Wednesday 23 January 2013

Sauce for the goose

For the last few days, I have been back on Shanks’ Pony.  The local lane from home to the station is ungritted and is now hard-packed snow – not conducive to comfortable riding on a small wheel bike like a Brompton – and the while the last stretch to the station entrance is gritted, that means lots of lovely corrosive crap all over my expensive bike.  So, shoe leather it is.  (Well, Sorel snow boots actually.  Shoe leather would have you on your back in 10 seconds).

This means that I am once again experiencing the joys of being a pedestrian in London, and I can now appreciate just how annoying cyclists can be.  Walking in from Waterloo this morning, my first encounter was with the character who pedalled on, with grim-faced determination, directly towards the pedestrians crossing Waterloo Road on a green man.  If I had not faced him down I really don’t think he would have stopped.  He wasn’t dolled up in lycra, but his choice of clothing and accroutrements said "cyclist" rathr than "person on a bicycle".

Walking through Brad Street, directly by the Waterloo east railway viaduct, I was irritated by a Bromptonaut who clearly felt that “two tings” was not enough.  He announced his presence more noisily than Santa’s sleigh.  Fair enough, I was walking on the road, but then so were dozens of other pedestrians heading from Waterloo towards Blackfriars and the City.  This stretch is a good deal more like “shared space” than Exhibition Road, and cyclists and motorists need to respect that.

Finally, crossing Stamford Street just before Blackfriars Bridge, (where there is absolutely no pedestrian provision whatever, and never has been in the 24 years I have been walking or cycling through this junction), a gaggle of cyclists were edging forward in front of the white line at the lights, in such a way as to form an effective fence across the pedestrian crossing desire line.

Now, all of these things merely irritate me.  I was in no way frightened, or intimidated, but that could be because, my normal mode on these streets being in the saddle, I have both perspectives.  I know that cyclists don’t actually want to hurt pedestrians because they normally come off worse, and I know that the statistics show that cyclist/pedestrian collisions are of negligible significance overall.  (And I discovered later in my journey, as a terribly important LGV driver drove straight at me entering the loading bay at Goldman Sachs, that motorists' animus is not confined to cyclists.  they hate pedestrians too, and drivers of smaller vehicles than their own)

Most pedestrians, sadly, don’t know all this.  And it is no good for us to say that they should, that it is silly to be afraid of cyclists, and that their fears are overstated.

After all, that would be hypocrisy.  We don’t accept that argument about cycling actually being a lot safer than you think, safer than golf or DIY actually, because we understand the importance of subjective safety.  What’s sauce for goose is sauce for the gander, too.

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