Can motorists and cyclists ever be friends?

My friend Josh recently posted on twitter:

“The weird thing is there is literally nothing bad about more people cycling yet there is a cultural war against it.”

Cyclists often feel marginalised— like everything has been setup to favour those with four wheels and an engine.

And if you get into the vehicles, and talk to the people behind the wheel —  the drivers often feel marginalised — like everything is changing, and none of it is changing in their favour.

Whoever you feel has the strongest claim to being correct, understanding that both groups include some people who feel marginalised, is probably a good step to figuring out solutions.

I agree with Josh. I do think more people cycling would be a good thing. But without support from those who are driving, it will probably be difficult to make significant leaps of progress to better infrastructure. It is a chicken and egg problem.

So how can cyclists gain support from other road users? How can cyclists get motorists to say “well, y’know, I’m probably going to keep driving, but still, cycling is something we should see more of”?

In 2014, Harry Potter actress Emma Watson gave a 10 minute speech at to the UN. Perhaps take a moment to (re)watch it. I like the content, but instead of listening to the content, perhaps think about how she is presenting her issue.
In her speech, she’s representing a marginalised group who sometimes have had difficulty communicating their perspective to another group. One reason the second group sometimes struggle to be receptive, is that they feel marginalised and targeted. And usually vicious cycle ensues where no-one listens to each other.

This is how Emma gets around the vicious cycle:

“How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited to participate in the conversation? Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too.”

“I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society. I’ve seen young men suffering from illness, unable to ask for help for fear it will make them less of a man …. I’ve seen men fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are.”

Emma diffuses the situation by acknowledging the difficulties of those in the “other” group who feel marginalised, and brings the challenges they face together with the challenges the original group bring. She goes on to suggest by combining forces, they can work on all the challenges together.

She’s not appealing to lawbreakers or people who hold strongly held opposing views, she’s appealing to a silent majority apathetic and disempowered bystanders and is saying “together we can make this better”.

If you like feel-good movies, you may have seen Pride (2014) — a true story of how, in the midst of the mining strikes of the 1984/1985, a group of Lesbian & Gays formed a group to support the miners.

You see a similar thing that Emma does, repeated by the Lesbians & Gays in Pride:

  • When they go out of their way to support the mining communities, including those who ‘beat them up when they were young’.
  • When they realise they can win over the least tolerant people in the village by helping them with something that they want.

By supporting those communities who felt most marginalised, the marginalised Lesbian & Gays were able to build stronger allies — from Wikipedia:

Miners’ labour groups began to support, endorse and participate in various gay pride events throughout the UK, including leading London’s Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in 1985. Additionally, at the 1985 Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, a resolution committing the party to the support of LGBT rights passed, due to block voting support from the National Union of Mineworkers. The miners’ groups were also among the most outspoken allies of the LGBT community in the 1988 campaign against Section 28.

And when we think back to Josh’s tweet — the marginalised-feeling cyclists, and marginalised-feeling motorists makes me think…

Perhaps there’s more in common between these groups than either of them realise?

I wonder who will be the first to find a way to include both groups, and all their concerns, into a campaign that is for everyone?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts in the comments or on twitter

 I cycle and drive a white van, which has let me gain some perspective from both sides of the wheels.

Shouting quieter makes things better :: How I learnt to yell less and win more.

At quite a young age, I realised I enjoyed arguments; a second to face up one’s opponent of the moment – a chance to put them down with cruel language – an opportunity to let go and lose one’s temper.

Of course, it was all about being on the winning side, and with those wins being few and far between, frequently I’d end up crying in someone’s arms.

As I grew older, I started to notice how the person who spoke quietest, seemed to keep the upper hand – speaking quieter appeared to make the other party shout even louder… a seemingly illogical and bizzarre state of affairs.

It seemed that after all those arguments about staying up “and extra half an hour”, raising my voice hadn’t been helping at all. I decided to embark upon a new strategy…

At the same time, at school, we were being taught dispute resolution procedures for use in the playground. It was a basic mediation process, colloquially called “My Turn, Your Turn” whereby one would be approached/approach others who were involved in a conflict and go through some simple, structured steps something along the lines of:

– Alice, please describe what’s wrong?
– Bob, please describe what’s wrong?
– Alice, how does what Bob is doing make you feel?
– Bob, how does what Alice is doing make you feel?
– Alice, how can we resolve this?
– Bob, how can we resolve this?
– Alice, Bob, does it work for each of you?
– Alice, Bob, resolve it how you explained and then go back to playing football.

Essentially in abstract terms, this getting each party to listen to each other, communicate clearly and come up with a resolution themselves. The “My Turn, Your Turn”, segment referring specifically to requiring each party to listen to the other person without butting in or interrupting them.

At an fundamental level, this is really quite an effective method of dispute resolution.

As I grew older, I started to realise outside school, that if I held back on getting involved in arguments I couldn’t win, I could make sure I had ‘extra ammunition’ with which ‘to hit’ the opponent of the minute with when a better opportunity arose. Several examples delivered without shouting were more effective still, but I realise that by combining that with “My turn, Your turn” tips, one could add one’s feeling into your response, eg.
“but you let $otherchildname [who is the same age as me] stay up until late o’clock, 3 times on identical occasions to this, so I feel disappointed that you aren’t applying your own rules consistently.”

