The Motorcycle Diatribes #2: Pedal Cyclists

I applaud, admire and respect those who ride their cycles, particulary in Central London.  Fitness, environmental footprint, reduced congestion … there is so much to recommend it.  I sometimes toy with the idea of creating a “Cycle Friendly Motorcyclist” logo or movement to show some solidarity among two wheeled road users.  I like to give them plenty of room and try to make their lives as easy as possible.  (This tends to actually annoy other motorcyclists and cars from time to time, in fact).  At SAS, where I work, we subsidise our pedal cyclists, with pride.

[Over the short run (say, 200-300 meters) they can make much better progress than a motorcycle, in fact, although at any distance over that the motorcycle will invariably gain the sustained speed advantage, though they hate to admit it…]

Except, of course, for the militant 10% who should have their bicycles melted and poured down their throats.  I admit I sometimes fantasize about seeing how quickly a 167kg 109 horsepower motorcycle can crush a pedal cycle and its self-righteous rider, savouring their look of horrified, indignant surprise as they go down after blocking a line of traffic for two blocks.

Let’s face it: Drivers hate them.  Motorcyclists hate them.  Pedestrians hate them.  Even other cyclists hate them. This probably eggs them on.  I suspect they’re that personality type.

You (and they) know who they are:  the self-righteous, lane-hogging, deliberately-obstructionist-to-make-some-sort-of-statement, aggressive pedal cyclists who aren’t just getting from point A to point B, or “doing their bit” and staying fit — they have a mission.  They have something to prove.  They are on a bicycle, and woe to anyone who isn’t.

Interestingly, although they make up only 10% or so of the pedal cyclist demographic, they make up some 60-80% of the spandex/lycra cyclist clothing market.

The Motorcycle Diatribes #1: Pedestrians

I ride a motorcylcle daily in Central London, to and from work.  It turns a 1+ hour commute on over-priced public transport, unable to get on a train or tube carriage, wedged against other people in total silence, into 20-25 minutes risking my life twice a day. 

I know which I prefer.

Motorcycles are proven to reduce congestion and have a far smaller carbon footprint than cars.  They have more road presence than pedal cycles so feel safer – I cycled to and from work for about a year and finally gave up.  Pedal cycles and motorcycles share a raft of hazards.  But I’ll save my pedal cycle conversation for a different Diatribe.

Pedestrians.

Under UK law, the predestrian does not have the right of way.  Whether I agree with this or not is immaterial, but it makes sense in  a city like London given its current transport infrastructure.  This does not seem to matter to pedestrians.

The worst places are around train stations and bus stops.  I have very nearly hit, and would likely have killed, more pedestrians than I care to think about.  This is not because I am riding fast, or being aggressive, or not being observant  or am unaware of the road situation.

It’s because pedestrians don’t look around them, (often because they are on what must be a very important call, considering they are risking their life to be on it) or where they are going, and don’t cross where they are supposed to cross.  The phone call, not missing the bus, not walking that extra 10 meters to the crossing and waiting for the light — these things are clearly more important than life and limb.

At night, and in the rain, it is especially bad since on top of all this, they are nearly impossible to see amongst reflections and car headlights — yet this is when they are at their least observant, under umbrellas and hunched against the wind and rain, collar up, eyes locked dead ahead, crossing a major London thoroughfare.

Since starting to ride a motorcycle I have become a model pedestrian.  Because I realise I could get killed, very easily, by simply not following the instructions I was taught as a child.

To pedestrians:  Motorcyclists do not hate you; at least I don’t.  I’m one of you, sometimes, after all.  We are not trying to run you down.  We reserve most of our contempt for certain other road users.  We see you as vulnerable, soft objects that we really want to avoid.  But you do not make it easy for us.  So please: Pay attention.  Look around.  Think: is it worth life or injury to cross here, to catch that bus, to take that call.