I was sitting at home last night minding my own business when I got sent this nugget by the good folk of Spokes – The Lothian Cycle Campaign via Twitter. It is from FACTS, The Transport Professional’s Magazine (issue 65, 2011).
(I have added links, either to articles referred to or to stuff that I think will calm you down. I seriously advise you open this link in a seperate window and enjoy the soothing music whilst reading the following)
“There have been a spate of accidents involving cyclists and lorries recently and as usual the lorry is the big bad bogeyman. It reminded me of an article I read last year in New Zealand where they have a similar problem. It appeared in the New Zealand Herald and was written by Eric Thompson. He refers to a report mentioning that Mercedes-Benz Vice President of Safety Engineering, Ulrich Mellinghoff, told a road safety conference in Melbourne that mixing bicycles with motorised traffic was an ‘unsafe practice’ that needed changing.
I won’t dwell on what we have just witnessed as it’s difficult to know where to start and he is of course entitled to his opinions. I hope the music helped. To try and deconstruct such ill-informed guff is as futile as trying and mop up the River Thames with a J-Cloth. Maybe this is what happens when the Conservatives get in power and organisations such as the RHA get a little bit over excitable. I wonder if he has any children or grandchildren that try to cycle and whether he brainwashes the freedom and happiness out of them? Lest to say come in Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Littlejohn and all others who have inflammatory views for money, your time is clearly up.
And here is the Advertising Standards Authority’s response to the complaint I raised….
Mr J Davis X XXXXXXX Worthing West Sussex
Dear Mr Davis
YOUR COMPLAINT ABOUT PEUGEOT MOTOR COMPANY
Thank you for contacting the ASA with your complaint regarding a TV ad for Peugeot Motor Company. I am sorry to hear this has caused you concern. I understand you were concerned that the ad’s reference to “Road Tax” was misleading and should have been referred to “Vehicle Excise Duty”. The ASA can intervene if an ad that has been broadcast appears to be likely to be in breach of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertsing by, among other things, being likely to cause serious or widespread offense, risking causing significant harm or being materially misleading. In this case we do not consider there has been such a breach and will not be taking any action.
While it is true that the correct term is “Vehicle Excise Duty”, colloquialisms such as “Road Tax” are often used by advertisers to articulate a message in a way that will be understood by the widest audience. We do not consider that the use in the ad would have misled viewers or promoted a view that only motorists pay for road building and maintenance, and will therefore not investigate the matter further.
I realise that this may disappoint you, but thank you nonetheless for taking the time to contact us with your concerns. The ASA website, www.asa.org.uk, contains more information about the work we do, including the results of investigations into complaints.
In fairness, it was jolly nice of them to write. I completely disagree. I know I’m not alone either.
According to Wikipedia, War is a phenomenon of organized violentconflict, typified by extreme aggression, societal disruption and adaptation, and high mortality. There is some debate about other characteristics, but in general there is agreement that war involves at least two organized groups, is a premeditated activity at least on the part of one side, and at least one of the groups uses violence against the other. The objective of warfare differs in accord with a group’s role in a conflict: The goals of offensive warfare are typically the submission, assimilation or destruction of another group, while the goals of defensive warfare are simply the repulsion of the offensive force and, often, survival itself. Relative to each other, combatants in warfare are called enemies. The terms military, militant, and militarism each refer to fundamental aspects of war, i.e. the organized group, the combative individual, and the supportive ethos (respectively).
As you have just read, it doesn’t really fit into this ‘War on the Motorist’ does it? Above all else, it’s an insult to our armed forces currently fighting overseas (who, you may be surprised to read, are not trying to fight the Taliban with use of average speed cameras and increased parking charges). It polarizes views by implying that all those that don’t have a car or can’t afford a car or don’t want to have a lifestyle dominated by the car are ‘enemies’ and leaves no room for maneuver. It achieves needless anger and resentment which, if allowed to proceed unchecked without the correct facts being made available can spill over into something far more intimidating on our roads. More like a War really.
The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club always likes a challenge – in this case, how to match the rising tide of Coalition hyperbole. We’ve already had a go at likening British cycle infrastructure to Shanty Towns of the Third World but as a kindly Lo Fidelity reader pointed out, that polarizes First World into ‘Good’ and Third World into ‘Bad’. Where we have a car culture that alienates communities, the Third World doesn’t see people suffering with depression or collapse of community. Fair points well made (and the Third World is seeing the uses of Royal Mail bicycles even if the Executive Board can’t) so let’s crank up the hyperbole dial to maximum to try and take this to its logical conclusion by describing the plight of cyclists and pedestrians in the style of Philip Hammond & Eric Pickles….
