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Last Updated: Friday, 21 March 2008, 18:35 GMT
Cyclists battle for road survival
By Mario Cacciottolo
BBC News

A cyclist waiting on a cycle path
Excellent advice - but how often is it taken by cyclists?

Cyclists will tell you it's a jungle out there, especially on the busy, car-choked streets of our major cities.

Motorists and pedestrians, on the other hand, will gripe about those who have got on their bikes, complaining that they don't stick to the rules - or paths - designated to them.

Now Conservative leader David Cameron has pedalled into the argument, after being photographed by the Daily Mirror jumping red lights and cycling the wrong way up a one-way street.

On a windy but pleasant day out around London's Hyde Park, there are a few cyclists braving the conditions and indulging in some pedal power.

Riding through Wellington Arch in a splendid yellow jacket is Michael Cahill, 57, of Ealing, who describes the road systems in the capital as "not conducive to cyclists".

Mr Cahill, who says he has been hit by cars three times, is dismissive of the claims made against Mr Cameron.

"I've jumped the lights before, but I'm not a crook. There's a negative attitude towards cyclists from motorists.

David Cameron should set a good example, but at least he is getting on his bike and making the effort to be green
David, cyclist

"Cars park on cycle lanes, so we can't use them, but no-one does anything about it. And if you followed anyone around with a camera, then they'd eventually do something wrong."

Pausing at the lights, waiting to cross the road is 28-year-old Helen, a civil servant who works in central London.

She has mixed views on the type of two-wheeled transgressions exhibited by Mr Cameron.

"He should obey the rules and he shouldn't have done it - but there's a lot more that can be done to improve the roads.

"Red lights should be respected, but the main thing is endorsement of the rules by police for all road vehicles.

Eric Keller and Eszter Bodrogi
Eric Keller and Eszter Bodrogi both admit to breaking road rules

"I don't think they enforce rules for cars and motorbikes. As a cyclist you get 4x4s who undertake you, and motorbikes who use cycle lanes."

Standing within clear sight of two sets of traffic lights, it is noticeable that some cyclists are crossing the road while the lights are still red, some riding right out into the middle of a junction in anticipation of the green light.

They are in the wrong place, but it's arguably safer for them to be ahead of the flow of traffic.

Obeying the rules, and pausing to admire the views at Hyde Park Corner, is Eric Keller, 25, a Frenchman living in Switzerland who is on a visit to the UK. He thinks, as a cyclist, that London is easier to handle than Paris.

"There are a lot of cycle paths here, and compared to Paris it's better.

"I would probably break the rules myself, but nothing to put myself in danger. If there's a red light but no-one coming I would move off slowly.

"It's safer to cycle in Switzerland, but then I live in a smaller city."

Cycling in unison, if not in tandem, with Mr Keller is Eszter Bodrogi, 34, a Hungarian who lives in London's Shepherd's Bush.

"I break the rules often," she admits. "I do it only when it's safe. I don't always wait until the lights are green.

Michael Cahill
Michael Cahill says roads need to be made more cyclist-friendly

"It's much safer to cycle here than in Budapest, but I do know of many people who have got run over in London. The infrastructure for cyclists here is good, but it could improve. Although, you can come to the centre of the city by bike."

A 41-year-old cyclist from Bermondsey called David believes Mr Cameron's actions have not broken any law.

"It's not illegal to ride through a red light on a bike, just as it's not illegal for a pedestrian to cross the road when the red man is showing," he says.

The Highway Code, however, says that cyclists "must obey all traffic lights and traffic signals".

And according to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, an illuminated red signal on a Toucan crossing "shall indicate the period during which, in the interests of safety, pedestrians and pedal cyclists should not use the crossing".

David continues: "There are certain rules you should obey, including red lights at busy junctions, for example.

"But as a cyclist in London you're vulnerable, and you've got to do what you can to stay safe on the roads.

"That can mean you get ahead of waiting traffic by moving when the lights are still red.

"David Cameron should set a good example, but at least he is getting on his bike and making the effort to be green. It's better than John Prescott and his two Jags."



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