Blog – Hatred towards cyclists in the UK. How to reduce this & Why Netherlands and other European nations are different

The screenshot above comes from a YouTube video titled “A clown takes a Pratfall” – that has 7 million views – It is discussed & linked to in this blog;

What people think of cyclists in the UK;

I’m not really sure why, but in the UK, at least from my 23 year old self perspective. It seems as if cycling is almost seen as a thing for weirdos by a certain type of person. And I want to point out in this country I believe there is a fair amount of hatred towards cyclists. Some might argue this hatred is deserved, others would disagree. However, I think these two points can probably be agreed on, or at least partially agreed on. Cycling isn’t the ‘coolest’ hobby by a lot of people, and there is a fair amount of hate for cyclists. Have a read of some “daily mail” article comments. I get they are not representative of the nation but I believe a big proportion of the UK think like this. Especially Londoners, since cyclists are often on the busy roads – taking the lane etc, which given appropriate I believe they should be doing so. As I say right or wrong, it doesn’t really matter – in this first paragraph I’m just trying to explain that there is some hatred out there / cyclists don’t often have the best image (viewed by some; as aggressive, red light jumpers that are always in the ‘middle of the road’) . In this blog I will explore what can be done to improve these matters in the UK. I have researched a fair amount into this topic, in the recent years.

A clown takes a Pratfall, by uphillfreewheeler;

As entertaining as I think videos like “A clown takes a Pratfall” are (the remarks from both men, and unfortunate ending for the “clown”). The cyclist in question, maybe debatably taking the lane unnecessarily. At least where the car overtakes him. I don’t really know what to think of this video. The driver is clearly aggressive in his driving, and in his speech. However, “uphillfreewheeler” I believe potentially could have gone over a bit –  just before the approach, as there were no parked cars during the overtake. I believe the YouTuber would have heard the engine behind him. However, then I understand he risks being stuck in between parked cars and not able to join the road if a stream of cars were to come. If cyclist in question was in a rush, I fully support him to take the lane along that whole road. But given that he had time to follow, and have an interaction with the driver. Maybe, I’m not saying definitely. But maybe he should have considered an approach that would help cyclists reputation from the public. Legally speaking I believe “uphillfreewheeler” is in the right however. I don’t mean to single out this cyclist at all. As he has actually commented on one of my videos! , but I believe not enough considerate cycling occurs on the streets of the UK. Hence why there is such a bad reputation, from people that are in a rush. I.e. from the notorious white van drivers. Where time is money – what I’m doing currently is viewing the debate from the other side, rather than siding with aggressive WVD’s. At the end of the day however if someone is commuting by bicycle, then I believe they are entitled to use the road etc as any other road user. However, where possible considerate cycling (as I would describe) should be practiced. I know some may as a result think this puts cyclists as “second class” road users, and that is a fair argument. However realistically if you want reputation to improve I think this is the best more sensible approach. I respect other people have their point of view. & I obviously don’t mean go the extremes and pull over every 5 seconds to allow a car to come through, just where possible. The number of times across the country, where I’ve decided to leave the road for an empty shared used path. And then see someone put a thumbs at me through their van. That makes me happy as I know it’s improving cyclist reputation. I however do not cycle with a road bike, and can see how a similar action of mounting a pavement / shared use path could be problematic for these cyclists.

I love this video example, as I can go at it from another angle. “Uphillfreewheeler” was very good at annoying this man. I’m not on the drivers side by any means. But why go up to someone and then when they say “you are really pissing me off”. say “I know i am” and chuckle. Ok this driver maybe the funniest thing to come out of Reading. But is the cyclist reputation not important to this YouTuber?

I had an aggressive driver at me in Cork, Ireland in 2017 on a bicycle tour for taking the lane. I said to him at the traffic lights; “I understand why you might be annoyed, I’m not after any beef with you or anything. The reason I took the lane is the road wasn’t wide enough for you to pass me.” He then responded to me with “are you trying to get run over”, and started making some joke that I maybe dead or something…. I just left it there and carried on… However, a bit down the road – what I noticed was when he overtook me the next time. Mr Cork driver overtook me with plenty of room. If I had of approached him in a confrontational way,  swore at him, tried to goad him like uphillfreewheeler. Would I get the same results (i.e. a safe overtake)? Would I leave a good lasting impression of cyclists? Probably not.

