Bez: “Them and Theirs”

by 36

It all began, as it so often does, with a couple of simple questions.

commuter cycling

On the back of the widely reported collision on a pavement involving a man on a bike and a young girl, BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme sent out the following:

“On today’s Call You and Yours we’re talking about cycling. Do you think it’s time to ask cyclists to take a test before they’re allowed on the the roads? Should they have insurance like everyone else?”

A collective groan passed as a wave across social media. Cyclists, as a ring-fenced group. Should they have to take a test? Should they have insurance? The call was clear: this request goes to You, the Not Cyclists, for opinions about Them, the Cyclists.

The programme came and went, after which one of the producers tweeted gleefully, “Our phone in on cycling hit a nerve with the UK”. It would be understating things to say that not everyone shared the glee. In order to explain why they didn’t, I’m not going to unpick the programme itself. I’m going to start by looking at what has happened since.

A week is a long time on the roads

Two days after the broadcast, May 28, was the third day of 2015 in which three people were fatally injured whilst on bicycles. At around 6:40am, an as yet unnamed woman was killed when she was struck by a van which then collided with two other vehicles. A little over an hour later, Esther Hartsilver was crushed by an HGV in Camberwell. That afternoon, April Reeves – aged just 7 – was killed in front of her family in Weston-super-Mare.

On the same day, a man was left “fighting for his life” in a critical condition in a collision with a car and another – also reported as “fighting for his life” – had to have a bus lifted off of him. Two days later, a fourth fatality: a woman was killed after being struck by a car in Aston Clinton. And another man in a critical condition.

And that’s just people on pedal cycles.

Never mind the jogger killed when struck by a car which left the road, the three people killed on the A421 (including a schoolgirl), David Lister who was killed in a collision with a car in Lackford, Jeannette Dixon who died in Harrow, the motorcyclist who died in Pembrokeshire, John Walsh who died near Bury St Edmunds, Scott McCallum who died on the A90, the teenager who died in County Durham, the man killed and the man left in a critical condition in Harrow, the two-year-old girl killed and boy in critical condition after a car left the road, the woman killed and the several injured on the M73, the man killed on the M74, another man killed on the A90, Thomas Edwards who died on the A3400, the man who died on the M1, the man killed in Northern Ireland, Amar Atwal – aged 12 – who died in West Bromwich, the man who died in Somerset when his car left the road, the moped rider killed in Leicester, the man killed in Lnacashire when his car left the road, the man killed on the M5, the two people left in a critical condition after being hit by a bus in Glasgow

I know. I’ve lost you now. You’re just skim-reading, or you’ve simply jumped to this paragraph from halfway through the previous one. But that’s the point. Death and injury caused by the often incautious use of motor vehicles is so common, so mundane, that it doesn’t warrant even reading a whole paragraph of six days’ deaths – at least twenty-seven of them, nearly five a day – let alone a phone-in radio show.

It’s not like there’s a massive disconnect between the cyclist-hits-girl incident and this carnage, either: browse through the examples above and you’ll find numerous cases where the casualties occurred away from the carriageway (and yet another one appears as I type this), and/or where the drivers were unlicensed and/or uninsured; and you’ll find numerous cases where it was young children who were killed or seriously injured. Indeed, all of these factors can be found among the cycling fatalities alone.

Likewise, in the same week, the ripples from fatal collisions that illustrate the fallacy of faith in our licensing and insurance system roll into the shore: another cyclist killed when struck by an apparently unlicensed and uninsured driver. And then the fallacy of thinking that cars aren’t a danger on pavements is highlighted by news reports of further incidents where motor vehicles end up crossing pavements: in Bristol, and in Sussex. Remember, this is just in the last six days, and just stuff that happens to have passed before my eyes on Twitter: other than one Google search for the fatalities above, I’ve not even bothered going looking for anything. It’s a constant firehose of carnage that all highlights the same fallacy: the false assumption that licensing and insuring people fixes their behaviour.

