LETTER: Motorists’ attitude to cyclists has deteriorated over years

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In response to the cycling debate, I am now in my mid 50s, I have cycled for 35 years and have clocked more than 200,000 miles,

During this time I have noticed a vast increase in the number of cars and lost one good friend and several acquaintances in accidents with cars. I have noticed the attitude towards cyclists mostly deteriorating, making me feel less and less safe on the roads and thankful when I arrive home safe.

I enjoy cycling so much that it hasn’t yet got to the point where I don’t want to go out at all and recently the trends suggest the popularity of cycling is slightly increasing.

However, reading letters like the ones in the Express (Friday, May 6th) depress me and put one more tick in the box for retiring to somewhere in Europe. I currently enjoy the culture shock once a year on holiday of being able to cycle where bikes are regarded as the efficient, cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly form of transport which they are; where people cycle from youth to old age and where cyclists are considered as someone’s mum, grandad, son, brother etc and not just “cyclists” as though the person on the bike somehow ceases to exist.

Maybe we should raise awareness of this by making people take a cycling proficiency test before they are allowed behind the wheel of a car.

In Europe their infrastructure of safe cycle routes and shared use pavements is much better than ours and, although we now have a few more good cycle routes like the Padiham greenway linking to the canal towpath, a lot of money is wasted on white elephants like the work being done on Padiham Road, and painting white lines down roads and calling them cycle lanes only for them to disappear suddenly or to be filled with parked cars like Eastern Avenue.

I have noticed that when, if I dare, I allow myself the pleasure of riding on a summer’s day without a helmet, motorists tend to give me more room (it does state in the Highway Code “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”). Maybe it is my imagination, but maybe it helps them to think of me as a human being!

All the groups I have ridden with do single out when approached by cars on country lanes, given the chance, as it is usually in your interest to do so rather than being knocked off or abused by impatient motorists. The only reason not to would be to ensure you have been seen and to prevent motorists trying to squeeze past a long string of cyclists on blind bends.

As for insurance. Quite a large number of cyclists, all the members of the Cyclist Touring Club or British Cycling, do have third party insurance as part of their membership benefits.

When it comes to pedestrians, there are the cyclists who are happy to whizz along on pavements and nearly run them over, just as there are boy racers who speed along the country lanes, with cyclists trying to avoid such motorists. Maybe this trend just reflects our general lack of respect, care and consideration for other members of our society.

Recently I have had more close encounters with pedestrians who, when not hearing any cars, don’t bother to look and wander into the road, often while using their mobile phones, If I didn’t ride along expecting them to do this I would certainly have had several collisions by now.

Hopefully I will be able to enjoy the benefits of cycling into old age whether it is here or abroad. Thirty five years with only one car in our household has already given us the financial benefit of allowing us to work part-time and plan for an early retirement. As I have children it stops me feeling as guilty about my contribution to destroying the planet for them and at present I am physically fit and barring accident hope to remain that way.