Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Musings on cycling

12th February 2022

This post nearly got called “Misgivings about cycling” after encountering a cyclist riding at speed on the pavement while out for two evening walks recently. While I accept that riding on the road can be forboding, going on the footway is illegal and these incidents happened when the road was quiet as well. It also peeves me a bit as I find it intrusive on narrow footpaths.

What lifted my spirits somewhat was the announcement of the following changes to the Highway Code:

  • A new hierarchy of road users now follows the following principle: the larger the vehicle, the greater responsibility the driver will have to protect those more vulnerable on the road. This will apply to all road users from HGVs through to cyclists and horse riders to reduce the danger to pedestrians.
  • Cyclists are now advised to ride in the centre of their lane to increase visibility on quiet roads, in slow-moving traffic or on the approach to junctions.
  • Previously, a driver had to give way to a pedestrian already on a crossing or who has stepped off the kerb at a junction. The new changes mean that a driver, motorcyclist, cyclist or horse rider should now give way to a pedestrian who is waiting to cross a road into which, or from which, you are turning.
  • Drivers should not turn at a junction if it causes the vulnerable road user to go straight ahead to stop or swerve. This applies whether the driver is turning on or out of a junction or changing direction and lane.
  • A requirement to leave a minimum gap of at least 1.5m when overtaking a cyclist at speeds of under 30mph. This increases to 2m when travelling at speeds over 30mph.
  • A requirement to leave a minimum gap of at least 2m when overtaking a horse rider at no more than 10mph.
  • Allow 2m distance when passing a pedestrian who is walking in the road.
  • Wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse-drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.

Many of these help other road users as well and there is another thing that comes to mind regarding the mixing of cycling and walking. That takes me back to a bank holiday visit to Cardiff predating the pandemic. Then, there were so many cyclists that I felt vulnerable as a walker so it hardly was as relaxing as I had hoped. That the Highway Code tells cyclists to be aware of walkers is a good thing if it gets remembered and that also applies to those other changes.

While cyclists feel more relaxed away from motorised traffic, they also need to remember other users and this is for me as well since I also favour quieter places to ride. In this way, I see both sides of the proverbial coin and making walkers less relaxed is not great either. It is for that reason that I am cool when it comes to supporting the idea that cyclists should be able to use the public footpath network.

It always comes down to how people go about their respective activities and it is the speed that is the issue. Just as fast traffic is offputting, a bunch of cyclists going fast has the same effect and they may not realise the fact. Much is about the interaction between different modes of travelling but there also is an impact made by how people live their lives.

My preference is for slowing down and appreciating the moment and my surroundings at that time. Some are happier to be engrossed in activities instead and it can produce a clash that intrudes on an otherwise peaceful. All the rules in the world will not help if we do not remember to apply them and being more mindful of others negates the need for rules in the first place anyway. In short, we need to think about others and not just ourselves, letting go of a little relaxation for a moment to make everything go smoothly.

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