Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Crossing the line - Cycling on a zebra crossing

The other day I had to make a split decision whilst riding my dreamboat bicycle. It wasn’t a decision between life and death, no, no, no, more trivial than that.  It was a decision of whether to let the grown-up man on a bicycle cross the zebra crossing in front of me.

Should I stop and let him pass like I would for a pedestrian? Or do I sneak across quickly? Because, quite frankly, he isn't a ‘pedestrian’ when he is sitting on his bicycle!

I am not ashamed to say that I am a dedicated follower of the rules of the road, however on this occasion, there was no time for me to consult the highway code manual. And I certainly wasn’t told about this rule in my cycling proficiency course circa 1994! 

This called for a moral judgement. Yes fellow cyclists, I had to use my brain and think about what is correct and legal, for if I was to make the wrong decision,  I would risk my reputation as 'safety queen' on the roads FOREVER! It was a tough call.

I weighed up the situation in the split seconds I had, it was hard:

  • The man is ON his bicycle which means he is a cyclist. If he was off his bicycle and pushing his bike then he would be a pedestrian. A zebra crossing is a 'pedestrian' crossing. 
  • Why should I take the effort to stop for another cyclist who is not taking the effort to cycle his bike on the road?
  • He isn't a child but a grown man about 50ish.... Old enough to navigate the roads on his bicycle....Geez.
  • I am conscientious and like to cycle politely
Reflecting on these points, I decided to bolt over the crossing and not let him pass - safely of course, I wasn't planning on running him over #safetyqueen! However, as I was travelling over the crossing, I felt a mega pang of guilt because the car travelling alongside me STOPPED TO LET HIM GO! Which made me look like I was selfish and not a caring cyclist on the roads. Oh lordie!

I needed clarification fast, to answer the question, SHOULD YOU STOP FOR ANOTHER CYCLIST CROSSING A ZEBRA CROSSING?

According to UK Cycle Rules, It seems I did the right thing. They say:
 ...You won’t need to give way if: 
                        They’re not a pedestrian. Someone who is walking while pushing a bike is a pedestrian. But someone who is riding their bike across the crossing isn’t a pedestrian – it might be a good idea to get out of the way, but you won’t commit an offence if you cut in front of them. (Crank v Brooks [1980] RTR 441, 442-3)

So because this cheeky chap wasn’t a ‘pedestrian’, meant that I had the right of way, not him. Making split decisions on the road is a tough job to do I tell ya! But, I am glad that my reputation has remained unscathed, phew!

Have you ever been in this situation and what did you do?


gsej said...

I think generally speaking if you are going across a zebra crossing on a bike, then you've been riding on the pavement, which I think is a no-no.

However, there's at least one zebra crossing where I live which has a cycle path routed across it(i.e. the cycle path at one side of the road terminates near the zebra crossing, and then starts again on the other side). The crossings look exactly the same as regular ones - except there's a little sign with a bike on it facing the traffic, presumably indicating that cycles are allowed.

It's very confusing, and I've been yelled at by drivers, who presumably haven't noticed the sign, more than once.

Better signage is the key I think, plus perhaps an advertising campaign to teach people that just because they think they have right of way doesn't give them the right to run people down.

Zandranna said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I have never come across that situation either as a cyclist on the road or as a cyclist using a crossing.

But it did get me thinking and inspired me to write a post of my own this afternoon.

Jeneveve said...

I do what you did (unless it's part of a cycle lane, as gsej said) charge across (safely!) and shoot them a glare!

Don said...

I would stop and let them cross. Who am I to judge whether someone is 'old enough to navigate the roads' on a bicycle? Perhaps this 50 year old has been so intimidated by bad driving that they feel forced to use the pavement and pedestrian crossing at that particular location? I might be relatively 'happy' cycling in traffic (although as I get older, I am becoming less confident), but I would never pre-judge anyone else to have the same mettle, as it were.

If I rode on through and knocked this cyclist down, injuring him, I would expect a civil court to apportion at least some of the blame to me, since it is quite clear that I am approaching a recognised crossing point. I don't believe that a technical infringement of the law by the other cyclist would absolve me of all blame. It might be interesting to research this to see if any precendent has been set.

Just one question; what would you have done had you been driving the car, rather than riding the dreamboat? said...

I'd probably let them cross, as Don mentions, you would (should anyway) if you were in a car.

