BlogLife on bikes

Cyclists vs bikers. Will there ever be a truce?

I recently pulled up behind a Ducati waiting behind a traffic light’s forward box. Moments later a cyclist slid through to the left but, instead of stopping in the box specially designed for him, he pulled up alongside the Monster 600 and started shouting furiously at the biker.

As the Wiggins wannabe ranted away the biker calmly stared at the guy then, when the lights changed, he slowly raised a stiffened left arm and flipped him the bird, inches from his nose.

As the Ducati rumbled away, with the bicycle giving Lycra-clad chase, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Actually, that’s not strictly true – I did burst out laughing, as would anyone who saw it.

Then I reflected on how unnecessary the whole thing was, as the truth is, we both need each other and most of us probably don’t realise it.

Cycling is just legal taking the piss

I think cyclists who don’t ride motorbikes don’t realise the sense of injustice that sits on our side of the tarmac.

They aren’t forced to pay ‘road tax’ and insure their vehicle by law. Neither are they forced to wear a helmet. Hell, they can even touch a smartphone screen without fear of losing their licence. Oh yeah… they don’t even have to pass a test to get a licence!

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To rub it in, many of them don’t even bother to follow the rules of the road (to be honest, many of us don’t either).

This is not just about cyclists jumping red lights. As I write this, I’m still suffering the consequences of a broken shoulder from two years ago, thanks to a cyclist who chose to go down a no-right-turn, without indicating, without even bothering to look over his shoulder. There is no love lost between me and the so-called ‘few bad apples’ who disregard basic road rules. They can fuck right off.

Bikers don’t do themselves any favours

So I’m clearly a little bit biased. Flipping the coin, I don’t think a huge number of bikers realise just how serious pollution levels are in the country’s biggest cities. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/15/european-commission-issues-final-warning-to-uk-over-air-pollution-breaches

Although we can significantly reduce pollution by playing our part in easing congestion, we still make a direct contribution to the shit that’s being thrown up into the air.

And if you haven’t ridden much on roads since passing your Cycling Proficiency Test on your tricked BMX, then you might not realise just how vulnerable cyclists are. I swear that many of them ride with headphones on full blast just so they don’t have to listen to their impending death at the hands of a 38 bus. Or Gixxer.

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That reminds me. This is just about the only gripe I have with other bikers (for otherwise I universally love them all, even the Grom riders): Stop filtering irresponsibly.

Weaving in and out of traffic like the video above is not filtering. It puts other road users in danger, so it’s no surprise the most vulnerable road users, after us, hate us for doing it. Too many times I’ve seen a weaving motorbike or moped if not cause a total wipe-out then certainly cause a ‘death wobble’ for a cyclist.

So neither set of road users is perfect. But that is no reason why we can’t live together. In fact I’d argue we have to, otherwise, one of us – us when it comes to it – is going to be run off the road.

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It’s the Government’s fault

Eh?

Hear me out. There will always be personalised motorised transport – whether it will be a combustion or electric motor only time will tell. It is too convenient for many people, certainly the ones who don’t have reliable and inexpensive public transport options.

Time after time, national and local government refuses to acknowledge this. Worse, some, like London’s Mayor and his blinkered TfL have declared they want to drive personalised transport off the road. It’s not exactly a secret that many other local authorities are anti-bike too.

Which is crazy. Motorbikes have an active role to play in reducing both congestion and pollution. But, whereas some cities are spending millions on adapting roads to cycle use, very few funds are being directed at motorcycle safety or promoting motorcycle use.

And yet there are measures that can be put in almost overnight that could improve road use for both cyclists and bikers.

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Better planning

These forward boxes at traffic lights are frankly ridiculous. The boxes are not there for cyclist’s safety – blocking faster road users with vulnerable human bodies is not a safety measure. It’s the opposite, causing frustration and resentment for the road users stuck behind the slow-moving cycles.

Cycle traffic light
Motorcycle safety could be improved with joint use of phased lights

My suggestion, split the forward box so that faster accelerating motorcycles sit on the right-hand side and slower bicycles on the left. Where they are used, let bikers use the phased cycles first lights. At a stroke, there would be no more instances of twats parking their Muddyfox inches from your front wheel ‘because they are perfectly within their right to do so.’

Many cities are taking safe road space away from motorbikes to form cycle lanes. It means that there are now many roads where safe filtering is no longer possible, so rather than reducing congestion we now contribute to both it and the ever-increasing levels of pollution.

The situation is particularly bad in London, where frustrated drivers and riders sit next to empty, full-width cycle lanes with nobody – and I do mean absolutely nobody – in them between 10 am and 4 pm. A monkey could have planned some of these schemes better.

You don’t have to shag them

I’m not saying there needs to be a great two-wheeled love-in. But there does, in my mind, need to be a change in the relationship between cyclists and bikers.

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We definitely need to drop all the stuff about they ‘don’t pay to use the road‘ and all the other self-righteous stuff.

I’d personally like to see cyclists made more accountable, but I’m prepared to give that up if we were given the same validity by traffic planners as cyclists are.

With a better relationship in place, cyclists would actively seek to share road space with motorbikes. If they were aware that switching just 10% of car drivers to motorbikes reduces congestion by 40%, the cyclist would see that the pollution being sucked into their lungs (and indeed our own) can be reduced significantly.

The truth is, if there were fewer cars, there would be less need for bikers to call for the use of bus lanes, leaving the cyclists to do battle with just the buses. We both need more car drivers to switch to two wheels, whichever kind.

The truth is, there should be no war between cyclists and bikers – we are good for each other. The war needs to be with those fuckers in the town halls that don’t have the sense to realise this and give both of us safer roads to ride on instead of making them the opposite for bikers.

Get yourself sorted:

Play an active role in getting motorcycling the recognition it deserves from traffic planners. And maybe hug a cyclist for no obvious reason.

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The Author

Ian Malone

Ian Malone

Ian is the Editor and a co-founder of Biker & Bike.

He is obsessed about bikes to the point that he often starts conversations with new people by saying, "Please don't get me onto the subject of bikes. We'll be here all day."

Inevitably, the next question asked is nearly always, "What bike have you got, then?"

He owns five bikes right now:

'78 Kawasaki Z650
'97 Triumph Daytona 955i
'11 Triumph Tiger 800
'09 Yamaha R1
'88 Suzuki TS125X

At any one time, only two of these bikes are ever working, as you can read about on our blog.