Thursday, November 22, 2012

Back to Cycling reality

Posting my holiday snaps was  a pleasant reminder of my holiday in bonny Scotland although I am still a month behind in my Posts. Now it is back to grim reality.

Is cycling dangerous? – I believe not and I also believe that the benefits significantly outweigh the risks. However what does worry me is where there is pressure to try to place all the safety responsibility on cyclists rather than deal with the elephant(s) in the room – motor vehicles and road layout. What do I mean by that, well there seems to be a focus on cyclists being the problem – lights at night, high-vis, red-light jumping, helmet wearing, cycling on pavements and not on the motorists or the road planners. (“Creeping compulsion with hi-viz is just lazy”.)

Yet who generally gets hurt and what does the hurting? “Two cyclists and a motorcyclist injured on Cambs Roads” and “Girl, 17, seriously injured in moped collision”. This issue seems to be neglected by some of the media – “BBC – Television BY motorists, FOR motorists”.

Congestion anyone?

You almost get the feeling that there is a campaign out there to belittle cyclists and cycling. Why I wonder. Well I reckon there are a few reasons.

There are some people out there who would probably like to cycle  – but frankly feel that the roads are too dangerous – no matter what safety gear and training they get.

I reckon there is a second group out there, who, having aspired to the status symbol of car ownership are too insecure to lose it. You only need look at the way footballers maintain fleets of cars to see how, for some, the car is an important symbol of virility.  Although I reckon there is an inverse relationship between the cost of the car and the virility.

Cars – the freedom to go places

I grew up in an age where we didn’t have a car, then we did and it made for more diverse holidays around the UK and beyond possible.  Then we had the age of two car families, then young people starting owning and driving cars.  Indeed such is the “glamour” of driving that some underage children are led to do it, too early– “Five children aged ELEVEN banned from driving as more than 5,000 under 17s are convicted of motoring offences”.

Now we have reality – the running costs are going up in terms of maintenance, fuel and insurance. Congestion is clogging our roads and towns with commuting and parking a problem (New plan for Ely car parking charges unveiled). Mind you this handy parking space app seems to be viewed with suspicion, we want somewhere to park, but not to get caught for overstaying our welcome – that would be “war”.

The good old days?

Congestion Indian Style

All of this leading to a cry of the war on the motorist. Humans are conservative and we have gotten used to the freedom of having our own motor transport – and now are resisting as everyone wants to keep those “benefits”. The trouble is I reckon that that feeling of entitlement to the “freedom” leads to bad judgement when driving, whether it is speeding at nearly 120mph or driving after six pints or road rage – “Woman and teenage son terrified by road rage attack

There are also added pressures from the pollution (noise and air) and climate change from carbon-dioxide.  Indeed it seems that, rightly, we have signed up to reducing carbon emissions we are so bad at it that the focus is on reducing  things like motorway lighting. Mind you in what seems slightly odd is the need to make silent electric and hybrid vehicles NOISIER to prevent accidents with pedestrians and cyclists. In one quote Kevin Clinton, of The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “Pedestrians and cyclists need to be able to hear traffic approaching for their own safety”. Maybe – but I find there is so much noise on busy roads that they all drown each other out – MAD – mutually assured deafening.

Do cars group for safety?

So the reality. Well as of 5.50pm., November 20, 2012 The Times reports:

Cyclists deaths top last year’s toll as man becomes 110th fatality

The Times reports that “Cyclists are dying on British roads at the rate of more than two a week” and if it continues at the present rate “is on course to be the highest since 2007”.

The Times has a quote from Stephen Hammond, road safety minister:

£30m had been invested this year to tackle dangerous junctions for cyclists and that a THINK! cycle safety awareness campaign had been launched in September this year.”


“Cycling safety is a top priority and any death or injury on our roads is one too many. We are unable to pre-empt the final casualty figures for 2012 but are fully aware that, unfortunately, cyclist casualties increased last year against a backdrop of increased levels of cycling.”

These words do not reassure me as a cyclist that the issue of road safety for vulnerable road users is being taken seriously or even that the issues are understood.

Cycle lane Design – door zone anyone

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