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Road to nowhere - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Road to nowhere
The other day I posted about cycling, and included a fairly content-free gripe about the stupid things I see other road users do. Now it sometimes seems to be assumed that when cyclists say "other road users" in that tone of voice they mean car drivers; in fact, I meant exactly what I said: other people who use the roads. That's car drivers (and bus/lorry/milk-float/whatever drivers), cyclists, motorcyclists (though as mentioned I don't see many of those actually), walkers, joggers, pigeons (a very real hazard on Cornmarket), and anyone or anything else that has occasion to stray into the road (if the towpath counted as the 'road', I'd have to include dogs, ducks and geese). All of them do stupid things sometimes. Especially the pigeons, though they have the excuse of having a brain the size of a pea.

Sometimes I feel as though I resent the car drivers most: they're handling a more dangerous vehicle so they should be paying more attention; they're using up fuel and polluting the air as well as doing idiotic things on the roads. Other times I feel more angry with the cyclists, because by doing stupid and dangerous things they're giving the car drivers more reason to be annoyed at "those bloody cyclists", which makes them more likely to treat me badly and/or assume I'm going to do stupid things. (Some days I just resent everybody for existing in my airspace, but that's not so much to do with what they're actually doing, more to do with being a morning-hating grouch.)

I don't have a long daily commute, and most of it is on the towpath rather than the roads, and other than that I only potter around town a bit, so you'd think I wouldn't have time to see much idiocy on the roads... but I do. I don't want to make this into a series of ranty anecdotes about individual incidents, even though that would probably make a more lively blog post: those sort of incidents just make me angry (both at the time & when I remember them), and recounting them generates more ranty anecdotes from other people, and I'm not convinced that's healthy (particularly after reading in 59 Seconds about studies showing that actually letting all your rage out increases your anger rather than dissipating it). However, here's a list of things that I encounter often enough to annoy me:

All road users:

* going through red lights
* failing to signal
* failing to look before pulling out in front of people
* overtaking too close and/or cutting back in front too soon
* overtaking on blind bends
* cutting the corner when turning into side-roads, so they're on the wrong side (i.e. my side)
* texting while driving/cycling
* tailgating

Cars:

* going far too fast for the conditions
* honking their horns unnecessarily
* going into box junctions when their exit isn't clear, & blocking the junction
* reversing onto main roads
* parking in cycle lanes
* parking on double yellow lines
* parking on pavements
* opening doors into traffic without looking
* flashing their lights to say 'go ahead' when they can't actually see if it's safe to do so

Cyclists:

* squeezing past cars/buses on the left when there is clearly no room
* overtaking cyclists on the left when they're approx 1m from the kerb
* cycling on pavements
* not using lights after dark
* using misleading lights (orange/red on the front)

Pedestrians:

* not looking where they're going AT ALL, EVER
* ... and also not listening, because they've all got headphones on
* pressing the button for pedestrian crossings and then running across in traffic anyway


The response to this sort of list is often along the lines of "oh come on, nobody's perfect"; but a lot of these things are really not difficult to avoid (e.g. it doesn't require some kind of saintlike disposition or superhuman willpower to decide that you're going to stop at red lights). Some could be attributable to lapses of concentration, which we're surely all guilty of from time to time; on the other hand, I don't think of myself as a particularly focused person, & I still don't forget to signal -- it's habit, it's just part of what you do when you're changing lane/direction, it doesn't require "concentration" as such, it just requires me to have my hands free (not e.g. texting, smoking, drinking coffee, holding an umbrella, doing my hair, holding a handbag, or putting my hands in my pockets). The majority of these things seem to boil down to not thinking about other road users: sometimes that's a lapse of concentration, but often I think it's more of a general attitude.

I feel like a blog post should have a punchline or a moral or some kind of conclusion, but the main conclusion I can draw from this, really, is that people do dumb things.

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Comments
uitlander From: uitlander Date: November 14th, 2010 08:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I frequently have this sort of debate with a colleague who's very active in the cycling campaign. In his books cyclists are always right, and others (especially drivers) wrong. I keep maintaining that part of the role of the campaign (of which I am also a member) should be to educate cyclists on subjects such as lights at night, red lights, one way streets, pavements, and signalling as they are also part of the problem. He's much more interested in taking photos of lorries unloading on double yellow lines.
damiancugley From: damiancugley Date: November 14th, 2010 09:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Sharing the road

I stop at red lights, because that is the law, but I don’t entirely blame other cyclists for crossing when there is no motor traffic—it is safer then than waiting for the cars to be following you across the intersection.