All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others

You and Yours glibly kicked off with the question, “should [cyclists] have to take a road test and buy insurance, just like everyone else?” Yet this well-worn phrase, “just like everyone else”, neatly overlooks an uncomfortable truth: There are a lot of people already out there, in cars and ignoring the law, who aren’t “just like everyone else”. The whole idea of “everyone else” presupposes that everyone else is law-abiding and responsible, and that the systems in place to make them so work perfectly. And – clearly and inevitably – they don’t. Laws are not simple solutions: as David Allen Green notes in the context of prohibition: “To say there should be a law against a thing is often no more than saying there should be a spell against it,” and this uncomfortable chasm between idealism and reality is applicable to all legal contexts.

So, what of this fallacy of faith? What’s the truth behind the received wisdom that drivers are licensed and insured and cyclists aren’t?

Driving by numbers

The number of uninsured drivers on the road can only be estimated, but the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, the UK industry-wide body whose role is to manage a fund to settle claims against uninsured and untraced drivers, puts the figure at around one million. (As a side note, prosecutions run at a rate of around 160,000 per year, and once you’ve got a couple more figures you can do some basic maths to work out whether buying insurance even makes sense. Spoiler: unless you’re a responsible driver who’s already racked up a decent no claims bonus, it probably doesn’t.)

The number of unlicensed drivers is also inevitably an estimation, and one that’s made less frequently. Most articles cite a supplementary memorandum to a 1999 report commissioned by the Association of British Insurers and The AA, which put the figure at around 800,000. (It includes evidence to indicate, unsurprisingly, around a 90% overlap of uninsured and unlicensed drivers.) The report, by the way, makes for interesting if unsurprising reading in terms of assessing the type of person who eschews insurance and/or the licence.

So, with some 35 million registered drivers in the UK, a little under 3% of people behind the wheel are unlicensed, uninsured, or – most probably – both. (Let’s not delve into legal drivers’ rates of compliance with road laws or we’ll be here all day.) Whereas 100% of people on bikes are unlicensed and uninsured, right?

Wrong.

Cycling by numbers

Firstly, although there is no need to pass a test to ride a bicycle on the road (nor is there to ride a horse, nor to use a mobility scooter; yes, scooter users cause serious injuries and deaths, and the phrase “mobility menace” even comes as a slot-in minority-grouping replacement for “lycra lout” should anyone’s journalistic barrel require scraping) around 80% of cyclists hold a driving licence, meaning they’ve successfully completed the same training as 97% of drivers.

As for insurance, anyone who is a member of the Cyclists’ Touring Club, British Cycling, the London Cycling Campaign or other similar groups is covered by third party liability insurance, and indeed such policies can be purchased in their own right for £21 a year (I’ve not shopped around, but this is clearly nowhere near being “not far off [the cost of a motor policy]”, as one cyclist who called You and Yours opined it might be). But – rather more pervasively – anyone who lives in a house is probably covered, too, as CTC advisor Dave Holladay pointed out on air. Check with your insurer if you want to be sure, but household policies include third party liability cover, and normally this applies when on a bicycle. Take the AA’s policy, for instance (the emphasis is mine):

“We will insure you for all amounts which you have legal liability to pay as compensation for accidents not connected with the occupation of your building which result in: death, physical injury, disease or illness to any person other than your employees; or loss of or damage to property.”

That cover is good for up to £2 million. (“You”, by the way, is defined as “the policyholder, their spouse/partner, relatives and domestic employees normally living at your home.”) Note that there are explicit exclusions for mechanically propelled and mechanically assisted vehicles, but a bicycle is neither. Basically, if you’re a cyclist and you live in an insured household: you’re probably covered for third party liability. So, in reality, the whole insurance question is almost completely moot. Granted, it’s not mandatory to have insurance; but there’s a fighting chance that the rate of insurance coverage for people on bicycles is – because it is so cheaply and widely available – actually higher than it is for people in motor vehicles.

So why the fear and loathing of this supposed lack of insurance, when it may be the use of bigger, heavier and thus more dangerous vehicles that is less well covered than the use of light and relatively slow ones? Why the fear and loathing of this supposed lack of testing, when four out of five have actually passed a test? The answer, as it happens, brings us back where we started.

