The myth of the blameless cyclist

One thing shown into sharp relief by the news that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling ‘doored’ someone cycling back in October is that there is simply nothing you can do to make yourself blameless when you are riding a bike.

From the video it is clear that the victim wasn’t riding fast; he was wearing a hi-visibility jacket; he was wearing a helmet. And, in moving between the kerb and stationary traffic, he simply wasn’t doing anything wrong. The blame lies entirely with the person who opened the car door without checking, and with the driver of that vehicle, for failing to check it was safe for the passenger to open his door (and for failing to move to the kerb to safely allow his passenger to exit the vehicle).

Yet this incident has led to the predictable ‘whose side are you on?’, ‘whose fault is it?’ media nonsense that inevitably follows video footage of this form going viral.

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The inevitable Daily Mail

Even the BBC – who really should be above this kind of behaviour – are apparently happy to wallow in the same swamp of antagonism.

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… And the sadly just-as-inevitable BBC take

This follows a similar incident that made the national press a few days ago, in which a man cycling on a marked cycleway (albeit one just painted on a footway) was taken out by a driver who simply failed to look as he turned into his own driveway. Again, this particular cyclist had a helmet on, had bright lights, but of course he slipped up by not wearing yellow clothes, leaving the door open for blame –

Tony is now warning other motorists to be vigilant when it comes to the ‘hidden’ cycle lane. He said the biker was not wearing high visibility clothing and he did not see him due to the darkness and bright lights of on coming traffic.

We have, apparently, similar blame-shifting from Grayling, who seems to have claimed that the cyclist he injured was ‘going too fast’. We only have the victim’s word on this, but it seems entirely plausible. Many years ago I was sent flying over the bonnet of a driver’s car as he pulled out of a side road onto Oxford High Street when I was only a few feet away from him. He drove away without even getting out of his car, only muttering that I was ‘going too fast’, that familiar refrain from someone who simply failed to look.

The point is that there is simply nothing you can do to avoid this blame-shifting. Your blamelessness is irrelevant. Some minor fault will be found with your behaviour, and even if it isn’t, facts don’t matter. The law will be interpreted according to the rule that the cyclist must have been something wrong, it stands to reason, doesn’t it, bloody undertakers, going up the inside, going up the outside, hogging the middle of the lane in front of me, going too fast, going too slow, suicidal maniacs, all of them.

Why do we have these curious attitudes? The most plausible answer is that ‘cyclists’ are of course an outgroup.  See these comments from Dr Ian Walker, worth quoting in full –

… there’s some classic social psychology at work here – cyclists represent an outgroup such that the usual outgroup effects are seen, particularly overgeneralisation of negative behaviour and attributes – ‘They all ride through red lights all the time’. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that something of this sort is going on.

However, there has to be more to it than just this. For a long time I wondered if the outgroup status of cyclists was compounded by two other known social psychological factors: norms and majority vs. minority groups. Not only are cyclists an outgroup, they’re also a minority outgroup. Moreover, they are engaging in an activity that is deemed slightly inappropriate in a culture that views driving as normative and desirable and, arguably, views cycling as anti-conventional and possibly even infantile.

But even adding these factors into the mix does not explain all the anger that cyclists experience. It’s easy to identify other minority outgroups whose behaviour similarly challenges social norms but who do not get verbally and physically attacked like cyclists do: vegetarians, for example. So there’s clearly one or more important variables that we’ve not identified yet. Any social psychologists looking for a challenge are very welcome to wade into this.

Amazingly, we have a textbook example of this kind of outgroup thinking from Grayling himself.

Mr Grayling, a non-cyclist, said too many riders ignored red traffic lights on their journeys in the capital. “Motorists in London have got to be immensely careful of cyclists,” he said.  “At the same time, cyclists in London are too often unwilling to obey the road signs. I’ve seen regular examples of people who just bolt through red lights. The growth of cycling is a good thing. But good cycling is responsible cycling.”

He is a non-cyclist; he is a motorist; he is immensely careful. They are irresponsible; they ignore red lights; they are unwilling to obey road signs.

