Great Debate: should rules for cyclists be relaxed?
IN the wake of Great Britain's cycling success in the Olympics, we ask whether regulations for cyclists on roads and pavements should be relaxed.
CHELTENHAM resident Max Wilkinson, a cycling convert, argues why rules for two wheels should be relaxed.
PEOPLE across Gloucestershire will have watched in awe this summer as Britain's cyclists dominated the Olympics and the Tour de France.
We are, apparently, the world's best elite cycling nation and our top athletes are household names like Hoy, Wiggins and Pendleton.
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The magnificent achievements by the members of Team GB and Team Sky came after years of thought, planning and preparation.
Now is the time for our policymakers and politicians to follow the lead of Dave Brailsford by forming their own blueprint for the future.
At the moment, it is estimated that around half of all journeys of under 5km in the UK are made by car.
That's roughly the distance from the centre of Charlton Kings to the racecourse, but many trips will be far shorter.
We all know that journeys by car create pollution, which is bad for our health and the environment.
They also clog our streets with traffic jams, that oh-so-annoying everyday occurrence not just in Cheltenham, but in every town and city in the country.
Imagine how much more pleasant, and how much less polluted, our streets and town centres would be if we exchanged those car journeys for cycle journeys.
Of course, there are a number of reasons why not everybody can cycle and not all trips can be cycled, but let's put that to one side and talk in general terms.
Generally, there's no reason that people shouldn't be able to cycle a couple of miles to work, or a couple of miles to the local shops to pick up provisions.
That's where we, as people, should probably change.
To help that happen, the people in charge of roads, paths and pavements need to make it easier and safer for people to get on their bikes.
In some cases, that could mean lowering speed limits to 20mph in built-up areas and putting in cycle routes.
In others, it could be allowing cyclists to use stretches of pavement and perhaps even our pedestrianised town centre.
As long as cyclists respect drivers, drivers respect cyclists and everybody respects pedestrians, there's no reason it can't work. Other countries manage it; there's no reason we can't.
There are a lot of positive feelings towards cycling at the moment and, for the sake of the future health, happiness and well-being of our town, this is an opportunity too good to waste.
PETER Davies, chairman and chief observer of the Gloucestershire Group of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, argues why the rules are important.
THE Highway Code makes it perfectly clear, from rule 59 to 82 and in section one of the annexes "You and your bicycle", that these rules are published in the interests of safety for road users, not just for those using a bicycle.
Therefore, to even contemplate ignoring or abolishing the rules is surely an act of selfishness and a display of lack of consideration for others, even those others who are cyclists.
In the interests of all, it might be helpful to realise from reading the introduction of the Highway Code that many of its rules are legal requirements. Disobey these rules, you are committing a criminal offence.
Such are identified by the use of the words "must" and "must not". To name just a few, a cyclist must have a white front and red rear light, must not cycle on a pavement, must obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals.
And why not? Can we imagine the consequences of the alternative?
Better driving or motorcycle riding teaches a disciplined system of driving. If a driver is unable to see a cyclist because of insufficient lighting, if it is unknown whether a cyclist intends to react to a traffic light aspect, I fail to see how this will benefit either the cyclist or the driver and surely pedestrians should be entitled to their own safer area on which it is illegal for drivers to park and cyclists to ride.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has published an excellent book called How to be a better cyclist, in which John Franklin, Cycling Skills and Safety Consultant, writes: "The fact is that people who cycle regularly live longer, on average, than people who do not cycle, with less ill health says all. The benefits of cycling greatly outweigh the risks, and all the more so if you take the trouble to learn to cycle skilfully."
Surely 'skilfully' can only be achieved with the use of a disciplined system of riding, and matters of common sense and not too much freedom for cyclists to do just what they want.
I am aware some motorists are unfair and uncaring in their regard for cyclists just as some cyclists are unfair to them.
I think it would be splendid if drivers and cyclists were "helpful" to each other.
Nevertheless, in the interests of all road users we need some rules followed by all.