Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
On Yer Bike: December 19, 2006
It was great to see the article in the Oxford Mail last week about the police clamping down on cyclists riding without lights. Cycling without lights in the dark just shouldn't be done - it's a 'no brainer'.
We cyclists may have the occasional rant about fellow road users, but we really do not have a leg to stand on if we insist on cycling without lights.
The article also revealed how the majority of cyclists don't mean to be in such a predicament; which is why the initiative which leads to cyclists actually buying and fixing a set of lights is so well thought out.
Fixed penalty notices were given, with the choice of paying £30 or buying a set of lights there and then and having them fitted.
In the bad old days, the only option was a fixed penalty notice - not very progressive. Where is the incentive to buy a set of lights just after you've been fined £30 for not using them?
Now, in partnership with Cyclox and Oxford Cycle Workshop, cyclists are doing something about their unlit state as soon as they get stopped. I hope we see more of these clampdowns which have a real impact on Oxfordshire road safety.
Such laudable local action begs the question why it has to be done at all. I had a weekend in Bruges recently - beer, chocolate and chips. How could you fail to enjoy yourself?
It's instantly noticeable in this medieval city that cycling is the preferred mode for getting around - there are bikes everywhere you look. Most of the bikes I saw were old-fashioned looking Dutch bikes' - not designed with speed in mind, but providing an elegant way of getting around the city. In Bruges, even more than Oxford, the range of people using bikes was remarkable.
There were two safety features of these bikes that made a big difference to all road users.
All the bikes were fitted with traditional bike bells. Crucially, the Belgian cyclists used them. It was impossible to ignore the fact that a bike was approaching with the cheery call of the European bike bell - they never seemed frantic, angry or last minute, just tuneful reminders that there were cyclists around.
The second feature of the Bruges bikes was that they were all fitted with big front lights run by dynamos. It really doesn't take a genius to work it out, does it? Why aren't all bikes sold like this? Dynamos have improved hugely in recent years and represent a fantastic use of renewable energy.
Using batteries, be they rechargeable or not, just doesn't do it for me. Batteries can run out unpredictably - not a problem with dynamos.
I've had a dynamo on my bike for three winters - I only wish I'd done it sooner. My next bike will have an integrated hub dynamo powering both sets of lights so that remembering my lights is something I never have to think of again.
There are even companies selling Dutch bikes in the UK - light, versatile and in a range of colours. You could do a lot worse than go Dutch. See www.oxforddutchbikes.co.uk for more details.