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Highway Code changes: “Cycling in the UK is doomed,” says pro; Road safety and the media: are Highway Code news articles designed to inform or anger readers?; Wave or no wave; Road racing is back; Roche for 007? + more on the live blog

It’s Monday and the sun is shining (at least where I am) – so why not grab a coffee and join Ryan Mallon for the first live blog of the week?
24 January 2022, 17:31
Road safety and the media: your reaction

Today’s discussion of the new Highway Code changes has certainly fired up a lively debate in the comments and in our inbox, tangential chats about leg shaving aside (that’s for another day…).

While this is a debate that will certainly rumble on, here is a selection of some of your thoughts so far:

Those that oppose the changes to the Highway Code now: what exactly were they doing when the consultation was going on? If somebody is suggesting that Cycling UK have hijacked the agenda, how did they let that happen? They must have been fast asleep. I haven't heard anybody say, "I opposed these changes at the consultation stage". If you didn't oppose it at the correct stage, then jog on.

The Surrey police comment nails it, as always.  A safe overtake will generally mean crossing the centre line. Which is why it is irrelevant if cyclists are in a row, two abreast or riding in the middle of the road.  If you can't see clearly to overtake then don't do it. The only person putting anyone in danger is the driver who decides to overtake when they can't see that the way ahead is clear.  I don't know why people find this complicated.

I have been having a look at the new Highway Code rules themselves rather than just reading the press.  A lot of the changes seem to be common sense, revolving around being aware of other road users. They do, however, seem to be ‘urban centric’ and have not really been thought out with respect to country lanes.

I live on the Kent No. 1 cycle route, and as such we get a fair number of cyclists, particularly at weekends. The lanes where I am are single track with passing places. No footpaths and plenty of potholes. There are typically high hedges on both sides of the road, and lots of tight, blind bends.  Most of the time it is impossible to overtake cyclists safely because the road is simply not wide enough unless they stop at one of the passing places, as we do in cars. Cycling at any speed down the middle of these lanes, particularly approaching bends, is potentially suicidal, since just out of sight could be a tractor, a delivery truck taking up the whole road, horses, or indeed other cyclists. Nonetheless, we often see, and quite often barely miss, cyclists two or three abreast doing just that.

I'm naturally risk averse. When I first started cycling, whenever I came in to conflict with other road users I would check the highway code along with other advice (e.g. Bikeability). The conclusion was always the same: I can't change what other road users do, I can only affect my own behaviour. Largely, that meant staying away from shared use paths and, importantly, taking greater control of the lane - riding in primary (especially when the highway code recommends that drivers don't overtake) and moving in to position early when approaching junctions. If this pisses some drivers off they only have their own behaviour to blame.

With the changes to the Highway Code that comes into effect next week, I believe too much responsibility is placed on the motorist. Cyclists and pedestrians don't have to abide by the highway code or even understand it. Let's level up to playing field a bit, get all road users – this includes cyclist – to take a test so that they understand when they are breaking the law. For instance,a motorist can only overtake a cyclist if there is about 2 metres clearance, but a cyclist can undertake close enough to knock your wing mirror.

Come on let's have a level playing field where we are all responsible, and if you are going to fine the motorist, fine cyclists and pedestrians alike.

This is health and safety gone mad. I'd like to see the results of the Risk Assessments carried out on these new rules.

Jake Stewart is wrong, and cycling in the UK is moving in the right direction; slowly, almost imperceptibly, but things are changing, which is why the old guard petrol heads feel threatened. 

We have to keep the pressure up by challenging politicians to actually implement those nice shiny policies they've approved, not just leave them gathering dust on the shelves.  If you don't already do it, get in touch with your local campaign group to find out how you can help and email your councillors and MP demanding resources for cycling.

I disagree, cycling in the UK is not moving in the right direction, in my experience anyway.  Close passes are now so frequent I am gradually finding quieter and quieter roads for my road bike, or riding my mtb off road more and more. When my buddies go out at the weekend, if they choose Saturday instead of Sunday, I'll decline. If they choose Saturday PM instead of AM, I'll decline. None of them commute though, so none of them ride at the "worst" time of the day.  And this is rural Sussex, not central London or any other big city.

But how many times does a news article about cycling descend into a slanging match about road tax and red lights?  Why do ALL drivers seem to think it is they alone who pay for roads?

It's good that Jake Stewart is speaking up.

The same people who abuse us and put us in danger when we ride bikes very likely cheer on British racing cyclists. So if the British riders speak up, they can make a difference.

I take an optimistic view and all this publicity will at least make drivers more likely to think about cyclists.