I know it’s not like it in reality as that would be an incredible insult to the unimaginable suffering of Genocides past. I bet that as you were reading it, it seemed more pertinent to cyclists and pedestrians than the claimed ‘War on the Motorist’ though didn’t it? All I’m saying is that whilst Phillip Hammond and his ilk insist on playing the victim mentality card with overblown rhetoric, we might as well go mad and have fun with language to trump the stupidity of what is being stated by those in power. Churchill used far more literary devices than the current administration to far greater effect. And he abolished Road Tax which misguidedly gets caught up in the current ‘War on the Motorist’.
Suggestions are always welcome from Lo Fidelity Readers to suggest overblown phrases of their own to show the lot of Cyclists and Pedestrians (I’m certainly sure Freewheeler could think of a few).
To keep in the spirit of things, I’m now going to get on my Dutch Bike of liberation to pedal along the Road of Destruction and Despair to the Supermarket of Global Domination to buy a Yoghurt of Internal Hope.
We at the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club sincerely hope that now Philip Hammond MP has ended this War on the Motorist, he gets the Nobel Peace Prize he so richly deserves.
Please find below the latest Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club Highway Code update which I hope you approve of.
204 The most vulnerable road users are pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. It is particularly important to be aware of children, older and disabled people, and learner and inexperienced drivers and riders, as they WILL hold you up. Always remind them that they need to pay ‘Road Tax’, despite there being no such thing since 1937 and motorists don’t pay for the roads.
205 There is a risk of pedestrians, especially children, stepping unexpectedly into the road. You should drive with the safety of children in mind at a speed suitable for the conditions. That means NOT driving everywhere like Tiger Woods after a tipple.
206 Drive carefully and slowly UNLESS you are in a hurry when
in crowded shopping streets, Home Zones and Quiet Lanes (see Rule 218) or residential areas or anywhere where other people just as important as you are trying to conduct their lives
driving past bus and tram stops UNLESS there is a puddle
passing parked vehicles, especially ice cream vans; children are more interested in ice cream than traffic and may run into the road unexpectedly which won’t help as you are more interested in ice cream than traffic.
needing to cross a pavement or cycle track; for example, to reach or leave a driveway. Give way to pedestrians and cyclists on the pavement if you can spot them at the speed you’re doing.
reversing into a side road; look all around the vehicle and give way to any pedestrians who may be crossing the road ONLY when you hear a yell or the sound of sudden braking or feel a thump on the roof. ONLY then put your mobile phone down.
turning at road junctions; give way to pedestrians who are already crossing the road into which you are turning ONLY if they’ve nearly made it to the other kerb. Otherwise they are fair game.
the pavement is closed due to street repairs and pedestrians are directed to use the road. However, there will be 20,000 cones out to show exactly where your lane is so you could speed up a bit.
approaching pedestrians on narrow rural roads without a footway or footpath. Always look surprised as though they are trespassing on your private road. Apply the brakes from 60mph and blame them and the road (signage/surfacing/sight lines etc) for being at fault.
when approaching a speed camera (that is still switched on). They are there ONLY to extract money from the poor beleaguered motorist.
207 Particularly vulnerable pedestrians. These include
children and older pedestrians who may not be able to judge your speed and could step into the road in front of you. At your usual speed (50mph+) your vehicle will probably kill any pedestrians it hits. At 20 mph there is only a 1 in 20 chance of the pedestrian being killed. But of course, it will NOT happen to you because your driving is perfect in every way.
older pedestrians who may need more time to cross the road. Be patient and allow them to cross in their own time. Do not hurry them by revving your engine or edging forward as they are probably a bit blind and deaf as well so you’re wasting your precious energy. Some may have been in a World War to fight for your freedom and liberty to drive like a privileged twat.
people with disabilities. People with hearing impairments may not be aware of your vehicle approaching. Those with walking difficulties require more time so drive up to them quickly and brake suddenly to emphasise who is in the greater hurry.
blind or partially sighted people, who may be carrying a white cane or using a guide dog. They may not be able to see you approaching. You can recreate this effect by tuning in your car radio or looking at the road atlas on the passenger seat.
