Friday, January 18, 2013


We don't normally do stories about injustice on this blog, because it would be a bit like writing about punctures. There's just too many of them.

This story about the bloke who took his 4x4 up Mount Snowdon caught my eye though. His abortive ascent got him a 22-month jail sentence, for "dangerous driving".

Dangerous, it seems, has the opposite meaning in a court of law than it does in everyday life. If you destroy someone's life with a large truck while using a mobile phone, that's not dangerous. If you kill someone by opening a car door, that's not dangerous. But if you drive a car up a mountain, at night when there's no-one around, and in the process no-one gets killed or injured, that is dangerous.

At Cycalogical, we don't want to encourage people to drive 4x4 vehicles anywhere, except if you're a farmer or othewise have legitimate business off-road or in conditions where 2-wheel drive vehicles can't be used. 4x4s are extremely dangerous when used irresponsibly, for example driving to the shops in London, because of the high carbon emissions which will endanger future generations in the shape of climate change. That's not illegal of course, it's just immoral. But there are plenty of road users who are committing crimes that result in death and injury, and are dangerous by any reasonable definition of the word, but don't seem to meet the impossibly high standards of the UK law's definition of "dangerous".

Time for those in charge of the criminal justice system to buy a dictionary?


  1. I believe that the dangerous aspect was that he drove on railway tracks, damaging the points and potentially causing a train crash.

    That said, how the other examples you give do not qualify as dangerous baffles me.

  2. Cycalogical is I think referring to the derisory sentences given to people who commit the offences mentioned.

  3. "Driving to the shops in London ... will endanger future generations in the shape of climate change."

    I have been having a bit of a debate with Gnomeicide about an old chestnut of mine: network first and then a separation of functions, or isolated bits of high quality infrastructure first and then join up the pieces? He wouldn't answer the question, and nor would he tell me his plans for Year One and Year Two. C'est la guerre.

    He did, however, make the point that I "repeatedly cite as evidence other opinions to back up [my] own opinion. Which isn't particularly helpful."

    Anyway, I was perusing a book entitled How to live a low-carbon life when I came across a chapter about car travel:

    "Most people need a car. Some families need two. But many of us can adjust our behaviour so as to use the automobile less. I will ignore the appalling possibility that, by reducing congestion, using your car less will encourage others to use theirs more, thus wiping out any benefit from your actions. This kind of economist's logic creates inertia and despair.

    "In a more optimistic frame of mind, what happens to carbon dioxide when one decides never to take the car on journeys of less than two miles and replaces these trips with a walk?

    "[The National Travel Survey data (DfT, 2005)] shows that replacing all car trips of less than two miles does not result in a substantial reduction in car travel. Although these trips account for about one quarter of all journeys, they represent only about 3.5 per cent of the 5000 or so miles that each person typically drives every year. (But note, however, that the National Travel Survey data seem to underestimate the actual amount of car travel by as much as half. The actual mileage of car travel per person should certainly be over 8000 miles. Perhaps the survey results contain a phenomenon well known to market researchers - 'virtuous' rather than accurate answers.)

    "If we were to assume that the survey respondents did accurately report the number of car trips of less than 2 miles, how much carbon dioxide would be saved by shifting to walking?

    "Short trips will typically be fuel-inefficient because engines take time to warm up and deliver their best fuel economy. But at average fuel economy, the saving might be no more than 50kg of carbon dioxide a year. And even if the respondents had underestimated their journeys by a half, the benefit is unlikely to average more than 80 kg.

    "This demonstrates an uncomfortable fact - it may be the short, needless trips that most enrage environmentalists; but cutting out the guilty dash to the corner shop will not substantially reduce emissions. To reduce carbon dioxide, we would need to attack commuting journeys and visits to friends. Commuting journeys are responsible for about 18 per cent of all personal trips and visiting friends, 19 per cent. Neither of these activities is increasing much; but the typical distance travelled on these trips is drifting slowly upwards. Ten years ago, the typical commuting car trip was 6 miles; it is now almost 9 miles."

    I confess, I was a little bit taken aback to read this. Even so, the fact remains that, in the built-up area, a road network which makes driving to the shops easy does nothing to enable a more people-centred environment, and also inhibits active travel.