The Blog

Let's Stop Scoring Points Over Dead Cyclists

If you need a barometer of just how much a bunch of utter bastards humankind can be, look no further than a story about a cyclist dying on the roads of London. Tragically, you won't need to look far - six in the last fortnight should give you plenty of ammunition - and it seems everybody has a little bit of hatred reserved.

If you need a barometer of just how much a bunch of utter bastards humankind can be, look no further than a story about a cyclist dying on the roads of London.

Tragically, you won't need to look far - six in the last fortnight should give you plenty of ammunition - and it seems everybody has a little bit of hatred reserved for the people who leave home in the morning and end up lying in a morgue rather than sitting at a desk.

Even Boris Johnson threw his barely-used bike helmet in the ring this week, stating that there could be "no question of blame or finger pointing," before finger pointing and laying the blame squarely at the feet of the cyclists who ended up beneath the wheels of heavy goods vehicles and buses on the capital's roads.

The internet swiftly - and predictably - erupted in outrage that humans could be so rude as to meet their maker instead of turning up to work in the morning.

Over on the Daily Mail, the nattily named 'bornfreetaxedtodeath' posed the reasonable question: "How many car drivers have been killed by trying to avoid these lycra two aside idiots & come face to death with a lorry?", before heading over to another forum to complain that the erratic nature of whales could be putting the lives of harpooners in danger.

'Rickz_88' literally misunderstood what the word literally means by suggesting that all cyclists "literally have a death wish", while 'Louisa-Jane' decided that the only reasonable solution is that "cyclists should be banned from the centre of London. They'll never be safe on those roads. If they ARE going to insist on riding their bikes then they should have to pay road tax." More on that later.

'Kay' rounded up the empathy of the nation nicely by pointing out that the dead cyclist "wasnt the only 'victim' here what about the driver? Very biased story, you don't have to read between the lines to notice the glaring ommisions in this one." (sic)

The Guardian's readers enjoyed a rant as well; 'Trilla' argued that "cyclists should not be on the road", before presumably complaining about them being on the pavement as well, and 'Jakem' showed his empathetic side by grumbling "By and large, cyclists aren't victims, they're the problem," while enthusiastically ignoring the stats - or the dead bodies - that show otherwise.

'Soundboy42' also willfully ignored the fact that - so far, at least - there's no indication that any of the cyclists killed this week were doing anything wrong, by adding that "If cyclists simply follow the road rules they'll be safe."

So, in the interests of us all getting along, I've devised a little guide that'll help you not to be a total dick next time a family gets a visit from the local police force with some bad news.

'Cyclists should pay road tax'

The piece de resistance of every anti-cyclist argument. If you want to use the roads, you should pay road tax and THEN you'll deserve some respect. It was the justification of Twitter user @EmmaWay20, who knocked cyclist Tom Hockley off his bike before speeding off and Tweeting "Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier. I have right of way -- he doesn't even pay road tax! #bloodycyclists"

Despite Emma's obvious stupidity becoming national news, there are STILL people who wheel out this idea (yes Louisa-Jane, I'm talking about you), so let's go through this one slowly...

Road tax was abolished in 1937. That's 76 years ago.

You don't pay road tax. You pay vehicle tax and it's based on the CO2 emissions of your vehicle. It doesn't take a genius to work out that you can use some taxpayer money to bring in the taxation of bicycles if you like, but the grand total of money raised will be... nothing.

Using this argument not only automatically eliminates you from any kind of sensible debate about cycling, but should also see your driving licence confiscated and your car towed away and crushed. Be warned.

'Cyclists run red lights'

It's true that some cyclists run red lights, and that's against the law. Most cyclists will join you in condemning the very few who think it's OK to charge, head down, through pedestrians as they cross on a green man.

But consider this: Sometimes it's safer to look both ways, check for traffic and head off before that huge truck grumbles into action and starts turning its monstrous weight into the flimsy wheels of your bicycle.

And you know what makes that even more important? The fact that it's becoming rarer than rare these days to be able to pedal up a clear cycle lane and into the big, blue, safe bike box at the front without a lump of metal and rubber ignorantly blocking the way.

When it's a choice between being boxed in between a ton of metal and a particularly hard road, or nipping off early through the lights, there's really no contest.

And while we're on the subject of breaking the law, do you get similarly irate when a driver edges up to 34mph in a 30mph zone? Does that make it OK when another driver dies in a car crash?

Cyclists running red lights gets on your nerves, but that rarely puts us under the wheels of your truck.

Additionally, before we let these exaggerations run away with us, a study by the Sunday Times found that 90% of cyclists obeyed the red lights in the three cities observed, including London.

'Cyclists should be banned because they keep dying'

An argument that keeps cropping up is that as a punishment, presumably, for dying so often, cyclists should be banned completely.

It's the kind of suggestion put forward by the NRA every time somebody in America is killed by a gun - let's not get rid of the guns that kill everybody, let's make sure everybody has a deadly weapon instead. Aside from the fact that London's roads are already gridlocked without adding thousands more vehicles each morning, it's an argument that defies any kind of reasonable debate.

In 2011, over 1,900 pedestrians were killed on the roads. Should we therefore ban people from walking outside in case they too die and ruin the journey of a poor, defenceless driver?

Perhaps we should take that argument to its logical conclusion and, rather than banning chemical weapons, we should get rid of pesky humankind for all that dying they keep doing as a result of them.

'Cyclists are dangerous. I saw one doing xxx this morning'

I know this is a difficult idea to grasp, but that person who ended up in a body bag in Aldgate wasn't the same person that you saw being an idiot on a bike in Kensington.

If cyclists are all to be judged on that one person who annoyed you this morning on your daily commute, then it seems only fair to do the same back.

Drivers are all speeding lunatics who change lanes without indicating, thrusting their un-taxed, uninsured motor around the road while talking on their mobile phones, blaring out the Radio One Breakfast Show at unbearable volumes and smoking out of the window. Oh, and you can't pass a woman without leaning out and shouting 'oi oiiii larvely! Fancy a shag?' and beeping your horn incessantly.

Put like that, those cyclists don't seem so bad, do they?

So, by all means, let's have a debate about cyclists and why they keep dying. But let's all make a gentleman's agreement to stop using these tired, ridiculous old arguments, yeah?

Failing that, just be nice. Someone just died, and it could have been someone you love.