I am somewhat bewildered by the sketchy or absent lights I see on many bikes around town—if you can afford the trendy jeans and iPod, surely you have enough cash to afford basic working lights that attach to the bike? On the other hand, from what I know of the circumstances of cycling fatalities in Oxford, none would have been saved by having bike lights on.

What annoys me most is unhelpful road layouts and cycle-hostile traffic-calming measures—which in Oxford should have been dealt with decades ago, but I guess gold-chased alabaster litter bins have higher priority.
jinty From: jinty Date: November 14th, 2010 10:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sharing the road

I think cyclists should always stop at red lights not only because it's the law, but also because they will then be more predictable on the part of other road users. If you get some people who run a red light and others who don't then you have two lots of traffic to look out for, as a pedestrian.

If anything, I get more outraged by cyclists doing silly things than I do any other kind of road user. Though I do fear pedestrians who step out unexpectedly in front of cyclists, too.
qatsi From: qatsi Date: November 14th, 2010 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
He's much more interested in taking photos of lorries unloading on double yellow lines.

"Waiting restrictions indicated by yellow lines apply to the carriageway, pavement and verge. You may stop to load or unload (unless there are also loading restrictions as described below) or while passengers board or alight. Double yellow lines mean no waiting at any time, unless there are signs that specifically indicate seasonal restrictions." (my emphasis)

In other words, unloading on a double-yellow line may be acceptable - it depends on the signage in the immediate environment. "Loading and unloading" is not, as I understand it, the same as "waiting" or "parking".
uitlander From: uitlander Date: November 14th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
He is very well versed with the legalities, and is particularly keen to stop lorries causing a hazard to cyclists on many of our narrow, busy streets. I am surprised that he hasn't been thumped over it, as there's nothing he enjoys more than a good argument with a badly parked lorry driver.
damiancugley From: damiancugley Date: November 14th, 2010 09:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Oxford has an unusually high level of pedestrian entitlement syndrome, with students striding out in to the street magisterially expecting traffic to flow around them. But you have to assume pedestrians won’t be looking out for you anyway—because pedestrians includes children and people with impaired vision or movement.

A similar issue is bell-ringer entitlement syndrome, where ringing your bell entitles you to be on the wrong side of the road going around a blind corner at speed. This is much rarer because most bikes don’t have bells.
jinty From: jinty Date: November 14th, 2010 09:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I want to put a bell on my pram to encourage people to stop blocking the pavement through incautious loitering on what should be a thoroughfare.
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: November 14th, 2010 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)

brilliant idea!

Octopus usually have some nice ones
j4 From: j4 Date: November 14th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
you have to assume pedestrians won’t be looking out for you anyway—because pedestrians includes children and people with impaired vision or movement.

True... though most of the pedestrians who walk out in front of me are doing so because they're turning round to talk to someone while texting, etc. :-} And the children who step out in front of me are usually being dragged by a parent who's on the phone at the time.

I am not sure why bikes bother having bells any more because EVERYBODY just has headphones on. I mean, I do have a bell, and I use it, but I used to get shouted at for using it, & now I really don't think anybody even hears it, I often have to resort to shouting "HEY!" instead.
jinty From: jinty Date: November 14th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I use my bell to give a cathartic ding when another cyclist runs a red light or otherwise does something of which I disapprove but am too far away/too cowardly to comment on more explicitly.
venta From: venta Date: November 15th, 2010 12:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
True... though most of the pedestrians who walk out in front of me are doing so because they're turning round to talk to someone while texting, etc

Many, though probably not most, of the pedestrians who walk out in front of me do so having clearly seen me and decided that I'm not real traffic and should stop for them/slow down/go round them.