A statement made barely a month after this immensely careful non-cyclist was entirely to blame for injuring one of those irresponsible, road sign- and light-disobeying cyclists. You might think that kind of incident would have challenged some of his background assumptions, but evidently not. Given his subsequent comments it’s entirely possible to imagine Grayling walking away from this incident with all his stereotypes reinforced.

Of course, added to background societal generalisations about ‘cyclists’ and their behaviour, we have a person – ‘the cyclist’ – engaging in an activity that very few people will actually engage in, indeed, one that very few people would regard as normal. That is to say, cycling on roads in the centre of a city. And engaging not just in a mere minority pursuit, but one that is seen as odd and unconventional.

The vast majority of the public has absolutely no experience of cycling on busy roads full of stationary or slow motor traffic. They will not identify with anyone doing this. They will not understand or empathise with the problems and dangers they are facing, even to the extent of blaming them for even having the temerity to enter such a dangerous environment in the first place.  They won’t understand undertaking versus overtaking, or even the concept of filtering altogether, because it is something that they simply cannot even imagine doing themselves. It is incomprehensible altogether.

Conversely, the vast majority of the public has plenty of experience of driving, or being driven, in these kinds of situations, and of opening car doors. This means they will find it very easy to identify with the door opener, and not with the person being hit by the door. The blame-shifting reasoning is consequently easy to understand.

‘The person being hit with the door should have been more careful’. ‘They should have been expecting me to open my car door’. ‘They shouldn’t be cycling past my stationary car’. ‘They shouldn’t have been passing my car on that side’. ‘They were going too fast’. ‘They came out of nowhere’. ‘They were in the blind spot’. ‘They weren’t wearing enough hi-viz’. ‘Their hi-viz was the wrong colour’. ‘They weren’t using lights’. ‘They shouldn’t even be on these kinds of roads in the first place’. ‘They are irresponsible, full stop’.

The list of potential faults is essentially endless; all flowing from a background assumption that the victim must be in the wrong somehow, because he is not like me, he is doing something that I would never do and can’t ever imagine doing.

I suspect the only realistic way of challenging these attitudes is to create environments that allow anyone to cycle; safe, attractive and comfortable environments that remove antagonism between different modes of transport, and more pertinently will convert cycling – particularly cycling in urban environments – from an odd, minority pursuit into an ordinary activity that the vast majority of the public will engage in themselves. Or to put it another way, these attitudes will disappear only when cycling is something that we do, and not what they do.

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47 Responses to The myth of the blameless cyclist

  1. Paul says:

    Sums up the problem well I wish there were clear cut solutions but there needs to be a shift soon towards protecting vulnerable road users Appalling that a transport minister can think to blame the cyclist who seems to have done nothing wrong. His comments that he will need to be more careful to not get caught breaking the law now that he’s transport minister sums him up. A very bad appointment

  2. Steven Edwards says:

    And worryingly for London, we’re still hearing nothing from the mayor, who only released a statement of (admittedly) great intentions recently – ie to double the cycling budget – just as the level of disquiet about his lengthy period of inaction – that is the entire duration of his time in office so far, started to build.
    We have heard no more in terms of evidence of havcing a real grip of what cycling needs in order for it to be a mass transport option.

    I would rather hear language being used by the mayor’s office that reflects real attempts to translate into action the vast experience of campaigners (such as Mark T here and others such as Vole over the years).

    Instead, every item of news about actual physical progress is really not creating much confidence for a positive outcome.
    The CS11 reponse: TfL are “looking at concerns of those who were…” whatever they were concerned about – that cycling shouldn’t figure largely in the motorised cess pit of Swiss Cottage – or that they are “looking again”at the proposals for the gate closures in Regent’s Park!
    If you walk past the zoo on the Outer Circle , and are concious at all of sound, you will soon be aware that the problem of traffic noise in itself is a massively detracting feature – and created by just enough vehicles to be aggravating.
    I might be veering a bit off topic here, but am reminded of the zoo’s opposition to the closure of the (few gates that had made it through the motor lobby coensorship process).

