I wonder why no-one, ever, thought of that?

    • “Both arguments of course miss the point. Fear doesn’t have to be rational to be real, and telling people to man up, their fears are irrational, isn’t going to help. If pedestrians are by and large less fearful of motorists/their vehicles than of cyclists, it might very probably be because they have a degree of physical separation and protection (not always convenient, eg underpasses, bridges, railings along a kerb) from motor vehicles, which they don’t have to the same extent from cyclists, whether that is illegal pavement cycling or sanctioned shared-use.”

      I think this is absolutely correct. But there is one other thing: walking is normalised as a mode of transport, and everyone does it. With a very few exceptions, people generally don’t stop walking because of safety issues (I’d say examples where people might is if very vulnerable, or certain routes unlit at night / social safety issues).

      But cycling is an odd, minority activity. It’s not normal to do. People look at cycling, think it looks unsafe, and therefore don’t cycle at all.

      More than that, because ‘everyone knows’ that cycling is dangerous, if you are in a collision which is no fault of your own, you are partially to blame anyway because you were doing something dangerous. You could have avoided it if only you didn’t cycle, like normal people.

      • congokid says:

        “But cycling is an odd, minority activity. It’s not normal to do. People look at cycling, think it looks unsafe, and therefore don’t cycle at all.”

        And it’s becoming ever more so thanks to the past decade’s worth of anti-cycling thought pieces like Grant’s in the (primarily English speaking) media, as well as political posturing by various mouthpieces elsewhere.

        That perception doesn’t exist anywhere like as much in places where cycling *is* normalised and seen by everyone as a perfectly natural and even essential mode of everyday transport.

  4. Clive Durdle says:

    There are real psychological and neurological issues to address . Bicycling is dynamically stable and statically unstable. Yaw, pitch and roll happen. These are not evolved movements and are reacted to as threatening. Lycra, bright colours, males, helmets and hunching increase perceived threat levels.

    Solutions? Sit up and beg bikes , ordinary clothes, everyone cycling, infrastructure .

  5. baoigheallain says:

    Linda Grant’s article was horrendous but I do know someone who is fearful of cyclists on the Outer Circle in Regent’s Park.

    I speak of an otherwise sane, able-bodied person in her healthy 40s, in good job with, what I would say, is above average intelligence yet she fears 70 kgs of soft tissue and bone more than she fears 2,000 kgs Range Rovers doing twice the speed.

    It surely is irrational, but there is doubting its sincerity.

    • Paul Luton says:

      Somehow the Range Rover is discounted as a “fact of nature” which will always be there. The small additional hazard of the cyclist is resented.

  6. Tim says:

    Aaronovitch makes a fair point about pedestrians using sound to navigate the urban environment safely. With people on bikes being in a minority (albeit a sizeable one at times in London) and having no dedicated infrastructure to speak of, pedestrians often just rely on audible cues to warn them of vehicle movements. They expect and listen out for engine noise without even considering bikes. They get surprised by bikes; they get “caught out”, and no-one likes that. It’s human nature to cling to the idea that the other person was doing it wrong, it was their fault for “sneaking up”, and to then shrug off the blame (as the “very-well equipped male cyclist” in Aaronovitch’s article did). In the Netherlands people cycle in numbers such that cyclists are usually expected and looked out for. Tourists, however, often fall foul of stepping into busy cycleways.

    But yes, Grant’s clutching attempt to paint the cyclist, and therefore all people on bikes, as the baddie does encourage the othering, and continue the cycle. She makes it more acceptable – maybe not to shout “THIS IS FOR LINDA”, but to blame the cyclist (and indirectly all cyclists) again next time. If there was polarisation going on (and there was) then this may sound childish but Grant clearly started it.

    • “pedestrians often just rely on audible cues to warn them of vehicle movements. They expect and listen out for engine noise without even considering bikes. They get surprised by bikes; they get “caught out”, and no-one likes that… In the Netherlands people cycle in numbers such that cyclists are usually expected and looked out for. Tourists, however, often fall foul of stepping into busy cycleways”
      I think this is a very important and underestimated factor. I cycle and ought to know better, but I am also prone to relying on my ears and not looking carefully enough before stepping out. A short trip to Cambridge helps cure me of this!
      We have all heard that “cyclists these days don’t use bells”. I think that complaint is further evidence of the problem: we are simply not in the habit of thinking about the possibility there’s a bike coming.
      By the way, getting cyclists to use bells doesn’t really work: the pedestrians who are most alarmed by cyclists tend to be the more vulnerable or inattentive who do not hear (eg because of deafness or earphones) or understand (toddlers) a bell. Those that do hear are sometimes alarmed anyway or feel aggrieved at the cyclist’s arrogance for ‘demanding’ that they get out of the way.