Most of my route is along pedestrianised roads and shared-use footpaths, but the tiny bit which is on roads is constantly afflicted with pedetrians who see me and decide to walk in front of me anyway. Maybe Reading pedestrians are peculiarly anti-cyclist (or believe themselves to be harder than a bike).
katstevens From: katstevens Date: November 14th, 2010 10:51 am (UTC) (Link)
* not looking where they're going AT ALL, EVER

YES. I know the world is an interesting place to look at but DUDES please point your head in the same direction that you are travelling, just for a second. This also applies if you are pushing a trolley around Sainsburys. If people would just look in the same direction that they are moving instead of barging into stationary objects (ie ME) that would be LOVELY. See also: people casually walking backwards at crowded bus stops. The mind boggles.
naath From: naath Date: November 14th, 2010 01:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Pedestrians, I think, have more excuses. For instance it is allowed to be a pedestrian whilst blind, but not to drive a car...
j4 From: j4 Date: November 14th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Being blind is a good excuse for not looking where you're going, yes. :-} But turning round to talk to someone while you step out into the road is a lousy excuse. And stepping off the pavement into the cycle lane to overtake other pedestrians without first checking there are no bikes about to run into you is just foolish!
monkeyhands From: monkeyhands Date: November 14th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think we have a culture of bad behaviour on the roads, and I believe this culture could be changed if there was the political will to do it.

In the meantime, I guess I'll carry on trying not to behave like a dickhead myself. My "One Less Dickhead" T-shirt is in the post.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 14th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I believe this culture could be changed if there was the political will to do it.

I'd like to believe that that was true, but a) I really don't know how they'd do it, and b) I don't think there will ever be the will to try. I am bitter and cynical, though.

My "One Less Dickhead" T-shirt is in the post.

Fewer! :)

But, yeah, me too. I do try not to be a dick. I genuinely don't do any of the things on the lists above, and I am also trying to refrain from shouting at other people, or at least only to shout purely factual things ("That was a red light!" or "Your lights aren't working!") rather than rude things.
monkeyhands From: monkeyhands Date: November 14th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am also trying to refrain from shouting at other people, or at least only to shout purely factual things ("That was a red light!" or "Your lights aren't working!") rather than rude things.

I try too, although quite often it's "LOOK WHERE YOU'RE GOING!" which might be construed as rude. :)

A woman shouted "IT'S A LEVEL CROSSING!" at me on Friday when I rode across a level crossing. I was pissed off enough to start a shouting match but I just shouted "Sorry!" to give her the benefit of the doubt because I'm sure she saw things very differently from me.

(What annoyed me was that I'd smiled at her a micro-second before, as a gesture of solidarity for someone else visiting a sick person in hospital, and I am certain that the smile is what emboldened her to yell at me.)

OTOH maybe she was the hospital's new Pointing Out Features Czar, concerned that I'd ridden across the beautiful level crossing without seeing it.
brrm From: brrm Date: November 14th, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
A woman shouted "IT'S A LEVEL CROSSING!" at me on Friday when I rode across a level crossing

This made me curious (assuming you mean level crossing and not zebra crossing) - http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_069837 says you only have to dismount if there's a sign. I'm not sure I've ever cycled across a level crossing... does anyone know how common such signs are?
monkeyhands From: monkeyhands Date: November 14th, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
assuming you mean level crossing and not zebra crossing

Oops! Sorry, no, it was a zebra crossing, but she yelled "LEVEL CROSSING" and I didn't realise that was actually wrong until just now.

She was yelling because we approached the crossing at roughly the same time, so I was cycling through it just as she was preparing to cross, and I think she thought that since I'd obviously seen her, I should stop for her even though I was already going through the crossing when she reached it.

Of course, CCTV will probably show me ruthlessly knocking her over and then I'll feel very silly.
brrm From: brrm Date: November 14th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, I do that occasionally, e.g. shout at someone for parking in the bus lane (actually cycle lane). One of the many reasons I'm trying to give up yelling. :-)
And it can be hard to work out if people are intending to cross zebras (as it were) and not just holding one of their "stand next to the zebra crossing" parties.

Edited at 2010-11-14 11:15 pm (UTC)
monkeyhands From: monkeyhands Date: November 15th, 2010 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)
holding one of their "stand next to the zebra crossing" parties.

This made me LOL.
offensive_mango From: offensive_mango Date: November 14th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Whenever I yell "that was a red light" at a cyclist as s/he is going through it while pedestrians are trying to cross (which is the only reason for this particular red light, and as pedestrians we get precisely 7 seconds to go from one side to the other before traffic gets a green light again), I get told that I can go fvck myself and/or that I'm a cvnt. Pretty much every time. I wonder why so many cyclists in my area think they have the right to weave through people crossing at a pedestrian crossing and not get called out for it.

