Today I witnessed an accident where a pedestrian caused a collision with a cyclist by stepping into the road without looking. The outcome was not pleasant for either party.
London's a weird place. One of the weird things about it is the effect it has on pedestrians. There's some kind of aura around it, within which people habitually don't look properly when crossing roads. Remember all that stuff when you were a kid about looking both ways? You won't once you become a London pedestrian. It all leaks out of your ears. I know, because I've experienced it myself. It takes a supreme effort of concentration to not behave this way. I really don't know what causes it - maybe London as a place is so visually interesting that it obscures and distracts from all thoughts of personal safety.
There's also a strange kind of herd mentality, where if one person starts to cross a road others will join them, without first checking themselves to see if it's safe. It's astonishing to witness, and I've not even got onto the problem of people doing all of this whilst constantly looking at their phones.
Of course, I'm generalising massively, and what would I know. Let's change tack. Have you ever been hit by a car? I have. It hurts, but it doesn't hurt quite as much as it could. Cars, to some extent, are designed to be driven into things, particularly pedestrians. They've got bumpers, and crumple zones, and bonnets designed to soften an impact. Think of a car as a person wrapped in a metal and plastic box designed to soften the blow.
In contrast, a bicycle has no impact safety features whatsoever. There's no crumple zone, no yielding areas of plastic, nothing. Compared to a car, the cyclist is wrapped around the bike, not the other way around. If the driver of a car hits you, you get hit by the car. If a cyclist hits you, you get hit by the cyclist. Imagine being headbutted by someone who's been thrown at you.
Now consider how fast cycles and cars travel, and their relative braking mechanisms. A fit cyclist on the right bike on a flat stretch of road can easily reach speeds of more than 20 miles an hour, comparable to a car in an inner city area. The car may have powered anti-lock brakes, but the cyclist has a couple of small pads powered by their own finger strength that if you're lucky aren't too worn or slack from months of use. Basically, bikes go almost as fast as cars but have far worse brakes.
There's more. While cars usually hint at their presence with their engine noise, cyclists are relatively silent, and associated with the weird not-paying-attention bubble around London is a tendency for pedestrians to use their ears when crossing rather than their eyes.
What else? Oh yes, pain. I'm not sure if this is a myth or not, but I'd like to dispell it if it is. If a cyclist hits you, it will hurt. It will hurt a lot. I know this because, as I mentioned somewhere in the distant past at the start of this rant, I witnessed an accident recently and both the pedestrian and cyclist involved required an ambulance afterwards.
Considering all this information, as a pedestrian, would you rather be involved in an accident with a car or a bike? Let me put it another way, London. Why don't you look before stepping out? The cyclists would really appreciate it.