      • MJ Ray says:

        Toddlers aren’t a problem often, as they tend to look at where the fun noise is coming from. People with reduced hearing are trickier, but ringing again closer or saying excuse me often gets their attention. Keep ringing, folks!

        • I use my bell if I’m going around a blind corner, or if I’m passing a pedestrian (or another cyclist) who has their back to me i.e. they have no other way of knowing I’m there.

          But if you rang your bell whenever there is a pedestrian in the vicinity who might step in front of you you’d never stop ringing. It would be cacophonous in any area with more than a few people on bicycles, and detrimental to the public realm.

          Pedestrians do need to use their eyes. This is increasingly a problem with wider use of electric cars too. Powered wheelchairs don’t make a lot of noise, or mobility scooters. Bicycles aren’t a unique problem in this regard.

          It’s also one reason I don’t hug the kerb or like filtering on the left of cars: I’m only too aware that this leave no room for error if someone does step out.

          • Which does veer into trying to correct behaviour, which is the most difficult way to tackle a problem. At a loss to see what else to do. Railing between pavement and cycle lanes? Awful, ugly, inflexible things that cyclists get squashed against. Higher kerbs so people need to look to step down? Doesn’t necessarily make them look left or right, difficult for prams and wheelchairs. Highly visually separate cycle lane? I’d suggest this anyway, but doesn’t seem to stop issues in Netherlands with tourists. Hope the problem goes away with increased numbers cycling and more awareness? In Cambridge pedestrians walking in front of cyclists is pretty common, and it’s not because cyclists are rare.

            The behaviour certainly doesn’t reflect the way I was taught to cross a road, in a time and an area where cycling wasn’t that common. It was always ‘look right, look left, look right again’.

          • MJ Ray says:

            Sure, there’s a balancing act. No point ringing to warn people who don’t need warning that you’re there, but I feel that many cyclists in England are a bit too shy about ringing. “detrimental to the public realm” is going a bit far IMO – it’s a damn sight nicer and more musical than noisy motors thrashing through.

  7. Citizen Wolf says:

    I see from the photos that there’s a 70% sale on in Hema. 🙂

    And, no Hi-Vis and no helmets and cycling on the pavement – oh the humanity!!!!!!

  8. congokid says:

    To me Grant’s piece read as a typical passive aggressive bike-hate bingo rant from someone who’d had her arse soundly spanked when she’d aired her prejudices and misconceptions on the subject on social media and couldn’t take the pasting she got.

    The end result was simply a highly unoriginal and plagiarised tribute to your very own “The terrible journalist’s guide to writing an article about bicycles”.

  9. Eric D says:

    Other noteworthy things?
    The Guardian stock photo will probably have been added by a sub-editor, not the author.
    Google Images only finds one 2nd instance here

    Image shows >18 cyclists stopped in an ASL at a red light. All helmeted. One not in lycra/cycle shoes/glasses/gloves is past the stop line. He may be wiping sweat from his face with one hand. One in the ASL has relaxed and straightened-up, both hands resting on a thigh. All are unclipped and relaxed – stopped for a while, not ‘raring to go’. One cyclist is filtering in the midst of the stationary vehicles. All (including a cabbie) seem to be looking at something happening in the centre of the whole junction, rather than a traffic-light, or talking amongst themselves. None is clearly looking at the pedestrian who is jogging across far in front of them, or addressing him. The photo is taken with a long lens, giving a ‘foreshortened’ perspective – the pedestrian is about two cycle-lengths away from the stop line.

    Nothing justifies the caption – “Running the gauntlet … a pedestrian-cyclist standoff in London.”
    ! Sensationalism.

    If anything, she is campaigning for infrastructure – it was an ‘uncontrolled’ pedestrian crossing. The ‘reporting of the facts’ is such that I can’t tell if “Here is a traffic light.” is just a rhetorical turn of phrase, or physically means the traffic had a green light when she crossed. It seems unlikely that two lanes of traffic would stop at a green light to let a pedestrian cross – unless there was gridlock ?
    Ah! “Two lanes of drivers saw me hovering on the pavement and slowed to allow me to cross.” so she was crossing in front of moving traffic. She does not state the cyclist passed a red, just says “many do”.

