The House has just voted in a law and a series of regulations for cyclists that have been pending for seven years. The regulations will be implemented in six months and will clarify the rights of cyclists as well as their responsibilities, and those of drivers towards them.
Pretty much all of the new regulations concern responsibilities. Cyclists must stay on the left side of the road and use lights at night, keep both hands on the bars of the bicycle, move as steadily as possible in a straight line, check traffic behind them, comply with road signs, obey police officers and indicate timely and visibly any intention to turn or change direction, while it will be forbidden to park a bicycle on pedestrian walkways.
In other words, they must comply with existing traffic laws. Did MPs really need seven years to figure out a set of principles that combine common sense with laws already on the books for wheeled vehicles? More importantly, will any of it protect both cyclists and motorists from each other?
Talk to cyclists and they’ll tell you drivers are a threat and vice versa. Cyclists are a tiny minority of people on the roads and take their lives in their hands every time they sit on the saddle. To many drivers they are just a nuisance and do not belong on the roads.
According to the new law, drivers will be penalised if they fail to adjust their speed and course to facilitate a cyclist, move in a way that prevents the cyclist from manoeuvring or changing the lane in a way that hinders a cyclist. Drivers are also required to give priority to bicycles and are forbidden from parking on a cycling lane or path. Yes, all that’s going to happen suddenly. And they will go after a cyclist for their chained bike on a pavement in no one’s way while the cars are still parked on the pavements all over with hardly any repercussions.
MPs may have set the law for cyclists, and some are certainly reckless, weaving in and out of traffic, not wearing safety helmets or having lights on their bikes. At the same time, there are no adequate facilities for cyclists to remain safe all the time. Some municipalities have created limited-time bike lanes for leisure cyclists and that’s how most Cypriots see cycling, as a hobby they have when not driving their cars. It is not a means of transport for them. If Cyprus wants to become more European and get cars out of urban spaces, more needs to be done in terms of educating people on the merits of cycling and providing them with a safe environment to do so.
In the meantime, there is a simple solution to prevent accidents. Drivers and cyclists could simply practice a little common courtesy on the roads.