Clearly, a well laid out, persuasive argument like this, is much more effective than trying to shout louder than someone, and is much more effective. Extra bonus points if you noticed how that argument also accuses them of breaking their own “due process”, and frames it within the other persons world.

Fast forward many years…

I was asked recently why I didn’t get more pissed off by car drivers who cut me up whilst I cycle round the city. The suggestion was, that being on a bike was an advantage, because it meant you could shout at idiotic drivers. This made me blink a bit… How was shouting at them going to make any useful difference?

It turns out, when I was a child, I missed out on a key point; to try to leave the conflict resolved, so it wouldn’t happen again. Whilst shouting at cars may be helpful for letting off steam, really all it does is reinforce to a few motorists that cyclists are arrogant and dangerous, whilst reaffirming to a few cyclists the perception that motorists are twits that drive away without caring, neither of which constructively addresses the situation in any way.

When friend’s of mine my lose their tempers, I feel sad.

I find it upsetting because they haven’t learnt how to identify their stress, find the a self control and skills to step back from the argument and try to resolve or mitigate it.

To me, it seems incredibly rude (or immature) – I find that losing your temper seems to characterise poor judgement – and I do my best to avoid situations where people do.

However, when your friends lose their tempers, as much as you may not enjoy it, you’re in the best possible position to bring it to an amicable resolution. William Ury explains:

William Ury: The walk from “no” to “yes”

It does occur to me, that my perspective here must partly be influenced by arguing a point effectively as a child. When I read this article about “teaching your children to argue” – I did wonder what would have happened if actually, people were taught to effectively communicate their point, things would be a lot different today.

As Adora Svitak says:
“The goal is not to turn kids into your kind of adults, but rather better adults than you have been”

#timontour in Tallin & Estonia

Some time ago, I was looking for new places to explore on Wikitravel and so I flew to Tallin, in Estonia, hired a bike from CityBike and spent two days visiting old soviet military bases, the Baltic sea, waterfalls and taking in the Estonian countryside.

As I travelled, I made video. This is that video. Have a watch. :)

#TimOnTour: Tallin and Estonia

Shot on a Sanyo CA100, edited in Kdenlive on Ubuntu

Licenced under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 licence.

Lullaby by Ghost (feat skoria and brad sucks) – CC-BY-NS 2.5
Sea of Something by i am this – CC-Sampling Plus 1.0
Computer by State Shirt ( – CC-BY-NC-SA 2.5,
Kopeika by et_ – CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0

Some photos:

The Tallin Old Town
The Tallin Old Town
Inside an old Soviet Army base...
Inside an old Soviet Army base...
It's a long way down!
It's a long way down!
Woop woop Waterfall
Woop woop Waterfall
Marriage padlocks - a Russian tradition
Marriage padlocks - a Russian tradition
The Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea
Swimming in the Baltic
Swimming in the Baltic

Target: Langdale – what I learned.

Last summer, I went on a week long cycle tour around Skye and Rasaay. In preparation of doing so, I figured it would make sense to test the new kit I’d bought for the expedition with two day “dry run” in the Lake District.

I got the train to Windemere with my Bike, cycled up to Langdale. Dropped all my kit into a rucksack, and, as it was getting towards dusk, I started up the hill and made camp by Stickle Tarn where I made this video:

Wild Camping at Stickle Tarn, Langdale

Tent: Vango Helium Superlite 200
Sleeping bag: Mountain Equipment Xero 550
Mat: Thermorest NeoAir
Stove: Trangia (Standard 4 person version)

The trip was actually very helpful. At the time I was using an all-in-one frayed pannier thing, held in the centre with what was essentially a large elastic band. On my cycle back to Manchester, this elastic band somehow managed to come undone and, whilst I was cycling, wrap itself around my back axle and gears. This lead to the rather unpleasant moment where my Bike started braking and I couldn’t work out what was wrong. It was on a section with double white lines and I had cars behind me so when I had to pull into the side and walk my bike (lifting the back wheel off the ground) to somewhere I could pull in, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience! Ultimately, I had to cut the rubber band off bit by bit as it was well and truly wrapped around the wheel.

This spurred me to go and buy some nice snap-on, snap-of Altura Orkney 85 panniers which turned out to be just what I needed!

#timontour: Skye & Rasaay 2011

Whilst I’m hiking round the Lake District, I thought you might like to see what I got up to, the last time there was a #timontour. Here’s my videoblog:

#timontour: Skye & Rasaay 2011

I got the train from Manchester with my bike and panniers, all the way to Kyle of Lochalsh on the west coast of Scotland. I then cycled over the Skye bridge onto Skye, up to Sconser, and then partly influenced by the awesome local blog “Life at the End of the Road“, I took the ferry to Rasaay, cycled up Calum’s Road and then came back the way I’d come.

It was really, really good fun. :D