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27th July 2010.
A Motorist Has a Good Point
Then they blew it.

I was made aware of this blog post via a friend using twitter recently. It concerned the subject of cycle safety and the soon to be released cycle hire scheme in London.

Lets start by saying that the author of this article make s some good points and has some valid concerns. I just feel that a bias is betrayed in the article and had the article been written from a more balanced point of view, I may have been inclined to agree.

For instance, the author suggests that cyclists should take some training. I wholly agree.

But there are some points that are generalisations (some quite dangerous) or just a little inaccurate.

On the subjects of helmets: -

“All of them without a helmet being provided” and “. . .and perhaps even buying a helmet to wear”

The effectiveness of helmets is hotly debated. Even in NHS surveys (based on A&E admissions) it is shown that number of serious head injuries are pretty much identical when comparing helmeted riders to non helmeted riders, with just a tiny increase in non helmeted riders. There’s a tiny increase in serious neck injuries with helmeted riders. So increase in numbers in both cases is too small to be considered anything other than a statistical blip but the wider picture appears to suggest that wearing a helmet isn’t going to have much impact on the seriousness of your head injury.

In fact, Professor Ian Stewart of the University of Bath conducted a study which suggests that motorists leave less room between a car and a helmeted rider compared to an un-helmeted rider. It appears that wearing a helmet could actually increase the risk of the rider being run over.

On road law, the author makes several comments that make a scapegoat of cyclists: -

“they run red lights”

Well, y’know, not all cyclists behave like this. Some do. But then, so do some motorists. Follow me on my way home and at virtually every set of lights along the way, you can spot a red light jumping car. The Scott Arms is particularly bad, when the lights turn red there, what most motorists seem to believe it means is “just another 3 or 4 cars please”. And if I’m going to have someone broadside me as I ride/drive home, I’d prefer it to be a cycle weighing around the same as one car wheel than a car weighing around a ton and travelling at much higher speeds.

“they just don’t seem to care about the rules of the road”

This is perhaps the most redundant, and biased comment within the argument. Yes, this is exclusive to cyclists, isn’t it? After all, those speed cameras are never triggered. Mobile phones are always tucked away and if used, used with a hands free kit in a legal manner. No driver has ever been arrested for drunk driving. But of course these statements are false. And the breaking of these laws are far more dangerous to any other road user than the most wanton of rules broken by a cyclist.

On good/bad cycle practice, the author states: -

“they cycle slowly in bus lanes”

In towns and cities, most bus lanes are also cycle lanes. Cycles move slower than buses, at least they do for most cyclists. I have nothing to add here other than this: Deal with it.

“. . .perhaps read up on the highway code “

I challenge you to find 10 motorists of your acquaintance who’ve bought or read a copy of the highway code since passing their driving test. By not keeping up to date with the highway code you actually break a contract between you and the DVLA as when you signed your certificate, you agreed to do just that. By not keeping up to date with the rules of the road, you technically invalidate your license. It’s clear to me (and anybody else that has ever cycled on the roads) that most motorists have never read the section on cyclists and how to behave around them.

“This wouldn’t be so bad if it meant that 6000 drivers were suddenly cycling instead of driving, but it doesn’t. “

I have never met a cycle commuter who, like myself, doesn’t also drive. This is a very partisan statement to make and makes the clear distinction that according to the author, 4 wheels right, 2 wheels wrong.

Finally, and the biggest problem I have here, is the assumption that there will be more accidents and it will be the cyclists fault. This is borderline bigotry. And it’s quite a dangerous assumption to make. And it’s wholly inaccurate. In a recent study conducted by the police[1], it was found that in 75% of cycle vs motorised vehicle accidents, it was the motorist to blame.

Maybe, given the fact that most motorists are responsible for these accidents, the author should direct their frustration at motorists if the author really does want to see less accidents involving cyclists. No, this would be wrong; it takes co-operation from us all to enjoy safe roads. The author should direct their frustration at people. Plain and simple.

My point here is that by making a scapegoat of any kind of road user, we don’t actually make the roads safer, we just find someone else to blame for our own poor behaviour.

Keep Pedalin’


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