Why there is no hate for cyclists in other western European nations;

Interestingly, in more – what I would describe as ‘normal’ countries like Netherlands, Denmark etc. I read there is hardly any hatred towards cyclists. From what people believe (which sounds very logical) is this is due to everyone knowing someone that cycles. And as most drivers have cycled themselves they can’t hate themselves & most of the population of their country. In these countries the word ‘cyclists’ has less of a negative connotation attached to it. From what I understand, it seen as a word just like ‘drivers’ or ‘pedestrians’ in Netherlands. A quarter of the Dutch populace cycle every single day, another survey shows this number is 43%. Big range . I’ve read the UK is 3 – 4% on different websites.

Graph showing how often people cycle per nation in the EU (by percentage)

 

What can we learn from other European nations;

I think the answer for the UK therefore; is to get more people cycling and that means vastly improving the cycle infrastructure around the nation. This is agreed by many. Ensuring it is high quality, and particle as it is in the Netherlands. If you look at the Cambridge example in the UK. Then you may understand,  Cambridge has a lot of good quality cycling infrastructure (been there twice)… so it is any surprise to anyone that this city has the highest percentage of people that commute to work by bicycle in the UK? I have looked into political parties that want to improve cycling infrastructure in the country. Maybe this is no surprise to anyone but the Green Party in the UK is the best party when it comes to this, UKIP being the worst. The second best is the Liberal democrats. Therefore if you want some change in the UK with regards to cycling. I believe one of the mentioned political parties is a good option.

I also want to stress. I really do not advocate for terrible cycling infrastructure. This might look like I’m complaining, but really there is more to it than just me being hard to please. Stevenage, Hertfordshire –  a new town, that is situated in the same county as me… is a prime example of the not so great infrastructure that can be produced. Admittedly, it’s nice that there’s lots of shared used paths, that don’t go on the roads. Probably great for children and all. However, they are the most ugly looking paths I’ve ever seen in my life. They are often next to busy roads, and it just feels like you’re cycling through concrete mess, everywhere you go. I don’t think they are that convenient either,. Given all the segregated paths in Stevenage, it has a considerable lack of cyclists from what I’ve read. There are lots of further reasons why cycling infrastructure in Stevenage did not work – as can be read by the sensible comments, on the linked article. Now you may see the problem with poor infrastructure. It potentially prevents local councils, governments etc giving further capital to create paths etc, as they don’t see it as being effective.

Note: If you want to improve cyclist reputation. Not only would voting for one of these political parties be beneficial towards this, but also recommending cycling to as many people that you know, would in my view, help this cause. For the reason said above; the more people know cyclists like in Netherlands, the less someone can hate them and stereotype them. I try and recommend the sport to as many people as I can.

Australisa –  (Being half kiwi am interested);

I’m also aware in countries like Australia, there is also a big dislike for cyclists. Therefore this is not a problem just here in the UK. I was told by an Australian bicycle tourist, whom was doing London to Paris at the same time as me (on the 4hr ferry to France) –  about the problems and aggressive nature of Australian drivers. I’ve also seen a shocking video by a New Zealand cyclist that shows so many close passes and dodgy drivers, from just himself. One cyclist. Also, there’s a real interesting video that has surfaced this year – where an Australian driver decides to DRIVE on a cycle route, and swear repeatedly at the cyclists for riding on the road – due to the fact there is a “segregated path” next to it. Turns out these cyclists were actually police LOL. The reason I talk about NZ / Australia, is I hold a New Zealand passport due to my mother being kiwi. I feel very lucky to have this passport, as it enables me to emigrate to either nation. Understandably, I don’t particularly want to emigrate somewhere that likely has worse; cyclist – driver relationsIf I can call it that.

Summary;

Hope you enjoyed reading. In summary; please consider at times practicing “considerate cycling” in order to improve reputation of cyclists in the country.  I do understand it’s important to also practice “safe cycling“. More importantly please consider voting for a political party that will improve infrastructure in the UK, as well as encouraging friends and family etc to cycle. This is because if a big proportion of the nation gets into cycling, then how can people hate cyclists. They will likely know one, or might be one themselves!  The negative connotations surrounding the word “cyclist” will vanish, I 100% believe. Cheers!

 

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