Monday, February 15, 2010

Daily Mail cyclophobia (again)

If you wrote an article about a minority group, suggesting they were muggers, lawbreakers, out-of-control, knocking down old ladies, ridiculing their dress, selectively mixing anecdotes and statistics to give a picture of an group worthy of hatred and contempt, you'd quite rightly be accused of hate crime.

For some reason, stereotyping cyclists is fair game, at least in the Daily Mail. Because it's 'opinion', it's somehow OK. Now, I am sure Petronella Wyatt is upset about her mother's accident. I'm sorry her friend thought it was funny. Maybe she should get some new friends. But this article doesn't read like a plea for safer roads. It reads like unreasoned prejudice. Cyclists are drunks, muggers, and when they are victims of crashes it's their own fault.  However, on safety, Wyatt suggests "Given the increased number of accidents involving cyclists, a change in the law that will force them to take a proper test and abide by a specific highway code is long overdue."

She hasn't thought this through. First, is there really an increased number of accidents involving cyclists? She moves from anecdotes to conclusions without bothering her readers with data or citations. For that matter, is there an increased number of accidents that are the fault of cyclists? On the latter, it's not true according to this DoT study. But let's ignore the facts for a moment (she does). Does it follow that legislation would fix the problem? On what basis? If it is on a safety basis, there are approximately 2 people killed by cyclists per year, compared with around 3000 by motors. If you want to improve safety, legislating on cyclists would not appear to be the best place to start. You might want to enforce the existing Highway Code properly. It's not as if your average mobile-phone using, speeding motorist abides by it (or even knows it), so I don't know why you would expect higher standards of from cyclists, with or without legislation. What would a 'specific highway code for cyclists' look like anyway? The existing Highway Code covers that stuff already, and has specific sections covering cycling.
What Wyatt overlooks is the fact that most adult cyclists (in common with the rest of the population) already have driving licences. Maybe there should be a 'motorcycle-style' test for cyclists. The problem with this argument though is that motorcycists have more accidents than any other group, despite their higher level of training.

1 comment:

  1. It's fairly clear that penalising cyclists isn't the way to save lives. This is little different from the calls for mandatory helmet laws. What we need is for drivers to behave lawfully and carefully around cyclists. Which means more Traffic Police. The design principles underpinning the transport infrastructure in the UK are all wrong. Instead of 'smoothing traffic and increasingly swept junctions to allow for ever-larger HGVs. Which merely encourages drivers to carry too much speed into junctions and therefore leading inadequate time and awkward angles for proper observations.

    It comes as absolutely no surprise to me that the Daily Mail publishes such tendentious nonsense. That is what they do. I have no idea why anyone would read such journalistic ordure.