Points of view

Even the long list of death and trauma caused by motor vehicle collisions over the past six days doesn’t diminish the trauma suffered by one little girl or the distress suffered by her family. Nor does it represent any justification for suggesting that it should never be discussed. Two wrongs (twenty-seven or more deaths and one injured child) do not make a right. What it does mean, however, is that context is hugely important, as Chris Boardman was keen to point out on air. It’s vital if a constructive discussion, rather than the mere echoing of received opinion, is to be had.

Unfortunately what largely surfaced on air – inevitably, given the bait cast by the producers – was largely a trail of anecdotes. One caller, Barry, was given two and a half minutes of national airtime to tell a tale of bicycles that defied his understanding, with “no seats, no bell, nothing, and they’re in gangs, and they just jump out on you”, with this forming the basis for his demands for swathes of additional legislation. (I did enjoy Barry’s contribution, though, largely because his voice was rather Dudley Moore-ish, which conjured up a mental image of these terrifying biker gangs lurking somewhere inside Jayne Mansfield. Google “Derek and Clive” if you’re stumped, and brace yourself for some robust language.) And this summed things up; it summed up the whole premise of the programme: that everyone has a tale to tell, their view of the world, their perspective; and that a quick bit of legislation will solve all the problems with all of those tales. And, frankly, that’s true of much media coverage of cycling.

Never mind that our cities are choking in pollution. Never mind that obesity is the NHS’s greatest expenditure and fast becoming the main cause of cancer. Never mind that tens of thousands are killed and seriously injured every year from motor vehicle collisions. We can overlook all of these things, we can maintain our tight grip on our steering wheels, because a video of a small child being injured is, quite understandably, upsetting viewing.

And the reason that we can overlook all of these things is that we can use the phrase “just like everyone else” and pretend that “everyone else” is homogeneous and that laws are infallible. We can overlook them because radio shows like You and Yours will happily read out the opinions of people who are factually wrong. We can overlook them because anecdotes make “better” entertainment – certainly more effective clickbait – than holistic, circumspect consideration. We can overlook them because they’re all so bloody normal. Five deaths a day since the last programme: that’s normal. The child dragged along the pavement is abnormal. It’s this abnormality that makes it newsworthy: the fascination lies not so much with the trees, forsaking all sight of the wood, but with a single curious twig. But perhaps most of all, we can overlook them because of the status quo: the fact that cycling isn’t “You and Yours”, it’s Them and Theirs. Just like the holders of the majority of speed and mass in a collision, the holders of the majority of opinion – and it is mere opinion, often the fuel of assault – are the people who don’t cycle. That’s what gives rise to the normalisation, to the lack of circumspection, to the factually wrong opinions, to the anecdotes, to the faith in law, and to the rose-tinted view of “everyone else”.

It was easy for You and Yours to come across as superficially balanced: the anecdotes of angry lorry drivers are apparently offset by the calm reason of Chris Boradman. But it’s a sham balance: The bubble in which the discussion takes place is already constrained and unbalanced, focusing on one group’s adherence to law rather than the nuanced nurturing of a socially beneficial system of mobility.

The regulatory differences between cycling and driving are obvious; less so are the more productive questions: Why are so few people aware that almost all “cyclists” are insured? (And is this a factor in why some flee the scene of a collision?) What is the health benefit to the country of reducing pollution and increasing activity? How is it that Paris and Dublin exist as fully functioning cities with strict bans on many HGV movements? Why are so many cycle paths built so badly that no-one wants to use them? Why is regulation of the HGV industry failing to prevent wilfully negligent operators from escaping punishment and simply starting a new company? How can we address the number of uninsured drivers; should we nationalise driver insurance? Why are driving bans so ineffective? How can we prevent people taking to pavements on their bikes in order to flee traffic danger? Why do we lack the legal tools to deal with negligence? Why do we not choose to enable less dangerous modes of transport like cycling so that the worst drivers can actually be removed from their 70mph tons of metal? Why does the UK repeatedly try and fail to reinvent the wheel when the Netherlands offers a readymade set of templates for safe and appealing road design? Why do we remain resolutely focused on safety equipment for victims when the Netherlands again proves that it’s totally the wrong way to tackle the problem?