    It’s disheartening to think that all there is to be achieved for cycling (at least in London), is for endless hours of campaigning just to keep in place the schemes that have already won the approval of the public.
    How did the Dutch manage it..? Remind me again. How did they achieve a political process that is not dependant on appeasing infestations of rat-running numpties – and then even when the consultation wins, these people are still to be appeased anyway!!
    The further watering down of a watered down scheme.

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  4. I’m very aware when I open a car door. There could be cyclists other cars or pedestrians about. It only takes a few moments to check nothing is coming. To me it’s common sense.

    • David Cohen says:

      … but ‘common sense’ isn’t always so… common, and one person’s common is another’s ‘I had no idea’.

      The ‘Dutch Reach’ might be a start:
      http://road.cc/content/news/208601-video-how-dutch-reach-can-prevent-cyclists-being-doored

      • Tim says:

        The chances of even a reasonable minority of drivers/passengers ever getting into the habit of doing the “Dutch Reach” is so laughably low that we can disregard it as yet another red herring. Don’t waste your time.

        As the article says, the answer is decent infrastructure. In this case a separated cycleway/lane. Recklessly opened car doors might get ripped off by other cars, but the more vulnerable travellers should be safer elsewhere.

        • Ulysses says:

          On a popular cycling forum I frequent, one father is actively encouraging his children to aim for the person and not the door if possible…
          I kind of agree, at least the injuries could be relatively minor, compared to being swept in to a busy carraigeway

        • pm says:

          The two do go together though. Decent infrastructure = far more people cycling = more car users being aware that cyclists exist = more care taken when opening car doors.

        • Har Davids says:

          The answer is not just infrastructure, it’s attitude as well. Only this morning, I rode my bike in down-town Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and not always on separate cycle-lanes. Motorists are aware of cyclists in general, as a rule, and you don’t need to fear for life and limb while cycling. You know you’re taken seriously as just someone else on the move, only on two wheels, in stead of four. Harping on about cyclists breaking the rules creates an atmosphere where non-motorists are always at fault: those pesky pedestrians and cyclists should just grow up and join the motor-brigade in grid-lock.

          • marmotte27 says:

            That’s because those Dutch drivers arein the Netherlands. We get lots of Dutch around here as tourists in summer. They don’t know any more how to behave around a cyclist than local drivers. Their attitude is shaped by their environement just as much as anybody else’s.

  5. rdrf says:

    The title should have been “The myth of the always blameworthy cyclist”?

    • HivemindX says:

      No I think it’s right. It means that, from the perspective of the motorist, while in theory a cyclist that isn’t at fault exists, in actuality they don’t exist since there is always something they can be blamed for doing wrong (too fast/too slow, on the left/not left enough, no lights/lights too bright).

      So like the yeti, when when you think you have a good example of a blameless cyclists, when you dig in to it you’ll find there is something to blame them for. The blameless cyclists turns out, like the yeti, to be a myth.

      Obviously a lot of the blame is wasted effort. Reaches for excuses until you find one that sticks.
      Q: No lights?
      A: Doesn’t work they had lights.
      Q: No high-viz?
      A: Sorry no.
      Q: Maybe the high-viz wasn’t good enough, was it just a bib? Maybe it was dirty?
      A: Sorry, brand new and eye searing.
      Q: Could I have been dazzled? Maybe the high-viz was TOO good?
      A: Well, maybe, but why would you open the door when you see something dazzling in the mirror? You might open yourself up to some blame there….
      Q: Damn cyclists, always with the excuses… Ok how about speed? Maybe they were going too fast.
      A: Perfect. “Too” can mean anything. After all if they had been stopped (a reasonable speed for a bicycle) they wouldn’t have hit you. Maybe you can sue them for damage to your door.

      The bottom line for blame is that “guilty of being on a bike” is blame enough for lots of people.

  6. bigK says:

    Thank you As Easy… I know it’s all positive reinforcement, but you have an efficiency in your calm reasoning. ahhhhhh.

  7. paulc says:

    they really don’t like us ‘undertaking’ because they’ll have to overtake us all over again in their sprint to the back of the next queue…

  8. Bill G says:

    Grayling’s behaviour is childish, he has made a mistake and rather than accept responsibility and adjust his behaviour, he tries to shift attention away from his action. It’s embarrassing.

