Sunday, 23 March 2008

David Cameron’s cycle ride

The Mirror froths with indignation as it exposes David Cameron’s cycle shame.

The Mirror followed Mr Cameron on three Wednesdays as he cycled to the Houses of Parliament from his Notting Hill home. Friday's newspaper featured Mr Cameron cycling the wrong way up a one-way street in Dawson Place, breaking a red light in Great George Street, driving the wrong way around a bollard in the Mall and breaching a red light at the Houses of Parliament.

But the pictures merely highlighted the difficulties the average London cyclist faced, said cycling campaign group CTC. "It shows what an ass cycling regulation (and) traffic management is in this country at the moment ... we campaign in CTC for things like opening up one-way streets, which are allowed all over Europe," said director Kevin Mayne. "[Mr Cameron] is a yard in front of the white line in front of the Houses of Parliament - frankly, that's where I'd go to get away from the cars, he was hardly jumping the light," he said. He added that the story had also highlighted how difficult "signage for cyclists is in London".

However, Kevin Clinton, head of road safety for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), criticised Mr Cameron. "It is essential that all road users, including cyclists, obey traffic laws. The laws are there for everybody's safety and, as always, it is disappointing when someone in the public eye sets a bad example," he said.

The Mirror exclusive is desperately thin stuff, akin to Channel 4’s shock revelation that Ken Livingstone is partial to a wee dram. And RoSPA's comment is typical of that crappy organisation. Few people seem to know that historically RoSPA is the child of the road lobby and for decades has been promoting a victim-blaming agenda that sanitizes the deaths of thousands of pedestrians and cyclists. RoSPA has always supported voluntary as opposed to compulsory controls on drivers.

Go to its website: “working together for road safety” it twitters.

Poke around its website and you’ll find nuggets of wisdom like this: Pedestrians are recommended to wear something that will make them conspicuous, particularly in conditions of poor visibility. Fluorescent materials are most effective during the day, and reflective materials at night.

Well RoSPA can get stuffed. I am not walking around in daylight dressed up in fluorescent materials in the hope that that will make me more noticeable to a driver who is breaking the speed limit while chatting on a mobile phone. The source of the danger is the driver, not me and the clothes I’m wearing.

RoSPA’s agenda is to evade the true source of road danger – reckless driving, vehicles designed to speed, lax enforcement, grossly inadequate penalties for life-threatening criminality – and sugar over the reality with rubbish like ‘driver training’, ‘conspicuity’ for walkers and cyclists, and ‘pedestrian awareness’. RoSPA, typically, did not support a campaign for random breath testing. RoSPA is the enemy of cyclists and pedestrians, not their friend.

What is troubling is that the poisonous ‘conspicuity’ agenda of RoSPA has now been officially incorporated in transport ideology. The list of relevant factors on the form which the police have to fill in after an injury crash includes

507 Cyclist wearing dark clothing at night
508 Driver using mobile phone

Not really
equal, are they? Incredibly, the fact that a cyclist or a pedestrian is wearing dark clothing at night is now regarded as something which reduces the responsibility of a driver who hits them. This is a victory for the car lobby. It dissolves the responsibility of the driver to only drive with their full attention on the road ahead and fully prepared to brake if there is something there.

It is now commonplace to read of court cases where the driver escapes punishment because the pedestrian or cyclist they hit was ‘dressed in dark clothing’.

Meanwhile the Mirror milks the story for all its worth:

A Met insider said Mr Cameron would be given tips on safe riding for his own good, amid fears he is a menace to himself as well as other road users. The source went on: "Cycling the wrong way up a one-way street is very stupid and we get accidents every day in central London that happen just like that. He should be pleased we're taking an interest in his welfare. If he cycles like this, he's certain to be in an accident before very long. "We'll point out that cyclists are only about one per cent of traffic but make up 24 per cent of road casualties."

This slyly insinuates that cyclists are at fault for getting run down.

Contrast that with recent analysis from the London Borough of Ealing which shows that:

For accidents involving adult cyclists, motorists seem to be three times as likely to be at fault as cyclists

Motorists disobey traffic signals in accidents involving cyclists as much as do cyclists.