14th September 2017

Complaints about cyclists – and ways to respond

complaints about cyclists - bingo card

Anyone who’s ever read an article about cycling will know that the comments section quickly descends into a cyclist-hating rampage, which is why we made the Cycling Bingo card above. Why not treat yourself to a game?

How to respond (some suggestions)

  1. Cyclists don’t pay road tax. Road tax was abolished in 1937, and was replaced by Vehicle Excise Duty. VED is a tax on cars, not roads. Roads are paid for through income tax and council tax. So cyclists do pay for roads to be maintained and improved.
  2. Cyclists ignore red lights. This is true, in that some cyclists ignore red lights, and they shouldn’t. Some car drivers also ignore red lights. The potential damage of a car running a red light – to life and property – is much worse than that of a bicycle running a red light. That doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but it should put it into perspective.
  3. Cyclists ride on the pavement. Some cyclists ride on the pavement, and they shouldn’t. A way to encourage people to never cycle on pavements is better cycling infrastructure. Also if critics were honest with themselves, they’d admit that cycling on the pavement isn’t really the terrifying scourge they say it is – it’s just annoying to see someone breaking the rules.
  4. Cyclists should wear hi-viz. In the words of one news article commenter, “The trend to high visibility clothing puts the onus on the cyclist (they’re doing the same thing for motorcycles, btw and the same comment applies) to be visible. That’s totally the wrong approach. It’s the job of road users to see other road users. If you can’t spot a pushbike, or a child running into the road, or anything else, then you shouldn’t be driving.” While hi-viz may increase visibility in some situations, but it also reinforces the trope that cycling is inherently dangerous, discouraging even more people from being active through cycling – which is a far more significant danger to public health.
  5. It’s illegal to ride two abreast. It isn’t illegal to ride two abreast, and critics can refer to Rule 66 of the Highway Code if they are in any doubt. Cyclists sometimes ride two abreast for safety reasons, because it forces motorists to “properly” overtake (i.e. by giving the rider a minimum of 1.5 metres instead of squeezing past him/her, a Highway Code rule that is often ignored by motorists) and also because it’s more enjoyable to cycle two abreast. And why not? Cyclists pay road tax too (see point #1).
  6. They didn’t have a helmet on. This is easily the most contentious cycling topic. Whatever your stance, wearing a helmet is not a requirement by any stretch of the word, it reinforces the idea that cycling is inherently unsafe (see point #4), and there are plenty of other non-helmeted activities that are much more dangerous than cycling – such as driving a car, or standing in a bathroom. Where to draw the helmet-wearing line? Some people choose to draw the line before ‘cycling’ and not after.
  7. Cyclists think they own the road. Cyclists do own the road, at least partly (see point #1). Motorists also think they own the road; they don’t, they have to share it.
  8. Cars need an MOT, so should bikes. An MOT checks whether a motor vehicle is safe to use on the roads, because vehicles are extremely complex and harness the power of exploding petrol in order to propel themselves forward. The failure of a motor vehicle to properly function can be catastrophically dangerous. An MOT also checks a vehicle’s exhaust emissions. Requiring bicycles to get an MOT would not only be pointless, it would be restrictive in terms of getting people out on bikes, which would be bad (see point #4).

12 comments on “Complaints about cyclists – and ways to respond


    some of the responses to the points are a bit disingenuous and a little flippant.
    Cyclist should be wearing helmets and hi-vis in both urban and rural areas-its common sense but doesn’t look cool. People wear personal protective equipment and clothing in a whole range of industries to keep themselves safe. Low light levels and other distractions are a fact of life on our roads so why not minimize the risk? By the way why is lycra (nearly) always black?

    No cyclists shouldn’t ignore red lights-end of! There is no excuse for it and to say cars pose more of a risk is stating the obvious but its silly comparison.

    The assumption always is that cyclists don’t drive cars-why? I drive and cycle and see some really shocking behaviour from both parties.

