Saturday, 5 February 2011

Taking the moral high ground

The BBC has finally covered this alarming trend of cyclists to video their commutes then complain about them. Unlike most BBC new articles, where Adam Rayner gets paid to laugh at the cyclists, this article seems come out in favour of the cyclists, rather than say they deserved to get beaten up for being in the way and not paying road tax.

Fortunately, the commenters noticed this, and corrected the bias. Hopefully they will be writing in to the BBC to complain about a lack of balance too. We'll quote a select few

177. anjuna
We have cycle lanes all over Rutland, which are regularly ignored by cyclists. Instead the choose to ride 2 abreast on the road, causing hold ups and hazards. I think cameras in cars to capture bad cyclists would be a good thing. How about "identifiers" on cycles, so the police can prosecute bad cyclists?

Problem: it's not currently illegal for bicycles to cycle in our roads and hold up traffic behind. We understand why it makes you want to kill them, but then you not only lose the moral high ground, you have to stop the email you are composing on your phone.

208. Flaunder
When are cyclists going to have to pay to use the road? why shouldn't they have a registration plate on the back, or a speed metre when they are going at super speeds down a pedestrian footpath! Some cyclists don't even wear a high vis vest or have lights! Why shouldn't they be fined on the spot! Most cyclists have no regard for cars on the road! maybe we should film them!
Problem: we just checked the highway code and nowhere does it say "cyclists MUST wear hi-viz clothing". This makes it hard for police or PCSOs to fine them on the spot for non compliance. Now, you could push for it to be a law, but really that doesn't address the true problem, which is they shouldn't be there in the first place.

226. Barton71
Obviously the van driver in this story was out of order and his reaction was way over the top, but as a van driver myself, I understand the frustration cyclists can cause. There is nothing worse than having to slow down to 10mph every few hundred yards, because a group of cyclists have all bunched up or because there is no room to pass a single cyclist who is struggling to get up a hill.

This identifies one of the real issues. It's not just that these unpaid criminals are on our roads -they are in our way on the roads. They slow us down, then whine when we sound our horn, or criticise them in the local or national press.

One thing we do have to fault some of these community reporters for is making unsubstantiated claims. We like defensible data, yet people were saying "all cyclists run red lights", which isn't true. You only see the ones running the red lights, so end up self selecting. It's disappointing to see such use of inadequate datasets, and with defensible photographic data being key aim for our site, it's time to look at the issue in more detail.

First, Whiteladies Gate/Whiteladies Road pedestrian crossings. Our unsuspecting cyclist reporter dismounts with their small child and walks over a zebra crossing and then the whiteladies pedestrian crossings.

Note how the white van waiting to turn gives way to the pedestrians.
At the pelican crossing, the family waits for their turn to get across. The lights change frequently here, giving them 15s to sprint across.

Except what happens today? Someone on a bicycle just rides up through the crossing. Yes, he does have hi-viz and a helmet on, so commenter Flander will be happy -no need to fine him- but he does cycle straight through the red light that is being used by pedestrians including parents with children.

There we have it then, 100% of cars, following the law, 100% of cyclists: criminals.

Now, the cycling campaigners will say "But what about cars that...", but that is only a subset of cars. We know this, again from our defensible datasets -such as  on Marlborough Hill last week:

See? Four cars drive up the hill, before one car, BP52XAR, drives down past the no-entry signs and the big paintwork saying no-entry.

Five cars, only one completely ignoring the signs. That means the number of cars choosing to break the law this weekday morning is 20%, compared to 100% of cycles in our previous survey.

There you have it then. All cyclists are criminals who should be fined on the spot, while only some drivers are a bit naughty. And when drivers do something to get round this anti-car city, they get videoed and their actions appear on web sites like Fight bad driving -with their registration numbers. Whereas when the cyclists appear, all that can happen is people who know them will say "hey, you made Bristol Traffic!" and they can snicker amongst themselves.

Because of this clear evidence, we, the drivers, can retain the moral high ground.

Incidentally, this whole thing has made BikeSnobNYC. Funny.

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