Friday, February 23, 2018

Cyclists have rights, too

An unfortunate incident occurred on the morning of April 6 while some cyclists were climbing along the relatively steep switchbacks leading out of the Santa Cruz valley to the pillars, which signify the right turn to Maracas Bay.

This group, for safety reasons, was accompanied by a police motorbike rider who does a remarkable job of ensuring the cyclists’ safety. Also following were two support vehicles with flashing lights.

Along this stretch of road is a solid white line meant to indicate no vehicular overtaking. The cyclists were climbing in single file when, at the start of the climb, a large white vehicle (Toyota Prado) was observed to swing widely, crossing the white line, on a left-hand corner, in an attempt to overtake a cyclist.

This caused an oncoming car to brake suddenly, the Prado swung back to the left and squeezed the cyclist off the road.

A few yards further on he pulled sharply in front of another rider, causing him to brake suddenly to avoid making contact with the vehicle. The next cyclist in line, while being squeezed off the road, had to reach for a whistle and blow frantically to try and get the driver’s attention.

At this point the cyclists behind had begun to see a pattern in this driver’s behaviour and were trying to catch up to and pass his vehicle in an attempt to notify the police outrider who was some way ahead with other cyclists.

Note that this Prado was the only one in a long line of vehicles. The others were climbing slowly out of the valley. There was no problem with any other. Possibly in an attempt to “get away” he overtook a car in front, once again crossing the solid white line, thus endangering the occupants of his own vehicle as well as other road users.

Due to his eventual slow progress a cyclist was able to get in front of his vehicle, slowing and gradually stopping him while others rode ahead to notify the policeman (a sort of “citizen’s arrest”).

His only constructive response to our accusations was “It was his word against ours”.

He could not have known that: 

(1) There was a policeman ahead who was there to keep a watch for just this type of lawless behaviour;

2) Cyclists are allowed, by law, to ride two abreast, thus occupying one lane. Other road users are, by default, expected to pass only when it is safe to do so.

It is ironic that cyclists are possibly even more in danger when they ride in single-file, allowing motorists who may not be good judges of distance, in a hurry, or just intolerant of other road users, to pass.

It is well recognised that a front-seat passenger can act as an extra pair of eyes and ears to a driver. Could not this passenger have warned the driver that he was passing too close to the cyclists? Especially on such a narrow road!

It is also recognised internationally that the benefits of cycling far outweigh the danger to life and limb (except possibly in T&T).

The saving in terms of monetary drain on a health care system is immense, when a population becomes more healthy through all forms of exercise, including cycling. To think otherwise would be naive.

Allan Hoyte

via e-mail