Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Dear Cyclist - "It's Behind You!"

This week a Heathrow car rental firm got itself into hot water for warning its hirers that London cyclists are a "hazard" and "it is always the motorist's fault".

I'm not anti-cyclist, and we know that cars and bikes can exist in harmony in places like the Netherlands, but many London cyclists do seem to have a fairly blase attitude towards self-preservation.

I attribute most of my defensive driving skills to the spacial awareness that years of cycling and motorcycling instilled in me and it frustrates me that motorists and cyclists alike are often guilty of not paying nearly as much attention to what's coming up behind them as what's on the road ahead.

Which brings me to a glaring omission from most of the bicycles I see on London's roads - rear view mirrors.

It's true that motorists often neglect to check their blind spots, but at least their vehicles are equipped with the means to monitor potential developments behind them, whereas too many times I've seen cyclists swerve around obstacles like parked cars without so much as cursory glance over their shoulders beforehand.

Is it a vanity thing?  Do they think that, having spent so much on racing lycra and bikes that have specifications far beyond their needs or capabilities, it simply wouldn't be cool to spoil the effect with mirrors that might be seen as a betrayal of their commitment to shave milliseconds off their performance because of the extra wind drag produced?  This is commuting, guys, not the Olympics.

I have a friend who raced at a professional level, so I sought his opinion before writing this in case I incurred the wrath of those who take their riding seriously and are tired of getting beaten up on because they get placed in the same bag as their amateur counterparts.

His reply?  "I would say it comes simply down to people who don't have a clue how to be safe on bikes ... And there's a lot of them around!"

If you're too cool for school, there are mirror options that can be worn in-helmet or on your wrist etc.

For my part, I was proud of my mirrors as a kid cycling in the somewhat less frantic environment of a sleepy Australian town - although in retrospect I'd probably have lost the handlebar tassels ...

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