Monday 30 November 2009

More cyclophobia in ‘The Times’

Two more anti-cycling features from Times newspapers.

Two Christmases ago it was The Times which gave Matthew Pariss a column to chuckle that

A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists.

[It’s since been tried out in Wigan, with some success]

the lynching of a cyclist…would be a joy to witness.

There was some adverse reaction to the column. But, like someone who’s just told a racist joke and is surprised to discover that no one else in the room is amused, Parris indignantly explained that he was just having a larf. A bit of harmless fun, that’s all. Blimey, it’s political correctness gone mad if you can’t suggest that murdering cyclists is just what they deserve.

And now we have Eleanor Mills, who, having identified herself as a cyclist, informs Times readers that

cyclists are a bandit tribe who blithely ignore the usual laws of the road.

many cyclists feel uniquely free to ignore the rules of the road. Some are total idiots.

The flaw in her argument is that even if every cyclist in Britain scrupulously obeyed the rules, they would still be run down in their hundreds. Bad behaviour by cyclists is the default condition of cycling on roads designed for motoring and filled with reckless criminal drivers. Expecting cyclists to obey the rules when no one else does is a utopian expectation, especially when adherence to those rules may put you more at risk of losing your life or suffering serious injury. She provides an email address at the end of her feature, should you wish to enlighten her - as a fellow cyclist.

Half her feature is simply a lazily recycled TfL press release for ‘cycle superhighways’ and suburban transformation: Goodbye Britain, hello Amsterdam, is the general gist.

The notion that anywhere in London, or anywhere in Britain, will shortly resemble the cycling infrastructure of Amsterdam is complete fantasy. There is no transport vision on the Dutch model, and absolutely no political will to implement one. I am tempted to call Eleanor Mills pig-ignorant, but that would be unfair to a species of quadruped far superior in intelligence and charm to a Rupert Murdoch lackey.

Mills’s tosh is matched by another cyclophobic feature, headed

Beware, iPod zombie cyclists are on the rise

Cyclists distracted by music blaring in their ears have become the latest menace on Britain’s roads.

The fashion for cyclists to wear earphones on crowded city streets is being held partly responsible for the recent upsurge in cycling injuries and deaths, as well as collisions with pedestrians.

There is, needless to say, not a scrap of evidence linking cyclists wearing earphones to any such crashes or casualty figures. This is just another version of ‘the cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet and so was to blame’.

So in the absence of evidence, who is keen to blame the victims?

Road safety groups are alarmed at the practice and this weekend Edmund King, the president of the AA, called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to launch a campaign warning cyclists of the risk.

The AA of course is NOT a ‘road safety group’ but a road lobby organisation. And as we know, Edmund King is a lobbyist with form, whose career is devoted to ceaselessly fretting about the poor, persecuted driver.

Nicholas Gardiner, an Oxfordshire coroner, spoke out about the risks of riding with iPods, saying that cyclists’ careless attitude had to be challenged. “Frankly I find it quite frightening the things cyclists do,” he said.

[Frankly, I find it quite disturbing that we’re not permitted to know what motoring convictions a coroner may have.]

Youth for Road Safety, a new group, is to launch a campaign called Tune into Traffic under the slogan “Your earphones could kill you”.

You won’t be killed by a driver or a ton of metal, see? It will be your earphones. And if your abdomen is split open by the wheels of a heavy goods vehicle and you are wearing a woolly hat, it’s the wool that will be at fault.

Manpreet Darroch, who is leading the campaign, said: “It’s a serious problem which is only going to get worse as the number of cyclists increases — lots of people are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. People don’t realise how dangerous listening to music is on the roads — whether pedestrian or cyclist. It takes one of your key senses away.

I don't myself cycle with headphones on, but I dislike the thrust of this kind of campaign. Are we saying that deaf people shouldn't cycle? And if listening to music is so dangerous and distracting, why is it not then banned in cars? East London is not exactly short of drivers whose vehicles vibrate to the boom and thump of sound systems. I also see drivers wearing headphones.

Needless to say Youth for Road Safety, which seems to originate with Channel Four, is one of those mysterious organisations which seem to lack members and which has no connection at all to reputable representative groups like RoadPeace. If you google the TUNE INTO TRAFFIC: Road Safety Campaign you enter a labyrinth and eventually arrive at Mentors, who are this creepy bunch

Media froth, in other words. And clicking at random on a link I learned about

Iris Andrews

Iris is the sort of person we all dream of being.

[Not true. Once I'd read about her, Iris is the sort of person I dream of pushing off a very high cliff.]

Age 15 she started campaigning for the Peace One Day organization, got heavily involved in Greenpeace, and worked on the Great Leaders project with Nelson Mandella and Kofi Annan.

Soon after, because she's so brilliant, she was recommended to meet a seriously rich entrepreneur who wanted to give something back to society. He put in the money to set up the Catalyst Project and got Iris, at age 19, to run it. Basically her job is to get really rich people and really powerful movers and shakers to address the problem of climate change. And she's managed it - raising enough money to set up a foundation, and enough research to convince people that there’s a lot more work and fund-raising to be done.

Ah, yes, fund-raising. But to benefit whom, precisely?

Manpreet Darroch popped up as the self-appointed voice of 'road safety' and the MP3 generation at a conference:

CSEC, which is hosted by RoSPA and NCB and funded by a £1.6million grant from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, was established earlier this year. It is a coalition of member organisations working together to promote practical safety education in order to reduce unintended injury.

Yes, there’s always lots of corporate media attention and lots of lovely lolly for ‘road safety’ initiatives which blame the victims, change absolutely nothing about the transport status quo, and divert attention from the root causes of violence on the roads.