The following piece is taken from a recent article in the Guardian and reading it caused me to remember a similar incident that happened to me and give me cause for concern about new cycle routes in Reading.
On the way home in the winter’s early dark (but – important operational note – dusk, so not that dark) we were pedalling up a cycle lane alongside stationary traffic, a gap marked “keep clear” ahead of us. A 4×4 in the opposite lane decided it had had enough of the arterial road scene and took a right turn into a sidestreet at high speed. If we hadn’t been going up a hill and therefore not that fast, it would have hit me, but much more relevant is the fact that it didn’t. Everyone was quite shaken up, and the car pulled over on the side road.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/feb/06/what-is-wokeness-a-close-shave-with-a-4×4-got-me-thinking
I was cycling on the Oxford Road towards Tilehurst and was minding my own business in the cycle lane. At this point the lane was just a line painted on the road but in the main it was clear and usable and there were no cars parked on it. There was a busy stream of traffic on my right and I was moving a little faster than it was – I was riding my converted e-bike but well within legal limits as I am not a food delivery rider. As I approached a side road on my left, a car coming from the other direction saw a gap in the traffic and turned straight across my path. I saw him in time and braked and avoided him but it was far too close for comfort. He did not stop so I didn’t have a friendly discussion with him.
The Guardian article also got me thinking about cycle lanes and driver behaviour. I have been watching the progress of the Shinfield Road scheme with great interest as a great deal of money is being spent on it and you would hope that it will make everything much safer. I am not alone in having real concerns about what happens at junctions.
Both the Guardian journalist and myself were on a public road and therefore had the rights of all road users. But if you are cycling along a cycle path, or is it a cycle lane, and you come to a side turning where your line now becomes simply lines painted on the road, who has precedence? If there is a car turning into that road, will the driver expect you to wait, or as you are on a continuous cycle route, do you have precedence?
There are two different ways of looking at this. The first is from the lawyers point of view – what are the rules or laws governing such routes and what are the legal responsibilities of the various parties?
The second, and from my point of view the more important for me as a cyclist, is what are the expectations of the driver and the cyclist in this situation? It would be of no comfort to me in my hospital bed to know that I was in the right. As a behavioural scientist I want to know how people actually behave when they are behind the wheel of a car, not how a lawyer thinks they should behave.
For instance, if I am cycling on the new Shinfield Road cycle superhighway, I might reasonably expect to keep going from one end to the other. The car driver might reasonably expect that I should stop at each junction so he can drive over my cycle lane. In the inevitable collision I might come off worse, so I do stop if there is a car about to turn or at least I make eye contact with the driver before continuing.
The actual way the cycle path is constructed is critical here. If is is a continuous path and it is clear to the driver that they are crossing it, it will be safe. If the path finishes and is just a painted line across the existing road, there will be inevitable confusion. I wait with some trepidation to see what the Shinfield Road scheme will be like, but I fear it will be the latter and that conflict between cyclists and motorists at junctions will be inevitable.
Joe Edwards 08/02/2023