Oh, and turns out waving is still a fundamental part of cycling culture. Just not in cities, and especially not in Oxford... 

24 January 2022, 17:01
Bike Deliveries: "Saving money, stress and planet!"

A win-win indeed. Not sure about the headwear though... 

24 January 2022, 16:42
New cycling infrastructure on its way

While we all have our heads turned by Mr Loophole and Mike ‘grow your own concrete’ Graham spouting on about how the Highway Code changes will wreak havoc on our roads, there have been plenty of positive developments this month in the world of cycling infrastructure.

Last week, City of York Council approved a £1.4 million plan to improve cycling, walking and bus use on the busy Tadcaster Road. The project includes introducing some “light” segregation to the cycle path and widening the footpath and bike path at one section of the road.

In Exeter, a temporary no-entry zone which helped form a pop-up cycle route has been made permanent. A section of Dryden Road was made available for cyclists only in 2020 as part of the council’s bid to provide safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists in the early stages of the pandemic. Together with similar measures on three other roads – all of which have since been made permanent – the no-entry zone created a two-and-a-half mile cross-city cycle route in Exeter.

Councillors in Slough have also improved the permanent installation of a bus and cycle lane along the A4, again introduced as a temporary measure during the pandemic. A decision is also due soon on the creation of a £10 million cycle ‘superhighway’ alongside the A4, which the council hopes will improve cycle safety, ease off traffic on the busy road, decrease air pollution, and encourage more residents to take up cycling.

24 January 2022, 16:00
Van der Poel Stage 2 (A.S.O. Charly Lopez)
MVDP “just sitting at home on the couch”

Remember Zwift’s slogan about emulating Mathieu van der Poel? Well for once, that goal seems a lot more achievable at the moment.

The Dutch superstar is currently recovering from a back injury – reportedly sustained from switching between road and mountain biking last year – and has been told to rest by doctors, putting his spring classics campaign in jeopardy.

His father and fellow Tour of Flanders winner Adri van der Poel told VTM Nieuws yesterday: "He's doing okay. He can ride again when he is pain free, but right now he's just sitting at home on the couch.”

Same, Mathieu, same…

24 January 2022, 14:24
Highway Code changes: an open letter to journalists

As we’ve seen already over the weekend and this morning, the upcoming changes to the Highway Code have shone an important light on how the press reports on aspects of road safety and how the relationship between different road users is portrayed in the media.

Last night cycling blogger Sarah Berry penned an open letter to journalists, calling on them to use their power responsibly when informing readers about the revisions to the Highway code and road safety in general.

In the letter, which can be viewed in full on Patreon, Sarah writes:

The time when I would feel safer on the roads was just days away and now the media was doing its part in making sure everyone knew about [the changes] and understood them. And then I read the headlines.

"New Highway Code rule will find drivers £1,000 for opening door with wrong hand".

"Highway Code overhaul that tells cyclists to pedal in the middle of the road".

Instead of seeing this for what it was; updated guidance on how to save lives and keep people safe on the roads, media giants were purposefully misrepresenting the Highway Code changes in ways designed to most outrage drivers. These articles weren't designed to inform, they were designed to anger -- and now I'm terrified they're going to do just that.

So that's why I'm writing this open letter right now, to you, to the journalists across the country trying to spice up what they see is a boring and obligatory story about road rule changes coming this weekend.

Because it's not boring to me. The last thing I need is angrier drivers on the road, because the ones out there right now are already so pissed off about my presence that they do things that make me fear for my life almost every time I go out for a ride. Whether it's the van that passes too fast and too close, or the taxi speeding just inches behind my back wheel, or the woman who isn't watching where she's going and hurls abuse at me through her window for almost ruining her life by making her a murderer. There is too much anger out there already, I can't handle any more.

And before you ask me why I ride a bike in the first place if it makes me feel so unsafe, stop and ask yourself if you'd ask yourself the same kind of question to a woman afraid of walking home alone at night.

I want to feel excited and hopeful about the changes to the Highway Code again. But if you keep doing what you're doing, the roads will become more dangerous for people like me this weekend. You have so much power in your hands, please use it responsibly. 

24 January 2022, 13:11
Radio, Radio

The debate over the upcoming changes to the Highway Code looks set to rumble on throughout the week, this morning graduating from Twitter to the always nuanced and insightful world of radio and television.

The BBC has earned some plaudits for its balanced handling of this rather touchy subject:

Meanwhile, on LBC…

In the written press, Peter Walker’s article in the Graun dispelling the common myths around the new changes also serves as a perfect antidote to the “reports” found in the Mail and Times over the weekend. 