The list is endless.

So many questions, so little opportunity to simply offload the responsibility onto someone else, onto them. The insurance question is nice and comfortable and keeps the audience agitated, even though everyone’s apparently unaware that it’s already been answered. It’s something to have a bit of a moan about, nothing taxing, and that’s the way we like it.

We’re going to have to endure more of these myopic, insular and divisive discussions before the issues of freedom of transport become Us and Ours.

Comments (36)

  1. Excellent.
    One observation – Y&Y used ‘everyone else’ as synonymous with ‘motorists’. As you point out, not all motorists are insured or trained (and some who are drive as if they’d never had a lesson in their lives).
    But equating ‘everyone else’ with ‘motorists’ also completely discounted millions of people who don’t drive. It exposes the inbuilt assumption that ‘normal people’ are drivers.

  2. Excellent column, has anyone passed this on to Mr Boardman. Reasoned debate is required but is all so rare unfortunately. All so often the opinions and views of the vast majority are swayed by the actions of the minority. That goes both ways in the cyclist/driver debate.

  3. Fantastic writing. *thumbs up*

  4. This is one of the very best articles I’ve read about the prejudice against cyclists in the UK today. It’s factual and mature but your anger is still palpable…
    I think we have hope – the more prejudice we face, the more we’re responding as a community – social media being a real help here – and my anecdotal experience is that more and more people, when they drive, are taking care around cyclists.
    I would hazard a guess that many drivers see the hatred and anger on the online news stories and hear the stories from people they know who ride, and they see the (mainly) fact-based and balanced responses from the cycling community, and they realise we have a real problem with driving culture in the UK and recognise that it needs to change…
    At the moment, the massive increase in numbers has come mainly from grass roots rather than any real support from government – which tells you the UK public as a whole are up for this change and support cycling and understand the benefits of mass participation.
    When you reflect on it, to see such an increase in numbers in the face of so much resistance should be seen as a massive success story – if people are getting on bikes in the current environment just think how many more people will ride when the culture’s changed…
    I hope it’s the beginning of a much longer-term trend, God knows the UK needs to sort out it’s health and pollution problems

  5. Have you dropped this through to R4 / Y&Yrs?

    On here sadly you’re preaching to the converted – the likes of R4 is where you need to make your case.

    You never know, they might pick up on it.

  6. Nice article Bez. Unfortunately you are preaching to the converted. Any chance you could get this published in more mainstream or motorist focussed media?

  7. Bez hits the nail on the head again and again and again. It’s utterly demented that coverage of road danger is so focused on the man bites dog stories, while filing away all the motor accidents under “traffic news”.

  8. Not sure (apart from the truly horrific) traffic accidents are really reported now are they?

    They are just seen as “life”. At best a footnote.

  9. I tweeted it from my work account and stuck it on our FB page. Maybe if we all did that it would spread.

    🙂

    Great piece.

    @CarplusTrust if you’re interested in sustainable transport btw

  10. I’ve not read it fully yet, too long to read at work, but I will and the first part reads well and sensible.

    But let’s not ignore the simple fact and I know from commuting to work on a bike that it’s the minority of cyclists that abide by the laws of the road; the majority are a law unto themselves, they have little or no regard for anyone’s safety and that’s what raises the hackles of the motorist!

    But yes laws/insurance are not the silver bullet!

  11. it’s the minority of cyclists that abide by the laws of the road

    Well, the RAC’s annual report has repeatedly shown that around 80% of drivers admit to breaking the law, so I think the point is that people have a generally lax view of road laws.

    Quite why some people who ride bikes want to point out that a lot of people who ride bikes—rather than simply people—have that generally lax view, I’m not sure.

