Home How To... The most popular anti-cyclist claims and the best responses

The most popular anti-cyclist claims and the best responses

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The war between motorists and cyclists is one that we likely won’t see the end of any time soon.

If you grind your molars to powder every time a group of credulous rubes and softheaded reactionaries employs this benighted collection of straw-man arguments, this list of handy cut-and-paste responses to anti-cyclist arguments will to save you time and still allow a rebuttal.

Cyclists don’t pay road tax. The entire “cyclists don’t pay road taxes” argument rests on a gigantic myth: that somehow, cyclists are monolithic automatons who do nothing but ride bikes. In this caricature, we are not also business owners and workers, homeowners, consumers and, often, car owners who pay all the taxes that fund roads.

Cyclists ignore red lights. This is true, in that some cyclists ignore red lights, and they shouldn’t. Some car drivers also ignore red lights. The potential damage of a car running a red light – to life and property – is much worse than that of a bicycle running a red light. That doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but it should put it into perspective.

Cyclists ride on the pavement. Some cyclists ride on the pavement, and they shouldn’t. A way to encourage people to never cycle on pavements is better cycling infrastructure. Also if critics were honest with themselves, they’d admit that cycling on the pavement isn’t really the terrifying scourge they say it is – it’s just annoying to see someone breaking the rules.

Cyclists should wear hi-viz. In the words of one news article commenter, “The trend to high visibility clothing puts the onus on the cyclist to be visible. That’s totally the wrong approach. It’s the job of road users to see other road users. If you can’t spot a pushbike, or a child running into the road, or anything else, then you shouldn’t be driving.” While hi-viz may increase visibility in some situations, but it also reinforces the trope that cycling is inherently dangerous, discouraging even more people from being active through cycling – which is a far more significant danger to public health.

It’s illegal to ride two abreast. It isn’t illegal to ride two abreast. Cyclists sometimes ride two abreast for safety reasons, because it forces motorists to “properly” overtake and also because it’s more enjoyable to cycle two abreast. And why not? Cyclists pay road tax too.

They didn’t have a helmet on. This is easily the most contentious cycling topic. Whatever your stance, wearing a helmet is not a requirement by any stretch of the word, it reinforces the idea that cycling is inherently unsafe, and there are plenty of other non-helmeted activities that are much more dangerous than cycling – such as driving a car, or standing in a bathroom. Where to draw the helmet-wearing line? Some people choose to draw the line before ‘cycling’ and not after.

Cyclists think they own the road. Cyclists do own the road, at least partly (see point #1). Motorists also think they own the road; they don’t, they have to share it.

Cars need an MOT (in U.K.), so should bikes. An MOT checks whether a motor vehicle is safe to use on the roads, because vehicles are extremely complex and harness the power of exploding petrol in order to propel themselves forward. The failure of a motor vehicle to properly function can be catastrophically dangerous. An MOT also checks a vehicle’s exhaust emissions. Requiring bicycles to get an MOT would not only be pointless, it would be restrictive in terms of getting people out on bikes, which would be bad (see point #4).