But to make the decision even more complex, it would depend on the context. If it was a zebra crossing around the approach to some horrid busy roundabout which to navigate legally is tough and intimidating, I'd be more likely to let them through (as I could sympathise with their plight) than just a crossing on a quiet road.

Eclectic Teacher NZ said...

In New Zealand, if you are riding across you are not a pedestrian and therefore you are a vehicle and vehicles can't use such crossings! If I were to be pushing my bike across I am a pedestrian and a rider appproaching he crossing would have to act acordingly.

Anonymous said...

I use zebra crossing when riding with my son on some of the more difficult junction. I don't feel great about it but would rather that and the killer glares from other cyclist than something terrible happening to my son. We try and make efforts to walk next to our bikes on some crossings, and we learn to use the road safely when I feel he can handle them. I guess it is all about trying to judge all situations individually and be nice to each other.

Hannah Beauchamp said...

I disagree with you Don. The roads might be too daunting for this gentleman, but those are the rules. The pavements should be the ultimate safe haven for all to walk on, and people cycling on the pavement - no matter what their motivation - undermines this. If we all just break the rules, based on what we feel comfortable with, what is the point of rules? If you don't feel safe cycling on the road, don't cycle at all. I think it's very sad that cycling is so daunting in e.g. London (where I cycle), but that is to be solved, not just worked around by breaking the law.
I probably would stop to let him cross, but only in the same way as I apologise to the person who just rammed their buggy into my ankle in the supermarket. I also think more patience (even where it's not owed) goes a long way on our roads. I don't think this man has any right to stop traffic, but meh - 2 seconds of my day :)

anniebikes said...

Personally - and I can't stress that enough - I would yield to anyone in the striped crossing, rider or pedestrian. But a split second decision doesn't allow for super analyzing and opinions may differ. I rode with my son to his school today and we mostly used the sidewalks because even at 10 years old he is still unsafe on the road. His road skills will kick in someday, but until then safety comes first. As a mom and avid rider, I sometimes break the rules. But with that said, I might also forget to stop for that little old lady waiting to cross the street. We try our best.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha, this one always gets me. I never stop in this situation as I'm with you, if he's on a bike he's not a pedestrian and shouldn't be cycling on the pavement. If he wants to cross on a zebra crossing he should be walking his bike across.

Anonymous said...

A similar thing happened to me on my way to work on Friday. I had to stop as the car ahead already slowed down to stop as he joined the traffic midcross.

I would never expect ANYONE to stop for me if (which I don't) I was cycling across a crossing.
Not only is it illegal, it also gives the rest of us a bad name.

I'm completely with you on this and applaud you for not stopping.

Skip Tooth said...

Internationally, on the water, the rule is simple. Big boats yeild to small boats, those under power yeild to those under sail and people in row boats are doing too much work. In effect, this sometimes (OFTEN) serves as only the framework of function.

I am reminded of the time a friend and I found ourselves becalmed in the midst of the Mobile bay ship channel. We were in a Flying Scot (19' day sailer) and approaching, still a mile or so away, was an oil tanker (GI-EFFIN-NOURMOUS SHIP). Legally, in the maritime sense, we were the smaller vessel and could rightfully demand that the tanker give way and divert. Ah, but just how to communicate this to a humongous hunk of steel that has so much momentum it would take forever to effect a 10 degree deviation (which would still crush us). As the capitan, merely a formality mostly due to my name being on the sign out sheet, I made an executive decision. We paddled, and paddled, and PADDLED LIKE HELL! Our boat was small, the channel is wide and the ship was HUGE. Like a big hill on a bike, time shifts. We rowed hard, HARD, for about 15 minutes and even then (due to currents) we only cleared the lane by a hundred feet or so. Close enough that I could name the barnacles (some of whom I still correspond with, mostly Xmas, y'know). The prop wash/wake pushed us about twice the distance in about 1/3 of the time, which turned out to be wonderful as a storm was brewing. I'll tell you about that in fit the fifth: "Out of the Fry Pan and into the Feu".

Legally speaking, we were in a grey area, technically small vessels aren't allowed in the channel but are allowed to cross. We were crossing and the wind failed so... not our fault... but... If they'd hit us, not really their fault either, hence the grey.

