I’m on my soap-box! Over the winter months I have become bothered by, what appears to be, a preference of fashion over general safety. Although this may seem like a strange comment, it is based on personal observation and age, sadly. I shall start at the beginning as it’s often the best place….. I was born in the 60s and raised in the 70s and 80s. Back then, there was a childrens’ group called the Tufty Club. We had badges and sashes, colouring books and posters and, cartoon characters. With all of that, how could a child not learn to be safe? The eponymous Tufty was a squirrel. The adventures of Tufty and friends gave weekly lessons on the highway code and road safety. We learned to be seen and be safe. This message was then handled by Green Cross Man – Darth Vader in another role – telling us to learn our green cross code. Look right, look left, look right again. Late 70s, I took my cycling proficiency; this would stand me in good stead as I wouldn’t take driving lessons until the early 90s. During this course, being seen was again key and here, I learned that it was imperative to anticipate the actions of other road users. This was a polite way of saying watch out for car drivers, they’re terrible. As I left school, joined the workplace and then married, cycling was my main means of transportation. I not only enjoyed the freedom and the exercise, I became interested in the sport of cycling. I didn’t take part but my hubby did. I can confirm that one birthday, I received a chain set for his bike! The Tour de France became an annual treat and, my personal idol Djamolidine Abdoujaparov graced my wall in the form of a framed print. So, as a cyclist, I served my time. More importantly, I learned that if you need to overtake parked cars, leave a door’s width as clearance. If you plan on turning with the flow of traffic, you need ears and eyes everywhere and the roads are full of ‘amber gamblers’.
Fast forward to this winter and one will find me as a driver. Sadly, arthiritis has halted my cycling fun and even my time as a pedestrian is pretty much over. When I encounter cyclists, I am careful to remember my experiences and make sure that I am a courteous road user. This also applies to horse-back riders, sadly my dreams of Follyfoot Farm gave me experience although no pony of my own.
So, why am I on my soap-box? It started during the death of winter when my commute, to and from work, was during darkness. One morning, when, at a major junction, a cyclist, with no lights and wearing black, from head to foot, got bored of waiting at a red light and decided to weave through the traffic. The cyclist forgot the bikers mantra – Think once, think twice, think bike. Although there wasn’t a collision, the near miss involving the cyclist, a small car and a motorbike was lucky.
The junction was covered in tyre marks and the sound of horns was deafening. As I was stopped at the red light, I had a front row view and it genuinely shocked me. The cyclist, continued on their journey, hopping onto a pavement without a backward glance. For the next few weeks, whilst, of course, seeing car drivers making errors; perhaps I also made a number of errors too, I am not suggesting I’m anywhere near perfect, just that I try to be safe, I witnessed 5 different cyclists, all without lights and dressed in black or dark colours, jumping red lights and weaving on and off pavements to avoid queuing.
Interestingly, I also saw that pedestrians were darkly dressed and, on more than a few occasions, they stepped from between parked cars, straight onto the carriageway.
I feel it’s fair to mention that I see three types of cyclists. There are those who cycle for sport, fitness and, overall, seriously. They have all the gear and are members of cycling clubs. I have discussed my observations with them and received agreement. There are those who cycle for fun, fitness and as their commute. They usually have lights and safety clothing. Finally, there are those who use bicycles as a means to an end and simply as mode of transportation. These are the ones that seem to be the root of the problem.
This week, on Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show, there was a discussion about a cycling vigilante and, in particular about cars and cyclists at ‘pinch points’. I picked up the end of this discussion via a tweet. I made a comment alluding to my experience. Both of the ‘tweeters’ who chose to respond seemed to assume that it was cut and dried, in my view; cyclists are bad and car drivers and blameless. I went as far as to say that all road users need to clean up their acts. Sadly, I was dismissed. I had a photo supporting my experience. The main issue there was whether it had been taken illegally. It hadn’t.
Another user suggested that human arrogance was the problem, this after I commented on pedestrians being darkly dressed. YouTube is full of helmet camera and dashboard camera footage, damning the actions of other road users. Statistics of road deaths are scary. Cyclists and pedestrians are, by far, the more vulnerable. People are dying. So, why is this blog called fashion victim? Having given this a lot of thought, I really do believe that, for some, looking cool is more important than being safe. That would explain the fact that the 3rd type of cyclists don’t wear helmets or have bicycle lights. They don’t have any reflective material on their clothing or bikes either. Pedestrians also don’t seem to realise the ramifications of not being visible to other road users.
I can and have taken the comments on-board. I have already said that I’m not perfect and neither are all drivers. As a driver, my instructor taught me to anticipate other road users. As a cyclist, I was taught to anticipate other road users and, as a child, I was taught to anticipate traffic.
So, why is it now more important to expect others to anticipate us without being prepared to make allowances for them?
Why can’t Tufty come back and remind us to be seen, be safe?
Tufty Club “http://www.rospa.com/about/history/tufty.aspx#history” Green Cross Code “http://www.rospa.com/about/history/tufty.aspx#history” title=”The Green Cross Code” target=”_blank”> http://think.direct.gov.uk/education/early-years-and-primary/parents/7-to-11s/the-green-cross-code/ Jeremy Vine “http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b053zk4p” Djamolidine Abdoujaparov “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djamolidine_Abdoujaparov”