Cyclecrafty

The Hat writes:

I fear I might be wading into dangerous waters myself here but—notwithstanding the beauties of the canal route—when you go up Woodstock Road, why *don’t* you use the cycle path?

Right. I wasn’t going to; I really wasn’t. But here it is. I’m aware that the Damerells and statisthickians use dolly-dimple mathematics and mad pseudo-science like “risk homeostasis” to blare on like an AirZound about how they never wear cycle helmets, which are an international conspiracy along the lines of fluorinated water and metal fillings, and I wouldn’t want to rank perpetually among their number, but you asked for it so I’ll start with a mean.

  1. Statistically they’re no safer (I don’t feel particularly safer on the pavement either). The idea that cyclists are safer on the pavement is based on skewed thinking, that maybe conflates all moving road objects into ideal traffic quanta. Cars are almost certainly safer if they’re on the pavement: safer to themselves, at any rate, because they tend to be the biggest, most visible, hardest, least stoppable item on the pavement for a good few metres around. Cyclists don’t have the same advantages.
  2. The one type of car/cycle accident they reduce is the rear hit, the one least likely to happen (although not, it seems, to me, but there’s no accounting for illegal manoeuvres and a pavement won’t help you there).
  3. Most car/cycle accidents occur at junctions: if I use the road I have priority all the way up the cycle path; if I use the cycle path I have to cede right of way a good dozen times.
  4. From the depths of my anecdotage, I notice that a morning doesn’t go by when a car doesn’t whip into one of the side roads; or a pedestrian wander across the pavement—which is perfectly allowed, but I don’t want to have to share a pavement with someone doing that when I don’t need to.
  5. Then there’s oncoming cyclists, often two abreast with small children. Looking back at said children, but ploughing on regardless.
  6. And of course pedestrians, bus stops, more children, dogs, lamp-posts, bollards, badly-repaired road works, paths that stop in the middle of nowhere, or turn suddenly onto a street, more dogs, icy conditions, cars parked half on the pavement, bits of rubble, bins, litter, branches, kerbs….

John Franklin puts it best in Cyclecraft:

The result of [roadside cycle paths] is not only a slower and more submissive journey for the cyclist; it also removes much of the burden for taking care from others, and places virtually all the responsibility for avoiding a crash on [the cyclist’s] shoulders. On the road, not only would you be more likely to receive a clear passage… but there would be the important safeguard of others being obliged to take care in case you err.

And that obligation is what infuriates people. It infuriated the Royal Mail van that hooted at me last Friday; it infuriated the bus driver that swore (blind) at H.B. a few days ago, that his (H’s) cycling on the road was illegal if there was a cycle path. How dare I remind them of their legal obligations? Who do I think I am?

(And, yes, before you ask, I could go on. But I think that by now you’re happy to trust me on that one, aren’t you?)

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