Whilst you are riding on an off-road cycle path like much of the Taff Trail, you are going to be top off the food chain. However, as soon as your front wheel touches the road, everything changes.
Vehiclular cycling is the subject of much debate among campaigners. Some see it as essential that we can mingle with traffic and get where we need to, quickly. Others see it as a compromise and we should really have the infrastructure to allow people to feel comfortable getting around on two wheels.
By “vehicular cycling” we are talking about using your bike as if it was any other road vehicle, instead of using it as if you were a two-wheeled pedestrian. This means sticking to the roads, adhering to signals and give-way lines.
In reality, both have a good case. If you are confident enough, you can make good progress riding the roads. We recently did a little experiment. The usual commute involves the Taff Trail, but for a change we took the A470 from Cortyton to see how long it would take. As it turned out, the A470 was quicker and shorter, saving 9 minutes over the TT commute.
The downside of course is that it is slightly more risky and exposure to air pollution is far higher. It also assumes that you are comfortable riding in busy traffic.
In an ideal world we would have a coherent network of paths that would get us wherever we needed to go, but even then we would still see people who prefer to ride on the roads. They’re often the most direct routes and they’re better maintained than any cycle infrastructure we have or will get.
Unlike the trails, on the road we are very much bottom of the food chain. This means that we DO have to follow the rules when navigating the roads.
If you have a driving license, the rules should already be familiar to you. Over 70% of us who cycle do have a driving license and frankly have few excuses for flouting the rules –this is not to say that motorists are whiter than white. At the end of the day, speed cameras, traffic signal cameras and bus lane cameras would not need to exist if they always did what they were taught.
That being said, they do have a protective tin box around them and you don’t.
If you get it into your head that you don’t need to stop for red lights at busy junctions, Darwinism is going to catch up with you, especially on Cardiff’s busiest roads. Today we woke to footage of someone doing just that on North Road, but these accidents are worryingly common and, let’s face it, the comments below these videos make for grim reading. People are very quick to separate “cyclist” from “human being”, not helped by the press & police who preoccupy themselves with whether or not the rider was wearing a helmet at the time.
Dearest Cardiff, we need to ask something of you.
If you choose to get around by bike and ride on the roads, please observe the rules of the road. We don’t like waking up to dash-cam footage of what could well end up being a snuff movie.
Red lights apply to all of us. All of us, without exception. Yes, we know it is annoying and tiring having to get back up to speed after coming to a compete stop, but it’s part of the deal. We have the best form of transport ever devised, but there has to be some downsides.
Secondly, the press, the police and watchers of dash-cam footage. Please remember that the person on the bike is a human being. He or she may have a spouse & kids at home, they may be a doctor, a nurse or –most likely someone training to be one.
Bicycle helmets are not compulsory and there are arguments for and against their effectiveness. However, against a car, they are to safety what a crisp packet is to birth control. If you think a polystyrene lid is going to make that much difference in a crash, think again.
Let’s all remember that the roads are for all of us and we all have a responsibility to each other. Both cars and bikes are driven and ridden by people –your colleagues, your friends and your family.