SNP’s Nice Way Code made me nasty

This morning I was not nice… just like everyone else

I won’t tell you what I’ve done, but safe to say it would upset people who are prejudiced against cycling and probably a few people who cycle themselves.

With the Nice Way Code, the Government is telling us (with our own taxes) that cyclists are a dodgy minority out-group who can be expected to misbehave.

The question that plagued my morning commute was this: has the Nice Way Code, ironically, made it easier for people cycling (including me) to bend or break the rules?

On the whole I like to consider myself more or less a model rider, and I’ve always put down attitudes like “cyclists jump red lights!” “don’t pay taxes!” “ride on pavements!” “get off the road!” to the frothing of old Tories desperately trying to be relevant or just the ignoramuses you’ll find in any cross-section of society. The same people who said women didn’t have the capacity to vote, or black people couldn’t sit on the bus, or immigrants had stolen all our jobs.

With cycling deaths in Scotland soaring to a ten year high, it wasn’t too surprising that the SNP wanted to launch some kind of road safety campaign.

What did come as a shock was the discovery that a huge chunk of the active travel budget has been spent on the embarrassing, counter-productive and frankly anti-cycling / anti-pedestrian material that makes up the Nice Way Code.

Screen shot 2013-08-21 at 22.19.41

Yes, the Scottish Government has told me either that it too is populated by prejudiced fools and ignoramuses, or that the behaviour of my growing number of fellow cyclists is actually much “worse” than I’d realised. Almost nothing in the Nice Way Code is remotely relevant to me and the dangers I face or pose as a motorist, pedestrian or cycling about town.

Am I ‘disadvantaging’ myself (in the strict sense of the word) by being excessively nice relative to my peers?

People who cycle represent a fairly broad cross-section of society: politicians, finance chiefs, police and emergency services, military, teachers, doctors, bin men, students. Even some immigrants 😉

When the government tells me that these people are all at it, that definitely damages my resolve not to misbehave. After all, I now realise that a substantial proportion of people in my “group” are behaving in a different way to me. I’m an outlier of an out-group, and I can get back to the mainstream with a bit of nastiness.

This isn’t dissimilar to a change I think I’ve noticed when I ride off road.

Sustrans have harped on and on about people racing along these paths to the point where I feel if I want to put on a squirt of extra speed it doesn’t matter, because so many other people are doing the same. What I previously would have considered inconsiderate (but not dangerous) now seems temptingly like “what everyone else does”. Just how fast can I take the speed bumps and chicane gates on the canal?

Am I going crazy, or is this a natural reaction?

5 Comments

  1. Min

    I often wonder why I bother stopping at red lights etc when I keep on reading that “all” cyclists do this. So obviously I do it even though I don’t do it so I may as well do it.
    When the SG say it too it must be true..

  2. NiallA

    Probably quite natural – teenage rebellion and all… :-)

    If it helps, just keep reminding yourself that most of the things that you might do to “break the rules” are likely to result in things that really hurt, so it’s much better not to!

  3. Dave

    You’re too kind – more of a midlife crisis perhaps (but so much cheaper than another motorboat…)

    That’s just the problem though, isn’t it? The sort of things that Sustrans and the Nice Way Code go on about are manifestly not likely to result in pain or damage. If they did, they might be self limiting and they wouldn’t feel the need to prattle on so negatively.

    Quite the reverse, you can break these rules as much as you like with virtually no chance of any negative repercussions beyond the mild and nonspecific disapproval of a few anonymous observers. I feel like someone who is sticking firmly to 70mph when the entire motorway is doing 80mph+, as confirmed by the govt… why shouldn’t I do what everyone else does?

    (You could argue, I think with at least some theoretical justification, that doing 80mph is likely to result in things that really hurt, but it would fail for the same reasons)

  4. NiallA

    I guess I must just have a different view of risk to you, Dave, or be more scared on the road. I would expect an RLJ to increase my risk of a collision with either a pedestrian or a motor vehicle, which would hurt, because it would put me somewhere other road users have a very reasonable expectation that I won’t be (at a specific instant). Similarly with cycling on pavements or at speed on shared paths, at least from a pedestrian-collision perspective. Going to the left of a bus or other big vehicle could be risky in some circumstances and lead to an ouch… so maybe “likely” was the wrong word to use above, but doesn’t following the rules reduce my risk? Clearly, there’s much variability and complexity in all of the preceding in terms of how much risk is added, which is why the NWC fails, I think, because it can’t reflect that, but there is a germ of a point with each issue they have chosen to campaign on.

  5. Dave

    Hi Niall,

    In some ways I definitely agree. It’s pretty much impossible to argue that any speed over the 6mph limit on the canal is safer than going at 6mph would be, for instance.

    However I’m not sure on the whole that the rules necessarily do reduce cyclists’ risk. I was thinking about this yesterday while driving through rush hour Glasgow where plenty of cyclists were seen avoiding the 50mph, 6+ lane main road to ride on a wide tree-lined pavement instead. I’m sure it may upset both peds and motorists but can I really say with a straight face that it’s anything other than a huge safety boost for the riders themselves?

    Ditto the interesting choice of RLJ video that Nice Way Code is using. I adopt a unified approach to lights whether driving or cycling and it would be a lie to say that I’ve never gone through one on the turn in either mode of transport. The only traffic-light related accident I’ve had was when I did stop at a red light and the taxi behind me tried to run it (would an evidence-based approach then suggest I’d be safer not to stop? I’m not sure).

    While it’s hard to justify some of the more blatant red light jumping on safety grounds I do find it interesting to watch significant numbers of cyclists on the bridges (who want to turn right, for instance from North Bridge southbound to the Royal Mile uphill) shunning the green light which is in their favour, waiting for the red and then jumping it to ride across to the other side. Are they doing this because it’s more dangerous or because it’s safer?

    This is starting to labour the point I feel. What I was getting at was more like this: I’m sitting on the M8 doing 120% of the speed limit and every single vehicle on the road is overtaking me. Is this context favouring lawbreaking or obedience? It’s quite a separate question really to the safety issue (when you crash your car, any speed hurts more vs any lower speed).

    Cheers!

    D.

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