Friday, 4 December 2009

Should you dismount when told to do so?

I had two moments on my ride this morning when I was told by a sign to dismount. The first was on the Regent's Canal, just West of the Zoo, where there's some work going on and you have to go on to a jetty thing to get round it. I made a judgement: the dismount sign was probably for my own safety - in case it was slippery on the jetty - or because if there are lots of people it could be a hazard. I looked carefully - there was no-one in sight - so I biked carefully over the jetty. No harm done.

Then I went through a residential area just above the canal. I would normally dismount as there's a bit of a blind corner. But this time I decided I wouldn't, as every time I had dismounted before, I'd literally never seen a single pedestrian coming my way. But this time, of course, there was a pedestrian and although I was creeping along slowly, she was clearly angry (I got the impression this was quite a regular local issue) and told me off, said there could be elderly people coming through, etc etc. I tried to explain that this was the first time I hadn't dismounted but she was clearly angry and didn't want to enter into a conversation.

I left feeling guilty and angry. I got to thinking about the hundred times I had dismounted, but no-one had noticed my good work (!), and how you can ruin cyclists' reputation by one moment like that.

I sort of think I should write a little note and leave it by the bike sign explaining my point of view and apologising if she was shocked when I appeared, and that perhaps I should shout loudly whenever next go through and do dismount, alerting everyone to the fact that cyclists do dismount ... but there's another part of me which says - just forget it, and next time you go through, dismount.

Anyone out there got on any views on whether we should always dismount when we see the sign?


JJ said...

What bad luck! Of course you were in the wrong but she was, understandably, giving you a harder time than you deserved because of previous encounters with cyclists not as considerate as you. It's a judgment call but I think the signs are usually there because of prior incidents and the locals feel strongly about them.

I say you were in the wrong, but admit I probably would have stayed on my bike too and just gone very very slowly (walking pace).

Natalie said...

I face a similar dilemma every morning on my way to work. I cycle from Lambeth Bridge along the south bank of the Thames to near the National Theatre. If I ride by the letter of the law I should actually go along the horrible busy road. But if I'm getting to work before 09.30 I just cycle along the riverside. It's such a lovely ride, and safe, and I make sure I go slowly and considerately when I get to the busy bit (near the London Eye). I always feel really guilty but I see police officers every day and they've never told me to dismount so I just carry on. I figure that I'm doing my bit to save the planet and as long as I'm considerate I should be able to enjoy a lovely view on the way to work.

KarmaCycle said...

Thanks JJ and Nat - I think you're both right ... you have to use your judgement and normally it doesn't cause a problem. But JJ - I think you're bang on saying that I was in the wrong, and the more I think about it, the more I think that for a few seconds of inconvenience, you can make a big difference to someone's day. So, boys and girls - dismount! dismount! dismount!

Though I will still reserve the right to consider my options if I can see FOR SURE that there's no-one in sight, and I there's no way anyone can appear suddenly or unexpectedly.