    Don’t constrain those of us who ride bikes by accepting the glass house that someone else places over us. Instead, point out that there’s only one glass house, and pretty much everyone’s inside it.

    Building safer, cleaner, happier transport systems is about understanding human behaviour, not about pretending that there are two or more species of human that are each only compatible with a single vehicle.

  12. Ok then, how do you format comments on this damned thing? 🙂

  13. That’s a fair reply Bez and I don’t know how to do the formatting either so can’t help you there.

    All I’m saying is based on my daily commute the vast majority of motorists are law abiding though admittedly not perfect and education on how to drive around cyclists is needed. But easily the majority of cyclists who I share my journey with at varying points on the route have a flagrant disregard for the laws of the road. And whilst 80% of motorists admit to breaking law a sense of perspective is needed – we’re not talking about jumping lights, going on pavements, going down roads the wrong way etc etc…

  14. Where do you live mackenru? The vast majority of cyclists being lawbreakers is not my experience in Cheshire and North Wales, (cycle commuting and driving)
    Though, it has to be said, the real dicks do somewhat stick in the memory.

  15. I live in Glasgow but I see this everywhere;

    Jumping lights
    On pavements
    Wrong way down one way streets
    Green man on a pedestrian crossing is go for a bike too (not walking it)
    Some people who clearly have limited cycling skills
    Some very sketchy looking bikes too!

    Maybe I should move to Cheshire…

  16. I have to say bravo – and between Bez & GrahamS there’s hope for reasoned argument yet..

  17. Red light violations are an interesting one, because of opportunity. Two-wheelers are able to filter through traffic, and thus almost always have opportunity to jump the lights (the exception being when the head of the queue is saturated by other two-wheelers).

    Wider vehicles differ, because for each lane it takes only one compliant driver to prevent anyone else jumping the light. This is a key reason why more two-wheelers are seen jumping lights.

    More here:
    chestercycling.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/response-to-the-iam-analysis-of-traffic-signal-compliance-by-mode/

    Let’s not forget, also, two other things:

    Firstly, many continental countries have an advanced green phase for cyclists, allowing them to get across the junction safely before the motorised vehicles set off, and this is something that people often “hack” themselves by going before green if the junction is clear.

    Secondly, one common feature of the dysfunctional infrastructure in this country is the advance stop line, or ASL. This is a design that’s intended to work in conjunction with an advanced green phase, but here in Britain we don’t bother with that: we use it to lure cyclists into HGVs’ blind spots and allow them to get caught in risky flip-flopping overtaking relays with motorised traffic. No wonder that people are then led into inventing the advanced green where it doesn’t exist: as soon as the lights *do* go green, you’re in a race for survival to clear the junction. Why wouldn’t you give yourself a head start.

    Of course, some people do jump lights for their convenience rather than for their safety. Again, though, context comes from the continent, where right turns (left over here) for cycles are often legalised during all phases, because they present minimal risk to others.

    And then, of course, there is a minority who do it because they’re selfish idiots. I’ve nearly been taken out on crossings in London myself. (But I’d still probably rather be hit by an idiot on a bike than an idiot in a car.)

    It’s extremely difficult to be totally quantitative and objective, let alone precise, about this, but taking numerous statistics together often seems to bear out the hypothesis that around 15% of people have a diligent and responsible attitude to road law and other road users, 70% a more or less casual one, and 15% a downright dangerous one.

    Those attitudes play out across all modes of transport; they just manifest themselves through different specific offences and violations.

    What is important to bear in mind, though, is that given this *person*-dependent distribution of attitudes, the total danger presented to the population of people on and around the highway becomes primarily a function of the total amount of kinetic energy whirling round the system.

    Which is precisely why, although a poor regard for safety with any vehicle is to be frowned upon, it is important to always reiterate the fact that it is the vehicle—its mass, its speed, the extent of visibility afforded to its operator, its ability to stop, and so on—which is what governs the overall level of danger in the system for any given configuration of infrastructure.

    So I say three cheers for idiots on bicycles. That’s exactly the vehicle we want the idiots to be using.

