The real problem with the cyclist vs. motorists war

I was biking to work this morning, waiting at a stop light. A pedestrian crossed on his red, whilst the traffic light went from red/orange to green. The pedestrian held up traffic and a cyclist said “red light, mate” (a.k.a “get the fuck off the road”), and of course the pedestrian replied with “suck my dick”. Lovely.

Then, another cyclist said to the cyclist who was offered services from the pedestrian said, “let him cross!”. I biked away not knowing (or caring) who was in the wrong, more so baffled at the reactions.  When it comes to the roads, people can be dicks. People don’t like criticism or when rules are not followed.  Or people just don’t like it when the rules don’t rule in their favour. Any grey space between the rules makes the world freak out. The real problem with the war between cyclists and motorists is that it’s a war in the first place.

An ongoing debate

Last Monday another cyclist was hit in London by…any guesses? A lorry. The cyclist is alive, albeit in critical in hospital, nevertheless – this is not a new story. The write up in the Evening Standard brought about an energetic conversation in the comments section.

Lycra Mob, vindictive black cab driver, idiot cyclist - some of many common names and insults thrown around. Those in conjunction with sarcastic, demeaning, narrow-minded, and absolutist comments from people who are never wrong and always right and anyone who disagrees is a Tory-praising, black cab driving savage or an uneducated, folded-bike riding hippie who occupies St Paul's. Honestly, they’re all fucking idiots and the collective unproductive conversation makes me want to live on a farm and ride horses everywhere, away from cyclists and motorists.

The focus is so predominantly on whether it was the cyclist's fault or the lorry driver's fault - someone always has to be in the wrong. Always. As humans, we love binaries and hate grey. We love certainty and can't stand ambiguity. Binaries confirm or deny someone’s sense of opinion, and to an extent, their sense of self. That’s why we argue. We fight for our voice to be validated. So, naturally, when it comes to this bullshit debate of cyclists vs. motorists we are about as productive as the Greek economy.

Can't we all just get along?

I am a cyclist in London and when I bike I often loathe some drivers and when I drive I often loathe some cyclists. But what I try my hardest to do is never react, but sit with my thoughts and really question what is going on.  We’re all inherently subject to in-group and out-group prejudices. So, as various road user groups grow and change, there are more conflicts based on our inherent, irrational, and unproductive prejudices.

The above was posted to Carlton Reid's Flickr account, highlighting diversity among cyclists as a 'group'. He states "27 folks on bikes: some in helmets, most not; some in hi-vis, most not; some on fixies, most not. None on the pavement, none going through the red light. Two 'cycle chic' women; otherwise mostly men, but not one in Lycra. A pair of sandals but not worn by the only hippie. Perhaps oddly there's not one folding bike to be seen, and no Boris bikes either."

The above was posted to Carlton Reid's Flickr account, highlighting diversity among cyclists as a 'group'. He states "27 folks on bikes: some in helmets, most not; some in hi-vis, most not; some on fixies, most not. None on the pavement, none going through the red light. Two 'cycle chic' women; otherwise mostly men, but not one in Lycra. A pair of sandals but not worn by the only hippie. Perhaps oddly there's not one folding bike to be seen, and no Boris bikes either."

Conflicts fuel prejudices and we have conflicts because the situation for most road users is pretty awful. We hear of plans to make roads better for all users but nothing is immediate so in the mean time we have to do something to get along. So when it comes to cycling and driving, and when rules are not followed, emotions get the better of everyone. Sure, there are rules that are there for safety. I get that. But there are also many instances where both motorists and cyclists don’t help themselves. Running lights, blocking roads, tailgating, tire tacks, etc. I won't bore you with details but the culture on the roads is godawful. I get that motorists have a much greater danger to people if they screw up, and that is something that should always be considered.

Now I’m not calling for peace and love, I’m just calling for some damn respect. For all road users. No, dick, you do not need to run through the red when it’s a pedestrian crossing and no, dick, you do not need honk at cyclists when they move in the middle of a very narrow street for their safety.

Don't be a wanker

Safe Cycling Australia had a great segment on the number one rule for all road users – Don’t be a wanker.

As road users, while infrastructure is debated in City Hall and councils, we need to be fluid, flexible, and respectful until we have better facilities. Better facilities will come and they will benefit us, our city, and more importantly, our environment. We can’t tear each other up online or on the road. We can’t continue to be selfish and idiotic on roads and with modes of transport that can kill. Ending your journey, knocked off your bike, in a hospital, or in a coffin is never worth making that orange light.  


This article was written by Duncan Hall - @duncanfhall / Duncan's personal blog

Rob

Brighton, United Kingdom