Cyclists Should be Seen and not Heard

Cycling to Tesco yesterday on my way to Edinburgh* in the just-about-dark, I approached the roundabout in the retail park somewhat warily – Bigtown drivers take a somewhat freestyle approach to roundabouts generally, and this one is particularly random. I was turning right, there was a car approaching slowly from my left, so I continued on round the roundabout somewhat warily, which was fortunate because the car kept on coming and kept on coming even as I shouted ‘hey’ and waved my arms about and then (having stopped to let it go past as that was obviously what it was going to do) did a big ‘what the hell are you doing?’ gesture – all with not a flicker of awareness from the driver.

The car then continued on at approximately 10mph – it was all I could do not to overtake it – and parked right outside Tesco, where I considered knocking on the window but I didn’t fancy a confrontation so I just continued on and locked up the bike. And then, as I was walking to the entrance, I saw the driver still getting out of the car and I realised he must be about 90.

Now I know that the right answer is that if he drives like that, he doesn’t belong on the road and that if he didn’t hit me (and at the speed he was driving, he was never going to hit me) he might hit a child, but I also know that his car is very likely his independence. And in fairness, I was on my Brompton with the not brilliant lights and in ninja mode (black jacket & trousers) so I could have done a bit more to help a driver pick me out in a complex and poorly lit environment – if it had happened when I’d been on my big bike with the dynamo front light I’d have been less forgiving. So I didn’t say anything. In a perfect (Dutch) world, he wouldn’t need to drive, he’d still be cycling (there are plenty of people in the area still riding their bikes well into their 80s and beyond but they’re a breed apart). But this is not a perfect world.

However after this, and a close squeeeeeeze by a taxi on Princess Street yesterday evening, and then almost walking into a Deliveroo rider with no lights as I crossed the street on foot (I don’t like to play on the tram tracks), I have decided to upgrade the Brompton lights and add a bit of reflective material to my winter cycling outfit. I doubt it would have made a blind bit of difference to either incident, but it would have allowed me to deploy a lot more self-righteous indignation afterwards.

* ‘Where is it you’re going again?’ the other half asked me yesterday morning. Edinburgh, as it happens. Then back again and then Dundee in our bid to meet all the cycling women of Scotland.

12 Responses to Cyclists Should be Seen and not Heard

  1. Andy in Germany says:

    Ironically I was told off yesterday because my light as ‘too bright’ (althlough that doesn’t seem to make me any more visible to some drivers…)

  2. Just FYI: Brompton now do a rear light which attaches to the saddle. Made by CatEye. About 20 quid.

  3. Nigel Shoosmith says:

    I upgraded my Brompton to the eye-wateringly and reassuringly expensive SON dynamo system and, yep, I get moans that the light is too bright. Bicycles and Brits, a “no-win scenario”, as they say in the movies.

  4. I could rant about cyclist that dress in the same colour as Tarmac, or the night… as it is, I lovingly stitch reflective tape on to Mr Uphilldowndales’s backpack. Mr Upilldowndale has a fixed lights and flashing lights, flashing for visibility and for ‘position’, fixed; as he cycles one of the most dangerous road in the UK, several times a week ( and from November- February, in the dark) .
    Twice in my life, and they have both been profound events; I’ve stopped to help at road traffic collisions, or to use the emergency service jargon, a RTC, (so called, because they are rarely RTAs, Road Traffic Accidents, there will be a reason for the collision rather than an accident)
    One was an elderly gentleman who stepped into the path of oncoming traffic, one of the police officer who tried with me, to save his life (it wasn’t to be) commented afterwards it was often drivers of his age that were the cause of accidents. The second was a young man on a motorbike, who came millimetres from death when an elderly driver pulled out on him; both incidents were late, dark November afternoons.
    Mr Uphilldowndale and I have a pact that we will ‘retake’ our driving tests as we get older. Our aged independence does not give us a right to put the lives of others at risk.

  5. zungg says:

    You’re probably right to be forgiving of the old man, but the law has to change. Elderly drivers are a great hazard. Mandatory annual retests are required after 70. And five-yearly for everyone else. And cars that block phone signals except via a handsfree system. And and and and..

  6. commuterjohn says:

    Yes, it’s fair to say the more elderly people are the more they rely on a car for independence. But there does come a point at which their inability to drive properly could be the reason for taking another person’s independence from them.

  7. welshcyclist says:

    Independence is such a precious quality of life to lose, but the powers that be leave many with no choice but to keep on driving. In a world that wastes so much of our taxes surely funds can be diverted to this are of deprivation?

  8. disgruntled says:

    Perhaps giving them golf carts is the answer?

    • commuterjohn says:

      Funny you should say that, next best thing to a golf cart a mobility scooter. I saw a granny in one once with her granddaughter walking alongside when the granny ran over the granddaughters foot! She burst into tears naturally and when asked what was the matter the granny called her a liar!
      I think a driver training course should be a requirement for them having seen some interesting near misses for all concerned.

  9. ballsofwool says:

    Miguel cycles a lot in all weathers and he reckons there’s a world of difference between a light and a FLASHING light. He’s got a few little rechargeable clip-on ones and stupidly bright and reflective clothing.

  10. disgruntled says:

    My lights were deliberately on flashing mode just for that reason. I think I just need a couple more

  11. […] think I may have mentioned in the past that Bigtown’s drivers take a somewhat freestyle approach to roundabouts. On the big ones, indicating is optional (and bikes are invisible, but that’s […]

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