‘Try not to dismount your bike’ …is what I have got in my mind during those morning rush hour bike rides to work. Other Cyclists try to balance while not being able to move forward. Then we are all released and pedal as hard as we can, not because the traffic lights showed up green, but because of the correct feeling for the time to go.
At first I was one of those virtuous people who waited until the traffic lights allowed me to cross (which indicated to most of the people that I didn’t live here for a long time). Then I realized that generally no one really bothered about red, yellow or green. Everyone seemed to decide on their own when it’s time to go across the street…as if they had their own traffic lights in their head. I even watched parents with children doing that when for me normally in front of children everybody was supposed to show correct behavior in the traffic and obeying the rules.
So here we are, using the roads and crossovers in our self made policies. Fact is you can make any risky action as long as you don’t hamper somebody. In this case they are allowed to shout at you behind their window glasses in the car or even openly on the street. When it comes to dangerous situations English people seem to loose a bit of their overarching politeness. Of course everyone can understand, because in the end it was their mistake not to follow the rules or at least watch out.
Being a cyclist my own I,of course, observed my companions on the street every day. By the way I am really impressed of the amount of people cycling in Bristol. It’s incredible how brave people are when the don’t hesitate cycling up and down the hilly streets of Bristol and of course every time a year. There indeed doesn’t seem to be bad weather for those people, just bad clothing. So the cyclists I saw so far are for example armed with professional (probably also expensive) cycling gear such as racing bikes, wind breaking jackets and trousers, backpacks, gloves, aerodynamic helmets and flickering lamps creatively fitted on various spots of the bike or the cyclist themselves. Not depending on the professionality of the cyclist, the attitude towards traffic lights seem to be generally the same for all of them. With the minimal amount of space they need, people who ride their bikes squeeze in wherever they can. While I am adjusting this behaviour increasingly I had moments where I found myself stuck between two double-decker buses with a surprisingly dangerous speed. But this is just what happens in English traffic I realised.
At least wearing a helmet is not as unpopular here as in Germany. In practise the majority of cyclists are wearing helmets here - I hope this is not just linked to the professionality some people want to show. So in a nutshell, cyclists quite often act in a risky way but still they are safe and most of the time everything goes well.
Pedestrians, I noticed, display a similar way of using the roads. Red or green? – usually doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t end up in front of a car (or worse: somewhere on the car). You can see the hords of people watching the cars passing by as they wait for sprinting over the crossway after the last one. On the face of it, it looks like complete confusion but if you follow the stream it actually works out.
Cars seem to be a whole different business. Car drivers do feel more obliged to use traffic lights and signs properly. That makes life easier of course. Still a lot of people spontaneously decide to use the lane on the far other end, in a roundabout, during rush hours, in the dark. I need to think of all those moments sitting on the right front seat in a car without driving (it was a pain to get used to that. Why is there no steering wheel?) next to a swearing person who complains about all those other car drivers. So there seem to be no differences to Germany, I am glad.
So be aware English people aren’t only just driving on the left side. For someone who isn’t from the island, what really makes traffic dangerous is the fact that it’s easier not to rely on red or green. Its better to trust your surviving skills.