Has the Occasions declared battle on cyclists? | Peter Walker


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Even within the context of the UK media’s famously curious protection of on a regular basis biking, this was a shock. Away from the extra acquainted tabloid cries of a “battle” over adjustments to the Freeway Code, tucked away within the sober enclave of the Occasions’s editorial pages one thing odd was taking place.

It was close to the underside of a leader column on cycling {that a} paper which, lower than a decade in the past, launched probably the most concerted and efficient media campaign for safe cycling seen on this nation for years, determined in impact to declare battle on those that go for two-wheeled transport.

It was, the column famous, past doubt that drivers ought to have licences, insurance coverage and quantity plates for his or her automobiles. Then got here the follow-up: “Requiring the same of cyclists is fair.”

This was a triple-whammy, the complete bingo card, the complete Littlejohn, the title that also types itself the nation’s newspaper of file formally declaring that it not desires to see cyclists on the roads.

In fact, it wasn’t phrased so immediately, however for those who argue for such measures, that's in impact what you need. Any of these regulatory handcuffs being utilized to bikes, not to mention all three, can be so unwieldy, so counter-productive, so completely, completely pointless that just about no nation or territory has ever tried it, and the few that did usually gave up fairly shortly.

If the UK enforced these measures totally and with gusto, my guess is that someplace between 50% and 75% of cycle site visitors would vanish. And sure, it is a guess. There isn't any actual information to base it on – as a result of nobody has been so silly as to attempt it.

The arguments towards such regulatory tangles for biking have been made many occasions earlier than and don’t want repeating in full, however let’s simply take into consideration a few the potential hiccups.

Take into account kids. Would they should take a take a look at and have insurance coverage? If that's the case, from what age? Some youngsters experience on the roads, with their dad and mom, after they’ve 5. Good luck giving them a a number of alternative take a look at on the Freeway Code. And if under-18s are exempt, how do you implement guidelines for youngsters? Would a 16-year-old have to hold ID when out on a motorbike to show their age?

Secondly: quantity plates for bikes. Something gentle and sufficiently small can be too small to learn past a distance of some metres. And what of individuals [holds up an apologetic hand] with a number of bikes? Would we now have to register each, or switch plates between them?

That is the purpose at which somebody normally suggests riders put on a numbered, hi-vis tabard. One each gentle sufficient to put on on a 100-mile experience in mid-summer, but additionally large enough to go over the winter coat of somebody biking to work within the snow? And that’s assuming the commuter doesn’t have a bag on his or her again.

You could possibly go on, virtually endlessly, which is why, when requested about such concepts, UK ministers and officers, in widespread with nearly all people else who has given the thought greater than 90 seconds of thought, dismiss them.

Biking for transport is an undisputed social good – even the Occasions editorial concedes that. So why argue for all this? The Occasions, virtually insultingly, doesn’t even attempt to sq. the circle, merely saying, with none try at elaboration: “The objection that it would deter legitimate cycling is not persuasive.”

As an alternative we get this very odd sentence: “The road network is a service available to everyone, and it is reasonable to expect those who benefit from it to abide by its regulation and contribute to its upkeep.”

Ignoring the mental howler of “contribute to its upkeep” – it's embarrassing for the Occasions to have gotten that one so incorrect – we eventually come to the crux of the argument, reminiscent of it's: “fairness”.

It's the cry extra normally seen within the murky depths of reader feedback or the fringes of Twitter arguments: drivers face all types of rules to make use of the roads, what’s so completely different about cyclists?

One response can be: for those who use a desk noticed and a screwdriver for a similar wood-based DIY undertaking, and also you don goggles, ear safety and a masks for the noticed, why don’t you for the screwdriver? That’s proper – one is notably extra harmful than the opposite.

Once more, the statistics are well-known. Of the 1,700 or so deaths and 25,000-plus critical accidents on the UK’s roads every year, solely a handful are attributable to a bike owner hitting another person. To emphasize one more well-worn level: it’s not about morals, it’s simply physics. If I hit a pedestrian whereas doing 20mph in a Vary Rover I might impart 25 occasions extra kinetic power than on the identical pace on my bike. When you make the speeds extra lifelike – bike at 12mph, automobile doing 30mph – then the distinction is 150 occasions.

What ought to we make of the Occasions’s sudden outbreak of idiocy? It’s laborious to know. It might be good to assume that is the response of a dinosaur class who realise historical past is towards them. However even within the context of the UK’s cursed media narrative on on a regular basis lively transport, it's deeply miserable.


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