Wednesday, 1 August 2012

"I HATE cyclists the way they swarm my car like the plague, they have no awareness of sharing the road": A whopping 55% of people think the government SHOULD do more to promote cycling. Just more swarms or time for real bicycling infrastructure?

Cyclists 'swarming my car' as posted by @pinkosi25 on twitter. This is the scene at Vauxhall Cross most mornings

Pictured above, a fairly typical scene at Vauxhall Cross, as photographed by a driver calling herself @pinkosi25 on twitter. She posted this picture as an attachment to a message that read: ""I HATE cyclists the way they swarm my car like the plague, they have no awareness of sharing the road". 

So far, so Daily Mail, you might think. 

The thing is, as someone who cycles and drives in London, I can just about understand where she's coming from. Putting aside my cycling hat for a minute, I can see how some drivers (especially those who have no experience of cycling through horrific junctions like Vauxhall) don't understand how to drive around people on bikes. Why are all these bikes in the way, they ask? How did they get there? 

Well, that's because the roads are designed that way. They are actually designed to make driving worse for drivers and cycling worse for cyclists. 

Let's just look at this junction in a bit more detail. There are two alternatives at this junction:

Vauxhall Cross protected bike lane.
Bollards, give way in every direction. Insane.
a) Use the (rare) protected bike lane. 

If you're going in a straight line, using the protected cycle lane here means you give way at traffic lights SEVEN times versus TWICE on the road. Each traffic light is absolutely full with pedestrians at rush hour and you have to hustle your way through lots of grumbling. You even have to give way two more times on the cycle track - to a car park exit. Who is going to give way nine times over a few hundred yards and put up with the sense that they shouldn't be on the shared bike/pedestrian crossings, when they can simply stick to the main road and only stop a couple of times? 

Pictured left, another part of the Vauxhall bike track. Imagine driving down something like this. Give way on a pavement to motors coming from behind you and from the side road. Then dodge the pillars. Then rejoin the tiny bit of cycle path by dodging the two-way warning sign and then drop immediately back on to the road, with cars racing up behind you while having to give way to the bus stop directly in front of you. It's insane. 

b) Alternatively, use the main road. 

You need nerves of steel and the ability to speed off in front of the cars. Just imagine (if you've never ridden a bike) what it's like to have a row of cars behind you, almost all of them trying to push past you, change lanes and whizz to the next set of lights on a SIX lane motorway-style junction. 

My conclusion is that the road design actually encourages cyclists NOT to use the cycle track and encourages cyclists to actively put themselves in front of car drivers like @pinkosi25.

There are lots of people like @pinkosi25. Lots of them profess to "HATE" cyclists. Some of them even love Bradley Wiggins and hate all other cyclists. 

A bit part of me wonders if these people really 'hate' cyclists. Or whether they hate the insane road conditions just as much as I do.

After all, who or what is a 'cyclist'? There are some astonishing figures in a poll published today by YouGov and The Sunday Times. A whopping 52% of Britons surveyed by the poll would be interested in cycling to work but say it's either not 'practical' or - just as importantly - not 'safe'. Looking at the example above, it's no surprise many people think cycling isn't practical or safe

Asked 'Do you think the government should or should not do more to promote cycling?' a stonking 55% of respondents said that the government should do more to promote cycling.

Question is, what will the government do? So far London has got £15million to sort out some junctions. Literally a handful of junctions, though. Transport for London has updated its website this week with detailed plans showing what junctions it will improve and when it hopes to get round to making those changes. But a few junctions just in London is not going to encourage the 52% of people who would consider cycling to work to make the switch. And the money doled out by the Department for Transport for the rest of the country for cycling is frankly pathetic. If you look at outer London, Boris Johnson has committed only a few hundred thousand pounds for a handful of boroughs to squabble over. Serious infrastructure means serious money.

People are beginning to say that things have to change. Up to 55% of them, by the sounds of it.

We need a wholescale shift in how we look at our roads and who we design our roads for. Until then, we'll just have to wobble along on our bikes, "sharing" the road with people who think we are like a 'swarm' and 'hate' us simply for being in their way. Not a recipe for good and safe cycling, I'm afraid.


Meanwhile, in a short footnote, I can't say enough just how fantastic today's Olympics have been. Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, frankly unbelievable results today. Wahay!!!


