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:
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:
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.
© 2003 Copyright Gerard Le Claire Environmental Trust