208 Near schools. Drive slowly and be particularly aware of young cyclists and pedestrians UNLESS your children need to get to school. In some places, there may be a flashing amber signal below the ‘School’ warning sign which you may notice informing you that other people’s less important children may be crossing the road ahead. Act with incredulity that other people have also chosen to drive their children. Position your vehicle as close to the school as you can in the manner of a car thief fleeing a scene.
209 Drive at your normal carefree speed when passing a stationary bus and notice the ‘School Bus’ sign at the last second as children may be getting on or off.
210 You MUST stop when a school crossing patrol shows a ‘Stop for children’ sign but ONLY after you increased your speed to try and beat them (see ‘Signals by authorised persons that will diminish with Coalition Government cuts’ and ‘Signs giving orders to be Ignored’) [Law RTRA sect 28]
Motorcyclists and cyclists
211 It is often difficult to see motorcyclists and cyclists whilst tuning the radio or picking your nose, especially when they are coming up from behind, coming out of junctions, at roundabouts, overtaking you or filtering through traffic as they have a lot more freedom than you’ll ever know. Always look out for them before you emerge from a junction; they could be approaching faster than you think (INCLUDING Brompton riders). When turning right across a line of slow-moving or stationary traffic, look surprised at cyclists or motorcyclists on the inside of the traffic you are crossing or hide behind the hand you have raised to indicate ‘thanks, but I’m pulling out anyway’ (see hand signals). Be especially careful when turning, and when changing direction or lane (driving in other words). Be sure to check mirrors and blind spots carefully before getting distracted by the radio again.
212 When passing cyclists, give them plenty of room UNLESS they are wearing a helmet. If they look over their shoulder it could mean that they intend to pull out, turn right or that they simply don’t trust modern driving standards. Give them time and space to do so which in your expert terms means two seconds and 50cm.
213 Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road which the cycle lane runs through. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make by sounding your horn, winding down your window and informing them that they should NOT be on the road (also see Rule 204).
Other road users
214 Animals. When passing animals, drive slowly. Give them plenty of room and be ready to stop. Do not scare animals by sounding your horn, revving your engine or accelerating rapidly once you have passed them IF you think anyone is watching. Keep your speed at bends and on narrow country roads as Mother Nature is clearly throwing you a challenge which you will accept as you’ve just wasted thousands that you can’t really afford on a Subaru Impreza to prop up your miserable life. If a road is blocked by a herd of animals, drive slowly at them like a large metallic goat herd until they have left the road whilst listening to your partner warble on about how nice it must be to live in the countryside. Watch out for animals on unfenced roads although the locals drive through National Parks as though they have just robbed a bank at gunpoint. If a badger is lying at the side of the road with its legs in the air it’s because a motorist has killed it. It is NOT trying to look cute.
215 Horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles. Be particularly careful of horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles especially when overtaking. Always pass wide and slowly. Horse riders are often children, and their parents will be Barristers or Magistrates, so take extra care. Take great care and treat all horses as a potential hazard, particularly when connected to a Romany carriage; both horse/driver can be unpredictable, especially with alcohol.
216 Older drivers. Their reactions may be slower than other drivers and they MAY be wearing hats. Make allowance for them by informing your occupants or The Jeremy Vine Show that there should be compulsory re-testing at retirement age.
217 Learners and inexperienced drivers. They may not be so skilful at anticipating and responding to events. This will diminish further after they’ve passed their test. Be particularly patient with learner drivers and young drivers as they haven’t realised how much of a hurry you always need to be in the ‘Rat Race’. Drivers who have recently passed their test may display a ‘new driver’ plate or sticker, especially if it’s their parent’s car, as they don’t want their insurance premium to rival the cost of China’s Space programme.
218 Home Zones and Quiet Lanes. These are places where people used to use the whole of the road for a range of activities such as children playing or for a community event such as the end of World War II or the Wedding of Charles & Di. You should drive slowly and carefully UNLESS it’s a handy cut through, in which case be prepared to swear and make a gesturing motion with your hands (see Hand Signals). Sound your horn to alert residents who may trying to load a child seat or unload shopping of your presence and that you desperately need to get through. Try playing loud music to amplify the sense of urgency.
