I’ve now done a couple of hundred miles on my new commute. At 12.5 miles each way it’s a bit more of an effort than my previous 5 miler. It takes me from the northern suburbs, through the centre of Manchester and out to South Manchester, along a few main commuter roads. For those in the area that’s Bury New Road, Deansgate, Chester Road, Washway Road, Brookdale Road. Some of these roads have no bus or cycle lanes so cars get very, very close at times. The surfacing, especially closer in to the kerbs, is absolutely dreadful. I’m guessing after today’s announcements they won’t be improving any time soon either. The route has 39 sets of traffic lights along it – and yes, I am sad for counting! I haven’t counted the pedestrian crossings though.
So I now spend longer cycling in very busy traffic and here’s some observations for you
- the general standard of driving these days is terrible. You do notice the obvious examples when in your own car, but you see much more when out on your bike. Examples include poor positioning, no indication, no looking before turning.
- motorists complain about cyclists jumping red lights. It happens, but infrequently. On the other hand, at virtually every one of the 39 sets of lights at least one, and usually two cars will go through on red. Not amber. On red. That is a consistent observation across all of my rides and all of the lights. Tonight, a white van jumped a light and turned right, narrowly missing a car to my right, and nearly wiping me out. I only realised what was happening when my entire field of view was simply a white panel – it was that close. I didn’t even have a chance to brake. It shook me up at first, but then made me very angry.
- every day I see tens of motorists using their mobile phones – to their ears. I see even more with it hidden out of view on their laps – texting!
- in cars there appears to be no respect for anyone else. People will do the most ridiculous things to get one car ahead in a queue of traffic. People pay no attention to the effect of their actions on the traffic behind. It becomes a vicious circle of frustration and anger. It can’t be healthy.
- The more traffic is queuing, the more frustrated people become, and the more stupid and unaware they become. When there are long queues of traffic I get really worried because the unpredictability increases.
So you’d think with all that only an idiot would commute on a bike. Well, maybe I am, but the benefits certainly outweigh the problems. Once you understand the above problems you are better able to deal with them and there are few better ways to sort out your thoughts after a day at work than cycling home. And that’s before you count the health, environment and wallet benefits.
If I had my way, though, I’d introduce a law that makes it illegal to pass a cyclist within 3 feet, and I’d make that part of the driving test. Like red lights and mobile phones, it would probably be ignored, but at least drivers would be aware of how they should behave.