Whenever I am a cyclist, I find that the danger from both pedestrians and cars diminishes as I use the road more like a car (that is, when I move into the road as opposed to hugging the side of the road). This was a revelation to me as a skittish cyclist--it initially felt more dangerous until I realized how much more visible I was to cars behind me and how much less likely I was to hit a pedestrian who decided to wander out before looking.

(I'm not telling you this because I think you don't know it already; I'm sure you do. I'm just noting my own surprise when I learned it.)
celestialweasel From: celestialweasel Date: November 14th, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am convinced, and this is not, sadly, a joke, that road behaviour (not just cars, and not just speeding more 'cos of the speed cameras being turned off) has got significantly worse since the change of government.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 15th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Can't say I've noticed that myself... it does seem to have got worse over the last 10 years, though. OTOH maybe I've just got more intolerant of idiocy.
bjh21 From: bjh21 Date: November 15th, 2010 01:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Pelican crossing problem is one that always gives me ethical problems while walking. If I arrive at a crossing and there's no visible gap in the traffic, I'll press the button in the hope that this will allow me to cross the road. It seems to me that this must be ethically OK, since if people weren't allowed to press the buttons the crossing wouldn't be very useful. Once I've pressed the button, the lights will change whatever I do, so the traffic hold-up (if any) is now inevitable. Given that, it's hard to see why crossing in a gap in the traffic before the lights change is wrong. Waiting for the lights won't help anyone else, and will hold me up, but somehow it still feels like the right thing to do.

Of course, if I'm going somewhere for work I'll always wait for the lights -- to do otherwise would upset the safety office.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 15th, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
it's hard to see why crossing in a gap in the traffic before the lights change is wrong

Because it's really effing annoying for all the road users who will have to stop at the red light anyway for nothing now that you've pressed it?

I dunno, I honestly don't find it that hard to wait the extra few seconds (and it really is never even as much as a minute).
bjh21 From: bjh21 Date: November 15th, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
*ponder*

Yes, actually I think I understand now. It's not a question of causing harm or otherwise, but of playing by the rules (in this case unwritten ones). The rules impose a penalty (having to wait until the lights change and then cross the road) on anyone who presses the button because that discourages people from pressing buttons frivolously. Obviously, breaking rules annoys people, even if in a particular instance doing so causes no other harm.

Thank you for forcing me to think about this. I think I'm now a slightly better person than when I got up this morning.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 15th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
playing by the rules (in this case unwritten ones)

I'm fairly sure "Stop on red, go on green" is written down all over the place...? :-} To me it's mostly a question of being predictable to other road users; waiting for the lights to change is more predictable than dashing across through traffic. (If there's genuinely nobody else within sight on the road to see you crossing against the lights, then it's a bit of a tree-falling-in-the-woods situation...)

I think I'm now a slightly better person than when I got up this morning.

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic I'm afraid... :-} I just hope I haven't annoyed you too much!
bjh21 From: bjh21 Date: November 15th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, so you'd also deprecate crossing at or near a Pelican crossing without pressing the button at all? That seems so far from normal behaviour around here that I'd not even considered it.

It wasn't intended to be sarcastic, and you haven't annoyed me at all. I like understanding how road users perceive one another's behaviour, especially when I'm the other.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 15th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not really in a position to deprecate anything. Most people I see round town just run across blithely between the cars, usually while doing something else (texting, talking, phoning, smoking, drinking coffee, etc), occasionally stopping to shout abuse at cyclists. (As far as I can tell "normal behaviour" in most places is to behave like a selfish & antisocial arsehole wherever possible.)

Personally, I press the button and wait for the lights to change before crossing, unless there is really no traffic approaching. But most people I talk to seem to think this is completely stupid. *shrug*
crouchinglynx From: crouchinglynx Date: November 15th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've tried to rationalize why some road abuses are worse than others, but my annoyance at particular groups is usually down to selfish reasons:

When I'm cycling, I aim more scorn at the car (van/bus/lorry/taxi) drivers because of the extra protection they get. Not just from accidents, but from the weather - whenever someone's stupidity/lapse in judgement causes someone else to be delayed, at least the driver gets a warm, dry chair while they're waiting for the lights. The pedestrians I can make allowances for, and when another cyclist is doing something wrong, it usually results in them not being in my way.

When I'm on foot, it's the inconsiderate cyclists that bother me most, because motorists don't tend to use the pavement. But I dislike the other pedestrians too, because I'm quite a fast walker (and occasionally personal space comes into it).
(Deleted comment)
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