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"It's not always the car's fault" - Laura Trott says reckless cyclists to blame if they get hurt & helmets should be compulsory

Double Olympic champion says riders breaking law shouldn't be surprised if they get hit...

Laura Trott claims that cyclists riding recklessly have only themselves to blame should they get hit by a vehicle. “It’s not always the car’s fault” she said. She also echoed calls by Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish in recent days for cycle helmets to be made compulsory.

Trott, winner of two gold medals at London 2012, was speaking in her role as one of Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s cycling ambassadors, says the Evening Standard.

While the mayor has expressed concerns about a minority of cyclists who disobey the rules of the road, Trott’s comments appear far more sweeping and, some may say, poorly thought through.

“Cyclists wonder why they get a bad name,” she told the newspaper. “I see cyclists jumping in and out of the buses and people wonder why they get hit.

“It’s not always the car’s fault,” she added, although of course substituting “motorist” for “car” would be more accurate.

“Cyclists need to help themselves and should not jump red lights.

“I would ride in London but I certainly wouldn’t ride like that, you just have to be careful.

“I can understand going down the outside of traffic but you should obey the rules of the road because we’re all road users.”

The Standard points out that 14 cyclists lost their lives on the city’s roads last year, and that six more have died so far in 2013.

What neither it – nor Trott – acknowledge is that in the vast majority of cases, the cyclist has done nothing wrong.

And far from cars, it is lorries that present the greatest danger to cyclists on London’s streets.

According to the London Cycling Campaign, HGVs account for just 5 per cent of the city’s traffic, but are responsible for around half of cyclist fatalities.

Many of those deaths occur at junctions, where the cyclist – all too often, a female in her 20s or 30s – is obeying the law, stopped at a traffic light, but on the inside of a lorry that then turns left and not seen by the driver.

Trott, aged 21, has also called for more segregated bike lanes, such as the one planned to run along the Embankment.

“It shows show we’re becoming a cycling nation and the scheme is needed now. If you don’t do it then London’s roads are going to be filled with cyclists. We need more bike lanes in central London.”

TfL’s video animations showing new infrastructure being out in place on the Stratford extension of Barclays Cycle Superhighway CS2 have been widely criticised, including here on road.cc, as over-complicated and counter-intuitive, however.

Trott added that helmets should be made compulsory for cyclists, something that the mayor’s own cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, opposes.

Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish have also supported calls for mandatory helmets for cyclists in recent days.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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144 comments

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Leviathan | 10 years ago
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@ColinP eloquently put.

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arfa | 10 years ago
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"I actually think that when ever there is an incident in a newspaper (or online) reporting a cycle accident they are usually pretty favourable in that they don't seek to determine who was in the right or wrong - which I infer is a reticence to point the blame if the cyclist has lost their life because they've already paid a high penalty if there were in the wrong"

Newspapers will rarely opine on blame as accidents are often "sub judice" and offering views can prejudice subsequent trials landing newspapers in the brown stuff. Hence the reason why they report simple facts like whether the victim was wearing a helmet....

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Leviathan | 10 years ago
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Would you like some ketchup to go with that chip on your shoulder?  21

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daddyELVIS | 10 years ago
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Read the article again and was confused by her quote,"If you don't do it then London's roads will be filled with cyclists".

That is a strange thing for a cycling ambassador to say - sounds like she's backing a scheme to get cyclists off London's roads??

Then I read further down that she was speaking after just being announced as the ambassador for the Lee Valley Velo Park (facilities include a road cycling circuit). Now I'm starting to put 2 and 2 together!

Perhaps her comments were planned and well-thought after all. If cyclists are on the road, then they're not spending cash at the Velo Park! Respectable cyclists only cycle on shiny new cycling-highways and in velo parks. Roads were not designed for bikes and only an "aggressive lycra-clad minority" would dare to cycle on them!

I've read the article 3 times now, and find it more ludicrous each time. The caption under the first picture is brilliant - "No Helmet: man on Boris Bike". Who said there is no anti-cycling bias in the mainstream media?

