Road users (RUs), as I see them.
- The Pedestrian
- The motorcyclist
- The cyclist
- The horse rider
- The motorist
I consider myself to be all but one of these at one point or another (I have never been a motorcyclist and have no desire to be one) and so this post is the combination of some experience, some opinion and much observation.
As RUs we appear to believe that we rule the road regardless of the mode of transport we choose to employ. Many people, appear to go out on to the road network ready for a fight. Manners and kindness are rare and the various types of RU despise each other …the roads are a battle ground. See car crash TV such as: ‘The war on Britain’s roads: Motorist v Cyclist.’
Pedestrians are technically pavement users though necessity sometimes sees them walking along the road and of course they come into contact with other RUs when crossing roads and on shared networks such as cycle paths and bridle ways. Motorcyclists are a diverse bunch; the mini-moto ‘yobs’ tearing around local neighbourhoods, commuters, delivery drivers, pleasure/leisure enthusiast motorcyclists and youngsters on scooters. Cyclists, can also be sub-categorised; commuters, professionals, leisure or necessity. Leisure can be broken down further into ‘roadies’ and off-roaders. Horse riders that you meet on the road networks of our country are generally out for a leisurely hack, unlike the other types of user they are rarely attempting to get from A to B and are unlikely to be in a hurry.
Finally but most significantly the motorist can come in many forms: professionals, leisure and commuters. Professionals can be seen to drive vehicles as large as HGV lorries or farm equipment but also cars and buses. Leisure drivers, such a ‘boy racers’ are thankfully in decline due to high fuel prices. The motorist is the primary RU in terms of numbers, and is one of only two users listed (the other being motorcyclists) required to pass a formal assessment before being set free on the roads.
In terms of weaponry available, the pedestrian sits at the very bottom of the hierarchy; they have very little with which they can cause harm to other RUs. Of course they could, and do, step out in front of traffic, which may lead to jail time for the person who squashes them but this really doesn’t seem like a clever tactic. The cyclist ranks just above the pedestrian; due to having a machine which makes them slightly bigger and scarier, but in the main they remain relatively harmless. At the top of the hierarchy sits the motorist who has a large, powerful and potentially dangerous machine which has the ability to harm all other RUs. Motorcyclists and horse riders pose their own threats but in terms of these rankings they are placed in the middle.
The problem lies in the fact that the individual RU, once he or she has chosen their steed for their journey, tends to believe that they are the most important person on the road and that the road belongs to them. Pedestrians appear to believe that they are invincible, motorists appear to think that cyclists only need the gutter and absolutely no more room than that and horse riders haven’t yet realised that other forms of transport are now available and are equally entitled to use the road.
Pedestrians are a constant hazard for all other forms of road user to be aware of and negotiate – they are however of little threat to anyone but themselves. They are simply an annoyance better to be avoided than squash (think Snail). Note: this specifically refers to pedestrians who do not take notice to the world around them; those which concentrate on their devices and listen to music in both ears meaning that they have absolutely no awareness of hazards or indeed the hazard that they themselves are causing. Example being the lady who stepped out in front of my car the other day…and jumped out her skin when I beeped my horn. Look less at your smart phone and more at the road you are about to cross.
Motorcyclists I have very little experience of, however when I am in my car I am sure to pull to the side to give them more space to pass safely.
From recent experiences of horse riders I would have to draw fairly negative conclusions. The first that we came across was on the floor, her horse was cantering towards us, she had no phone and had not told anyone where she was going. In fact there wasn’t anyone at home to know she was missing. Another called us ‘silent predators ‘ despite our attempts to let her know that we were there (she was deep in conversation). Many I have seen recently texting as they make their way along the road, oblivious. And then finally my recent encounter with the lady with the spooky horse who did not feel it was her responsibility to ensure she kept an eye out for hazards which may surprise or upset her unpredictable steed.
Although they have their differences, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists tend to like, support and respect their own, albeit in their cliques. Motorists however hate everyone, even other motorists. Motorists curse when they have to stop at pedestrian lights, have to pass cyclists and when they are passed by motorcyclists. They dislike cyclists passing them and attempt to prevent them from doing so by pulling in as close to the kerb as possible when they are in a queue. They believe that cyclists ride side by side simply to spite them – whilst actually it is easier to pass width than length, so aside from the social aspect, cyclists do this for motorists ease. And recently we have found that cyclists find it amusing to blare and hoot their horns repetitively when coming towards cyclists… thanks then, my ear drums loved that. Generally, cyclists try to help motorists and try to make things safer (after all it is not in our favour to make it less safe – we are quite low in the pecking order and we are likely to come off worse), by moving out to the centre of the lane when there is a hazard and moving in when it is safe to pass and by waving motorists through or hand signalling that they should stay where they are.
Maybe it is to do with the potential speed of your chosen mode of transport; the faster your steed the less patience you will have and the more frustrated you will become with other RUs. In fact if there was a little more give and take on the roads then we are all likely to get to our destinations quicker. I think being a cyclist and enduring and observing these experiences has made me a more patient and polite RU. Cycling is growing, motoring is ever popular and walking is a natural state – we all have to get on really.
Though it’s obvious really, that cyclists are clearly supreme. Out the way please!