“I was almost knocked down!” and Other Journalistic Tropes About Cycling

There are a number of Journalistic tropes trotted out when cyclists are mentioned in the press. There’s the idiotic “They should pay road tax”, when, of course, road-tax was abolished in 1937, and cyclists are more likely to own a car than the general population. Furthermore many cars are 0%-rated for VED, smart-cars, or many old vehicles for example. These don’t pay “road-tax” either. Are these less entitled to the road than a Range-Rover.

There is the stupid idea that cyclists on the road should be compulsorily insured. Of course in an accident, the cost of wiping blood off a car is negligible.  And in any case, cyclists are to blame for serious accidents in around only 7% of cases (where someone, almost exclusively the cyclist himself) is killed or seriously injured. The chances of a cyclist killing or seriously injuring a motorist, or damaging their vehicle, are so low that it really isn’t worth the bother. Dragging a motorist out of its vehicle and beating it to death with your bare hands is covered by existing statute. Alas. Most regular cyclists are insured, for their own protection. The public liability cover is given away nearly free, as it is so rarely needed.

Licensing cyclists so they can be caught breaking the law is another silly idea given a regular airing by fuckwits in the press. This has never worked, anywhere, ever. Everywhere where it has been tried, it has been abandoned as a costly and intrusive failure. Red-light jumping by cyclists get wankers hot under the collar because they think as the mondeo-man is held up, everyone else should be too. If you find yourself whinging about red-light jumping cyclists, please repeat this phrase: “bicycles are not cars and cannot block junctions”. Red lights are to keep the traffic moving through junctions, and are not about safety.

Cyclists should be made to wear helmets? All that does is reduce the number of cyclists. Of course some would hail that as a victory, but given one of the tightest correlations between a city’s “livability” and quality of life is its bicycle modal share, this is idiotic. No-one wears a helmet for utility cycling in the Netherlands, because no-one needs to. Helmets and other individual protective equipment such as High-viz clothing is a sticking-plaster on the gunshot wound of unbelievably hostile roads.

Removing free on-street parking is always criticised by local businesses, especially if a cycle lane is put in its place, because people routinely over-estimate the importance of driving on custom, often by orders of magnitiude. Even now, cycling and walking play a much greater part in the short shopping trips to town than most people realise. Pedestrianising streets and protected bike lanes increase footfall, in New York’s case by up to 25%. Walkers and cyclists take up less space, stay longer, visit more shops more often.

Finally, there’s the I was almost knocked over. I have never met anyone who was actually knocked over by a cyclist, and in two decades of regular, urban cycling, I have never hit a pedestrian, nor seen one get hit by a cyclist. My guess is that “I was almost knocked over” actually means, “something fast-moving in my peripheral vision startled me, and I cannot tell the difference between an involuntary endocrine reaction and danger” As the number of cyclists increase, maybe pedestrians will start to look out for us, as they do currently, and without complaint, for the cars which do, far far more regularly ACTUALLY hit pedestrians. And of course the consequences of hitting a pedestrian on a bicycle are usually vastly less severe than doing so in a car. However special ire is reserved for cyclists.

If journalists are to be believed, all cyclists run red lights, get simultaneously in the way of motor vehicles, and ride on the pavement. They are all dangerous scofflaws while the saintly motorists obey the rules of the road. If a motorist makes a risky pass on a blind corner, this is justifiable in the face of provocation from “lycra louts” who deliberately get in the way. Did we mention that all motorists obey the rules of the road, well of course we meant apart from those silly rules about maximum speed and parking of course, which are part of the “war on the motorist”. And if a cyclist ends up crushed by a motor vehicle driven by a near-blind illiterate who hasn’t slept for 20 hours, then he’s only got himself to blame for not wearing high-viz and a helmet and riding “in the way” not in the gutter where he belongs.

18 replies
  1. pjt
    pjt says:

    The chances of a cyclist killing or seriously injuring a motorist, or damaging their vehicle, are so low that it really isn't worth the bother.

