Red Lights, Zebra Crossings and Pavements: Cyclists in London

 

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A Zebra Crossing in London

 

I wish these things didn’t bother me but they do. Sitting on the bus in traffic on the way into work in the morning. Red lights at Kentish Town, a flurry of cyclists, some in high-vis jackets, lycra and sleek helmets, some on vintage bikes with wicker baskets on the front, some on those fold up bikes pedaling twice as hard and others on third-hand mountain bikes, they all just keep riding across the busy intersection, jumping the red light. The pack of them weaving in between the scattered pedestrians trying to cross the road before the Green Man flashes back to red.

 

I wish I could cycle in London. I used to love cycling back home in the countryside, but as a country person transplanted to the city four years ago, I’m still scared of crossing the road sometimes, much to my boyfriend’s amusement, so cycling on it would scare me to death. 

I cannot help myself, I get angry about it all. Tutting with the fervency of a woodpecker and rolling my eyes like a bowling ball rolling languidly down the gutter.

When I tweeted about what some cyclists do I got a few random haters (with bikes as their profile pics) telling me I should be complaining about car drivers who drink drive, run red lights, cause accidents through stupidity. With only space for 140 characters, there’s just no room to tweet about everyone who is awful. The use of the word some to qualify I wasn’t talking about all cyclists let me off the hook (I was told by another twitter user with a bike as their profile pic). That aggressive attitude says a lot. Searching twitter for mentions of the word “cyclists” and then jumping down that person’s throat for tweeting something is a bizarre thing to do.

The fact is, I don’t know what it’s like to be a cyclist in London. I’d love to have that freedom, but I don’t have the confidence to take those sorts of risks. Ultimately cyclists aren’t really supposed to run red lights are they? And they are supposed to stop at Zebra crossings when people are crossing aren’t they? Like cars (mostly) do. And cyclists aren’t allowed to cycle on the pavement are they? Especially weaving through a crowded pavement at speed. In the short walk from my bus stop to work I see all of this behaviour most mornings. I also see people rent Boris Bikes from a stand right near Euston Square station and then either cycle on the pavement or cycle the wrong way down a one way street.

I get very angry about this these days and it’s making me sad. I’m starting to say things to cyclists in the street if they’re breaking the rules. Recently when I was crossing at the zebra crossing right by my office building’s front door, I was half way across and a cyclist clearly wasn’t paying attention, she managed only just to stop before hitting me. She was very apologetic but I was grumpy and said to her, “JUST FORGET IT”. As I walked onto the pavement and into the entrance hall, she cycled up onto the pavement and FOLLOWED ME INTO THE ENTRANCE HALL OF THE BUILDING. I didn’t realise this was happening until I got into the lift in the foyer, turned around and saw her sitting there on her bike saying sorry as the doors closed.

I don’t hate cyclists. At all. I just don’t like rule breakers of any kind. I am essentially still the kid from primary school who would start up the chorus of “UMMMMMMMMM” when someone else said a naughty word. I am the person who will give people dagger looks if they don’t respect the bus queue, or the Pret queue or the Starbucks queue. My rage at impropriety on the Underground is well documented.

The other day I was coming up to a different zebra crossing with two cycle lanes on either side. I could tell this particular cyclist was not going to stop but there was a woman and child already crossing from the other side. Because there were cars on the road, they couldn’t see that someone was cycling towards them. The cyclist could see that I was waiting to cross, but had decided not to stop for me and obviously not considered that someone might already be crossing. I shouted “WATCH OUT!” to the cyclist, who completely ignored me and cycled on through, luckily the woman and child had heard me as well and stopped. It could have been quite a bad accident.

All I want to say is that the selfish-driven-blinkered way we are all forced to behave in London should not extend to road safety.  We need to all look out for each other. Cyclists especially. If cars have stopped at a zebra crossing or a red light that means you probably should too. Cars don’t tend to drive at full speed down pavements either, so perhaps you should reconsider that one too. And my fellow pedestrians, perhaps if we all nag cyclists who we see aren’t behaving, that might make them stop? Maybe they’ll follow us up onto the pavement to offer a face to face apology.

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