219 Emergency and Incident Support vehicles. You should look and listen for ambulances, fire engines, police, doctors or other emergency vehicles using flashing blue, red or green lights and sirens or flashing headlights, or Incident Support vehicles using flashing amber lights. When one approaches do NOT panic, as they probably didn’t spot you suddenly dropping your speed or your mobile below windscreen level. Consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs and ignoring everyone else. If necessary, pull to the side of the road and stop, but try to avoid stopping before the brow of a hill, a bend or narrow section of road so speed up to match the emergency vehicle to get past these places. Impress other road users or pedestrians by mounting the kerb in the same way that Starsky & Hutch may have detained a pimp. Do NOT brake harshly on approach to a junction or roundabout, as a following vehicle may also be tuning their radio.
220 Powered vehicles used by disabled people. These small vehicles travel at a maximum speed of 8 mph (12 km/h). On a dual carriageway where the speed limit exceeds 50 mph (80 km/h) they MUST have a flashing amber beacon, although they are ONLY there because they are hopelessly lost and just nipped out to buy some digestive biscuits for the snooker on BBC2. On other roads you may not have that advance warning. You’ll blame the road, saying it isn’t ‘engineered’ enough. You’ll even blame the disabled person for being there in the first place. Do NOT look in a mirror as you may finally realise where the problem really is. [Law RVLR reg 17(1) & 26]
221 Large vehicles. These may need extra road space to turn or to deal with a hazard that you are not able to see. If you are following a large vehicle, such as a bus or articulated lorry, be aware that the driver may not be able to see your simmering fury in the mirrors. Be prepared to stop and wait and make loud huffing/tutting noises if it needs room or time to turn, otherwise try and overtake them at EVERY opportunity.
222 Large vehicles can block your view. Your ability to see and to plan ahead will be improved if you attempt to overtake them at every opportunity. TRY and be patient, as you can when away from a steering wheel, as larger vehicles are subject to lower speed limits than cars and motorcycles. Many large vehicles may be fitted with speed limiting devices which will restrict speed to 56 mph (90 km/h) even on a motorway. If all cars were fitted with the same devices, there would NOT need to be as many rules or deaths or serious injury but society won’t discuss this for some reason.
223 Buses, coaches and trams. Give priority to these vehicles when you can do so safely. If they signal to pull away from stops, increase your speed and try to get round them. Look out for people getting off a bus or tram and crossing the road as they will clearly be poorer than you because they are NOT in a car.
224 Electric vehicles. Be careful of electric vehicles such as milk floats and trams as they will hold you up. Trams move quickly but silently and cannot steer to avoid you. If you thought they could than do NOT go anywhere near a car, or do anything involving thought.
225 Vehicles with flashing amber beacons. These warn of a slow-moving or stationary vehicle such as a Traffic Officer vehicle (non-important), salt spreader, snow plough (you’ll be bunking off work by that stage anyway) or recovery vehicle or abnormal loads or cheap wedding reception DJ, so approach with caution. On unrestricted dual carriageways, motor vehicles first used on or after 1 January 1947 with a maximum speed of 25 mph (40 km/h) or less (such as tractors or old people) MUST use a flashing amber beacon (also see Rule 220). [Law RVLR 1989, reg 17]
Consider the plight of the poor beleaguered motorist.
For years they have had to put up with ever bigger roads; dual carriageways, road widening, ring roads, inner relief roads, orbital roads & bypasses. Some motorists have interests such as gardening or archaeology yet found themselves having to drive ever increasing distances to see nice pretty landscapes and places of interest because lots of other people also liked driving and needed to be accommodated on ever bigger roads destroying more and more pretty landscapes and places of interest. How dreadful.
Some motorists occasionally enjoyed nice walks or cycle rides for short journeys to the post office or school but the bigger roads sliced through the bridleway and footpath network so they didn’t link communities anymore. So more people had to drive on the bigger roads and get in each others way. Apparently, people who might have considered a walk or a cycle ride also started driving as they considered the new bigger roads to be more hostile, adding to all that congestion. Well, really!
Many had to drive all the way out to the outskirts of towns to get their shopping (as walking around lots of shops is tiresome when you can’t park outside each and every one of them), ripping up more of that lovely countryside and archaeology beneath. No wonder Time Team only ever had three days!
All have had to endure the fact that motoring in real terms is as inexpensive as its ever been. Apparently, only they pay for the roads and should have exclusive rights to them. Many have had entire seconds added to their journey times due to the intrepid few that venture out on bicycles or on foot, the fools! How dare these peasants get in the way when motorists have spent thousands of pounds on their mode of transport?
