Wednesday 1 June 2011

Has this blog got it wrong?

I'm sure there are those that read this blog and think I talk a load of rubbish. But, leaving modesty aside, most that read this blog agree with 'most' of the points I make. I get my fair share of virtual head nodding. When that happens it makes me feel good.

That is exactly what is wrong with this blog. Like I suggested in my previous blog about bike week, I too am most often preaching to the converted. I've never researched it, but I can safely say that the vast majority of the demographic that reads this blog are cyclists.

That's great. Together we can formulate ideas, agree on the risks and benefits, and generally pat each others backs. But in the grand scheme of things, what does that achieve?

Absolutely nothing. It's a bit like a tree falling in a forest hundreds of miles from anyone. It will have made a lot of noise, but no-one who can clear up the mess will ever hear it.  

Unless of course, we go out and spread the good news to those that don't cycle, and have never even considered it as an option.

This is where the thinking for my last few posts has come from. To make cycling safe, we need to do two simple things:

1) Convert more drivers to cyclists. The more cyclists there are the safer we all are.

2) Ensure that those drivers who don't cycle or who never want to cycle, like us. If drivers like us, i.e. realise that one more cyclist is one less car holding them up, then maybe they would treat us better.

So what do we need to do to achieve these goals? I'll be exploring that over the next few blog posts, hopefully with your help. Converting drivers to cyclists is probably the easiest to achieve. Perhaps my Critical Pass idea is one way of converting a few drivers, although knowing that some drivers don't like cyclists filtering, and are inexplicably fearful of it, that could backfire. I don't think it would enamour us to many drivers.  

Another idea that has been suggested in the comments of my previous post is setting up Celebration Stations on bike/car commuter routes. These stations would provide goodies, food and vouchers etc for the cyclists using the route, all in clear view of the drivers stuck in the queue next to the station. That is a very interesting idea and might help with conversion. Would they like us more though?

Maybe to get them to like us we need to..... yes we need to keep to the rules, but more than that, we need to show them that more cyclists on the road is a good thing for them. One less car in the queue. How do we do that?

I'm also trying to think of ways of getting leaflets or something similar to drivers stuck in the jams? How do you do that without annoying the drivers or getting on the wrong side of the law? What would the leaflets say? It is suggested that safety is the number 1 concern stopping people taking up cycling. Perhaps it would provide detail on the risks of not cycling!

So, go on my cycling readers (and any non-cycling readers!), what do you think of these ideas, and do you have any of your own?


  1. To be quite honest, I think you're just encouraging the “them and us” mentality. I don’t think it matters whether or not drivers “like us”, or want to be “like us”, what’s important is that we all treat other road users / people with respect regardless of choice of transport.

    Quite frankly, I don’t care if people drive, or cycle, or walk, as long as they don’t kill anyone along the way.

  2. There could be many ways to convert the motorist to adopt the ways of the cyclist, but I think the price of petrol, Car Tax and rising cost of insurance will force many to use a bike, running a car to work and back is starting to eat into people wages so those that live in say 5mile radius of where they work it would become more viable to buy a bike even those that work further a field could be tempted. May be we should start to promote bike for work , car for weekends. Change the mindsets a little :)

  3. Like it or not we are different. You are correct that we are all road users and the form of transport shouldn't matter, but riding a bike on the road is very different to driving a car on the road. As a cyclist you are significantly more vulnerable if things go wrong, so we do need to be treated differently.

    It's a fact, that the more people cycle the safer the roads are. It has been researched. It's also a fact that most drivers have never cycled on busy roads and so don't always appreciate the issues. Therefore the more drivers that also cycle then the safer the roads are.

    I am in fact trying to blur the edges of us and them, by making them, us, and vice versa.

    I drive a car as well.