Wake up!!

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Bigfoz | 10 years ago
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Bus drivers sit lower, and have 360deg glass / visibility. Bike riders show int he windows as well as mirrors. For an HGV, the height and high sided doors create massive blind spots.

It's as much up to us as cyclists to take consideration of our own actions, think about whether we're in blind spots etc. I've been dealing with this for 30+ years as I rode motorbikes only for many years. It's as much a problem for bikers as cyclists. But at the end of the day, when you undertake an HGV / Van at a junction, run a red light, pavement hop etc - it's your decision and your responsibility to ensure your safety.

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crazy-legs | 10 years ago
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Quote:

I actually think that when ever there is an incident in a newspaper (or online) reporting a cycle accident they are usually pretty favourable in that they don't seek to determine who was in the right or wrong - which I infer is a reticence to point the blame if the cyclist has lost their life because they've already paid a high penalty if there were in the wrong - though I actually feel that we learn little from that. If we understand why people get killed we can take individual action to minimise our risks.....though you can never eliminate risk.

We must be reading different articles...
Most of the ones I read there's something in there, usually a subtle insidious little dig along the lines of:
"The cyclist, who was not wearing a helmet, ..."
or
"The cyclist, who's bike did not have any lights, was hit head on when the car left the road..."

Each time, a subtle little shifting of the blame, almost implying that because the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet/hi-vis or did not have lights that he somehow deserved to be hit or at least that the motorist is entirely innocent. Even the phrase "the car left the road" is the same - implying that the car somehow got bored of being on the tarmac and decided to take the scenic route of its own free will and not remotely connected to the poor innocent hard-working tax-paying driver behind the wheel.

You never get that with any other type of incident - when did you last read:
"The pedestrian, who was not wearing a helmet, tripped..."
or
The robbery victim, who was not wearing a stab vest, is in critical condition..."
??

(sorry, gone a bit off-topic there although I suppose I'm still on the media reporting side, even if not directly connected to the Laura Trott story).

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Ush | 10 years ago
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Crazy-legs, the problem is that you're reading these articles without putting on the reality-distoring goggles featured by the foul-mouthed, anti-science, cyclist-blaming helmet pushers.

Try smearing your eyes with a mixture of equal parts of silliness, authoritarianism and ignorance and you'll start to see The Fear.

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hampstead_bandit | 10 years ago
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to answer any posters who questioned my comments about "3/4 of cyclists not obeying the highway code on my daily commute" I am sorry to say its true

this morning at 8.15am. riding from NW1 to WC2. Numerous instances of RLJ by cyclists alongside me. If 10 cyclists come to a RL, only 2-3 will remain, the rest will jump the RL.

On foot this afternoon, saw numerous instances of RLJ, riding up 1-way streets, riding on pavement, etc.

its way too common to be ignored. Its something I have noticed in the 2 years especially as cyclist numbers have increased dramatically including the lawless "Boris Bikers" who seem to do what the hell they like / want

I have been commuting in London for 20 years+, and in many previous years the only cyclists on the London roads were responsible, experienced commuting cyclists, the couriers have always acted like dickheads and RLJ or ridden dangerously and I have seen more than a couple of those people end up in serious traffic collisions

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Skylark | 10 years ago
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Will LT cook me a McD?

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Stumps | 10 years ago
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Because she is 21 years old and a British Olympic cyclist she cant have views on a subject ?

She has to follow the party line and not speak her mind ?

Half the comments on here are utter crap but you can speak your mind cant you ?

My personal opinion is that she is right, there are a minority who spoil it for the majority.

Yes we need better infrastructure and better driver training but can she not say what she thinks and at the tender age of 21 she has probably ridden more road miles than the majority of people on here so she probably is more experienced and knowledgable than most people on here.

Feel free to lambast me with your own personal views just as Laura presented her own personal views.

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Matt eaton | 10 years ago
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Whilst I agree with Laura's general view about the poor standards of cycling in the capital I think her comments are poorly thought through. The message should be that some road users of all types show a disregard for the law and the safety of themselves and others. Making specific reference to the behaviour of cyclists skews the issue.