My point is, there are certain physical laws that can not be denied. Among these is the rule that 'Thou shalt not put thy dainty body in front of my unencumbered bicycle (regardless of speed) if thou can easliy just stop and watch me pass."

Strictly regarding etiquette, I think he should have yeilded and signaled as much so you felt no apprehension. His failure to do so immediately relegates him to the status of A(certain type of)HOLE which are abundant here in central Florida. I don't mean 'sinkhole'.

Lest you think I'm overbearing, I'm not saying this approbation should be a scarlet letter, just that, in this instance, it was him.

Anonymous said...

On the pedestrian crossing, a cyclist should walk with bike.

Just like a motorist, a cyclist on the road should give way to a pedestrian who is already on the pedestrian crossing.

A pedestrian who wishes to use a pedestrian crossing still has to exercise due care that he could safely step onto the pedestrian crossing to use it. In other words, the pedestrian has to be sure that the other vehicles approaching the pedestrian crossing could stop in time for him to use the pedestrian crossing safely.

I was told that a pedestrian was very heavily fined (in Singapore?) recently because he carelessly/without due care stepped onto a pedestrian crossing and caused the the cyclist to suffer a fatal injury.

Strict and diligent enforcement of the rules/laws/codes on the roads by the police/traffic-police would make situation safer for all road-users.

Don said...

Sorry for coming back to this after several weeks, but I felt compelled to comment again after reading some of the above replies.

I understand exactly where Hannah and 'Anonymous' are coming from, in that the rules of the road should be respected. However, those rules are written primarily from a motoring point of view and are almost completely unenforced, at least where I live. Can we really expect all cyclists (especially the less confident ones) to obey the rules to the letter when that often puts them in direct conflict with poorly driven motor cars?

Hannah says "If you don't feel safe cycling on the road, don't cycle at all". I find that incredibly sad, but it reflects the reality that 97% of the UK population NEVER cycle. The primary reason given for not cycling is that it isn't safe. The figures may well be better in London, but that is a drop in the ocean compared to the whole country.

Hannah also states that the pavements should be a safe haven for pedestrians. I absolutely agree, 100%, but how can we blame some cyclists for using them when the messages from our current cycling 'facilities' (ambiguous shared-use pavements in particular) are so mixed?

Jemma asked if she should have stopped for the gentleman. Legally, the answer is obviously no, but I made my original comment in the context that I shouldn't judge him by my own standards of fitness & proficiency.

Its all very well saying that rules are rules and adults are grown-up enough to ride on the road, but if we really want more people to cycle in the UK then that attitude simply isn't enough.

Happy cycling everybody!

Don said...

I would urge anyone who reads this post to also read this new article (and the comments) by Dr. Dave Horton:

Anonymous said...

crossing zebra cross while riding won't do any harm to anyone.

wider-minded by sharing your cross way. Sometime cars stopped for just only you on the crossway, why bother if cyclist want to share.

I came from the country that cyclist is the same level as pedestrian.
We risk the same danger when traveling or crossing road.

I don't think London road is safe for cyclist (you can see from bicycle lens is always a parking lens for car). Car on the road don't want to share their road to bicycle, pedestrians don't want to share their pavement and cross way to bicycle.

what a pity cycling,

rallim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rallim said...

I was interested to read some of the posts here, because I had an experience that was a variation on the theme of cyclists being confronted by other cyclists crossing on zebra crossings in front of them, and the confusion there is around this matter.

I was once cycling at a steady speed towards a zebra crossing on a busy road in London and saw an adult cyclist cycle over it in front of me, not a problem really as I was still some distance away. What became a problem however was his young son on a small bicycle some way behind, who, I became aware of in the next few seconds still cycling along the pavement approaching the zebra. As he got level with it his father was almost all the way across and I was by then only a few feet from the zebra with barely time to stop. I could see him hesitating and looking first at his father across the other side of the street, then at me. He was evidently wondering whether he was supposed to wait, since I was almost on top of the zebra, or copy his father and cycle across in front of me. He did follow his father's example and start to cycle across right in front of me, at which point I almost fell off trying to stop and avoid him.

It was a good job that I hadn't been a motorist rather than another cyclist. However, I could see that it had not occurred to the father at all that maybe he and his son should not have been cycling over a zebra on a busy road in the first place, what kind of example he was setting his child, and whether he should have been monitoring him very much better.

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