    • A.V. on

      To answer some of your points.. (and it’s cyclists for plural btw)
      1) Recent studies have shown that high-viz doesn’t really make you much more visible on the road when other road users are careless and don’t make sure they look. There’s another inherent problem there: incapacity of motorists and pedestrians to simply LOOK around. I wear high viz and helmet daily, still, I’ve saved many people from falling on the roads like idiots because I shouted at them. But you can’t always prevent that when they make sudden moves, as bikes simply don’t freeze when they are on the move, no matter how fast or slow you go. It’s simply physics and time is crucial.
      2) Not wearing a helmet is potentially more dangerous for the cyclist, not for others, so you can’t blame a cyclist for not wearing a helmet and suggesting they cause danger to others. It’s meaningless.
      3) Indeed red lights should not be ignored. That applies to pedestrians too when there are designated crossing in busy junction. Yet, they seem to believe that they have every right to jump in front of oncoming vehicles (bikes or motor vehicles). Who’s on the wrong there and who’s responsible for their own safety? The code clearly states that when there is no priority, pedestrians are responsible for ensuring they can cross with safety. But they don’t.
      4) Indeed. I drive, ride motorbikes and ride bicycles. People are simply arrogant in this country and never admit their mistakes.

  2. Colin McCulloch on

    I ride about 5,000 miles a year, in town and what is now termed “adventure” cycling. I would make the following observations.

    Point 1 VED v Road Tax – correct
    Point 2 – correct. And it is the red light runner in any vehicle who is at fault, a cyclist should not be presumed imnocent
    Point 3 – I disagree (I cycle about 3,000 miles pa) I have been barged twice on pavements. Once by a cyclist on a full suspension mountain bike who was on the pavement “because the cobbles (setts) are too rough) I have been spat upon and punched when suggesting that weaving past prams on a busy pavement was inappropriate and against the law.
    Point 4 – agreed. But we are out on thre road, responsible for our own safety. A cyclis ( at night with no lights or hi-viz cannot have the presumption of innocence

    Point 5- if we give parked cars (1.5m wide say) 1.5m in case of doors opening as we should and then our chums 1.5m in case they fall over and the cars give us 1.5m the cars will be 6m away from the pavement and a further 1.5m wide so we need a carriage way 8m wide in each dirextion with a futher 1.5m for the bit in the middle….17.5m. Cycling and driving with common sense and awareness of other road users from pedestrians to artics is what is required. We are responsible for our own safety
    Point 6 – see point 5 above but scrub the at night bit.. If you’ve never fallen off and been grateful for your helmet, you’re not trying hard enough.
    Point 7 – quite right, we are all sharinh the roads but it’s a two way street
    Point 8 – Quite right too. We should all be capable of keeping our bikes in good condition. If we don’t or ride the wrong bike for the circumstance, we are negligent.

  3. Douglas Morrison on

    Responsible cyclists will always adhere to the law and ensure their bikes are well maintained. The same applies to responsible motorists. Most cyclists also drive cars and are all too aware that there are many irresponsible motorists on our roads. Consideration for other road users should be the overriding principle adopted by both cyclists and motorists.

  4. Jasper Taylor on

    If someone complained to me that cyclicts don’t pay road tax, I wouldn’t respond with the pedantic point that it’s been called Vehicle Excise Duty since 1937. Rather I would first point out that the road system isn’t actually there for cyclists’ benefit — most of us would be quite happy and very much safer on a dirt track. Also the amount of wear and tear on the system caused by cyclists, and the amount of space we occupy, is minute compared to the corresponding number of motor vehicles (we never park on the road!)
    Finally, like the majority of cyclists, I have a motor vehicle and pay tax on it, so whenever I choose to cycle rather than use it, I’m actually subsidizing motorists.

  5. Ian Patterson on

    Point 1 – additionally, VED is based on vehicle emissions and thus bikes are zero-rated. Some cars are also exempt – does that mean they shouldn’t be on roads?
    Point 5 – it’s also quicker to overtake pairs of cyclists cycling abreast, rather than a line of individuals.

  6. Duncan Smith on

    A better reply to #7 would be – which came first, bikes or cars? If anyone had MORE right of use to public roads it should in fact fall to the humble cyclist, but instead we are gracious enough to share it with the velocopedically challenged!!!


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