  4. Hi

    the problem is as described, drivers in cars don't give enough space for cyclists end of, they don't want to get caught behind us and when they do try and get past they give us so little room some of the moves are in desperation (found your blog after getting cut up and looking for a camera)

    I've spoken to car drivers at my work who live 4-5 miles away and aren't interested as it involves to much effort.

    the only way would be to make them aware of the space required as we can't always ride in the bike lane (as proved in your videos) or there is none is to put them on a bike and show them what its like,

    i dont see any other way as car drivers dont care and want to get where ever they are going yesterday, leaflets will just get binned.

    i'm a car driver my self for weekends,

    keep up the fight though as i hate being cut up

  5. In Montreal they run Operation Dring Dring, in conjunction with Starbucks-type cafe's and at street corners on regular cycle commute routes they offer free coffee and croissants, and place to sit and chat and take in the drivers sitting in the adjacent queues who cannot get out to grab a cup.

    Locations could be directly outside (Beanscene on Woodlands Road) or at a prominent junction (a picnic on the grass of Charing Cross traffic islands) perhaps with a message Cycle commuting - Freedom to be flexible or fast, without the frustration of traffic queues.

    NB many food outlets will offer a supply of soft drinks like this in return for the issue of lead-in next buy offers - a voucher for a free roll when you buy that next cup of coffee from their counter.

    The sight of cyclists being able to stop and enjoy a coffee and chat will show how much better thay would be riding, and the key points might post up cycle journey times to and from that location (Only 3 minutes to Argyle Street from here by bike - every time)

  6. The problem you have is that motorists do not see cycling as a credible means of transport but rather a leisure activity that should take part on an off road space such as a mountain bike track or the canal. Your argument was lost in the eighties with the introduction of mountain and all terrain bikes. Even the bus adverts by cycling scotland dont show an adult but rather a child "playing" on a bike. You need to get away from confrontation and get the argument into the car park. Whats more attractive a fat guy in a beemer or a fit guy in Lycra.

  7. Hi

    1 - No one has ever thought to encourage the purchase of electric bicycles for commuting? All those drivers who live five miles from their jobs they won't even notice all the way with an electric bike. The government should encourage this choice, contributing to the purchase of electric bicycles.

    2 - I never hear about pollution from traffic: there is someone who cares to measure smog in cities ? When you say "cycling is benefits the environment" you forget that traffic is the most producer of smog who the cyclist breathe every day. So, bicycle keeps you fit, but what is inside your lungs ?

    Please, think about it.


  9. electriccyclist, theres been a recent scheme down here in hampshire where a bike shop handed out electric bikes for this reason

    if your in the uk

    so its out there, just needs more ads

  10. @ Chris

    Beautiful news! Thank you.
    50 miles for three months is not very much, but is a good starting.

  11. I drive, and cycle. It's only in recent years that I've done much road riding/transport cycling (where previously I would ride xc for pleasure) and it has made me far more aware of cyclist safety. I honestly can't remember how I drove near cyclists - which probably means I didn't have them to mind, or think of how much more vulnerable the cyclist is... So getting that point across is so important. One thought is utilising those matrix message boards. We have quite a few on our major routes in and out of Barnstaple and they quite often have pointless messages displayed like "lower carbon, lower cost" ( which means what to mr and mrs joe public?......)

    A good pro-cycling/safety statement or would be a good idea? Or "Google MAGNATOM" perhaps!


    The camera cyclists are great, it's probably the closest a non-cyclist

  12. P.s. After starting a local cycling safety campaign in the local paper I started a Facebook group "give cyclists space" I have about 2000 members, but I think about 99% of them are cyclists!

    We have lots of "think bike" tv/ radio campaigns....including the one giving them all names and stories (as figures show that someone who knows a motorcyclist understand their vulnerabilities and and make a concerted effort to look for them at junctions etc.) I assume the same can be said for for family/friends of cyclists/drivers who cycle so a good POSITIVE NOT PREACHING TV campaign would help?


  13. @electriccyclist-that was a really good idea you had about government subsidies for electric bikes. In the US, electric car owners get subsidized-why not electric bike owners? Hmmm-sounds like something worth looking into.....