If Grant Shapps’s feats creates less bikes on streets, then that’s more lame

It would appear that the Daily Mail has got bored of immigrants to distract us from a Government determined to make the United Kingdom a privatised, inflation ridden, sewage filled North Korea. They have now moved on to that other bastion of minority groups – cyclists. Apparently us bicycle riders are reckless and dangerous which funnily enough describes the Daily Mail’s journalism since the 1930’s.

Smile and wave lads, smile and wave.

According to the main piece, there are rumblings in Whitehall as opposed to the clinking of bottles in Downing Street recycling bins. There was a rise in the amount of people taking to their bicycles during the pandemic for exercise but mainly due to the fact that there were far less cars on the road making it safer for families to venture out. In the midst of a climate & health crisis, one would have thought this a good thing; less pollution, people maintaining a healthy lifestyle taking the strain off an underfunded NHS, improved mental health, quieter streets, no damage to the road network, people working and spending locally. Unfortunately, good things aren’t really newsworthy to the Daily Mail.

The bicycle should appeal to Conservatives as much as it did to Boris Johnson; it’s a libertarian mode of transport offering freedom to all. It’s safe enough to be free of the red tape and laws required for maintaining and operating heavy machinery at non-human speeds amongst humans.

Ministers and the current (possibly outgoing) Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, don’t appear to agree..

“Mr Shapps told the Mail: ‘Somewhere where cyclists are actually not breaking the law is when they speed, and that cannot be right, so I absolutely propose extending speed limit restrictions to cyclists. I don’t want to stop people from getting on their bike, it’s a fantastic way to travel, and we’ve seen a big explosion of cycling during Covid and since. But I see no reason why cyclists should break the road laws and be able to get away with it.’”

Daily Mail 17 August 2022

My road has a 30mph speed limit. I couldn’t break the speed limit for any period of time if I tried because I’m more Chris Biggins than Chris Hoy in stature. I also want to enjoy my bicycle riding about town at citizen friendly speeds as opposed to Evil Knievel on MDMA and Special Brew.

But here’s the thing; one of the problems we face in the United Kingdom is that there is still a lack of affordable bicycles prominently available for transport as opposed to sport. Go into most bicycle shops and the vast majority are road bikes or mountain bikes. It’s the bicycle equivalent of offering everyone the binary choice of a Ferrari or Range Rover to buy a pint of milk when all they want is something more humble (and less nickable); a vehicle that favours comfort and practicality for carrying a bit of shopping or the kids to nursery that can be ridden in everyday clothing. Making cycling ‘the People’s Transport’ again, if you wish to give it a name.

Look to The Netherlands or Denmark and the bicycles ridden over there. Upright bicycles where a rack, lights and mudguards are integral as opposed to optional. Research & Development stopped in about 1940 because you can’t really improve on perfect. This brings us on to the fact that there are also no registration plates, which is an idea being put forward over here. Again.

“…Though this has been proposed many times, no-one has managed to make registration of people cycling or their cycles a workable proposition. Aside from any concerns about how to register children, whether the registration is for the vehicle or the person, or what rules one would have to follow in order to acquire such a licence, we know that registration schemes have no real value. The costs and complexity of introducing any such system would significantly outweigh the benefits.

If it were true that being registered made people safer, then it would be possible to link the levels of driver or vehicle registration to the safety of the roads. But as almost every car crash involves registered drivers in licenced vehicles, it is clear that registration does not appear to offer any meaningful disincentive to those who drive – or cycle – badly.

Furthermore, as cycling is a mode of transport which is widely acknowledged should be encouraged – as it is safe, efficient and doesn’t pollute – adding bureaucratic hurdles would only serve to discourage usage.”

Cycling Fallacies

One person killed by a fellow human riding a bicycle is one too many. But the crash statistics for bicycles pale into insignificance when compared to the death and destruction caused by motor traffic, not withstanding the secondary effects of pollution.

If a person on a bicycle is breaking the law, then maybe it has something to do with the way they are trying to navigate infrastructure often designed by a local authority that hates bicycles or create routes that look as though they were plotted on an Etch-A-Sketch. This does not excuse law breakers; it boils my urine to stop at a red light and see someone sail through, oblivious to the slow hand clap I’m giving them. But cycling is the only mode of transport where the bad behaviour of a minority of that mode is held as an excuse to not build any new infrastructure at all for the rest. If we shut all roads to motorists where there were examples of law breaking whilst motoring, there would be nowhere left to drive.

This is all however just a silly season headline. A clear attempt to distract and divide from the horror show that is the current administration and the world we now inhabit. Unfortunately, readers of the Daily Mail and supporters of political parties that have vested interests will run with this. It sells papers, gets web clicks and gets at least one portly, middle aged ex-cycle campaigner blogging again.

But they may take it out on people that have merely decided to get from A to B on the most efficient, cost effective, fun, clean, community building mode of transport whilst driving the most space inefficient, polluting, anger inducing, community splitting mode of transport. And it’s this that is unforgivable.

For a nation that so despises red tape, we seem dreadfully keen to tie ourselves in knots with it if it discourages a minority group. Even children.

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