Proportional Governance

Another week, another tired old cliché.

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This one is from Jonathan Haynes, the Guardian’s web news editor. Jonathan apparently saw some cyclists ride through a red light where children were crossing as you can see. This is wrong, clearly. The road laws are in place for good reason, to keep people safe. The law about stopping on red is for everyone and in this case it certainly sounds like the cyclists in question were idiots and should be brought to task. Of course, riding bike doesn’t suddenly make someone a saint and unfortunately you do find idiots using all modes of transports. As one Twitter commenter stated, ‘Idiocy transcends transport mode’. In one perverse respect, I quite like people like Jonathan who gleefully highlight cyclist transgressions as it’s clear at some level in his mind, cyclists do have the moral high ground. I’m also quite amused that Jonathan has felt it necessary to spend his morning blocking pretty much anyone who highlights the flaws in his arguments including me. Ho hum, I suspect I’ve not lost visibility to any particularly mind-stretching perspectives there, fill your boots.

As I say, his first tweet shown highlights dangerous behaviour *at first* which I’m sure all sensible, thoughtful people would find fairly abhorrent. Jumping rights is illegal (at the moment) and doing it when there are children at risk is particularly irresponsible. Interestingly Jonathan then goes on to entirely miss the point of all the complaints from cyclists he received by posting this.

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I say ‘interestingly’ but it’s not really, it’s tiresome that he’s completely ignored the fact that no one complained about suggesting cyclists should follow the law but that they “should be banned from cycling, should have to have licenses and number plates and if they break the law should face court, be fined and have bikes destroyed”. I’ve put it in quotes just to confirm that he actually did say all that, you can see it right there.

Talk about full on.

Remember, Jonathan isn’t talking about people running about firing automatic weapons about the place or about people driving many tons of machinery into crowds of people, (because don’t forget, those people very rarely face any punishment) . No, his beef is with people who’s average speed is 15km/h and whose weight with bike is almost certainly a lot less than Harry Clarke’s (the driver of the Glasgow bin lorry referenced in the previous link), in short, a very benign group of road users. Jonathan, like many ill-informed people, thinks cyclists should face the same governance and regulations that drivers do. And this is my beef.

Appropriate governance is what makes us civilised. We don’t use armed police to stop someone stealing food from a shop, we don’t mobilise teams of pursuit cars to bring down parking ticket offenders and we don’t license cyclists. It’s a hugely disproportionate response to suggest otherwise.

Does Jonathan truly believe that if cyclists were harmful enough to warrant insurance, the insurance companies wouldn’t have long since pushed for legislation to make it mandatory? Instead of giving it away free like they do now? It’s a very naive perspective to consider insurance companies not wanting to make money out of a large group of people.

Does Jonathan honestly believe that number plates are the answer to the issues he perceives? Lets be clear, this is a mind-crushingly boring subject brought up time and time again by councils in an attempt to solve some strange problem that they’re never fully open about. It repeatedly fails again and again, usually because the scheme loses huge amounts of money and doesn’t provide any benefit whatsoever.

Does Jonathan believe that crushing bikes is actually proportionate. Note that the police can only seize and ultimately crush cars in the UK under two circumstances. No insurance and repeated anti-social driving. Both crimes are responsible for many deaths (approx 160 a year from uninsured drivers) and a huge amount of serious injury and this measure has only been in place a few years. Cars can only be crushed if the perpetrators do not pay the fines imposed upon them.

Of course it’s completely over the top to suggest these measures for cyclists because cyclists are largely harmless. Yes there are instances (anecdotal chatter about mindless cyclists charging down a pavement don’t count) where there is a perception of dangerous behaviour but the statistics simply don’t bear this out. I’ve dug out this handy set of stats that coincidentally, the Guardian online has put together. It’s (well this is a bit embarrassing, Jonathan), not very well formatted but it looks like pedestrians killed by cyclists across 2009-2010 is 3. Obviously every death is a tragedy but the results are very clearly in favour of forgetting wasting time with talking about placing governance on cyclists and focussing a bit more on the groups that are ALREADY GOVERNED to the degree that Jonathan demands because in actually fact, they’re the groups that are going round slaughtering pedestrians in their thousands.

stats

Yes, yes, ‘slaughtering’ is quite an emotional word but it really does get on my wick a bit when nonsense (another emotive word) like this is brought up. Appropriate governance is important because a lorry weighing 20 tons can create a massive amount of heartbreak and tragedy in a couple of seconds even when driven very slowly when vulnerable people around. A car weighing considerably less can (and does daily), create moderately less harm but it still only takes the time it takes to look at that text to irrecoverably ruin many peoples lives instantly.

This is why lorry drivers must be constantly governed, tested and checked appropriately.

This is why car drivers must be constantly governed, tested and checked appropriately.

And that single digit figure, while appallingly desperate to look at, is why the focus does not need to be on cyclists.

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