    She is one lane-width away from the cyclist’s path when she sees him, but has to ‘jump out of the way to avoid him’ ?

    So, in summary, “I made the mistake of crossing in moving traffic so cyclists must reform!”

    She is just whingeing – her ‘actionable’ reform points are
    unpredictability – she should expect cyclists to overtake slow traffic
    cycling itself is ‘new’ and unexpected ?
    aggression – no evidence of any
    bell – see aggression
    obey rules – ok, but none broken here?
    signal – ok, but not relevant here?
    not cycling on pavements – ok, but not relevant here?
    not running red lights – ok, but not relevant here?
    slow down when traffic in adjacent lanes slows down – maybe all traffic should move at exactly 12mph – no overtaking by anyone, ever ? That would work.
    cyclist’s number plate –

    So the actual ‘incident’ itself doesn’t seem to justify creating the article – I wonder what did ?
    I think her motivation is just to ‘dangerise’ cycling – but now from the pedestrian point of view as well as driver and cyclist.

    She is happy to take taxis to avoid being mugged again, but doesn’t wait for traffic to be stopped before crossing. She even moved home, in part to avoid a poor infrastructure.

    Shouldn’t her ‘call to action’ be for the Council to upgrade the crossing to add pedestrian push-buttons and light phases ?
    I suggested this for Parson’s Green in Oct, but received no response. Green arrow right-turn light, too.
    It seems that infrastructure can really be to blame.

  10. jonathan harris says:

    I can’t bring myself to read the LG article, I imagine it’s too depressing. Nevertheless, my ha’penny if I’m permitted to give it, is as follows:

    Commuting 20 miles round trip through London each day my view is that a significant minority of cyclists behave “without regards for others” – jumping crossings with peds on them, buzzing peds on footpaths etc. My impression is that there are more inconsiderate cyclists than car drivers and that if the standard of driving was as bad as the standard of cycling then the roads would be more dangerous than they already are. One explanation for this is that cyclists are predominantly young males and that if the cycling population was more representative then the quality of driving vs cycling would be more on a par – multi modal arseholes. Imagine how much worse the roads would be if the demographic of drivers was the same as cyclists – mainly young men?

    I think there is a real problem with the road manners of a significant minority and the cycling community would do well to own up to this (as well as give the perpetrators a dressing down if you manage to catch up with them!). I think the cycling community is in denial and if it is to get what it wants (rights, respect, infrastructure etc), it needs to have an honest look in the mirror. How to do this without giving ammunition to the cyclist haters I don’t know.

    • There might be some merit to your second paragraph – it’s certainly true that the demographic of cycling in London is skewed (slightly) towards males, and people aged 25-44. But I would like to see some evidence that these groups *do* actually behave worse when they are on a bike than women, or people who are slightly older or younger.

      Your last paragraph, however, suggests you haven’t read what I’ve written. There is no such thing as ‘the cycling community’, any more than there is a ‘hatchback community’. I made this point in the piece. Even if there was, the idea that designing better streets for anyone who rides a bike should be contingent upon good behaviour is, frankly, bollocks.

      • Civilisation and civilized behaviour can be seen as a result of law and (equal) rights.
        As the Roman Cicero (plea Sestius) told, civilisation is enclosure of violence by establishing of the law.
        The more cyclists have equal rights, which includes kinda the same propper infra as motorists have, the less they are outlaws (in the meaning of being driven out of the law) and the less they have to behave as outlaws.
        The more they have equal rights (including the right of infra) the more there is social pressure on those ones who don’t behave civilized. Pressure then comes from all sides incuding the increasing number of cyclists.
        This thesis is proved in many ways.
        For example: “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker, scientist of evolutionary psychology
        Or have a look where cyclist’s rights (including infra) are better on.

    • pm says:

      Just want to re-iterate what AsEasy said. There is no ‘cycling community’, I just don’t understand why people propagate this sillyness.

      I am not part of some giant hippy collective, made up of the youths who annoy me by whizzing straight at me at speed when I’m walking on the pavement, various drug-dealers who go about their business on two wheels in this part of the city, Peter Hitchens, Boris Johnson, Lance Armstrong, Jeremy Corbyn, David Cameron, and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. None of them are my responsibility and I have no special police powers in relation to any of them. What am I supposed to be ‘owning up ‘ to, exactly?

      I’ll occasionally have a go at bad cyclists when they happen to irritate me in person, just as I will with bad drivers or annoying pedestrians. But its not my job to police some entirely imaginary collective.