They have had to endure speed cameras with their bright yellow paint and repeated warning signs. They have had money ruthlessly taken from them when all they did was break the law. How petty is that?! Why aren’t they catching the real criminals?
We needn’t worry though. Philip Hammond, the new Transport Secretary has recently ended this onslaught on the motorist. Thank God! He’s axed the funding to the speed cameras meaning that local authorities fall like a house of cards in the rush to switch them off despite objections from those little people that don’t know what they’re talking about like local residents, road safety groups and police chiefs. Anyone would have thought that right wing motoring groups lobbied hard and portrayed motorists as the poor victims in all this. Surely not! After all, they only kill and seriously injure a few thousand every year!
It now transpires that some motorists in Oxfordshire are speeding again now the cameras have been switched off. Gee!! What are the odds??!! It’s probably all these ‘expert’ motorists driving at speeds that they consider appropriate as opposed those nasty speed limits imposed to reduce the chance of death and serious injury. It’ll be alright though because those that walked or cycled in these spots will be put off due to the increased danger so there will be even less distraction.
If the ‘War on the Motorist’ has ended, then this must surely mean that they can now stop killing innocent civilians?Hurrah! The war is over! If a War had actually been declared on the motorist than I can only describe the state declared on pedestrians and cyclists as ‘genocide’ or ‘a holocaust’ as they impede the march of progress and are cleared off the streets. Well, if we’re going to wildly exaggerate, we might as well try and take it to a logical conclusion. Wars are things that happen in far away lands. Yet motoring has the higher death and casualty rate. Shouldn’t it be the ‘War from the Motorist’?
The title of this post refers to Matthew Parris, an ex-MP and columnist. In 2007 he wrote a column in the Times ranting against cyclists.
‘A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists. It’s not just the Lycra, though Heaven knows this atrocity alone should be a capital offence; nor the helmets, though these ludicrous items of headgear are designed to protect the only part of a cyclist that is not usefully employed; nor the self-righteousness, though a small band of sports cyclists on winter’s morning emits more of that than a cathedral at evensong; nor even the brutish disregard for all other road users, though the lynching of a cyclist by a mob of mothers with pushchairs would be a joy to witness.’
That’s just the opening paragraph! He then carries on in a way that makes Jeremy Clarkson’s words read like a bedtime story involving kittens. To be fair, Mr Parris was probably unaware of the fact that hilarious country dwellers were stringing wire between trees and fence posts on bridleways to garrotte cyclists and horse riders (it certainly wasn’t to catch 5ft tall foxes). Thankfully these were, and are rare events but you have to ask what passes through the minds of these spineless, spiteful people to summon up such hatred through these words and deeds.
The article received over 200 complaints to the PCC and an apology followed.
Let’s fast forward to last week’s Spectator. Mr Parris discusses the Monsal Trail in the Peak District National Park. Four disused railway tunnels are being opened up to create a path with easier gradients for cyclists, horse riders and walkers allowing decent connections to other routes. Part of the funding is coming from Cycling England.
(Further reading about the trail can be found at this wonderful blog post from the Worthing Wanderer)
However, Mr Parris continues,
‘……. couldn’t cyclists themselves be more involved in the funding of Cycling England — some £160 million per annum? Cyclists have a strong sense of community and are good at organising (as I know to my cost, having once upset them). I would hazard a guess that as an overall group they do not represent a particularly disadvantaged section of society. They pay no road tax. Cyclists do already support a range of cycling organisations, local and national, out of their own pockets: why not this one, if they want it to continue?….’
Regular readers of this blog (and Carlton Reid’s website) will of course have spotted his cardinal error; Road Tax hasn’t existed for over 70 years and even then it was heavily subsidised. Cyclists have always contributed to road building through Central and Local Taxation, often contributing to the creation of conditions hostile to cyclists. As seasoned cycle campaigners know, cycling budgets at National and Council level are woeful. West Sussex County Council have just confirmed that there is no money in the pot this year for cycling due to all the recent pothole repairs and of course cuts, cuts, cuts, except where motoring is concerned. (Actually I’m glad they haven’t any money because there’ll be no more of this, this or this)
Mr Parris continues,
‘…at an ancient and historic copper mine I visited in neighbouring Cheshire two years ago, a group of volunteer enthusiasts have been clearing away rubble for many years, all unpaid and all in their spare time. Most cyclists are by definition fit, strong and healthy. Campaigning by cycling groups will have been part of the genesis of this Monsal Trail project. Why not involve campaigners in the work itself? Shifting rubble is not highly skilled; it would be fun to be involved. Walking and horse-riding groups, to all of whose members these tunnels are planned to open, could join in’
and then he enthuses,
‘… how to collect the money? Here, government can help co-ordinate: if cyclists were to consolidate their organisations into a sort of AA of cycling, a range of benefits — like using this trail, or public cycle-racks, or railway provision for cycles, or discounts in cycle shops, could be made dependent on showing the badge.’
