Think Bike! Bikers Think?

2016-06-09 15:03

The City of Cape Town and the various bicycle associations and clubs have done a great job of promoting awareness of cyclists among vehicle users on the Peninsula. I fully support and endorse the Think Bike and 1,5 metre campaigns, believing there’s no such thing as too much awareness.

Now that we have raised awareness and got everyone to Think Bike, which is great, it seems that while bikers now expect everyone, including themselves, to think about people on bikes that is where the thinking begins and ends. And because everyone is thinking of them they have no need to think about anyone else.

Cape Town is a wonderful place to live and we love to make the most of our beautiful environment and most weekends will see people engaging in any number of outdoor activities and interests, cycling being the dominant and most visible example, with thousands of cyclists making their way around the Peninsula.

There are roadworks being carried out between Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay with a stop-go system in place, rendering the route an alternating one-way street. Yes, it can be frustrating for motorists and cyclists alike but with a little patience and intelligence most people don’t let it upset their day.

There are however hundreds of cyclists who refuse to exercise patience and take to the pavement, aptly called a sideWALK in the USA. They see no problem with that because there’s is no law or campaign urging cyclists not to use the pavement or even to exercise caution and courtesy for other pavement users while doing so.

The problem is that much of the pavement has been dug up with the roadworks and for much of its length less than one meter is available for people to use. A Sunday morning will see strollers, dog-walkers, joggers, hikers and people going to church all using this, now much restricted, pavement to get between Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay or from  their homes alongside the roadworks to Kalk Bay.

Sadly, walking or jogging on what is currently left of this pavement has become an extreme sport because hundreds of Sunday cyclists simply refuse to show any restraint or self-control.

They can’t wait at the stop-go’s and take to the sidewalk. Now this may present a wonderful ‘single track’ upon which to show off their skills but it makes using it thoroughly unpleasant for everyone else.

Why is it that cyclists expect motorists to give them a 1,5 metre gap but don’t see the need to show pedestrians the same courtesy? Especially as the pavement is less than one metre wide in so many places? Is it because running into a pedestrian or dog is going to hurt the pedestrian or dog a lot more than the cyclists?

The cyclists then, not a little arrogantly, expect the pedestrians to make way for the cyclists by stepping off what is currently left of the pavement into the roadworks. I have seen many people forced to step off the pavement into the road rubble. I have seen one lady with two dogs (on lead by the way) being instructed very loudly and rudely by a cyclist to control her dogs and having to pull them and herself off the pavement into the rubble. What more should she do than keep them on lead and on the pavement?

Personally I have dodged scores of cyclists while jogging and it becomes very frustrating having to stop and carefully step into the loose road debris for the umpteenth time and wait for the cyclists to pass, get back onto the pavement  start running again and then have to repeat the process every 30 or 40 metres.

These cyclists epitomise the current culture of entitlement in our country when individuals think only of themselves and their own convenience. These cyclists demonstrate they believe they are the only people entitled to use the pavement and enjoy the pleasant Sunday morning sun.

One ‘pellaton’ which must have arrived at the stop-go shortly after it closed to that direction, couldn’t wait and chat and enjoy each other’s company, so made their way around the stop-go on the pavement. They then immediately made their way back onto the road, as there was no traffic yet coming in the other direction. They met that traffic a little in front of me. The first driver gave a little ‘toot’, not an aggressive prolonged ‘baaarrrp’ which lead to much cursing at him by the cyclists, as  they made their way en masse up a dug-up residence drive and onto the pavement, which was not even a metre wide at that point. Did they stop? Slow down? Announce their presence? Defer to the person already there and with nowhere to go? Apologise for taking over the public space? Even offer a friendly greeting? Of course not.

They simply rode straight at me, expecting m e to make way for them, which I had to or be hit by one of them.

“Come on guys...” I said in exasperation, which was a huge mistake apparently. The aggressive invective that burst forth would have embarrassed a drunken sailor. Not one offered a single word of apology or awkwardness at forcing me off the pavement.

“Can’t you stay off the pavement and use the road,” I asked. To which one (outwardly) pretty young lady retorted that “We’re also bleep f-bomb bleep allowed to use the pavement.” It didn’t occur to her, and them, that, so was I, and every other person and dog on it and that perhaps showing some respect, courtesy and compromise so that each could enjoy their activity would be prudent?

These cyclists were effectively riding the wrong way down a (temporarily) one-way street, then when cars appeared simply took over the entire pavement too.

Another day, I held out my arms in resignation at yet another cyclist on the pavement who was going slowing due to the excavated piece at that point, “When are you going to learn...?” Well I didn’t even finish the sentence before he let me have it with both barrels and f-bombs too, threatening to f-bomb me up and all sorts of little pleasantries. I just dismissed him with a wave of my hand and carried on, with him screaming, literally, at me to “Come back here you f-bombing so-and-I’ll f-bomb you etc etc.”

Is it just me or does anyone else see anything wrong with these pictures?

Is it totally unreasonable of me to hope to jog around our beautiful city on a pavement without being threatened physically and verbally by cyclists?

By correctly and admirably doing what they can to ensure the safety of all cyclists on our roads, which I fully support, have the City Council, Peddle Power Association and others not created a rather ugly monster in our midst in spandex? Have they not created the entitled perspective among cyclists that they are more special than everyone else and they have the right of way, every way, every time, everywhere and damn any one else who has the effrontery to want to walk or jog on a sidewalk and gets in their way?  Should pedestrians and their dogs rather walk in the traffic to make sure the pavements are clear for cyclists? Or should we ban people and dogs from our pavements and reserve them for the exclusive use of our cyclists?

Indeed, cyclists are allowed to use the pavements in Cape Town, but surely when they do it is incumbent upon them to show courtesy and respect, and make way, for pedestrians? Or are cyclists more equal than the rest of Cape Town’s residents?

Cyclists demand their 1,5 meter clearance from vehicles on the road which, as far as I’m aware, are also allowed to use the road and in fact are licensed to do so but that hasn’t stopped cyclists from (rightly) demanding to be allowed to safely use the roads too. Why can’t cyclists reciprocate and allow pedestrians to safely use the pavements?  Is that too much to ask? Is it arrogant? Is it part of our entitled culture that I would like to use the pavement for my pleasure too?

I ask the relevant City authorities, the Pedal Power Association, WP Cycling and other clubs, to please address this issue? Not only at this specific location but everywhere in our City. If you as a cyclist have to use a pavement and there are pedestrians, dogs or joggers, please defer to them and show them the respect and courtesy you as a cyclists would like to get from drivers on the roads.

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