First Person: Driver v cyclist wins ratings, but it's not the truth
With greater road power comes greater responsibility, says Leicester cyclist Eric Lovell
When I heard the BBC was producing a documentary on cycling in Britain called The War on Britain's Roads my reaction was two-fold. Firstly, and rather unworthily, was that if it's a war, then cyclists need better weapons – after all, whoever heard of a motorist being killed or injured in a collision with a bike? My second thought was more considered: that the BBC is operating in a competitive market and was using a juicy title to hook more viewers.
If you watched the programme, you'll have seen the video footage shot by cyclists of "near misses" on the roads.
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One of the more informative sections in the programme showed the reactions of drivers and motorists to these incidents: they reacted with the same level of shock and horror, regardless of their chosen mode of transport. Which confirmed my opinion that the "war" referred to in the programme's title is something of a phoney one.
The Leicester Cycling Campaign Group exists to make cycling normal.
Our long-term goal is to make cycling in and around Leicester the easiest way to get around, so that it's not seen as an extreme sport or the preserve of stick-thin athletes in Lycra (sorry, Bradley!).
Yet what we have never suggested, nor will we, is that to achieve our ends we need to declare war on motorists.
Our roads are shared spaces. Increasing congestion decreases the space available, and no amount of road building is going to bring us to the motoring nirvana so beloved by car adverts. The freedom of the open road has been replaced by the bumper to bumper crawl of the daily commute. Far from being an expression of individual freedom, the car has become a part of a mass transit system: you slot into the traffic at the start of a journey and you stay there until the end.
If only the political will existed to divert a meaningful sum from road building to cycling infrastructure then the bicycle could replace the car as transport for short journeys, as it has in Holland and Denmark.
But back to the "war". What emerged from the documentary, and which is about as surprising as the Pope's religion, is that road users were irritated by other road users.
Cyclists annoy motorists, motorists annoy cyclists. That's what comes of sharing space that's constantly shrinking. Imagine sharing a house with your grown-up children, your in-laws and your parents. Then being moved into a one bedroom flat. Tensions increase.
Which brings me to the point I made at the start of this article – whoever heard of a motorist being hurt in a collision with a bicycle? That's the crucial difference.
Greater power, including horsepower, brings greater responsibility. And if you're piloting a ton of metal being propelled by a hundred or so horses, the responsibility is huge.
The road is not a battleground, but it is only cyclists who are killed or injured in collisions with vehicles. Please remember that the next time you become frustrated at being "held up by a cyclist".
Eric Ludlow is a founder member of LCCG