  18. As a professional hgv drive who each year has to sit in a class room watching videos on vulnerable road users , and our truck are fitted with side sensors video cameras as well
    I would like to see cyclists do a days training as well …
    When I go in to London (which I hate with a passion even after 22 years of driving trucks) cyclist car drivers taxie driver truck drivers have gotten so much worst .. No one has time or manners for each other … Now days but cyclist , are a bane .. In any drivers life .you will come up the in side on the so called blind spot, try and get tho gaps that are not there or safe to go tho…
    I would love to see cycle lanes used more and better built will it happen not a bloody chance not for many years to come so do your self a favour , don’t try and go up the inside of a truck … You will come off so much worst 🙁
    Ive seen it time and time where I’ve been turning left and my truck has got an audio warning on it saying this truck is turning left and you get some crazy fool try and ride up the inside of my truck ….
    I don’t want to live with that , for the rest of my life that I’ve killed some one .. Because he or she could not wait ..
    I will gladly sit behind a cyclist , if I’m Making a left turn , I try and give everyone respect on the road , but I would like some back of some of you guys ..
    Any little rant over , gets a bit on my tits when hgv drivers keep getting a bashing .. We are not all complete morons ..
    Ride safe guys

  19. Sorry Bez but we’re going to have to agree to disagree with the majority of your reply…

  20. And to prove my point (not) – on the commute home I saw 11 cyclists where I could assess their law abiding tendencies;

    Law abiding – 7
    Law breaking – 4

    Meh…

  21. Bez this is brilliant writing – Chris Boardman has just retweeted it 🙂

    I know the article isnt about infrastructure but another RLJ point is worth making (I commute daily in and out of Manchester) if there are 2lanes of cars at lights waiting to go straight on but I’m waiting to go left… I will go through that red when I feel safe to do so, because the cars will be waiting on me and I want to be out of the way. This (hypothetical) example is a breaking of the law but the poor infrastructure has left me in a lose lose situation. The car driver behind me just sees a bike doing an RLJ and thinks ‘idiot’ which I understand but they don’t see the choice I made from my point of view….

    The majority of drivers in the uk are courteous I find, the loons give the bad impression because they are exceptional (in both senses)

  22. The way people draw a false equivalence between cyclist and driver behaviour totally flummoxes me.

    A person on a bike is in charge of a vehicle which weighs 12 kg and has about 0.5 bhp (if the rider is fairly fit).

    Imagine a car that weighed a sixth as much as its driver, could only go above 20 mph if it was going downhill or had an expert at the wheel, could be parked pretty much anywhere, and produced no emissions. Would you lobby for it to be licensed?

  23. I just want to copy and paste two parts from Bez’s comments here; onlt becuase I think they deserve to be re-read by everyone. They are the crux of the issue that Bez has so masterfully identified:

    “attitudes play out across all modes of transport; they just manifest themselves through different specific offences and violations.”

    “although a poor regard for safety with any vehicle is to be frowned upon, it is important to always reiterate the fact that it is the vehicle—its mass, its speed, the extent of visibility afforded to its operator, its ability to stop, and so on—which is what governs the overall level of danger in the system for any given configuration of infrastructure.”

  24. “collision on a pavement”
    so, the cyclist was on the pavement then? You can write or quote anything but it comes down to the cyclist being on the pavement in the end surely

  25. “so, the cyclist was on the pavement then? You can write or quote anything but it comes down to the cyclist being on the pavement in the end surely”

    If you can quote the bit where I excused the cyclist in that collision then you win your own weight gold bullion and I’ll personally deliver it in a titanium helicopter powered by unicorns and fairy magic.

    This isn’t even about that collision. It’s about the fallout from it.

    Related:
    http://www.therantyhighwayman.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/we-need-to-move-this-tired-old.html?m=1

  26. so, the cyclist was on the pavement then? You can write or quote anything but it comes down to the cyclist being on the pavement in the end surely

    Those magic pavements where cyclists get directed to on many occasions?
    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pete.meg/wcc/facility-of-the-month/illminster.jpg
    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pete.meg/wcc/facility-of-the-month/springfieldroad.jpg

    And which often then just vanish, leaving the cyclist stranded in the middle of a pavement, sometimes not knowing if they should or shouldn’t be there.

