03 January 2010

Innocence of kids: thinking bikes cause accidents

A campaign in the City of London was launched recently to remind cyclists to obey traffic signals.

Various signs and posters were designed by two children from a local school - Isla, aged 8, and Lola, aged 9. Apparently this was the idea of one their parents, who is evidently concerned about the Cycling Menace threatening their kids.

We went past one of the signs yesterday, fixed to a traffic signal on Fleet St (right). The charming work of Lola, aged 9, it asks cyclists to stop at red lights.

Now, this is all very well. Except that as recent studies confirmed, it's not cyclists busting lights that causes accidents. It's drivers ignoring the laws. Get that, Mrs Parent? Lola, aged 9, is much more at risk from errant motorists than she is from impatient cycle couriers.

So this version of the sign on the right is more the sort of thing I'd like to see.

Ah, the innocence of adults. Bless their little hearts.


  1. I do not think cyclists jumping red lights cause many accidents, but regardless, there are MANY cycling morons that do not stop for red lights, even when lots of people crossing, many of these cyclist will use offensive language when they have to slow down.
    Note I do not drive a car and I commute by bike.

  2. We have signs drawn by children over here in Assen too.

    Mostly they tell drivers to slow down or to stop for children. My favourite of the local child drawn signs goes beyond that, though. It says merely "Prefer Bikes".

    I think it's merely a lack of familiarity with bicycles which causes the British public to react against them. After all, around 70% of British adults never ever ride a bike. When cycling and cyclists are so alien, cyclists are an out-group. It's then easy to form a bias against cyclists.

  3. Indeed, David: the out-groupness, the otherness of cyclists, is one of the biggest cultural barriers we face. It shows in everything from judicial verdicts to popular media: the speaker assumes that the audience are all car drivers, like them.

    That's exactly what Mrs Parent did in the post above: she's seen a cyclist or two busting a red light and riding on the pavement. She's not a cyclist, so she assumes all cyclists do that. On the other hand, she's a driver, and she knows she's a safe driver, because every driver thinks they're safe. Therefore you don't need signs aimed at drivers, because like her they must all be safe.

    I think philosophers call this sort of logical fallacy a syllogism, which I think might be Greek for 'shit thinking'.

    Oh well. Whatever. Clearly Lola, aged 9, is smart at putting across any message she's told to, so has a fine future in PR. Bless.

  4. I think you are missing a trick here - there IS definitely a behavioural problem with a sizeable part of the cycling population, and it would be good if we could get our act together. Jumping red lights when there are lots of people crossing, aggressively cycling on pavements, I see it every single day here in London W12 and it really annoys people, and rightly so. (to be fair, it might be different outside London, I do not know).

    I know there are lots of issues with other traffic users, but that is not an excuse.
    Again, for clarity: I do not drive a car, I cycle almost every day.

    Happy cycling,


  5. Remember that London is different from the rest of Britain - more stress, more aggression, more out of control individualism.

  6. Rob: It's true. Everyone knows that they are "safe drivers", just as most drivers rate themselves as better than average.

    Sadly, it's highly likely that Lola already believes the message. It's a majority belief in the UK.

    Bart: Just as there will always be drivers who don't obey the law, there will also always be cyclists who don't obey the law.

    The only difference here is in the perception of others. Because driving is considered a "normal" thing to do, drivers who are caught for speeding or parking illegally are treated as victims in UK society. On the other hand, cyclists who are behaving completely legally can be seen as causing a problem.

    Apart from the pavement cycling issue, which is entirely solvable by providing proper cycling facilities which are both safe and direct, everything else will remain to some extent anywhere that people cycle.

    Campaigns for all cyclists to behave perfectly (such as "stop at red") are doomed to failure due to their not understanding the reasons for objections. They're attempting to conquer a disease merely by treating one of the symptoms.

  7. Lambeth Cyclists responded to a similar initiative from the parents of a local school, one of whom was an LCC member. It started out as a 'cyclists stop at red' campaign, but with our involvement it became a message about the traffic danger to kids from anyone. The kids designed some great leaflets for volunteers to hand out to all road users at the nearby junction over several mornings: for cars, vans, bikes. etc. Thus the focus became dangerous behaviour per se, not what mode of transport you happened to be using.

  8. David Hembrow sums it up very well.

    Compare conversations with friends who have just got a ticket from a traffic light camera, with them seeing a cyclist jumping a red light. With the driver its always "it was a mistake anyone could make" or "the design of the junction is so bad". With the cyclist they will rant for a few minutes about how dangerous it is.

    If this was on Fleet St, cyclists are the least of the problems. Buses/Taxis/Vans are awful there, probably due to being stuck in a jam along most of the road.