To cycle or not to cycle?


“Cycle in Jersey? I’d rather take my chances with a red-kneed tarantula thanks…” This was the response of a friend recently visiting our emerald isle. “What about our green lanes, surely you’d feel safe there?” I responded, confident that he hadn’t discovered over wonderful network of quiet roads, where cyclists and walkers have priority.”  “You’re just a sitting duck on those roads,” came the reply.


As an avid cyclist, I love nothing better than exploring Jersey on my non-motorised two wheeled transport, and after the recent installation of a shower at work, I’ve finally run out of excuses not to ditch the car for my daily commute.


But I concede the journey can be challenging, not just because of my current lack of fitness but due to the attitude of other road users. 


My commute runs from Grouville to Trinity taking in a combination of major and minor roads and green lanes.  Rue de Francheville is the section I dread most each day.  This fairly straight stretch connects Grouville to La Hougue Bie and is edged with unforgiving granite walls.  There are a few well-spaced passing spaces, which seem to make drivers assume Michael Schumacher characteristics in their determination to be the one not to stop.  I know, I’ve caught myself doing it.  The knack is to not make eye contact and keep driving, James Dean style, ignoring the white knuckles of your ‘opponent’.  This is all very well when you’re surrounded by large metal box, but very unnerving when exposed to the elements on a bike.  With regularity I’ve found myself squeezed into the hedge, beeped at, revved at and generally abused for daring to take up space on the highway.  


On Green Day, the last Friday of September each year, the Gerard Le Claire Environmental Trust asks Islanders to wear something green and make a donation to the work of the Trust, but just as importantly try to encourage folk to take a temporary break from their cars and for one day think about how they get to work or school; to leave the car at home and take bus, cycle or walk instead.


I frequently read letters in the JEP from drivers bemoaning the actions of cyclists and vice versa.  Polemic arguments that seem to have no understanding of the other’s point of view - never the twain shall meet.  I believe there are some tips that would help drivers and cyclists have a better understanding and live more harmoniously.  For some this may be teaching a granny to suck eggs, but this is my chance in the hotseat, so here are a few of my bugbears:


For cyclists:

Cycle positively! Don’t hide in the hedge, you’ll end up with your tyres caught in a drain or over the bonnet of a car.  Many junctions in Jersey are such that cars need to edge out to get a good enough view to be able to pull out.

Allow traffic to pass! there is nothing more annoying as a driver than to be stuck in a long line of traffic behind a cyclist.

Indicate in plenty of time! This applies to both car drivers and cyclists.  I know you know where you’re going, but no one else has a clue.  The typical Jersey driver more often than not indicates as an afterthought – by which point the average cyclist is half way up the verge or the car driver has had to perform a …

Don’t undertake! Drivers are not expecting you to pass on their nearside, so it’s hardly surprising you get squashed against the kerb.


I could go on about not riding the wrong way down one way streets or in pedestrianised areas, but I do have a word limit.


And a few tips for drivers:

  • Revving your engine loudly is unlikely to endear you to even the most confident of cyclists.

  • Give cyclists a wide berth when overtaking! If you don’t have room to overtake properly, you shouldn’t.    

  • Understand that cyclists will overtake long lines of stationary traffic – sitting behind an exhaust pipe is really no fun.  So don’t deliberately pull as close to the middle of the road as possible in order to clip the cyclist with your wing mirror.

  • As for the cycle helmet or bare head argument? I’m all for freedom to act as one sees fit, but for me this is a no-brainer when you’ve seen a friend show you the chunk missing from her helmet that would have been the dent in her skull had she not been wearing one; or a very careful cycling colleague who nevertheless wakes up in hospital after hitting a pot hole and landing on his bonce.


I hope you participate in this year’s Green Day, but if, for whatever reason, you do still need to use your car on that day, please spare a thought for those who are taking on this brave task.  With a bit of mutual consideration the roads should be a happier place for all of us.

Press Release 2002 Ball

© 2003 Copyright Gerard Le Claire Environmental Trust