Fixed penalties: a cyclist’s view

Many of us bend the law but rogue cyclists are to blame for new penalties

If there aren’t pedestrians crossing and there’s no traffic – and, more importantly, if there’s no sign of a squad car – I’ll break the lights.

If there aren’t pedestrians crossing and there’s no traffic – and, more importantly, if there’s no sign of a squad car – I’ll break the lights.

Fri, Jul 19, 2013, 09:48

I am a cyclist. I’m not the spawn of the devil (sorry, Fintan). Nor am I an angel on wings. But I’m in favour of fixed-penalty fines for cyclists who break the law.

This morning, like most mornings, some cyclists stopped at traffic signals as I rode through the city. But quite a few sped through red lights, pedestrian crossings and across busy junctions with enviable freedom. Tourists, pedestrians and a woman with a pram duly scattered for safety.

I, too, break the law – but I do it selectively. If there aren’t pedestrians crossing and there’s no traffic – and, more importantly, if there’s no sign of a squad car – I’ll break the lights. I’ll hop on to the footpath if there aren’t pedestrians around as a way of avoiding red lights or taking a shortcut on a one-way street. Shameful, I know.

I suspect most cyclists fall into this category. But chances are we won’t be bending the law any more (or we’ll be doing it less frequently, at any rate). It will drain away some of the joy of cycling in the city. Stopping and starting every couple of hundred meters on quiet streets will be a real pain.

But I don’t blame the Government – I blame the rogue cyclists who made it inevitable that a crackdown would be launched against dangerous behaviour.

Inevitably reports of on-the-spot fines will degenerate into a shrill civil war between cyclists and petrol-head motorists.

It’s easy to see why some of us cyclists feel aggrieved. Cycling through the city is like an elaborate obstacle course: disappearing or crumbling cycle lanes; cars parked in the lanes or opening their doors without warning; near-death experiences with left-turning lorries.

There are lots of things which could make life better for us. Contra lanes for cycling up one-way streets; safer cycle paths; preventing cars parking along cycle lanes. These are battles for another day.

We all have to share the road: cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. We all need to respect one another. We all have to use the streets responsibly and try to heed rules aimed at protecting us. Not everyone sees it that way. That’s why we have laws in place to target rogue cyclists – and reckless motorists.

The safer the road is, the more people will use their bikes. And with that there’ll be even greater momentum to make cycling a safer and more pleasant experience. That’s the cycle of life.