Cycling in to work this morning I saw a kamikaze cyclist – in his forties, on a little fold-up bike, whizzing down the inside of traffic, whooshing through red lights, and generally acting like a drunken bluebottle. You always get these cyclists on a morning commute, and it’s always the same: you overtake them, then get to the next set of lights. They go past you. The lights change, you overtake them, you get to the next set of lights. They go past you. He was dressed in high-vis and had a helmet on, but was in much more danger than me, because he’s shit at cycling.
Determined to prove my point, he went through some lights just outside our office on York Way, just as a large truck turned in to him off Goodsway. He blinked at it in surprise, and continued on his way.
I wrote a piece on city cycling for the guardian’s bike blog last week, and as always the comment section descended into the ‘cyclists go through the lights’ debate. It’s inevitable, like how any thread on fascism will descend into ‘well Hitler was actually a socialist’, or how any debate on Obama ends up being about whether he’s really a Muslim Marxist from Kenya*.
My take on it is complicated: not every cyclist that goes through red lights is as shit as the gentleman outlined above; some of them are experienced cyclists who know what they’re doing, and will only pass through when it’s clearly safe to do so. I personally don’t, partly because junctions and intersections in this city are confusing, and I’m never comfortable enough to know where exactly the traffic is coming from; partly because I can feel the seething rage of the drivers of the white vans that surround; and partly because it doesn’t really save much time and seems pretty pointless, and anyway I’m a decent law-abiding type. There’s a decent argument to allow cyclists to turn left at red lights, though I worry this would add to the fury felt from pedestrians and motorists alike. The introduction of the Boris Bikes have added to the chaos – they are generally directed by people unfamiliar with the dangers of London roads, but bumble around merrily enough, making us all feel safety in numbers.
What I’m trying to say is, things are getting better, despite the odd loon.
* For what it’s worth, I think the Nazis were definitely socialists. How could they not be? They called themselves “National Socialists” after all. Oh, and Obama is clearlyy a Marxist Muslim. The beard gives it away.