On helmets, I'm inclined to take with a pinch of salt the advice of someone who has such affiliation with bodies such as British Cycling and the cycle industry on the whole. It's probably also worth noting that no one in her position would get away with saying that you don't need to wear a helmet. They are therefore are forced into a position of pro-compliance, whether this is their real view or not.

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Nzlucas replied to daddyELVIS | 10 years ago
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Helmets do not incur VAT in the first place...

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daddyELVIS replied to paulfg42 | 10 years ago
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paulfg42 wrote:

If cyclists stopped riding through red lights, would the negative view of cyclists improve?

If car drivers stopped speeding, drinking alcohol, texting, phoning, driving through red lights, etc, etc, would the already positive view of drivers improve further?

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koko56 replied to ChairRDRF | 10 years ago
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ChairRDRF wrote:

I am glad to see that most people posting have got it right.

She is just wrong. Racing cyclists generally know nothing about safety for ordinary cyclists - the exception being Chris Boardman.

Which is why the Government did not make him the UK Champion for Cycling.

Oh yes, wonder where they spend their time training... must be some far far away land, planet even.

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daddyELVIS replied to hampstead_bandit | 10 years ago
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hampstead_bandit wrote:

but mixing up the helmet issue with dangerous cycling practises just blurs the key issues, which is that adult cycle training should be promoted

My worry here is who delivers the cycle training and what is actually taught - would there be a basic 'national curriculum' which trainers had to follow?

Would cyclists be taught to ride in cycle lanes whenever available, always stay to the left, never filter, never advance beyond stop lines at lights?

In my experience, being 'assertive' on the road is the best way to be seen and keep safe on a bike.

Hiding away on the left and between cars, and thoughtlessly following poorly 'designed' cycle lanes, whilst all legal, are some of the most dangerous examples of cycling that I see.

I'd rather take the lane (when necessary) and advance well beyond the stop line at certain lights where experience has taught me it is safer to do so (probably to the annoyance of the 'road-tax payer' behind me).

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daddyELVIS replied to AnalogueAndy | 10 years ago
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AnalogueAndy wrote:

Oh dear, oh dear. Laura, Laura. And the rest of the 'stars' lining up to say similar, please think before you open your traps, and even if this isn't reported exactly as you said it please remember journalists don't ride bikes and whatever you say it will get twisted to meet their agenda.

Yes there is an ounce of truth in what you say but one ounce outweighed by a ton of evidence to show you're wrong.

I had a nasty 'off' myself last year. No-ones fault. A freak mechanical. I was riding safely and, my first piece of 'luck' - the woman driving the car behind me was too (she managed to avoid me, just).

I whacked my head and broke most of the bones in my face as well as cracking my skull - I know some claim after any bang on the head that "it was my helmet that saved me" but in my case it really did. I've worn one ever since I started riding in London in the 1980s. I'd taken up mountain biking, Giro had brought out their first 'Pro Lite' (Remember them!) and I started wearing it for the limited protection I saw it could offer. I've worn one ever since, and my wife, and kids. I wouldn't dream of not wearing one now. It feels unnatural to ride without it.

So you'd expect me to be fully behind Laura's campaign for helmet compulsion?

No. Never. I'm vehemently anti-compulsion. For all the (to me anyway) obvious reasons that I hope most of us all see too plainly - it would legitimise the view cycling is 'dangerous', it would place the onus on cyclists not drivers, it would discourage people from cycling, it would negate the potential health benefits of getting more people to ride, it would do nothing to improve safety on the roads or even touch the numbers of killed or seriously injured.

Pro helmet. Anti compulsion. Pro choice. Pro cycling.

 41

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daddyELVIS replied to Leviathan | 10 years ago
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bikeboy76 wrote:

....yet you call her naïve

exactly that - she fell into the latest media trap of using a pro cyclist to strengthen their anti-cycling agenda! What has been reported in Laura's name will do zippo to make cycling on the road safer, however it will help strengthen the opinions of anti-cycling morons. Job done!