    • StephenR says:

      His comment that the cyclist was ‘going too fast’ suggests that he was aware of him before he knocked him off. So did he choose to knock him off anyway or is he just lying to pretend that he wasn’t at fault?

    • I crashed into a car a few years ago – I was going close to 30mph downhill on a main road and the driver pulled out from a side road in front of me. My bike was written off but I was fortunately only bruised. The driver both said he hadn’t seen me (and later claimed that he went back to the site of the accident and that a tree would have blocked his view) and said I “was going very fast”. I suspect anyone who has cycled for long will have a similar experience – being both fast, possibly “too” fast, and invisible.

      • Tony says:

        So if you had being a car “close to 30mph” (I presume the legal limit for motorvehicles was 30?) and the motorist had pulled out and caused a crash y’know, with another motorvehicle, who would be to blame 100%, that’s right, the one who pulled out when it wasn’t clear. Unsighted by tree, that’s still their responsibility to ensure it’s clear, dark, nope, no excuse, no hi-vis, not proveable to work anyway. What if you were a bus or a minibus full of children and people on board were injured, would those that had done no wrong be blamed, not a chance.
        You fall into the trap as many others, going too fast, too fast to avoid other mistakes, well would it have occured if you were doing 15mph, more than likely, it’s irrelevant if that vehicle had not pulled out recklessly no incident occurs, your actions were not dangerous/reckless/furious or contributable to it.
        The police in their motorcentric judgement make this error many times over in reports, not just on perceived speed but as in the article pulling any very minor error to offset against the major cause of incidents by motorists.

  9. Clark in Vancouver says:

    It’s so true about cyclists being seen as an out group by some but I also think that there’s something else going on here as well. I think motorists deep down know that the system isn’t working. The dream of the past is over and will never come back again. They know that. It’s not just a bad time now and it will be better in the future.
    Cyclists symbolize that. If these people who are cycling are just like them then that means that it’s possible that one day they will be cycling too. This is scary to them. They have to make it impossible in their minds for that to happen. “That would never happen to me because I would never…”, ” That would never happen to me because I”m not…” etc.
    Comparisons to viewpoints on rape victims and racial minorities, etc. are useful since it’s the same psychological process.

    I think that if London can get a few more high quality cycle routes like the one on the Thames then that will provide opportunities for people who don’t cycle to at least see how it could be. In Vancouver there is the famous Seawall which has been around for decades. Many people cycle on it who don’t cycle anywhere else. People are still under the influence of cultural norms but they do have a little taste of what it could be like.

    I alternate between hope and despair.

    • Guest says:

      I agree it’s something like that, but to link it with vegetarians: both cyclists and vegetarians are doing (or not doing) something (that takes effort) that’s better for the environment (and/or their health – I’m not convinced not eating meat and fish at all is better for your health, but at least you’re paying attention to your diet, so that’s good) – so morally they’re in the right, and the meat-eater/motorist is in the wrong.
      Morally being in the wrong feels uncomfortable, so to feel better, they shift blame, justify their own behavior, etc etc.

      • HivemindX says:

        While I think that cycling is objectively better for the environment and your personal health and this would strongly tend to make it better for society at large I would hesitate to characterise it at morally better for two reasons.

        First of all I don’t really cycle because it is better for the environment, that’s just a side benefit. I primarily do it because it’s cheaper, faster and more pleasant than driving. I like the health benefits as well (post-truth warning: people are saying that cycling is worse for your health than driving now) but purely for selfish reasons, not because I want to reduce strain on the health services. Sure I feel that me choosing to cycle is a benefit to society, but this is mostly just a side effect of my selfish choices. Not very moral really.

        Secondly it sounds quite pretentious and off putting to characterise your behaviour as morally good in my opinion. The second last sentence in my previous paragraph made me cringe a bit when typing and I would never use that argument in a discussion with motorists. I think it would just open the door for me to be ignored based on the fact that “I’m just another smug cyclist who thinks they are saving the planet”.

