UPDATE: The letter did not make the weekly printed version. One letter asking motorists to behave and stop thinking that they are without blame did appear, but none of the factual errors have been taken up. The problem is that doing so does create a rather long behemoth like below! --------------------------------------------------------------------------
I’m sorry to see so many factual errors and unsupported hypotheses from someone who claims to want to work for both cyclists and drivers. Let me take some of his points and explain why they are wrong. This is based on peer-reviewed scientific study, available on the internet (please do look for yourselves!) not some ad-hoc guess or random personal anecdotal experience.
- Ignoring red lights. Yes, this is a problem, and I urge cyclists to think what they are doing. I also urge drivers to do the same as nationally studies show a higher percentage of drivers jump red lights than cyclists. For drivers this usually occurs when the lights are changing, just when pedestrians are about to cross. Also, some studies show that some cyclists jump red lights to get out of the way of danger, usually waiting next to HGVs in their blind spot.
- Wearing Cycle Helmets. This is a common misconception amongst many, so let’s make it clear. Cycle Helmets are designed to protect heads when in a fall from a bike under 12mph. They are not designed for collisions with vehicles. The British Medical Journal suggested recently that kids should wear helmets, as they are more likely to suffer a fall. It also said the evidence they protect adults against serious head injury is “equivocal” (i.e. questionable). It’s sad that Mr Sparsis uses his experience in the medical profession in such a misleading manner. Clearly he is not an expert in this area despite hinting at it. Also, a study by Dr Ian Walker (Traffic, transport and environment psychologist) shows that wearing a helmet leads to drivers pass closer when overtaking, thus increasing the danger to the cyclist.
- Riding poorly maintained bikes. Again, I urge cyclists to perform maintenance. It’s actually not that difficult to do. I also urge drivers to do the same, as many cars are not fit for the roads either.
- Ignoring the need for lights. Cycling without lights is silly. I just got another pair for £3. However, in a recent crackdown, police only managed to catch 1 person every 80 minutes. Hardly the problem it would seem to be.
- Ignoring the basic rules of the road. Without repeating the first item above, this is something for everyone again. Looking at police studies, over 158 thousand drivers where spotted speeding in 17 weekly locations last year in Cambridge. And in another police study, only 25% of vehicles were driven in a way that would avoid prosecution for speeding in a location in south Cambridge.
I think it wrong to think of cyclists versus cars versus pedestrians, we all have to share. And all of us are responsible for our own behaviour when doing so. We all make mistakes, that is inevitable. However, making a mistake in 1 ton of metal has much more consequence than when on a bike. I drive and cycle and know that I make mistakes on both. I try very hard to limit them, and when driving, spend a lot more effort being slower and much more aware of possible dangers, like someone stepping off the pavement without looking. I take on that responsibility, as we all should do, when I get in a car and take control of a large, powerful machine. The best protection against having an collision in a car where the cyclist is at fault (which is pretty rare) is to give enough space, and spot potential issues a long time before they occur. Far too many drivers seem to switch off from this behaviour and follow an automaton process not paying enough attention.
Finally, the little disc on the front of each car is Vehicle Emissions Duty. Paying for this disc is based on how much the car pollutes the air. Lots of low emission cars pay nothing. This, and petrol duty, and parking charges, and all the other things do NOT pay for the roads. In fact, even if it were ring-fenced (and it’s not), if you added it all up, it still comes in short. Our roads are paid for by general taxation, including council tax. Again, studies have shown that nationally those who cycle earn more and thus contribute more to this than those who don’t.
As I say, if you disagree with the above analysis, please do search amongst the studies that are available online. Don’t just assume because you think you see differently sometimes, that you know everything. And don’t assume I do either, read the research!