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daddyELVIS replied to Leviathan | 10 years ago
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bikeboy76 wrote:

You think she is being used, not that she could have a free mind and opinion that differs from your own.

I never said she didn't have a free mind.

I don't disagree with all her opinions.

Regarding falling into the media trap - if everything is being quoted in context, exactly as said, and without leaving out any positive statements she may have also made, then fair enough - but if that is the case, then I would suggest her best course of action in her role as a cycling ambassador is to keep her mouth shut.

However, some of the comments and phrasing sounds like she was commenting on clips of poor cycling being shown to her - e.g. "I would ride in London, but I certainly wouldn't ride like that."

(That quote also makes me think she has never ridden a bike in London traffic).

If she was asked to comment on clips of poor cycling, or if these quotes are merely answers to a line of questions on poor cycling, I wonder if there were any clips / questions on poor driving (I would guess not!)

BTW, I recently praised Laura Trott on twitter for her well thought-out comments on the proposal for a women's Tour de France that exactly mirrored the Men's Tour.

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daddyELVIS replied to Colin Peyresourde | 10 years ago
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Colin Peyresourde wrote:

I don't believe the bullshit on this site these days. I'm tired of the incessant nonsense that comes out from so many.

And you've just added to it  41

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Leviathan replied to hillboy | 10 years ago
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hillboy wrote:

with 'cycling ambassadors' like this who needs enemies? Who are the other cycling ambassadors by the way; Paul Dacre and Eric Pickles I presume, or that daft #bloody cyclists# individual on twitter, whatever her name was?

Still I suppose now she's got the funding, got the OBE, got the medals she is free to turn around and s**t on the sport that gave her everything

Bye bye Trotty  103

More delusional thinking from faceless internet twerps.
You think because you don't agree with her that she has 's**t on the sport', what exactly have you done for the sport? You think she will somehow disappear because you put a comment on an internet forum? You are going to be very disappointed when you hear from the young, fit, attractive, celebrity, athlete again.
Bye, bye Hillboy  103

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PhilRuss replied to stephen connor | 10 years ago
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"the fact is that all enclosed vehicles (cars, vans, trucks and HGV's)have blind spots and its next to impossible to design them without blind spots..."
[[[[[ Hmm...curiously, we don't hear much about "cyclist killed by left-turning BUS", do we? Safe to assume, then, that buses have adequate mirrors, and that bus-drivers are trained to use them properly. I think I've heard quite enough about "blind-spots", thank you. And thanks also for telling me I haven't enough brains to worry about. Nice.
P.R.

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PhilRuss replied to hampstead_bandit | 10 years ago
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hampstead_bandit wrote:

to answer any posters who questioned my comments about "3/4 of cyclists not obeying the highway code on my daily commute" I am sorry to say its true

this morning at 8.15am. riding from NW1 to WC2. Numerous instances of RLJ by cyclists alongside me. If 10 cyclists come to a RL, only 2-3 will remain, the rest will jump the RL.

On foot this afternoon, saw numerous instances of RLJ, riding up 1-way streets, riding on pavement, etc.

its way too common to be ignored. Its something I have noticed in the 2 years especially as cyclist numbers have increased dramatically including the lawless "Boris Bikers" who seem to do what the hell they like / want

I have been commuting in London for 20 years+, and in many previous years the only cyclists on the London roads were responsible, experienced commuting cyclists, the couriers have always acted like dickheads and RLJ or ridden dangerously and I have seen more than a couple of those people end up in serious traffic collisions

999 Absolutely spot-on, squire. When I see RLJ-er's, I holler, "Yeah, go on, give us all a bad name!"
P.R.

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PhilRuss replied to Bigfoz | 10 years ago
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Bus drivers sit lower, and have 360deg glass / visibility. Bike riders show int he windows as well as mirrors. For an HGV, the height and high sided doors create massive blind spots. I've been dealing with this for 30+ years....