The CTC has been around since 1878. They successfully campaigned for cyclists’ right to be on the road, and to use bridleways (years before the Mountain Bike). They offer free third party insurance to members, free legal assistance and discounts in cycle shops. Above all, they have volunteers working across the country; People that fight in their spare time to open up trails, to get our voice heard in Highways Departments that couldn’t care less and to secure funding through whatever means.
All this for something so beautifully simple, previous generations did it without even thinking.
Volunteers have always been the backbone of cycling, from those that build and maintain Mountain Bike trails, to the Sustrans Rangers acting as custodians of the National Cycle Network, to the volunteer marshals at road and mountain bike events across the land, to all the campaign groups, to the devilishly handsome cycling blog writers to the venerable CTC.
In conclusion, Matthew Parris is nothing more than a misguided fool who needs to do more research. Maybe he should do a bit of volunteer work in the CTC offices. He might learn something.
Last week I gave my humble opinion on a 19 page report issued by the Drivers Alliance which was focused solely on the removal Speed Cameras but offering nothing proactive in their place in terms of road safety. From the responses I received, I can deduce the following:
There is a well honed response unit of people that simply attack anything a person with an opposing view says. All very nice and I’d want the same if I was running a lobby group, particularly one like the DA. However, they may wish to reflect on why they’ve probably had so much experience.
When they make a statement, it is factual, based on proper research and statistics. It’s written by God and proofed by Jesus. However, when someone offers an opposing response, it is ‘a rant’ or the writer is ‘resorting to personal insults’ or ‘arrogant’ or they are ‘deluded’. I’m just glad these people aren’t Ambassadors to the UN.
Despite being repeatedly informed, some still think I am allied to the Ramblers. I like a good walk (particularly where a decent pub is involved) but I have no allegiance to the activities’ official organisation. I don’t actually represent any group. I didn’t think I had to.
That they simply couldn’t comprehend that I’m also a motorist because it is easier to compartmentalise someone. In fact, most adult cyclists are motorists too.
In the end I just stopped receiving comments, which I’m loathe to do (freedom of speech and all that), but found liberating in this instance as they were getting increasingly puerile and personal. The best way to stop a fire is by cutting off the oxygen supply. These people claim to have the upper hand morally yet they still come back for more (I was still receiving little packages of spitefulness last night). My lesson learned is that when dealing with these people it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, they will just move the goalposts and parameters, introduce new sets of ‘statistics‘ (which funnily enough didn’t show up in the initial report) or just start pointing the finger at other people. Or you of course.
So be warned. Someone somewhere will write a blog post about speed cameras simply giving an individual perspective and then watch as the response unit steams into action like a Panzer pincer movement. Best of luck to them.
I also note on the Drivers Alliance website a spiteful little poll asking whether cyclists should pay ‘Road Tax’ and display a tax disc. I say that maybe they should but only when motorists do considering ‘Road Tax’ doesn’t exist and the bicycle is a zero emissions vehicle.
I’ve generally found in life that there is a time and place for everything. When my six week old son does a loud burp immediately after a meal everyone coos and applauds. You don’t get the same response aged 37, I have learned.
It would be nice if our local authorities realised this when it comes to installing their often hilarious takes on ‘Cycling Infrastructure’. To look at some of their efforts, the casual bystander would be forgiven for assuming that they were created for a circus chimp on a BMX by designers who clearly spent more time as a child on an Etch a Sketch than a bicycle.
For a decent cycle path to work, it has to be direct, continuous, with a good level of surface and good sight lines. It should clearly demonstrate that cycling is the quickest, safest most direct way to get about. What we often end up with are ‘Shared Use Facilities’ where a pavement is upgraded with a fresh coating of tarmac and shiny bicycle symbols painted on (quite often there’s no resurfacing).
These usually take a more circuitous route, are slower, usually running right past the entrances to peoples homes and driveways raising the chance of a collision with pedestrians. They offer no priority at junctions meaning the cyclist has to stop frequently losing their momentum. I take the view that if a cycle path needs a ‘Cyclist Dismount’ sign, than it has failed as a cycle path (unless of course it is for something like a canal lock). It is like asking a motorist to get out and push.