24 January 2022, 12:46
The name’s Roche, Nicolas Roche

As many of you will remember, I’ve been avidly fallowing Nicolas Roche’s progress on the Irish version of Dancing with the Stars (so you don’t have to, although I’d highly recommend it).

Well last night the former Sky and BMC rider showed as much fight and spirit in the ballroom as he did on steep Spanish mountains during his career. His Viennese Waltz scored a much-improved 16 out of 30 from the judges which, combined with the viewer vote, was enough to secure his place in next Sunday’s show.

Whatever you think of his frame and foot placement, it must be said that Roche looked impossibly cool in a double-breasted suit, prompting Bora-Hansgrohe’s Irish champion Ryan Mullen to throw the retired pro’s hat in the ring for a certain upcoming vacancy in the spy world:

Mullen could be on to something here. Surely the time is right for a cycling James Bond? Ditch the car chases and give him a Colnago, it would be perfect.

I can see it now – Nicolas Roche stars as 007 in “No Time to Ride”, “The Man with the Golden Crank”, “On Sir Brailsford’s Secret Service”, “From the Vuelta With Love”, “The Worlds is Not Enough”…

Now what’s the phone number for Eon Productions?

24 January 2022, 11:49
“Luckily I can go to work by bike!”

 With diesel prices in Belgium soaring, Iljo Keisse has a simple solution.

This morning, the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl veteran tweeted: “175€ for a full tank… Luckily I can go to work by bike!”

I wonder how much it would cost to fill up Keisse's teammate, "El Tractor" Tim Declercq?

24 January 2022, 11:32
Road racing is back!

It’s been a long, cold winter and we’ve managed to survive on weekly doses of cyclo-cross and drawn-out teaser videos for new kits, but the moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived – professional road racing has returned to Europe!

In yesterday’s Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana, the first European road race of the 2022 season, Eolo-Kometa’s Giovanni Lonardi won a chaotic, crash-marred sprint ahead of Amaury Capiot and Chris Lawless. Ah, it’s still only January but I can smell the cobbles and frites already…

Meanwhile back on the ‘cross field, Tom Pidcock continued his preparation for this weekend’s world championships, finishing third in an epic, hard-fought duel with Lars van der Haar, Michael Vanthourenhout and eventual winner Eli Iserbyt.

According to reports, Pidcock trained for three hours on Saturday morning before taking on the weekend’s racing double-header in Hamme and Hoogerheide. Sunday’s showdown in Fayetteville should be interesting…

24 January 2022, 10:46
To wave or not to wave?

This tweet, posted last night by former individual pursuit world champion and current Ribble Weldtite DS Colin Sturgess, raised that age-old question of cycling etiquette: should all cyclists wave at each other when they pass?

Some of the replies to Colin’s tweet seemed to suggest (and I’m paraphrasing here) that Britain’s moral decline as a nation over the last decade is intrinsically linked to fewer cyclists greeting each other on the roads.

Now, full disclosure: I’m what’s known as an “overly enthusiastic waver” when out on the bike, and I feel a touch disgruntled if another cyclist blanks me (but I’m learning to live with it, okay?).

What do you think? Does waving to your fellow cyclist instil a sense of community, or is it just another old-fashioned and outdated tradition that belongs with only wearing white socks and making sure the arms of your sunglasses sit outside your helmet straps?

24 January 2022, 09:46
“Cycling in the UK is doomed” – Groupama-FDJ rider Jake Stewart responds to critics of Highway Code changes

Revisions to the Highway Code, aimed at protecting the most vulnerable road users, finally come into force this week.

However, as we reported yesterday, the mainstream media’s coverage of the new rules has, shall we say, lacked a certain degree of accuracy.

> Highway Code changes: ‘What about cyclists, or do the rules not apply to them?’

For example, Mail Online – that bastion of fair and impartial reporting, especially when it comes to cyclists – told its readers that one new rule “tells cyclists to pedal in the middle of the road”, when in fact it simply provides advice about road positioning in certain situations such as on quiet roads, in slow-moving traffic, or when approaching a junction.

The misrepresentation of that particular change to the Highway Code prompted the following tweet from a political polling account:

While over 55% of the nearly 5,000 respondents supported the changes, some of the replies were depressingly familiar:

For Groupama-FDJ pro Jake Stewart, these responses summed up “why cycling in the UK is doomed.”

The Coventry-born rider, who finished second in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad during his first full professional season last year, tweeted: “Daily I have to make the decision to put my life in the hands of people like this...just to do my job. Too many have to make that decision to ride their bike for fun/get around. Society is broken.”

With “cyclists” currently trending on Twitter – take a look if want your blood pressure to rise uncontrollably – it’s hard to argue with Jake.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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