Helen Martin: Cyclists, like drivers, must obey the rules

Anger is growing among motorists about the reckless behaviour of some cyclists. Picture: Getty

Anger is growing among motorists about the reckless behaviour of some cyclists. Picture: Getty

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THE current campaign being run by the i newspaper, the Evening News and others, pressing for drivers who kill or seriously injure cyclists through careless or dangerous driving to receive stiffer sentences, is a no-brainer.

Being culpable in the death of another, regardless of the “weapon” involved, should carry serious and yes, life-changing consequences.

Firework displays can prove an ordeal for many. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Firework displays can prove an ordeal for many. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Here and around the UK, improving cycling safety to increase the number of cyclists thereby reducing vehicles, congestion and emissions is a major target.

Unfortunately, the arguments for and against the methods employed to achieve all that, are resulting in a polarisation of views and an element of conflict between road users.

And that’s as true for politicians and councillors as it is for fervent cyclists and angry motorists.

The hardest part of this understandable evolution towards more cycling is not the creation of cycle routes or changing legislation, but breaking down the barriers between road users and building co-operation and consensus rather than drawing battle lines.

Already, pedestrians have been almost written out of the script. It’s all about cyclists and drivers, with a very uneven-handed approach by the authorities which dubs cyclists as vulnerable saints and drivers as powerful baddies.

A cyclist is vulnerable in any collision, even a minor one, with a motor vehicle, be it a bus, lorry or car. But as the rules and penalties grow for drivers, no effort at all is going into enforcing cycling rules. No wonder anger is growing among motorists – and others.

My son, his girlfriend and my husband all cycle. My son’s girlfriend and my husband also drive, as I do. (cycling is out for me now – for reasons explained elsewhere). And I want them all to be safe.

However, my husband narrowly avoided an accident last week when he was driving and a cyclist shot across the road in front of him without even looking. I once could have seriously injured a cyclist who overtook me on the inside. . . as I was indicating and moving into a parking place between two other cars!

We witnessed an incident last Sunday between a dog walker using a pedestrian crossing and a cyclist who fast-pedalled through a red light turning left and almost mowed them down.

Our garden gate leads to the pavement, where cyclists often whizz along causing us to leap backwards when we step out, especially if we have the dog on a lead which could cause two humans, a cycle and a dog to be left in a mangled heap.

In winter my husband has a driving “game” in which he counts the number of cyclists without lights, especially in dark, unlit areas. It keeps him alert to them.

Cyclists should have lights at night, wear reflective clothes, obey traffic lights and should not “undertake” on the left, or cycle on pavements. Bikes are quiet now so cyclists should have a bell to warn pedestrians and dog-walkers on lanes if they are approaching from behind. They should not be wearing headphones or pedalling head down.

Insurance? That’s a big debate. But if they have caused an incident, like any other road-user they should stop, offer help, and exchange details. The more cyclists there are, the more crucial it is that they stick to the rules to win the support and respect of other road users and increase safety for everyone.

Bang to rights over fireworks

FOR decades I have been campaigning in this column for restraint on Edinburgh’s obsession with year-round, booming and explosive pyrotechnics

A month ago I wrote about Collecchio in Parma which now only permits silent fireworks because of the terror and damage caused to both farming and domestic animals, and how groups in India were campaigning for the same ban. Ask a vet and they’ll agree, but it’s not only animals at risk. Loud explosive fireworks also affect those suffering post-traumatic stress and other conditions, along with many elderly folk, let alone those who quite simply hate the ordeal as their walls and windows shake around them.

Tory Councillor Joanna Mowat has come to the rescue by calling for a report into less damaging alternatives. If you agree, please e-mail her, and your own councillor, in the hope that they will see the light . . . and only the light.

We need to keep taking the tablets

MIDDLE-AGED women who take ibuprofen or paracetamol a couple of times a week raise their risk of developing deafness by almost ten per cent according to a US medical study.

Now that’s grim news for us baby boomers. I should be deaf as a post already. I’ve had back, neck and shoulder pain for 20 years which the health service cannot fix other than with constant ibuprofen. Except for lithe yoga queens and the extremely lucky, age brings aches and pains, arthritis, rheumatism, knocks and bumps that leave residual pain, sore joints, weaker muscles, and broken sleep.

Older “girlie” lunches always involve comparing aches and for most of us, painkillers each day keep the doctor away. . . just as well, as Scotland is going to lose one in three GPs over the next five years.

Just keep taking the tablets girls – and speak up!

Own goal for football chiefs

EVEN cleaners need full PVG clearance before working with vulnerable groups – children, the elderly, disabled etc. So how come 2500 Scottish kids’ football coaches were above the law and employed without it?