It also means that, with fewer bicycles on the road, the traffic speeds up which is particularly undesirable in residential areas, school zones and near medical facilities. The quicker cyclist, not choosing the path because it would be more dangerous, may also find themselves getting abuse from motorists who think they should be on the path even though the cyclist has more right to be on the road.
You may wonder why local cycling campaigners don’t say anything. This is generally because (from experience) by the time they get a whiff of ‘consultation’, the works have already been designed, signed off and programmed. But at least the local authority can now say they have ‘spoken to cyclists’.
The safest place to be, believe it or not, is on the road moving with the flow of traffic. This is partly because you are traffic but also because of the big secrets that some in the media and Motoring Lobby don’t want you to know. Do you want to hear one?!
There are cycle paths out there that do work very well, but usually it’s because they simply can’t fail such as the conversion of abandoned railway lines or wide coastal promenades like Worthing. The glorious Downs Link for example allows me to cycle from the South Coast to Surrey where I was brought up with next to no traffic interchange whatsoever.
You would have thought it child’s play to design a facility for something bewilderingly simple as a bicycle. Unfortunately, the end result usually looks like child’s play. Use the road instead for the moment. You belong there after all.
According to the Bikeradar website, Swedish car company Volvo have teamed up with a ‘top sports protection specialist’, POC, to develop a new children’s cycle helmet.
Recently promoted at a primary school in the Netherlands, the bright orange lid has sparked controversy, with critics accusing Volvo of hypocrisy, stating that “Volvo introduces helmet to protect against Volvos” and comparing their promotion of the cycle helmet with Smith & Wesson introducing children’s bulletproof vests.
Volvo have also been accused of using the lid as a cheap ploy to market their new pedestrian safety detection system. Critics point out that this is only available as an option on one model, the S60, which undermines the company’s claim that safety is their paramount concern.
I’m going to leap off the fence here and say that that I agree with the critics for four fundamental reasons;
1 Firstly, it must be a duty to make motorists more aware of vulnerable road users. Particularly as they have more right to be there than motorists as Vehicle Excise Duty hasn’t paid for the roads since 1937. If it takes 20mph speed limits in residential areas, or more innovative approaches to streetscape design to keep speeds down in urban areas than so be it. If motorists can’t keep their foot off the accelerator where children are about than that option will have to be removed from them. Cycling isn’t a dangerous activity, believe it or not.
2 If we made helmets compulsory for our children, it will have a negative effect on child take-up of cycling, like everywhere else this has happened. If we don’t make the streets safer, then obesity will get them in the longer term. The health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers many times over. The speed of traffic would probably rise too with less cyclists on the roads. The cyclists that remain will venture out wearing protective helmets thus making it OK to drive like a lunatic around them and a downward spiral is set in motion.
3 Sometimes, dare I say it, our children will ignore what we say to them. One day my son may want to cycle to the local shop to get some sweets. He may think ‘it’s only 2 minutes away. I don’t need a silly helmet. Who cares that I have to wear one and dad told me to’. If we made helmets compulsory and your child gets hit by a car whilst not wearing a helmet, there may be no hope for compensation if a head injury is sustained as your child will be negligent. Consider the amount of times you did things as a child without your parent’s knowledge and consent if you still think I’m wrong.
4 Volvo feel the need to make everyone else wear a helmet (probably pedestrians too if they had their way) because their cars are so tank-like they show no consideration for anyone or anything else in the outside World. They are basically encouraging their consumers to drive their products like wankers (‘It’s OK to drive like a lunatic! We’ve put helmets on everyone outside, even children!).
I’m not against helmets but I’m definitely pro-choice and if you decide to put a helmet on your child than great (just check the bike over first too). It’s essential as a civilised society that we have to make the roads safer first for everyone instead of wrapping people up in cotton wool. For the record, I wear a helmet on my 24 mile a day commute (partly because no-one in Brighton & Hove can drive correctly) but I respect your choice not to wear one.