    • MJ Ray says:

      Driving is far far worse than cycling. In my tiny village, a historic building, a bus shelter and a bridge have been demolished over the years. There is a persistent minority of dangerous drivers howling through but I suspect it’s about the same proportion across modes.

      But the motoring community seems to be in denial about its problem and yet, it gets what it wants: rights, respect, infrastructure etc, without having an honest look in the mirror. Double standards!

  11. Paul Draper says:

    What is this cycling community? I would like to go and live there.

  12. jonathan harris says:

    Hi easy riding, sorry you are right, I didn’t read your piece properly… On your comments though, the cycling demographic is more than slightly skewed – there are v. few young and old and the proportion of women is a long way from being representative either. Of course this is because the streets are too hostile for anyone but the brave. Young men are naturally more reckless and selfish, the fact that they are disproportionally responsible for car accidents surely proves this. Of course it’s s***t for those of us who are responsible cyclists to be tarred by LG etc for the behaviour of the minority who are irresponsible. And I’m not suggesting proper infra etc should be contingent on good behaviour. But like it or not, the bad cyclists are giving the rest of us a bad rep and it feels like if there was more acceptance by folks commenting that these people are a problem then we might win more friends and get what we want quicker.

    • Ian says:

      I’m completely baffled. No-one seriously expects motorists in London to apologise for people in Scotland who drive stupidly, no one suggests that having the A9 dualled should be contingent on improvements in driver behaviour, no one requires the IAM or the ABD to apologise in behalf of all motorists.

      But effectively you expect exactly this from cyclists – you expect us all (even in Inverness?) to apologise for people we’ve never even met?

    • pm says:

      But you are still talking in terms of this entirely non-existent collective group.

      I have no disagreement with the point about demography, but from ‘like it or not’ onwards you are mistaken.

      The ‘giving us a bad name’ trope is nonsense. Its not even wrong, in that its self-contradictory and incoherent.

      That its nonsense that exists in the minds of many motorists doesn’t stop it being nonsense (its just a standard-issue dominant-group self-serving delusion).

      It doesn’t help matters to collude with such mistaken ideas, encouraging drivers to continue to to believe them. Rather they should be clearly rejected.

  13. Eric D says:

    Oh … and the caption on the image
    “Running the gauntlet … a pedestrian-cyclist standoff in London”
    May be an attempt at humour by the sub-editor.
    Gently mocking the over-the-top tone of the article ?

    There is something of a tradition in this:
    one example was the viral photo of police and revellers in Manchester at New Year
    Click to view gallery
    “19. Police try to calm a disturbance” – hard to tell – lad pushes one PC off his feet against another
    “20. Police hold a man while another lies in the road” – one PC kneels astride the lad, another kneels between his legs, a Sgt is applying handcuffs
    “22.An injured man is helped by police” – Ha! Ha!
    Sgt and helmet-less PC are leading lad away. He now is bleeding from his left cheek, with blood staining his left shoulder. He was not injured before ! Three officers have arrested a drunken man, who mysteriously gets injured while being held down!
    He won’t remember anything.

  14. Colin Tweed says:

    I think the most frustrating thing about the article was that she correctly identifies the poor junction design as being the whole problem, but instead of concluding that we should design our infrastructure around human beings and not motor cars.

    She concludes all cyclists are idiots.

  15. I think the main interest was to get traffic on her site. For some people traffic an attention is real money. It’s very easy to get traffic by badmouthing cyclists.

    L. Grant refers to typically male behaviour (and she is well right) but herself attracts attention by some old style typically female behaviour: The poor helpless victim. Being confronted this two archetypes worked very well, Linda.

    The word “astigmatism” caught my ear. Where the devil I’ve heard or seen it before?

    – Is it astigmatism? – No, just blind as a bat. (Marilyn Monroe in: How to Marry a Millionaire)

    Hope, poor little Linda got enough traffic and made some new friends.

  16. Pingback: Transport tribalism (part 2) | As Easy As Riding A Bike

  17. Pingback: Transport tribalism – Amateur Radio Station JH1CBI

  18. HivemindX says:

    I didn’t read the article by Grant. Did she actually say “out of nowhere?”. I ask because people/cars/bicycles do not come out of nowhere. This is code for “I didn’t look”.

    I can’t really understand how a cyclist could be so close that she had to leap out of the way after stepping in to the road but she somehow didn’t see them.

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