I'm sure there are those that would suggest I am. I'm a vigilante. I'm out looking for trouble. I'm a menace. I've been called that and a lot worse. However, the question in this blog is more general.
Are cyclists a hazard?
It's a bit of a strange question really when you look at the definition of the word hazard. Looking here at the free dictionary gives a few different definitions, but they all seem to focus on the fact that a hazard is something that is a possible source of danger. It's something that represents some sort of risk to others.
Are cyclists really a source of danger?
I'm asking this question because I came across an article in one of my local papers that suggests that this might be the case. It's actually a good news article telling us about residents of a local community (Balmore) are wanting to force drivers to slow down on the local roads.
Seriously, it is good. In fact I commute on a very short section of that road and pass the church in the article's picture. Drivers do speed down that road, and it is tight and twisty.
What is interesting though is the use of language in the article. A quote from one of the local community council explains the issue and points out that the real menace are drivers who speed on roads that are not suitable for high speeds. That's spot on. However, the council representative then goes on to say,
Add to that the potential hazard posed by cyclists, walkers and even livestock on the road and it’s clearly an accident waiting to happen.
Oh good, it's not just cyclists then. Walkers and livestock are hazards as well.
Let's be fair here, I am absolutely sure that the community council spokesperson had the absolute best intentions when they made that statement, but it really is an interesting use of language.
Well, it gets to the very heart of what people think that roads are actually there for. They are there for cars. We have all become completely accustomed to cars taking the pride of place on the roads. Even drivers who speed and drive dangerously have more 'right' to be on the road.
Everything else is a hazard to the drivers.
This is actually so important that I think I need to reiterate this:
Roads are for cars, everything else is a hazard.
Being brought up in the UK, you, me , everyone here has been exposed to the motor cars dominance for all of our lives. We have grown up to accept that and to embrace that. Not only has the very environment that we live in been shaped and reshaped to suit the car, even our language has as well. Drivers don't crash, it's cars who crash. Drivers don't kill, it's cars that kill. Oh and I'm not a fan of the use of the word accident either.
Our language has evolved to take blame away from those that control the car and to place it firmly with the car itself. Read the article again. The article opens by telling us that it is not drivers speeding, it's cars that are speeding. Yes the article then goes on to explain that the car itself might not be at fault, and that they are controlled by a person, but the driver and the car are almost interchangeable when it comes to blame.
So who is the real hazard here?
The correct answer is not cars. Cars if left to their own devices are actually pretty tame creatures. They don't tend to do very much on their own.
Is it drivers then?
No, not really. I'm a driver, you are probably a driver, in fact most of us will be. We as a group are not the problem. The real hazard are people who, when they are in control of a potentially lethal weapon do not drive that vehicle with the respect it deserves. Those same people might sometimes cycle. The difference is that when these people ride a bike they are nearly always putting themselves at risk and not those around them (with rare exceptions of course).
What about pedestrians and sheep?
I think you'll know the answer to that one by now. They aren't a hazard, they are something that is to be encourages and respected.....well ok, I'm not sure sheep need encouragement or respect, but they do taste nice.
So people of Balmore, well done on your initiative. You have my full support. Just remember that the people on bikes, the people who walk and even perhaps the sheep, are not a hazard, they are your friends, or Sunday lunch.
Now where's the mint sauce.....