You may be wondering, dear reader, why I may be showing a little animosity towards motorists despite being a car owner myself. The week before my 10th birthday (Halloween 1982) my father was driving my mother and I home from a birthday party. He needed to turn right on a junction of the A3 (it has a flyover now). This meant crossing over the northbound carriageway. A VW hatchback came hurtling around the corner and smashed into us side on. We were in a transit van and not wearing seat belts as they had not been made compulsory. The Police at the time said had I been wearing one I probably would have been decapitated. This is because the force was so great I took the passenger door with me and hit the A3 head first. A helmet may have saved my life or given me a spinal injury as well. Who knows? What I do know was I ended up with a multiple fracture of the scull and my leg was ripped to shreds. My hand required extensive stitches.
The thing is I thought my hand required stitches because I logically believed that any person would probably stick their hand out to protect themselves if they hit the ground. You’d be wrong, dear reader. I only found the truth out this year from my mother. I needed stitches in my hand because motorists were getting so impatient at us for having a nasty car smash, they started to drive their way through the wreckage and someone drove over my hand. Let’s reiterate; a motorist drove over the hand of a 9 year old unconscious boy lying in the road after a massive smash (the car that hit us was doing 70mph according to the skid marks).
All involved, I’m pleased to report, made a full recovery. My belief that motoring brings out the worst in people and is the most anti-social, selfish thing you can do remains unchanged, however. Ride a bike instead, dear reader. I can even recommend a helmet for you, if you so choose.
Yesterday I found myself in a place I don’t often frequent – the DVLA local office in Brighton. Our beloved little car is no longer fit for purpose so we traded it in for a 5 door ‘family saloon’. This is partly for Wife who through a combination of bad luck and woefully bad surgery has a bad back but also because we seem to have accumulated a lot of stuff since The Boy arrived on the scene. The Space Shuttle taking supplies to the International Space Station is nothing compared to my household embarking on an overnight stay. It does make you wonder how we coped before but years ago families lived much closer together. Sometimes too close in the case of the village where I grew up.
Anyway, the point of today’s sermon is that I was buying a new 12 month tax disc. I put it in my bag and later on I cycled 12 miles home. However, there are a lot of motorists out there that believe that I should be displaying a tax disc on my bicycle too and that cyclists should ‘pay for the roads’. These people are what I like to diplomatically call ‘Morons’. The reasons are as follows:
Motorists Don’t Pay for the Roads
“There has been no direct relationship between vehicle tax and road expenditure since 1937.” Policy and External Communications Directorate, DVLA
‘Road Tax’ doesn’t exist. In fact, it hasn’t existed since 1937 when the ‘Road Fund Licence’ was abolished. Even when the ‘Road Fund’ existed, motorists only ever paid a fraction of road expenditure. It was Winston Churchill that instigated its abolition stating
“It will be only a step from this for [motorists] to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created.”
The round disc I was carrying home to put in my windscreen is actually called Vehicle Excise Duty (or VED). It is a tax on the car, not its use. Road maintenance comes from central taxation. Even my month old son is indirectly paying for the roads from the VAT on the packs of Pampers we’re steaming through at a rate of knots.
VED Is Emissions Linked
Even if cyclists had to display a ‘road tax’ disc, a bicycle is a zero emissions vehicle and therefore would pay nothing. Beaurocracy would have been created at further expense for no return.
Cyclists Have More Right to Be On the Road
Cyclists, pedestrians & horse riders all have the RIGHT to use the Queens Highway. Motorists have to be licensed which is a privilege that can be removed by law. If you choose to operate a piece of heavy machinery that can move at lethal speeds which can kill if used incorrectly, it’s only right that you should have the correct licence, that the vehicle has an annual test and that the correct insurance covers its use.
By the way Cyclists can get Third Party insurance automatically by joining CTC – the National Cyclists Organisation (www.ctc.org.uk) or London Cycle Campaign (www.lcc.org.uk)
It may interest you to know that CTC years ago helped campaign for the creation of motorways (which cyclists obviously can’t use) reasoning that all cars would use them freeing up the minor roads for cycling and other lawful pursuits. Yes, that was probably a little naive with hindsight.
So there you go. I’ve bought a disc because I’ve bought a piece of machinery that pollutes. Nothing more, nothing less. If you want further information on the ‘Road Tax’ myth, journalist Carlton Reid has set up a brilliant website (<a href="www.ipayroadtax.com“>www.ipayroadtax.com) with further fascinating articles on the idiocy that cyclists face every day from people that think they own the roads when in reality have less right to be there.
Now that I own a 5 door family saloon, I shall not start watching Top Gear or reading the Daily Mail although I might end up towing a caravan. These are heady times we live in.