Monday, 30 December 2013

It Wasn't Simple Enough.

Followers of this blog might remember a while back I posted a blog called Let's Keep It Simple. Feel free to read it, although it probably isn't worth it. It would appear that it was not simple enough and thus failed catastrophically in it's aim.

That particular blog's aim was to point out....and I'll try explaining this a few different ways......

  1. Cyclist A is not guilty of the sins of cyclist B. 
  2. Cyclists do not suffer collective guilt.
  3. Just because that bloke in Lycra jumped a red light doesn't mean just because I wear Lycra that I will jump a red light.
  4. Not all cyclists rob and assault 78 year old pensioners
  5. Not all cyclists are in fact cyclists, often they are just people riding a bike, just as drivers are just people driving cars. Some make more mistakes than others.
I fear though, that the above further simplification may have come too late. 

Cyclists must exercise responsibility if they want to be taken seriously as a mainstream form of transport.

Ah.

It would seem that some muppet on the internet, and yes, there are quite a few, hasn't quite got it yet. This 'Troll' is suggesting that, if we cyclists (I'm sure he really means people who ride a bike and not just Lycra warriors like myself) want to have investment in safety aimed at users of those/we dastardly, unmotorised, two wheeled killing machines, that they/we should damn well start behaving ourselves. Otherwise we/they should be sticking to stabilisers and Centre Parcs.

Effectively this troll is shouting very loudly from his very, very large virtual car...

GET OFF MY ROAD

Of course we all know that the bottom half of the internet and the Daily Mail is best avoided if we want to take part in reasoned discussion about such topics....But wait....This wasn't in the Daily Mail, and it wasn't in the bottom half of the internet. In fact it came from someone who by definition is an advanced user of our roads. Not only is he an advanced user, he is the advanced road user in charge of setting policy for lots of other advanced road users. He has a BSc and MSc that suggest that he is the very guy who knows what he is talking about when it comes to making our roads safe........

Who is this troll.....I mean expert?

This chap.

Yes, he is Neil Greig the Director of Policy and Research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

So here (and here is the article in the Herald) we have someone in a position of responsibility suggesting that cyclists need to behave...or you can forget being taken seriously.

Fantastic. Well done. Bravo.

It's about time that someone took the 'bull by the horns' and suggested that road investment should be linked to the behaviour of each group that uses the road. I think this could work. First, we will look at the percentage of drivers who don't break the speed limit. That's a good place to start isn't it, as speed is definitely a contributory factor in accidents and the severity of the outcomes. ( I await a visit from the Safepeed forum....)

Let's look here.

According to RoSPA (did you know that Neil use to work there....) about 50% of drivers routinely go over the speed limit. About half. Not a few, but a half. (I suspect this is under-reported). 14% routinely speed excessively. That is, and this is what the report says, Excessive speeders normally ignore the 30 mph limit, and often by a wide margin. 

These drivers aren't just speeding they are completely ignoring the rules, and by a large amount.

14%. About 1 in 7 drivers are downright dangerous.

Hold the press!!

What Neil is actually suggesting is that we shouldn't take a mode of transport (I'm assume he is a fair man and wouldn't be biased.....) seriously if the users of that mode of transport don't take the rules seriously. So, without even having looked at mobile phone use, red light jumping, drink driving etc, we have already established that a large proportion of drivers routinely flout the rules.

The headline in the herald article should not read:

Motoring groups welcome 25% rise in fines for cyclists

It should read:

Motoring groups call for halt in motoring investment until motorists behave.

Is there a fault in my logic here?

Ok, let's bump back to earth for a reality check. Neil  is quite simply applying double standards. People driving cars misbehave or make mistakes. People riding bikes misbehave or make mistakes. People walking across the road misbehave or make mistakes. These are fact of life and unfortunately, facts of life that cannot be eliminated. What we can do though is make it harder for people to misbehave either by enforcement or by design.

Enforcement is certainly part of the answer and yes, this applies to cyclists as well as drivers. However, what is not mentioned at all in this article is difference in risk that each road user represents to others. No matter what way you look at it, drivers are a much greater risk to anyone on the roads than cyclists or pedestrians will ever be, so when pushing for enforcement that needs to be taken into account.

So what is the real answer?

The real answer is design.

The positive effects of road design are something that road designers have known for many, many years. If the road is designed in such a way to make it difficult to drive dangerously then the road is intrinsically safer. If the road is designed to help an guide the more vulnerable road users, then again it is safer. The problem at the moment is that safety, and also importantly, convenience are all designed around the motor car. In fact, it is often the case that people on bikes behave badly because of that very fact.

So Neil, stop talking about a link between behaviour and investment. That's a red herring and you know it. Let's start being constructive about how we can make our roads safer and nicer places to be for everyone (including your members) by looking at how we can make the roads safer and nicer for people who aren't just in a motor vehicle.

Oh and Neil, perhaps it's worth experiencing things from the other side as well. I'm more than happy to take you on a bike ride around my commute. Let me know if you are keen.


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