    However, a bicyclist hitting a pedestrian, with the result of pedestrian getting killed, is not impossible, and it happens. Happened near where I live a couple of years ago, for instance.

    And yes, really, bicyclists are much worse than car drivers when it comes to obeying traffic rules. Pedestrians are even more horrible.

    (And hey, I say these things even though I'm an active cyclist; 1500 km since summer holidays, mostly commuting to work. Though not today as it is -15C and I wanted to give a ride to my kid to go to school).

  2. Peter
    Peter says:

    As a driver and cyclist (to work, no less), I obey the rules of the road. Motorists are far more likely to break these when it comes to cyclists than other cars. My youngest went through cycling proficiency recently and I read the booklet. I now realise that some of the habits I've got into are not 'safe cycling'–like hugging the pavement! Now more ire from motorists as I ride nearer 1/3rd of the way across the road–as proposed by cyclability.
    Of more serious concern are the number of cyclists who simply do not obey any rules, let alone bother to put any form of lights on at any time. As a motorist, these are highly problematical since in the urban clutter I normally drive in, they are invisible.
    Just to add, I think your comments are spot on, by the way, and the media bias against cyclists is evident in the way that news about cycling accidents, etc. is reported. As you rightly point out, we will not get more cycling unless there are real steps to improve the experience. I cycle despite the conditions. I too look at the way Europeans and others have made cycling a real pleasure. But like so many things in the UK, policies seem driven by cost not benefits.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Cyclists are a nasty aggressive bunch with a ready supply of four letter words for those that upset their sensitive entitlements .
    they are a particular pain on canal towpaths and mostly do not have warning bells on their expansive bikes . They delight in cycling in the night wearing dark cloths and without lights . I know that if I hit one of these invisibles in the dark it is automatically "my fault".PS when I am cycling I hate all motorists but I do see it as my responsibility to keep well out of their way .

  4. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    "Cyclists are a nasty aggressive bunch"? What? All of them?

    "Who delight in riding wearing dark clothing" What? All of them?

    "who don't have bells on thier expensive bikes", what is the word "expensive" doing there? I use a whistle. For example.

    Just as not all motorits (very few in fact do) drive too close and too fast; and not all journalists are ignorant wankers, Why don't you go fucking fuck yourself, you ignorant, stereotyping twat.

  5. Peter S
    Peter S says:

    'I have never met anyone who was actually knocked over by a cyclist…'

    Well you fucking have now. I've said it before but it has to be said again and a-fucking-gain STAY OFF THE FUCKING BASTARD CUNTING PAVEMENTS.

  6. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    I don't cycle on the pavement. But for every cyclist-hater saying "stay off the pavement", there's another (possibly even the same) wanker saying "get out of the way" to cyclists on the road.

    And the difference between being hit by a cyclist, and being hit by a car is you're still here, still functioning well enough to type your moronic bile on blog comment threads.

    Cars kill 2500 people every year, or to put it another way around 7 a day in the UK alone. Bicycles don't. Yet no-one complains about them.

    You're simply displaying out-group bias. It's a habit of stupid people.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Helmets and other individual protective equipment such as High-viz clothing is a sticking-plaster on the gunshot wound of unbelievably hostile roads.

    Sorry, as cyclist, I have to disagree with you on that point. I cycle 10 miles to and from work each day as do many others I see, but sometimes I am totally gobsmacked at the numbers of idiots who think it's acceptable to wear dark clothing from head to toe and equip their bike with the smallest 'pound-shop' bargain basement rear light that can be seen from about 4 feet away. How they have survived on the road for even just that day is probably down to luck rather than attentive motorists (yes I am a motorist too). The wearing of hi-viz jackets should be made law if you wish to cycle on Britain's roads, it at least gives drivers a fighting chance of seeing them. If said cycling morons do get killed or injured due to their own stupid fault, it's not the cyclist I feel sorry for, but the motorist who couldn't see them. If the cyclist has taken all the precautions they can, then motorists have nothing to complain about.

  8. Tom
    Tom says:

    Blah, blah, cyclists should obey the rules, blah.

