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Cyclists must be treated as equals on the road

 Published on: 10th December 2013   |   By: Nik Allen

nik on cycleCycling – a sport I love – has made headlines in recent weeks for all the wrong reasons with the number of deaths on London roads sparking heated debate.

A spate of six cyclist deaths in two weeks in the capital put safety at the top of the agenda and everyone seemed to weigh in with an opinion.

Some were quick to point out that the overall the number of cyclists killed on London roads this year (14 in total) was on par with the number of deaths last year.

Does this matter? Not to me it doesn’t. The death of any cyclist is one too many. We should be aiming to improve safety and reduce fatalities and not remain content with the status quo.

Others seemed to imply that at least some deaths were the fault of the cyclists themselves. How anyone could jump to that conclusion before any police investigation or inquest had been concluded is baffling. But I think some people have a mindset that roads are for cars and cyclists are an intrusion and therefore automatically at fault if there is a collision.

This attitude is most prevalent on London roads where the treatment meted out to riders is far different to that dished out on country lanes.

When I am out on my bike on the roads of south west Hertfordshire I feel quite safe and find, on the whole, drivers are quite courteous. But when I recently made my way from Kings Langley to Brighton I was shocked at how some drivers cyclists – as obstacles rather than human beings. I could not understand the level of aggression or disregard of many drivers.

This is an attitude which has to change. At peak times London’s streets are clogged with cars and the Tube is heaving with people so it is just common sense to encourage people to get on their bikes. It’s healthier, greener and more efficient.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has a £1billion vision for making London a friendlier place to cycle, which contains lots of good ideas including more dedicated cycle lanes.

But things need to be done with a greater sense of urgency and we need to also look at how other cities have managed to improve cycling conditions – New York and Seville for a start.

All the recent talk about fatalities hasn’t put me off cycling – I can’t wait for the new cycling season to start early next year and am already planning for the London to Brighton and the Ride 100. I’m sure most passionate cyclists are the same and nothing will stop them taking to the roads. But it would be nice if we could take to roads of London feeling like we will be treated as equals not inferiors.

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