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10/11/2011 // INFO Leave a comment

Road safety and sex

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Female Cyclist

Today we have a guest blog from Hayes Thompson. Hayes is copywriter based in London, who has been cycling, motorcycling and driving on its roads for over 20 years. In the blog, Hayes wonders if his experiences and the statistics might mean that female cyclists and pedestrians need to pay more attention to road safety.

I can’t help but link newspaper stories about accidents involving female cyclists in London and what I see with my own eyes, riding and driving around this city. A sunny day a few weeks ago, on the same morning I read about a near miss involving a female cyclist and a lorry in London, a teenage girl, then a mother and child, walk out in front of my car.

Because on top of riding bikes and motorbikes in London, I’m also a motorist (sorry, what a horrible word that is). In any area of life, it’s important to try to see things from other people’s point of view. And that’s especially true when it comes to cycling in London, because it’s your life that’s at stake.

Incidents

But I find it almost impossible to imagine what either of these two pedestrians was thinking.

In one incident, I was driving along, way below the speed limit, when up ahead a girl just walked out in front of me. It wasn’t so close I had to slam on the brakes but I did have to slow for her, when, really, she should have waited till I’d passed (there was no crossing).

Shortly after, a mother walked right out in front of my car with a child. This time I had to come to a complete stop. She gesticulated at me as if I’d done something wrong. I was so angry I got out the car to have a word. I just cannot imagine what either was thinking, because I never, ever put myself in danger like that. Do you?

The common factor

This was just one journey on one morning. But rarely a day goes past without the short drive to my daughter’s nursery (we cycle when weather and back allow, by the way) involving some kind of near miss. And I have to say that the majority of incidents are with women.

I wondered if it might just be me. But my wife has noticed it, too, when she travels in the car with me and my daughter.

Last week, it happened three times on one journey: 1. A girl walked out in front of the car without looking 2. A female cyclist turned across two lanes of traffic, without looking, forcing cars to stop for her 3. Another young woman started to walk out into the road before she looked and had to stop dead in her tracks.

Perhaps I just need to drive a louder car, but I see this all the time. On one level, I see this kind of behaviour as incredibly brave. On another, I see it as incredibly risky.

And the statistics seem to suggest that more women cyclists are involved in serious accidents in London, despite the fact that there are more male cyclists. Various theories have been suggested: they’re less confident, less aggressive, less assertive, or less likely to disobey red lights, and therefore more likely to wait, unseen, in a lorry’s blind spot.

My observations

But from my own personal experience, I’d like to add some observations of my own.

1. Visual awareness – I haven’t got special powers but I do look around to see, and to make sure I’m seen. You can’t see what you don’t look at and too many girls seem to rely on their ears when crossing roads/cycling.

2. Far too relaxed an attitude to safety – it’s great to be happy but sometimes you need to concentrate and keep your wits about you – like when you’re near roads. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen girls and women nearly get run over – and think it’s hilariously funny at the same time. Really?

3. General ‘attitude’ – It must be great to feel like nothing or no-one is going to hurt you, but the reality is that you’ve got to take more responsibility for yourself. You’ve heard the expression ‘butter wouldn’t melt’. Well I’d like to add the expression ‘cars wouldn’t crash’. Only they would. And they do. Especially if they can’t/don’t see you.

I’m no HGV lover. I’ve been fighting for three years to get them to stop parking in our neighbourhood. But are HGV drivers killers? Try to drive a lorry and see how much of the road you can see below and to your left. You can blame lorries all you like. But fighting to get them to stop driving in London will be a lot harder. I don’t think they’re going to be removed from our roads any time soon.

Take responsibility

The alternative is to take more responsibility for your own safety. Be more honest with yourself. Don’t expect anyone to look out for you. This is not some sad reflection on society. This is about you looking out for yourself when others aren’t going to look out for you because they can’t actually see you.

Take your headphones off. Pay more attention when you’re walking and talking on your phone. If you’re doing lots of things at once, consider that you’re not doing any of them very well. Pay more attention full stop. Try to cross the road on a green man, not as the lights are about to go green for cars. You need to focus… concentrate. Save the dreaming for when you’re in a safer environment. Steer well clear of lorries. And, if you see me coming down the road on my bike or in my car, please don’t walk or ride out in front of me. Better yet, wise up, then educate your fellow female road users, too.

These are my observations. As we’re talking about increasing awareness, please share yours in the comments section below.

(And, don’t forget, men, the above tips apply to you, too! – Ed.)



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See also

Bike shop manager out pedals thief

Bike ride will highlight London’s 10 most dangerous junctions

from Going Going Bike – Auctions, Bike News, Cycle Stuff

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