At half past one this morning, I finally finished the rough draft minutes for the start-up meeting for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. Please feel free to peruse/comment/laugh at them. When you’ve had your fill and informed me of any additions or omissions, I shall be turning it into a formal document (maybe with some pictures if you’re lucky). I haven’t included any snide comments or backchat implying that I drew anyone to the meeting under the false pretence of free Fererro Rocher.
Anyway, I had no idea this week was ‘Culture of Fear Week’.
On Tuesday, BBC Breakfast decided to run a feature on the use of cycle helmets to secure convictions.
‘Ben Porter, a stagehand from London, bought a camera to show incredulous friends and family just how dangerous his daily commute could be.
Like many others, he uploaded clips of the worst driving onto YouTube and would discuss them on cycling forums like CycleChat.
For most cyclists, “naming and shaming” drivers is as far as it goes. But Ben decided to take things further after one van driver overtook him too close and then jumped out to confront him, shouting abuse.
“I think he wanted to teach me a lesson. It wasn’t very nice, but he didn’t notice the camera,” he said.’
This may have been prompted by the story of Martin Porter QC, Barrister and writer of the sublime Cycling Lawyer blog
From the BBC Website
Martin Porter, 48, of Sunningdale, has been knocked off his bicycle and has had drivers threaten to kill him.
He says he is collecting evidence of serious incidents to hand to police.
He said: “Earlier on this year I had a man in a car force me to the side of the road and threaten to follow me home and burn my house down.”
Firstly I would like to say that I have nothing against helmet mounted cameras or people who use them. Cases like these are not everyday occurances, it must be said. I commute 24 miles a day with not much in the way of incident (touch wood). In both instances, they have publically highlighted not only the abuse and dangerous standards of driving that many cyclists have to face day-to-day, but also the ridiculous lengths people have to go to to get a whiff of justice. I urge you to read Martin Porters account (and indeed the rest of his blog) as he writes far better than I.
I simply find it very sad that we have arrived at a point where people have felt compelled to go to these lengths just because they choose to ride a bicycle for their commute. If grown men feel that they not only have to armour themselves with a helmet but put surveillance measures on it too, then what hope is there for our nations children that would like to cycle to school?
It would appear that Northern Ireland are also keen to follow Jerseys lead and let the Culture of Fear prevail by trying to make helmet wearing compulsary. I find it incredibly perverse that despite all the troubles that the Province has faced up to, the powers that be maintain the fearmongering by making all bicycle riders wear protective headgear for getting to the shops, work and school without looking at the bigger picture. It disregards the motorists duty of responsibility to vulnerable road users and will of course have a negative effect on cycling numbers – like everywhere else it’s been implemented.
Although I am staunchly pro-choice, to me a helmet already makes cycling look like an alien activity and a camera, to me, distances cycling even further from the everyday activity that it should be. As I’ve written before, if we honestly believe that putting protective clothing such as helmets or high-viz tabards on people should be considered the best way forward for something as simple as riding a bicycle then we have collectively failed; The Government has consistently failed to deliver on sustainable transport policy, Local Councils have consistently failed by installing infrastructure that is always a poorly designed, dangerous insult to cycling, Highways Authorities have consistently failed by upgrading main roads to the point that they become effectively unusable for cyclists and pedestrians whilst providing no decent alternative, Road Safety experts have consistently failed to address what the real issues are regarding road safety, motorists have failed with their scant regard for other road users in the self-important delusion that they own the roads, cycle campaigners and campaign groups have all consistently failed by entering a protracted dog fight that is ultimately doomed to failure. The ‘War on the Motorist’ is already over without a meaningful shot being fired and yet still produces thousands of dead and injured each year. As I look at an AA road atlas, I still note that one can drive to all points of the British Isles without let or hindrance. Cycling to all points is a different matter.
Another treat, launched this week to increase society’s sense of fear was a website pinpointing where crimes are being committed in your area (I tried to look up Midsomer but the place doesn’t exist apparently).
As stated earlier, these are very sad days indeed where, despite being rare incidences, people are facing abuse and intimidation on the roads to the point that they are compelled to wear protective clothing and cameras. Where the act of doing something so deliciously simple is made to look complex to the point of an extreme sport, just to pop out to change a library book or buy a pint of milk. Where people have to check a website to see what crime is occurring around them thereby increasing their sense of fear and keeping them behind locked house and car doors as opposed to getting out on foot or by bicycle and actually being a part of the community and realising that it’s not all bad.
The answer really is as easy as riding a bicycle and providing the infrastructure for the general public to do it.
I’m just glad all this didn’t happen during Bike Week.