Sunday, 3 January 2010

‘Biking Bernie’ is right

Whoever ‘Biking Bernie’ is, he should start a blog. At once, do you hear! We need more cyclists saying stuff like this:

The fact that this report appears to claim that child cyclists are to 'blame' for many of the collisions they are involved in simply reflects the perverse attitude that all road users share 'equal' responsibility for road safety. Of course children, whether cycling or walking, make mistakes or fail to properly evaluate the risks they face. This is why motor vehicle users, who are in charge of a potentially lethal piece of high-speed machinery, should be expected to drive in a manner that takes full account of the possibility that others might make an error. This includes moderating their speed to a less fatal level whenever vulnerable road users are around. After all, the roads are only 'dangerous' in the first place because they are filled with high-speed motor vehicles that are often driven at inappropriately high speeds and with scant regards for the safety of others.

With regards to rural roads, I don't know why it is said that it is a 'surprise' that the chance of being killed on a rural road is much higher than other roads. This has been known for a very long time and the reason is simple - motor vehicle users tend to drive at much higher speeds on rural roads than on urban roads, so any crash that occurs is highly likely to be fatal.

We also need to remember that much of the source data is drawn from the police 'Stats 19' forms, and given that the police share the same car-centric attitudes as much of the rest of the population, it is likely that the 'attribution' figures contain a strong anti-cyclist bias. In fact in years gone by such bias was so evident that the police 'attribution' statistics were excluded from official analyses of crashes. However, the police continued to record such 'statistics' for supposedly 'internal' purposes and the same flawed system has now once again become a part of official reports, such as this one, by the 'back door'.

The quotes below are taken from J.S. Dean's 1947 book 'Murder most foul: a study of the road deaths problem'. They show a far more humane interpretation of road user responsibility that is allowed for in such car-centric reports as the one above.
A vicious circle has been created. The more the drivers kill and maim the more right they become and the more right they become the more dangerously they drive. Or, to put the position from the opposite side, the more the non-drivers, and especially the pedestrians, are killed and maimed, the more this is proof of their carelessness and refusal to be "educated" and the more this is accepted the less care is taken by the drivers to avoid them, and this is applied to the youngest children and the oldest and most infirm persons... As a nation we are placed in the grotesque position of being forced to listen to and practice the degrading gospel of "Safety First" merely for the purpose of increasing the danger. There is no end to the process and there can be no end. Thus, it was not enough that the "responsibility" for child accidents should be placed on the children: the attempt is now being made to place it on their absent parents and guardians: as if more than a fraction of the nation's children or practically any of those of the working class can be accompanied more than very rarely in the streets, and as if parents and guardians generally did not live in a condition of perpetual misery and anxiety because of the dangers to their children. The "education" campaign that refuses to rebuke the drivers for breaking the law rebukes the parents when their children are killed or maimed.

.... In the first place this "education" is the worst possible training for the children as the drivers of the future since it teaches them to believe that the driver is the master of the road and that the only role for the other road-users, including the youngest children and the oldest and most infirm persons, is to keep out of his way and that if they are killed or maimed through not doing so this is something they deserve, Much of the motor slaughter may, indeed, be traced directly to the yearly appearance on the roads of young drivers brought up in this evil and destructive belief. Secondly, it is the worst possible training for the children as the citizens of the future, i.e. that they should be taught to accept the spectacle of the motor slaughter, with all its implications. as normal and as something to which they must submit without question. The spectacle of children passing from, one classroom where they have been told about the "great traditions of British freedom" to another where a police officer tells them that unless they keep out of the way of the motorist they will be killed or maimed and, by implication, will deserve to be, is neither pleasant not encouraging.

...The question of the general effects of this "education" on the minds of young children hardly lies within the scope of this work, but brief reference to it may be made:

A simple child
That lightly draws her breath
And feels her life in every limb,
What should she know of death?

Everything, say the "education" propagandists. Put the idea of death and destruction deep into their minds. Never let them forget it. Fill their lives with it. Teach them fear. Make them frightened and keep them frightened.

The full story, with Biking Bernie’s comments here.