… and lick t’road clean with our tongues.

Four Yorshiremen was always one of my favourite Monty Python sketches (though it actually pre-dated Monty Python). We must all have come across this kind of competition between individuals about who has had it hardest in some area of life, with the underlying implication that anyone who complains about anything less is just a wimp.

So it seems to be with riding bicycles. Incidents that make riding a cycle on the road unpleasant cover a spectrum of seriousness from annoying and tedious to downright dangerous. In some cases, an action by a driver that seems deliberate might be more annoying than one that was actually more dangerous but just a result of ignorance on the part of the driver, though both are likely to put many people off using a bicycle to get around.

Whatever the seriousness of an incident that is made public, though, there will always be the responses from some macho, battle-hardened “cyclists” saying that the incident was nothing; just an everyday occurrence; making a mountain out of a molehill; nothing to see here – move along; if you think that was bad, just look at what I experience every day (but I don’t moan about it).

I can just imagine these cyclists sitting in a café in their faded club lycra and frayed baseball caps eating their energy bars:

Idle: “Well, I had a bus go past me at 50 miles-an-hour, ‘alf an inch away, and it shaved t’beard off the right side o’ my face.”
Chapman: “Ha, a ride in t’park; I had a truck go right over me, and I had to slide down t’road underneath it wi’ th’axle draggin me along by my privates and lick t’road clean wi’ my tongue.”
Jones: “Well, I had it tough; I used to get killed every day by a 186 tonne truck and I still had to go into work and do a 26 hour shift for 2p a month.”
Palin: “And you try telling t’young commuters o’today that, and they won’t believe you.”

Listen guys, it’s not a bloody competition. Every time a driver does something to make someone on a bike feel even slightly nervous or uncomfortable, it further reduces the chances of people who currently don’t ride bikes from starting to.

I’ve actually had this kind of response from the police after reporting cases of deliberate intimidation: “I’ve shown it to some of the officers upstairs who cycle to work and they said it’s just an everyday occurrence”. Excuse me, officers, the fact that an incident is “an every day occurrence” is all the more reason to draw attention to the problem and do something about it!

Let’s get rid of this macho crap and recognize that every single close pass or tailgate is an issue, regardless of how serious it was. To quote ron611087 from the discussion on this road.cc article:

The underlying premis of near-miss safety is that there is a direct mathematical  relationship between rear misses and incidents resulting in caualties. The only difference between the two is chance. If you don’t stop the near misses you won’t stop the casualties.
Therein lies one of the problems of road safety. Every near-miss that does not result in a casualty positively reinforces the practice in the drivers mind as safe .  It’s a delusion, as the maths will always demonstrate. Drivers are simply playing russian roulette with someone else’s life.

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1 Response to … and lick t’road clean with our tongues.

  1. Scared Amoeba says:

    The human race doesn’t learn by success, it learns by failure.

    Richard Feynman said this (in the context of the Challenger disaster investigation): “The fact that this danger did not lead to a catastrophe before is no guarantee that it will not the next time,
    unless it is completely understood. When playing Russian roulette the fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next.”

    And as previously stated, it is Russian roulette by proxy, the motorist gets to spin the cylinder and decides whether to pull the trigger, but if it goes wrong somebody-else dies.

    With bad driving, the potential consequences for a cyclist are catastrophic. While I’m not advocating the death penalty for killing a cyclist, the repercussions for causing the death of a vulnerable road user must be severe and visited upon the motorist, and likely, otherwise there is no deterrence value. And currently, no effective deterrence exists.
    Motorists are being let-off with a metaphorical slap on the wrist.

    Former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer believes there is a “very strong case” for change in the way the cases involving the death of a cyclist are currently handled by the law. The former head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) believes decisions to prosecute cases in which a cyclist has been killed in a road traffic incident should be made by the CPS and not the police.
    Sir Keir Starmer, who is now Labour MP for Holborn & St Pancras, called for the change on BBC 2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme this morning in a report that highlighted the failings of the criminal justice system in cases involving cyclists.i

    “The head of Scotland Yard’s Road Death Investigation Unit has called for the merging of road traffic and homicide laws to impose stronger penalties on those found guilty of killing cyclists or pedestrians.” Motorists who cause death on the roads should face tougher sentences of up to life in jail because current penalties are too lenient, according to one of Britain’s most senior road death investigators ii, a sentence that is directly commensurate with the protection afforded to victims of violence when a vehicle is not involved iii.
    The head of Scotland Yard’s Road Death Investigation Unit has called for the merging of road traffic and homicide laws to impose stronger penalties on those found guilty of killing cyclists or pedestrians.
    Detective Chief Inspector John Oldham said that the relatives of car-crash victims resented the “very small” sentences when motorists had been reckless. He added that many cases were wrongly considered “accidents” when they were the result of human decisions.

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