        Despite bogus studies that try to show the opposite, it is an objective fact that cycling is a better use of resources than driving for lots of uses. I just don’t think it is an effective way to convince people to change, not when we can point to things they are more likely to care about such as expense and convenience. If vegetarianism was far cheaper than eating meat, or if it was far easier to get/prepare a veggie meal than a meaty one then I think it would be far more popular. It seems to me (and I’m not a vegetarian so I haven’t thought about it very much) that the argument that it is morally wrong to raise animals for food isn’t particularly effective at getting people to change their habits.

        • pm says:

          True, proclaiming moral superiority does make one wince and is unlikely to be a successful line of campaigning. But I still think the OP has a point – whether it is or isn’t actually a moral issue (and I don’t think it really is, in that car-culture is just a self-reinforcing system that everyone is trapped in), the fact that some drivers at some level fear that it _might_ be, could well be a factor in creating hostility to cyclists.

        • Mark Williams says:

          Cycling is good for individual health and the environment. Eating lots of vegetables is good for the individual health of the human consumers, but possibly not the global environment given a population of ≥7 gigapeople. Even without mechanised farming and with oily fertiliser, food plants (fruits, vegetables and cereals) have a hard time yielding e.g. on the side of cold dark hills with limited soil which livestock tolerate—and food doesn’t just appear in the shop by magic. So you end up transporting loads of plant-based foods a ~third of the way around the world with fo$$il fuels. The double whammy is that the terrains and climate which are most productive for food crops is the same as that for bio-diesel :-/.

          p.s. Cheer up, it might never happen ;-)!

  10. Martha says:

    What happens really often in London is that a pedestrian will peacefully cross the street when the green light is on and there’s a lunatic cyclist crossing straight in front of him. There is no common sense amongst cyclists. Green means green! I’ve almost been killed. One cyclist once attacked my boyfriend when he tried telling him to be more mindful when cycling. I’ll start caring about cyclists when they start showing some manners.

    • Simon says:

      I think you meant to be on the Daily Mail’s website where you can make random, cliched, anti-cycling comments regardless of the topic actual above the line.

    • Mark Williams says:

      Green means green—and green, in highway signalling terms, means `proceed only if the way is clear’. Your `common sense’ should tell you that the way is not clear if a `lunatic’ cyclist is crossing straight in front of him (you?). Go and check the Highway Code if you don’t believe this. Yes, it does apply to you. I’m glad you find London peaceful, though. Admittedly, not for entirely altruistic reasons…

      Co-incidentally, red doesn’t necessarily mean red if you are a walkist (even one pushing a bicycle), as Baroness Jones and I once had to point out to a slightly over-enthusiastic police employee in London :-)!

      • Gareth Price says:

        You are looking at this from the pedestrian’s point of view and claiming that she should use her common sense and only proceed if the way is clear. But if the light is green for the pedestrian, it must be red for the cyclist. And red definitely doesn’t mean you can run through it if you feel so inclined. So by shifting the responsibility to the pedestrian in this situation, are you not doing exactly what the author of the article is complaining about: ie drivers shifting the responsibility to the cyclist?

        • Mark Williams says:

          1) It might be red now, but was it when the alleged `lunatic’ cyclist started crossing? We’ll have to wait for clarification from Martha—the direction in which each was travelling can’t even be inferred from the original comment.
          2) Walkists can legally walk through red motor traffic lights, as explained. That law might suck, but it has been set up in this way with no regard for vulnerable users.
          3) No, probably not—just declining to rule out the possibility that the mythical cyclist is blameless. You’re not doing the opposite, are you?

          • Gareth Price says:

            I interpreted the comment “Green means green” to imply that the pedestrian had the green light. On a number of occasions I have been almost taken out by cyclists running red lights and weaving between pedestrians. Consequently I was irked by your comment which I thought implied that a pedestrian is responsible for making sure that a cyclist is not running a red light before crossing when the light is green for the pedestrian. Apologies if I misunderstood your position.

    • Mark R says:

      Martha, thank you for demonstrating how prejudice against an out group works first hand.
      You have taken one unfortunate incident (and I would no more defend an aggressive cyclist than I would a dangerous driver) and decided it is the norm and therefore ALL cyclists are the same.