[[[[ Only 30 years? Compared with me, you're a beginner. I've never been side-swiped by a lorry, despite regularly riding through at junctions...but are you really suggesting that in 2013 it's beyond the wit of man to design a decent near-side mirror for high-sided vehicles? Gimme a break!
P.R.

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MartinH replied to Stumps | 10 years ago
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stumps wrote:

...at the tender age of 21 she has probably ridden more road miles than the majority of people on here so she probably is more experienced and knowledgable than most people on here.

Feel free to lambast me with your own personal views just as Laura presented her own personal views.

Well, I don't want to lambast you, I don't think it's helpful when these debates get too heated. I would like to offer another angle on your point there though.

At the tender age of 21, Laura Trott exists in an extremely rarified world of cycling at the highest levels of performance. Yes, she's perfectly free to speak from her own experience, but the reality of cycling and the level of risk it involves is almost certainly quite different for her than it is for an average utility cyclist who rarely ventures above 12mph.

I agree with her on bad cyclists - they annoy me too, but they're not representative of every cyclist on the road. And her reasoning on helmet legislation is flawed. It's based anecdotal assumptions, with no scientific or statistical backing.

Quote:

In 2010 her sister, Emma, 23, broke her collarbone and suffered concussion so bad that she “barely even knew who she was” when a car hit five British riders in Belgium.

Trott believes that Emma’s life was saved by the helmet she wore. She said: “When I was 11 I didn’t want to look uncool but my parents wouldn’t let me out unless I was wearing it.

“I think it should be a legal requirement to wear a helmet. So many lives have been saved by them and it saved my sister’s life. She got hit by a car and cut her head open.

“When Emma called from hospital she barely even knew who she was, so if she wasn’t wearing a helmet now she wouldn’t be here today."

Let's look at that another way. It's well documented that cycle helmets are not designed or tested to cope with impacts as extreme as those likely to result from a collision with a car. So the fact that her sister suffered a serious concussion in such a collision in spite of wearing one could just as easily be argued as evidence that cycle helmets are not terribly effective in those circumstances. Of course, without being able to reconstruct the situation identically for both helmeted and unhelmeted riders, it can't really be proved either way.

And that's the problem with any proposed helmet law. There isn't nearly enough proper evidence to support it. Ben Goldacre and David Spiegelhalter sum it up better than I can, here. Laws should never be passed without good reason - the absence of a bad reason isn't enough (even assuming that there are none, which a lot of people would dispute).

Laura Trott is usually very impressive in her public presentation, but this a misstep. Yes, she's entitled to her opinions, but she's also in a privileged position where her views gain a disproportionately high level of attention. By all means, do her bit to lead by example and help make it cool for people to choose to wear a helmet, but when she's speaking on matters of law that would affect every cyclist in the country, she does have a duty to make sure that her opinions are well informed.

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daddyELVIS replied to Nzlucas | 10 years ago
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Nzlucas wrote:

Helmets do not incur VAT in the first place...

pss...I was being sarcastic

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Colin Peyresourde replied to daddyELVIS | 10 years ago
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daddyELVIS wrote:
Colin Peyresourde wrote:

I don't believe the bullshit on this site these days. I'm tired of the incessant nonsense that comes out from so many.

And you've just added to it  41

Nice comeback dickhead.

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Colin Peyresourde replied to daddyELVIS | 10 years ago
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daddyELVIS wrote:
hampstead_bandit wrote:

but mixing up the helmet issue with dangerous cycling practises just blurs the key issues, which is that adult cycle training should be promoted

My worry here is who delivers the cycle training and what is actually taught - would there be a basic 'national curriculum' which trainers had to follow?

Would cyclists be taught to ride in cycle lanes whenever available, always stay to the left, never filter, never advance beyond stop lines at lights?

In my experience, being 'assertive' on the road is the best way to be seen and keep safe on a bike.

Hiding away on the left and between cars, and thoughtlessly following poorly 'designed' cycle lanes, whilst all legal, are some of the most dangerous examples of cycling that I see.