    Motorists are in huge denial about how many of them break how many of the rules all the time. I just took a quick flick through the highway code – it would probably take about 30 minutes driving around before you witnessed half of them broken. Hint: it's not 32mph, amber means you should stop, you have to give way to pedestrians crossing side streets, you have to give a bicycle a cars width of clearance when overtaking and so on and so on.

    It's all but inevitable that someone is frothing away and will mash out an "if cyclists want respect they should obey the rules" comment. Before you do, bear in mind that is a fantasy as well as being utterly moronic.

  9. Simon Jester
    Simon Jester says:


    Before you automatically accuse me of a kneejerk contradiction of you on cycling, this is my only post on this thread.

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Off the pavements. Off the roads. Simple.

    These devices should no more be on public roads than skates, roller blades, skate boards or horses.

    No more than canoeists should be in seaways or hang gliders in airways or private trolleys on railways (which once was permitted).

  11. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Anonymous, you are a prick, of the sort I think about and smirk when I see little bunches of flowers nailed to trees on roads all over the UK. These feeble tributes appear where someone who thinks like you and enjoys driving goes a bit too fast round a blind corner, and in doing so becomes an unlamented statistic, one of the 2500 people who die as a result of cars in the UK every year.

    I hope your mum or significant other has to erect a chav shrine on a lamp-post in your honour. You will be soon forgotten.

  12. Toby G
    Toby G says:

    Good post, but don't rise to the Troll.

    The fundamental point thats missing, is that unlike European or, indeed many other countries, the UK roads are still tiny in their width size. Thats why small indian women and short middle aged men in 4×4 penis extensions look out of place on the road in their too-big tractors.

    There is simply no room to insert cycle lanes, or at least, cycle lanes with better than 1meter width.

    so for this reason alone there needs to be a) a minimum standard of bike light ambiance (with lights being on in poor light enforceable by law)

    there also needs to be at least one Hi-Vis item that is can be easily seen.

    its common sense, but far too many cyclists (and I am grouping kids/chavs on bikes in this) who are just not visible who don't adhere to the rules of the bleedin obvious. This makes life ten times as difficult for the rest of us.

    I used to cycle 10 miles each way to work, through a city and even joining through a small dual carriageway. Hi-Vis and lights were essential, and even then it only reduced the moron count by a bit, but that bit could be the bit that kills you.

  13. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Toby – of course I agree with you and Peter. To not give the motorists a chance to see you is just unsporting. I pump out 500 lumens front and blinkers rear.

    The police can already stop you for cycling without lights. This is reasonable.

    However to demand that you wear helmets and high-viz reflective clothing is a step too far.

    The narrowness of the roads is nowhere near the problem people think it is. It just requires a totally different mindset amongst road engineers compared to that existing now.

  14. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Oh and Weekend Yachtsman, I'll ignore the rules of the road that don't suit me for as long as motorists do so.

    The difference: cyclists don't kill 7 people a day.

    Whenever you think about mouth-breathing your way through a whinge about running red lights on a bicycle, think how many people die because of it. Almost none (no not even the cyclists doing it – I have research).

    So put away your opinion, it is worthless.

  15. Luke
    Luke says:

    "I was almost killed by a cyclist the other day" translates as "A skinny guy weighing 10st came closer to me that I would have liked, at a speed of 15mph, on a machine weighing 30lb. I regularly drive close to cyclists at 30mph plus, in a 2 tonne lump of iron, but that's different."

    (Saw late, but enjoyed the mountain bike post btw)

  16. Richard Jones
    Richard Jones says:

    I'm more of a walker than a cyclist. I don't drive because it's not worth the extra expense (I could easily afford it). I am so happy that we do not have compulsory helmet laws in the UK. I lived in Melbourne Australia for 10 years where it is illegal not to wear a helmet and did not ride a bike once in all that time. In London I use the Boris Bikes every time I get the chance as I find them highly convenient. Yes I take my life into my own hands when I go on the road but that is my choice, if I was worried about my safety I would buy a helmet I don't need a law to make me wear one.


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