      Try your logic with the colour of someone’s skin and the penny will drop

    • pm says:

      I once got mugged by a pedestrian. I’ll give pedestrians respect when they stop mugging people.

      • pm says:

        Heck, come to think of it, it was one of them bloody pedestrians that started World War One, with his bomb-throwing antics. I’ll respect pedestrians when they stop starting global conflagrations!

        Of course that motorists kill tens of thousands every year in no way affects one’s respect for them.

  11. Terry says:

    Martha, I’ve never done that. But as you don’t care about me, why should I care about you? I won’t be able to recognise you, so I don’t think I’ll stop at any pedestrian lights from now on. After all, all pedestrians are the same, aren’t they?

  12. Chris says:

    Why does everyone always have to look for blame in a situation like this?

    There are plenty of places on my commute where I could ride up the left of stationary traffic, and in doing so, I would be completely blameless, but that’s not going to make it any less painful if someone opens their door and knocks me off, is it?

    Sure, the occupant of the motor vehicle may well be officially to blame if they knock me off with my door, but again, I’m still the one on the floor with the bruises, and the simple fact of life is that most people think to check before opening a door into the middle of the road, but very few think to do so when opening a door towards the pavement, because they simply don’t expect anyone to be there, and 999 times out of a thousand, they’re correct!

    This is my main reason for choosing not to ride up the left hand side of stationary traffic on my commute unless I’m in a marked cycle lane. I don’t want to be lying up with a broken collar bone, consoling myself with the fact that I wasn’t to blame. I’d rather get to my destination in one piece a couple of minutes late.

    • Jitensha Oni says:

      The problem with this line of argument is that it leaves those who haven’t got the message defenceless. And that’s just one road safety message. The idea behind Mark’s posts are generally that this does not have to be the case, we need to employ the principles of Sustainable Safety -people can make mistakes and get to their destinations on time. Ah, I hear you say, but we’re a long way from that yet. We are also a long way from getting everyone not to filter on the nearside, and, given human nature, I would say that we always will be.

      In any case, the Grayling incident occurred 5-10 m away from the start of a mandatory cycle lane running up to a set of cycle signals – the parliamentary vehicle was the penultimate one before the lane and the only one that could have possibly endangered the rider. I think the rider can be excused for trying to get to the lane.

      However, the incident occurred on Abingdon Street which carries in excess of 8000 riders a day (DfT traffic counts AADF 7603), a large number of whom would be nearside filtering in this very scenario (for example, the cycle cameraman who shot the video and didn’t get doored). Unless you’re totally unused to negotiating traffic in Central London you should be very careful about opening doors on the passenger side. This incident shows that Grayling must be unused to traffic in the vicinity of his workplace – and as someone suggested on a different forum, this may be best remedied by parliamentary drivers having the child locks on until the driver, who presumably *is* used to it, deems it safe to disembark. This is despite the increase in bicycle traffic in the area thanks to the superhighways and him being a Transport minister. One of the great successes, and in his position he doesn’t appear to physically appreciate the impact on the ground? Meh. Grayling has, of course, noticed that traffic volume changes impact his journey times, but you don’t need to understand what’s going on outside the back seat of your ride to do that.

    • Alan says:

      It’s a breath of fresh air reading this comment Chris. Such a clear and sensible view of self preservation.

    • pm says:

      I just don’t think that stance is truly coherent.

      Firstly, what do you do where the marked cycle lane keeps stopping and starting, with gaps as large as the lengths of lane? Do you really just cycle ten yards then stop dead, repeatedly?

      Secondly, everyone constantly makes trade-offs with maximum safety vs actually getting somewhere. The obvious one to make is to choose not to cycle at all, but walk or drive (or, if you don’t care if the journey takes you the rest of your life while you slowly choke on recycled diesel fumes, get the bus!).

      How come you don’t endorse that one? Why is your particular balance point – with its stop-start approach to cycling – self-evidently the ‘correct’ one, as opposed to the one most people choose (not cycling at all)?

      Particularly as you can’t really believe that merely not filtering on the left will ensure you are never injured on the roads.

