The Rugby Advertiser's view: You're not allowed to kill cyclists because some of them annoy you

I love my car, but fellow drivers, we need to talk about our naff record when it comes to the safety of cyclists

Look at these road-hogging cyclists! A cycle touring club at a procession in Rugby in the early thirties.
Look at these road-hogging cyclists! A cycle touring club at a procession in Rugby in the early thirties.

Before I go off on one, here's a quick point. I love cars. I have owned a string of ridiculous "driver's cars" and I go to motor museums and motor shows for fun.

I also hold a full motorbike licence and own a big ole' Kawasaki. Point is - I don't have it in for people who prefer engines over pedal power.

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Much has been made of the Highway Code changes. Particularly, it seems, the advice for cyclists to position themselves in the centre of the lane at certain times, and it's this I want to talk about.

Despite what some media outlets and popular social media pages would have you think, the changes do not mean cyclists are now allowed to ride in the middle of the road all the time.

That would be stupid.

It applies to certain situations - like on the approach to a junction, or when riding past parked cars (where a door suddenly flung open can mean serious injury or death).

Anyone who has their motorbike licence will be familiar with this - it's called the 'primary position'. Avoiding dodgy overtakes is generally not the concern of someone on a bike with a 0-60 time of about three seconds - but riding far into the road to avoid the doors of parked cars is.

Contrary to popular (or populist) belief, these measures are not actually intended to annoy or punish car drivers - they're intended to stop cyclists dying.

Junctions are particularly dangerous for cyclists - that's where just under half of cyclist deaths in the UK happen.

Understandably, cyclists don't like being killed - and the government doesn't much like it when cyclists are killed either.

We have two conflicting interests here. The want of drivers like you and me to not be delayed by a few seconds vs. the want of cyclists to not be killed.

Which is the most reasonable path to take?

The answer should be obvious. But as many of us have seen, there seems to be a weird hatred of cyclists in this country that makes it very difficult to have a reasonable debate.

And as a response to these changes, many a comment section has erupted in a chorus of furious click-clacking. Formidable arguments like 'they don't pay road tax' or 'cyclists never follow the rules' have been fielded.

So let's look at some of these arguments and see if they hold any water. I'm really not 'straw-manning' here. In recent days I've seen these arguments used lots of times by people who think they're effectively countering Highway Code changes - particularly the 'centre lane' one.

1) What about the cyclists who mount pavements/run red lights/ don't pay attention etc.

I hate cyclists who ride like plonkers. The ones that really annoy me are the 'phone out, no hands on the bars, ride on the pavement' brigade.

They are either thick or dangerously inconsiderate - and I think more should be done to enforce the laws the prohibit that stupidity.

But while some cyclists break the rules, that fact has nothing to do with this particular argument.

Being able to prevent oneself from being struck by a car door, or overtaken dangerously at a junction, makes cyclists safer. Should they not allowed to be safe because some of their compatriots ride like idiots?

Trying to deflect criticism by responding with criticism is a logical fallacy. There's a fancy Latin phrase for it but most of us will know it as 'whataboutism' - dictionary definition : "The technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue."

This was a favourite tactic of the Soviets during the Cold War. It's called a logical fallacy because it does not lead to reasonable conclusions.

It's also worth mentioning that the minority of cyclists who ride like the village idiot pose virtually zero threat to car drivers - and very little threat to pedestrians.

Yes, even the much-maligned red light jumpers don't seem to pose much of a danger - although I still hate them. Don't believe me? Go and look at the statistics.

2) Cyclists don't pay road tax so they shouldn't even be allowed on the road.

I don't pay road tax. Neither do you. Road tax does not exist - it hasn't since the 1930s.

You and I pay 'Vehicle Excise Duty' - as do ~80 per cent of cyclists because they also own cars.

VED does not pay for roads, our council tax does. VED is an emissions-based tax.

Despite all that, if you want to suggest that paying VED gives you more rights on the roads then you must follow that reasoning to its logical conclusion. Any driver that pays more VED than you ought to have the right to overtake you dangerously. Also, you ought to have the right to flex a bit of dangerous driving on electric car users - because they pay no VED.

3) Cyclists should have insurance to be allowed on the road

Some cyclists do choose to take out insurance. If not, many more will (sometimes unknowingly) be covered through their home insurance.

The powers that be clearly do not see a case for this to be made mandatory, though.

Possibly because in most collisions involving a cyclist, they will come off much worse.

Even if you think insurance should be mandatory - personally, I could be persuaded either way on this - it's clear that cyclists are allowed to use the roads at present.

So are you allowed to put them at risk because you think you shouldn't have to share space with them?

Are you somehow a dispenser of ultimate road justice? Do you have the right to risk killing someone because you reckon they shouldn't be on the road?

4) These new rules will inconvenience me as a driver.

They'll inconvenience me as well. So what?

If you're willing to risk someone else's life to shave a few seconds off your journey you need to set your alarm a little earlier - or take a serious look at your morals.

Those of us in cars have a huge amount of power on the roads. We can kill people - very easily. As the saying goes, 'with great power comes great responsibility'. Driving a car in the UK is privilege, and with that privilege comes an understanding that you'll do your best to not put other people in harm's way.

5) Some cyclists don't use cycle paths.

Sometimes that's annoying, sometimes it's understandable.

A fair proportion of the cycle paths in this borough and elsewhere are dangerous and impractical. Cyclists are allowed to use the road, even if there is a path.

Even if they were breaking the rules by using the road, does that give you the all clear to endanger them?

In conclusion:

Fact is, cycling benefits us all -whether we personally cycle or not. It cuts down on emissions and creates a healthier population - which eases strain on the health service.

Several areas of our borough have dangerous levels of pollution - one less car means slightly cleaner air for residents who live in those areas. As an aside, there's an argument circulating on social media that the small delays created by cyclists on some roads add to pollution. I did have a look and I could find absolutely no scientific evidence for this. If you find some, please get in touch.

Anyway, in an ideal world, there would be a separate cycle network that's linked-up and efficient. Hopefully one day that will come. But until then, we all just have to learn to not kill cyclists.