  1. Our road structure is everyone's problem. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorist of all types, really should get together and all lobby for a real infrastructure.

    It's no good motorists continually bringing up the bad points of cyclists that break the law. I break the law by riding on pavements because I simply will not risk my life on fast roads. Does that make me a bad cyclist? or just someone with a strong survival sense?

    Everyone has to give way to cars. Pedestrians have to sometimes walk miles out of their way to cross a road, and even then they have to really keep their wits about them.

    Cyclists have to risk their lives at all times, especially at junctions.

    Motorists have to constantly be on the look out for cyclists. They don't really want to kill us.

    Pedestrians shouldn't have to share with faster moving cycles and cycles shouldn't have to share with faster moving vehicles.

    What is stupid is the fact that it's only cyclists that seem to see the sense of this and it's only the voice of cyclists that can be heard shouting. Pedestrians and motorists alike should also be shouting loudly for separate infrastructure for us all.

  2. I've always been of an opinion that ASLs put cyclists in conflict with the drivers because of how different cycles move - we flow constantly, at low speeds, so we need a route with few interruptions. Time to realize what has been known as a fact in NL for decades - segregating traffic benefits all.

  3. I make the point in a recent article posted on the Movement for Liveable London website, quoting Cycling: the way ahead, that the greatest threat to cyclists in the built-up area comes not from the motor vehicle, but from longheld prejudices.

    In overcoming these prejudices, George Harrison might be on the right track:

    But it's gonna take money
    A whole lotta spending money
    Its gonna take plenty of money
    To do it right, child

    Its gonna take time
    A whole lot of precious time
    Its gonna take patience and time, ummm
    To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it,
    To do it right!

    You point out that the treatment of a few junctions here and there is not going to encourage the 52% of people who would consider cycling to work to make the switch. "Question is," you ask, "what will the government do?" The key, surely, is sustained investment.

    By the way, I have just heard that a cyclist was killed this evening close to the Olympic Park. The highs and lows of cycling in Britain all in one day.

  4. Good post. This junction and gyratory is one of the worst in London, there needs to be a superhighway style land right through this junction (heading straight on) but I doubt it will ever happen. Coming back the other way, cyclists are specifically prohibited from taking a 2 metre shortcut that allows them to cut out the whole roundabout by going through the bus station. Needless to say, many ignore this. Lambeth's plans for the junction are interesting...

  5. I agree with what the driver said (although maybe not the way they said it) - some junctions are so choked with cyclists it requires a lot of concentration to safely negotiate it. A common problem is cyclists filtering up the left at the same time as cars are trying to turn left and it only takes a momentary lapse in concentration for a cyclist to get left hooked.

    Drivers can't take all the blame as a number of cyclists do seem to think they must always at all costs filter on the left, but this is also a good way of getting drivers to agree that segregated cycle infrastructure is good for both them and cyclists. If there was a cycle path on the side of the road then this wouldn't happen!

    PS, so sad to read about the cyclist who died at the Olympic Park yesterday :(.

  6. @anonymous Interesting that you raise the point about cyclists being prohibited from going through Vauxhall bus station. I thankfully no longer have to pass through Vauxhall on my daily cycle commute, but I remember the happy day when a fellow cyclist showed my the route through the bus station, thus saving my the terrifying trip around the roundabout to get to Wandsworth Road. I subsequently used that shortcut for about a year and never saw a cyclist stopped by the police during that time. Perhaps something they opted to turn a blind eye to, as they realised it was a much safer was of negotiating the roundabout?

  7. A comment on the Olympic Park accident from someone who was cycling alongside the guy just before he died:

  8. I wonder if the driver considered just way the cyclists are able to swarm around her car? Could it be that it's because they aren't made to endure the constant stop/start she has to put up with when driving in town? I wonder if she'd complain about being swarmed by cars when sat surrounded by stationary traffic?

    From what I can see the cyclists are making good use of the ASL by spreading out across it's full width rather then bunching up down the left (although I can't be certain, rather narrow angle!)

  9. I agree that infrastructure is one of the biggest issues.
    But until it is improved, we have what we have, and I think some perspective and better governance should be incorporated into everybody's psyche.
    Changing the attitude towards cyclists


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