A Driving Instructor's Blog

A story came through on the newsfeeds concerning an accident in Australia, where an elderly nun had an epileptic seizure and hit a female cyclist, who was killed.

Elderly CyclistsI think my position on elderly drivers is clear, but in this particular case it wasn’t age that was to blame, but an epileptic fit. However, the website carrying the story is a cyclists’ site – my position where cyclists are concerned is also clear – and it makes a big issue out of calls by the dead woman’s husband for tougher measures against elderly drivers. As I say, it was an epileptic seizure and not specifically an age-related issue which caused the accident.If anything, it should be a call for tougher measures against epileptics!

Moving on, though, I noticed a couple of references to UK incidents in the article. One, from 2011, tells how an 85-year old ploughed through a group of riders, killing one of them, but who apparently didn’t realise anything had happened until his wife told him. Another story, from 2012, tells of an 84-year old who broke the back of a cyclist when he drove into him as a result of defective eyesight.

We need to get some perspective here. I agree wholeheartedly that anyone with poor eyesight or ill-health, and whose driving is affected as a result, should be taken off the road by force. They should not be allowed back behind the wheel unless they can prove their deficiencies have been corrected, and that should apply whether they’re 16 or 86. Ironically, the UK prides itself in allowing disabled people to get a licence earlier than the able-bodied, and in not taking licences off people when the evidence is screaming out that they should not be allowed near anything with moving parts.

But when you throw cyclists into the mix you have a completely different issue, because a large proportion of them are their own worst enemies. In that 2011 story, for example, the group involved was on a sponsored ride from Belfast to London, via Dublin and Bristol. This detail alone means that they would hardly have been riding in what I would call an inconspicuous manner. What I’m really getting at is that their purpose would probably have meant that they were on main roads, at all times of the day, and if they were anything like most of the cyclists I have to deal with they would have been riding at least two abreast. The purpose of their ride would have more than likely resulted in other behaviours likely to obstruct motorists and other road users on such roads.

None of that can possibly justify what the car driver did by riding into them, nor does it put up any sort of defence for his age-related weaknesses. But it Elderly Bike Rider certainly provides at least a partial explanation for why it might have happened when it did. After all, if the cyclists hadn’t have been there, the driver wouldn’t have hit them.

While I was out on lessons today, there were cyclists everywhere, and nearly all of them were causing obstructions. In one particular case, two of the idiots were riding side-by-side along the A52 towards Radcliffe-on-Trent on a 70mph dual carriageway. They were completely blocking one whole lane. They ought to have been on the cycle path which was a mere two metres to their left, but that’s not what these morons do. In another example, I was on a single track lane and as I rounded a corner an idiot on a bike came flying round the opposite way on the wrong side. These are not isolated examples, and “sensible” isn’t a word that appears in their vocabulary.

Since the Olympics last year the number of people riding bikes has skyrocketed, and the number of Silver Spandex Boys – middle-aged and elderly riders – has increased dramatically. Of course, no one is demanding that their eyesight or other faculties be tested, least of all the blinkered biker websites. These riders require no training and no licence, so no one can do anything to keep them off the roads. You have to face the fact that the only reason more of them aren’t injured or killed is because of the evasive action taken by drivers when they encounter them. It’s like when you have young children who run into the road without looking – every now and then one gets hit, but most drivers manage to slam the brakes on and avoid them.

Roads are specifically for cars, not cyclists. Cyclists are allowed to use them, but very few cyclists make any attempt to avoid conflict and – either through stupidity or arrogance – put themselves and others in danger. All that matters to the average cyclist is the cyclist!

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