Flexibility – Or why cars can’t get away with things bikes can

Mark Treasure has written up an excellent post (complete with some illustrative photos) on why it is that cyclists have a bad reputation for cycling up one way streets, jumping red lights and so on:

Often this is explained in terms of ‘cyclists’ being able to ‘get away with it’, because they’re apparently not identifiable, with number plates, or fluorescent jackets with their names printed on, or some other nonsense.

Of course, this ‘explanation’ fails to account for how drivers consistently break laws in vast numbers, despite having number plates.

But there is actually something to this explanation. It is hard to get away with driving a car up a one-way street – much harder than riding a bicycle up a one-way street. However, this isn’t because you’ve got a number plate on your car. It’s because it’s physically hard to drive a car up a one-way street. There’s a strong chance you’re going to meet a vehicle coming the other way, and if that happens, you’re pretty much screwed, as in the case of the driver in the example described above. It’s a big risk.

By contrast, when you cycle the wrong way up a one-way street, it’s relatively easy to negotiate your way out of difficulty. For a start, you’re only the width of a human being, so you can simply stop against the kerb. Or you can become a pedestrian.

He’s right too. They’re two different forms of transport, and the tension arises from the crude assumption that they’re actually the same thing – ‘vehicles’, when they’re not. Pedal bikes create wheeled pedestrians (I’m not talking about sports cycling, that’s totally different), not two-wheeled-cars.