I'd rather take the lane (when necessary) and advance well beyond the stop line at certain lights where experience has taught me it is safer to do so (probably to the annoyance of the 'road-tax payer' behind me).

You know, I think the problem you have is with authority. I don't have a problem with what you are saying about the rider making good decisions, but good cycle education will teach people to cycle safely - this doesn't mean advance on the left in to cycle box at all costs. But why you think it will be subverted into some weird unsafe subservient cyclists killing training program is beyond me.....IT WILL BE ABOUT CYCLING SAFELY. If you want to argue about what is safe then fine.
But you show your own rigid thinking up with inane comments like that.
I'm not into legislating for helmets, but I think you are a tool if you don't think they can help protect you. That doesn't mean to say that it will, it doesn't mean to say that it has to, but in the likelihood that you, or I come off our bikes at speed, we will likely be thankful of a lid on our noggin. So why not wear one?
BTW - you are right about your road positioning. The point is that a lot of people get it wrong. They need educating. If you get involved in a positive action to help others you can educate them in being road safe too, rather than getting upset at poor Ms Trott.

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Colin Peyresourde replied to Leviathan | 10 years ago
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bikeboy76 wrote:
hillboy wrote:

with 'cycling ambassadors' like this who needs enemies? Who are the other cycling ambassadors by the way; Paul Dacre and Eric Pickles I presume, or that daft #bloody cyclists# individual on twitter, whatever her name was?

Still I suppose now she's got the funding, got the OBE, got the medals she is free to turn around and s**t on the sport that gave her everything

Bye bye Trotty  103

More delusional thinking from faceless internet twerps.
You think because you don't agree with her that she has 's**t on the sport', what exactly have you done for the sport? You think she will somehow disappear because you put a comment on an internet forum? You are going to be very disappointed when you hear from the young, fit, attractive, celebrity, athlete again.
Bye, bye Hillboy  103

+1 - Some people seem to be confused about cycling as a sport and cycling as a mode of transport. But regardless you hardly start to get peoples respect and wider awareness if your reaction is effectively not recognising your common ground.

I don't really get this idea that there is a natural anti-cycling bias in the media. After all doesn't the TImes (someone has already mentioned the journalist that got injured that began their campaign) have a pro-cycling stance in order to get better transport routes.

If cycling was really this pariah of the roads, why is there more efforts now to create safer cycling routes? Why has the Major of London set up the Boris Bike scheme? Why have a cycling ambassador? Why set up schemes to help people learn to ride on the streets of London.

You know why Trott has come out with these comments? It's because they are trying to get cycling to a middle ground, with other road users, so that other law abiding citizens sit together in a common position and understanding, with mutual respect. If you keep denying the problems within in a group the it looks like you are protecting/condoning their actions - it means that you alienate other 'groups'. By Trott pointing out that there are idiots it helps people identify with the law abiding cyclists.

I actually think that when ever there is an incident in a newspaper (or online) reporting a cycle accident they are usually pretty favourable in that they don't seek to determine who was in the right or wrong - which I infer is a reticence to point the blame if the cyclist has lost their life because they've already paid a high penalty if there were in the wrong - though I actually feel that we learn little from that. If we understand why people get killed we can take individual action to minimise our risks.....though you can never eliminate risk.

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farrell replied to PhilRuss | 10 years ago
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PhilRuss wrote:

999 Absolutely spot-on, squire. When I see RLJ-er's, I holler, "Yeah, go on, give us all a bad name!"
P.R.

When you drive, do you pull up drivers going through red lights? Or breaking the speed limit? Or using mobiles? Do you hang around pub car parks to stop drink drivers?

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daddyELVIS replied to Colin Peyresourde | 10 years ago
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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
daddyELVIS wrote:
Colin Peyresourde wrote:

I don't believe the bullshit on this site these days. I'm tired of the incessant nonsense that comes out from so many.

And you've just added to it  41

Nice comeback dickhead.

Thanks

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