      This is important, because by shifting, as you do here, the responsibility onto the cyclist, you are reinforcing the majority decision that its better to not cycle at all.

  13. Unfortunately, this has degenerated into a bit of cyclist vs. non-cyclists argument, with predictable attribution of blame. I think its important not to lose sight of the fact that he is Transport Minister – responsible for all forms of transport in the UK. In the same way, that people would condemn a Treasury minister for paying cash to avoid tax, or a Home Office minister for employing an illegal immigrant, shouldn’t we expect a Transport Minister to behave in an exemplary way on transport matters?

    • Mark Williams says:

      By this point, what the plebs expect is largely irrelevant. In any case, they will expect whatever the media narrative instructs them to expect and be grateful for it! That, in turn, will depend on which political `party’ or old boys club is involved. Given the presence of multiply-disgraced Liam Fox, Bixi Johnson et al in the sleaze cabinet, one wonders why Chris Grayling is even bothered about witnesses to his criminality…

  14. SteveP says:

    Oh dear, I’m afraid references to Dr. Ian Walker set off alarm bells with me. But I suppose his work at least highlights the challenges of cycling. And it is probably not his fault his flawed “research” (I would call it “observations”) on the effect of helmet use on driver behaviour are trotted out ad naseum by the anti-helmet brigade.

    No matter, your comments are accurate, although you do fail to mention the minority of urban cyclists that ride either so aggressively it is difficult for other road users to know what their intentions are, or so cluelessly that their daily survival becomes a kind of miracle. Dedicated bike lanes protect the latter, but the former will be out cutting up traffic and proving who has the larger seatpost regardless.

    As a long-time cyclist, motorcyclist and driver, let me offer a suggestion. Any road user over (or under) taking another needs to be extra vigilant for the potential of others not being aware of them. This does not absolve Mr Grayling of any responsibility nor does it place any blame on the cyclist. In fact, I would say the cyclist was following this procedure, fortunately.

    And again, the many flaws in UK road legislation need to be addressed to ensure the “rules” are spelled out for all users – none of this “Well, it’s not *illegal*….” as these grey areas just play into the hands of the powerful as escape clauses.

    • pm says:

      There isn’t an ‘anti-helmet brigade’. There’s a very substantial helmet-promoter/compulsory-helmet-demanding/victim-blamer brigade, and a number of people who get annoyed by them and oppose them, in particular opposing legal compulsion. But very few people are ‘anti-helmet’. That’s more of a platoon at most.

      Plus most of us who dislike helmet-pushing are well-aware that Ian Walker’s one study was only that – one study, a very small one, and not to be over-emphasised. How you take your dislike of hearing that study referred to too often (and it does get referred to too frequently as if its more significant than it is, but that’s internet arguments for you) as somehow discrediting Dr Walker personally is beyond me.

      And thanks for your suggestion. I’m sure all us other cyclists have never thought about that and I’m sure your advice will be game changing and create mass cycling culture and reduce the tends of thousands of pollution deaths and thousands of road deaths in no time.

      • pm says:

        …Hmmm…I regret the sheer snideness of that final paragraph, by the way. Apologies. Was in a bad mood for other reasons. The only issue really is that I think we just have different priorities.

      • HivemindX says:

        I would go so far as to say there is nobody who is “anti-helmet”, well, maybe Mikael Colville-Andersen. I am very happy for people to wear helmets if it makes them feel better. I wear a helmet every time for mountain biking and I wear it on the road if I am going a long distance or the weather conditions are bad.

        I am against laws that would require me to wear a helmet to go 500m to the shops on quiet residential roads. I am against laws that would cripple bike share schemes. I am against the insinuation that if a cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet when whatever happened to them was their own fault. When people, most often motorists, proclaim that “if it improved safety even a tiny bit, you’d be crazy not to do it” I can’t resist asking them if they wear a car helmet and then quoting their statements back at them.

        I would love for someone to repeat the Walker study, or a similar thing, to get more evidence. Not that it should matter really. We are living post-fact now. A spokesman for the AA recently stated that a family car is no more polluting than the family that rides around in it.

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