As the evenings are drawing in, earlier and earlier and the dawn rising later and later, the growth in cycling on our roads (mostly!) grows ever more dangerous. There’s a combination of bad behaviour from both cyclists and motorists part that can lead to accidents and when this is compounded by the advances in lighting technology, the lack of practical legislation and the result of government budget cuts – well just look out that’s what I say! Allow me to expand on this…
From a UK health perspective the growth in cycling is a bonus – especially for those older people who are trying to exercise without adding undue stresses and strains on their ageing joints. Not everyone can afford to join a gym, or wants to have their own static bike when the draw of the open air, the the feel of lycra on your skin and the “crack” of riding en masse exists. Good on you I say. If the roads had been kept in better condition and not left to rot away until they offer nothing less than an assault course for the rider I’d be with you – at least in summer when it’s warm, and light!
First off bad behaviour – on both sides!
I’m a driver not a rider. I appreciate that my 2 tonne vehicle is perfectly capable of turning a cyclist in a bloody pulp. So I do NOT drive up their arses, jump (or even totally ignore) red traffic signals, I indicate clearly what my next move is going to be and I give them as much space as I give a horse when I’m overtaking them – safely. So I get extremely p*ssed off when I come across a pack of lycra clad morons who are either, totally oblivious to the queue of traffic that is building up behind them as the saunter down a country lane – 2 abreast (and when there are lot of them even more abreast!!), or just being ****ing arrogant!
I drive patiently, whilst I may be seething inside my comfy cabin, I understand the argument about “safety in numbers” but still, c’mon these are roads we are talking about not the bleeding Serengeti! Drive responsible – everyone!
Jumping red lights – According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists, 57% of cyclists admit to running red lights. A 2013 YouGov poll found that 35% of cyclists admit to ignoring red lights at least “occasionally.” If caught jumping a red light, cyclists can be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice of £30. OK these are kids – bloody stupid kids – but they’ll grow up into bloody stupid adults – if they’re lucky!
Let’s now focus on technology, specifically lighting technology. When a car approaches with its headlights poorly adjusted there’s every chance that the driver is going to get a taste of his or her own medicine as the recipient of the dazzling elects to give the other driver the benefits of his or her own full beams! Modern lighting is getting too bright, so when it is badly adjusted it’s actually dangerous – if you have to close your eyes, even for an instant, to avoid being dazzled (and having your night vision destroyed) you can’t see where you’re going… Now this isn’t as some writers have shown, down to my age – I’m not talking about the deterioration of my eyes – I’m talking about lights that if the individual was driving behind you would be dazzling you in your rear view mirror – i.e. too high or those lights which seem to be permanently readjusting themselves by flicking up and down or aligned incorrectly – too far to the right!
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders maintains there is no evidence that factory fitted high-power lights distract drivers and that lamp-levelling technology ensures they are safe.
In fact there is clear guidance as to how they should be set up – this from Wiki-How :
There are mounting screws and adjustment screws above, below and to the side of the headlight. Park your vehicle 25 feet from a wall, and place a piece of tape horizontally 4 feet high across the wall in front of your vehicle. Turn on the low beams. Adjust the headlights until they shine on the tape.
Your car would fail its MOT test if your lights are poorly set up. So you’d expect the same for those “xenon” style LED lights that bicycles are now using – wouldn’t you…and you’d be WRONG!
According to the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR), it’s illegal to cycle on a public road after dark without lights and reflectors and rule 60 of the Highway code says:
“At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.”
Bike Radar offers guidance on bikes and lights –
Is there a maximum brightness for bike lights? No there isn’t, but you don’t want to dazzle oncoming drivers, for obvious reasons!
“If your lights cause undue dazzle or discomfort to other road users, then you’re breaking the law and the police are within their rights to ﬁne you,” says Cycling UK. In practice, though, as long as your bike has a front white and red rear light it’s rare to be stopped and ﬁned by the police, but please be considerate to other road users.
One more word of advice — don’t mount your most powerful front light on your helmet. It completely dazzles oncoming road users, and is very inconsiderate.
So it’s mostly you MUST have lights at night and only an aside about don’t dazzle other road users…well let’s go back to that image at the top of this post. Have another look at it – here it is again…
Have a look at the right hand hedge. It must be at least 6 foot high. And it’s being illuminated brightly by the light on the front of the bike… Now take a look at the left hand hedge…it’s almost in the dark. Now if that was me driving towards this numpty I’b be less than impressed. In fact I’d have to say that at least 50% of the bikes I meet at night have overly bright, even dazzling lights, whereas for cars the figure is closer to 5%.
Maybe it’s about time that bikes need to have MOTs – to get their lights tested at the very least. Maybe it’s about time the Police stopped some of these morons who give the rest of the cycling community a bad name and did something about it – but they won’t ‘coz Theresa May has cut their budgets by 25%, and officer number are way down, and they don’t even investigate burglaries anymore – so to expect them to leave the city centres late night opening establishments to pull cyclists over for jumping red lights and having dangerous headlights is never, ever going to happen – until someone changes the priorities.
I mean, for a PR stunt, you could always knock BoJo off his bike to generate aware of bike safety, or even better stop the twat from riding around by making him MOT his bike.
Also I would like to make 2 final points about cyclists – specifically those in Oxford. Oxford is a city that pats itself on the back (repeatedly) for being extremely bike friendly. Loads of bus/bike lanes for them to use, masses of “parking” spaces for bikes, speed humps and other road calming measures to slow the traffic down. They’ve even gone so far as to reduce the amount of parking for cars in the centre so you have to use the park and ride schemes they have introduced. Great, all those measures must make it a paradise for you cyclists out there…well there are 2 things that you can do to make it safer – for us drivers who now have turned into pedestrians so we can get around your city:
- park your cycles nicely – don’t just strew them around making it tricky to get past them..
- don’t ride on the ****ing pavement!
That 2nd one is actually an offence – it seems to confuse many cyclists about whether or not they are allowed to cycle on the pavement. According to Laws HA 1835 section 72 & RSA 1984, section 129, cyclists must not cycle on the pavement.