    Not saying this is what happened in this case (I genuinely don’t know) but it’s amazing how a bit of paint on the ground makes some pavement cycling a council-approved utopian ideal of segregated cycling or an illegal activity which should be punishable by death! With no grey area middle ground in between.

    Bez would write that far more articulately than me (in fact I think he probably has elsewhere) but you get the general idea.

  27. Hi Bez,

    I’m pretty sick of hearing about London cycling. There are other places round the country too. Your articles seem to be less London-centric that the mainstream journos who can’t be bothered to do any research. given your superior abilities to see all sides of it you write something about this? Totally different sets of challenges, types of riders and reasons for riding. Usually things work better elsewhere despite having even less infrastructure.

    I’ve lived in Oxford, Cambridge and now Sheffield. Oxford and Cambridge and full of crazy cyclists, but they seem to be relatively respected and cars moves a bit slower so I suspect it’s relatively safe so they don’t need helmets, high vis and protection from drivers. This is because cycling is a way of life for a critical mass of people and wherever you go there is guaranteed to be a bike.

    My fellow cyclists in Sheffield have big hills to climb and cavernous potholes to tackle and the roads are less congested, and faster. Cyclists tend to be more experienced, highly prepared, obeying the highway code. It’s less of a way of life: popping to the shops is a right hassle if you have a massive hill climb to get there. People are probably taking longer journeys. But there isn’t the critical mass which give the protection seen in other cities. Smaller towns and rural areas probably face similar problems.

    It seems London where cycling and the user-user and user-infrastructure relationships appears to be dysfunctional. Clearly things need to improve this with responsibility from all users and authorities but the angst generated (see Mr Road-Rage saga as a good example of the adrenaline fuelled angst) is unhelpful.

    Im not trying to make a particular point here, other that I’d like to see the media stop obsessing about London all the time and thing about riders in other areas including outside big cities where the challenges, attitudes and skills are different.

    PS. I was sad to hear that no one admitted that they cycle on the pavement. I do all the time because the roads are so dangerous. Call the cops!

  28. “Hi Bez, I’m pretty sick of hearing about London cycling. There are other places round the country too.”

    Was that aimed at me? It rather seems to be, but I didn’t mention London in the article. (Other than the LCC, which is based in London but aspires to national influence via the Space for Cycling campaign; I’m a member and I don’t live in London, in fact I won’t even ride in London because I hate it.)

    Confused…

  29. No bez, quite it the opposite: you seem to be able to write balanced articles. I thought it might be sometime to write about. Most articles are London centric, yours aren’t but talking specifically about challenges in other areas might be relevant to many cyclists who don’t live in London in the same way you’ve highlighted other view points.

    I wasn’t having a go at you: quite the opposite.

  30. Ah, sorry, thought I might have got the wrong end of the stick there and clearly I did 🙂

    Yes, London is very different to the rest of the country in a number of ways; and yes, the differences are worthy of a column. The fact that a lot of the media are based there is largely problematic, but it may yet prove beneficial, once the new, segregated Superhighways are built…

  31. Excellent article Bez. Tackles so many issues clearly and precisely.

    The normalisation of the car is an interesting one.

    “Everyone” approves of money spent on roads because “everyone” drives.
    Money spent on cycle facilities is “a waste” because not “everyone” cycles.

    Yet bike ownership is actually a lot higher than car ownership (even if most of those bikes are just sat in a shed). In some regions car ownership is actually below 40% of households.

    So the reality is that there are a lot of people who *could* benefit from better cycle facilities But they’d rather pay for roads for the cars they don’t have.

  32. Wonderful, bez. Thank you.

    Although we have a long way to go when even on our forum there are seemingly endless threads about how stupidly fast I can drive my big car. Very depressing.

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