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The Pavement Cycling Issue

  1. The Road “Safety” Crackdown comes in the wake of the hit-and-run death of a cyclist, Jake Gilmore, in Bath in November. He was one of a number of cyclists who died in what was a dark month for road safety in the UK.
  2. Police forces in other locations – notably London, Edinburgh and Bristol – have also mounted similar crackdowns in the last few weeks.
  3. “Crackdowns” are barely more than PR exercises. They are designed to give the impression that roads policing still occurs, when it hasn’t done so in any meaningful way for 20 or more years.
  4. The road conditions we have are, in part, due to the Police’s unwillingness to actually police them over the last 20-odd years.
  5. This makes it slightly ironic that, in the name of road safety, cyclists were given advice – “stop riding on the pavement; take your place on the road” – that would increase their exposure to risk.
  6. Pavement cycling is illegal.
  7. However, when the Fixed Penalty Notice was introduced as a penalty in 1999, Home Office Guidance stated that it was only to be used in cases where the cyclist was cycling in an antisocial or threatening way.
  8. Yes, sometimes people get hurt or killed by cyclists. But really not very often: once every two years or so.
  9. You’re 500 times more likely to be killed by a motor vehicle on the pavement, than by a bicycle.
  10. Many UK cycle paths are converted pavements (shared use facilities), making it a confusing mess regarding where one is allowed to cycle away from the road, and where one is not.
  11. The motorists stopped in the “safety” crackdown were mostly using mobile phones.
  12. Distracted driving, including mobile phone use, is empirically a much bigger risk of harm –  both to car occupants and vulnerable road users – than pavement cycling, but unlike pavement cycling there is no provision for only giving penalties when it is done in an antisocial way. It is illegal.
  13. Despite this, the motorists caught in the crackdown were only given “words of advice” this time, not fines or points on their licence.
  14. 11 cyclists, and 10 motorists “caught” in one morning. Good PR for the police. Good business for the struggling local media (cycling is good for web hits).
  15. Everyone ignorescontinues to ignore the relative harm done by car drivers and cyclists, and cyclists are no safer (even, arguably, less safe) than before the “safety” (actually, “small section of highway code enforcement”) crackdown.

I wonder what the cyclist is

Nice old Dutch Look bike in Moorland Road, Bath

I wrote this poem when I was preparing my report on Andrea Leadsom’s Dangerous Cycling Ten-minute Bill for The Pod Delusion. The report featured in Episode 83.

Spring is sprung, the grass is ris
I wonder what the cyclist is?
Fitter, happier, more productive?
Or furiously, wantonly destructive?

You won’t get balance from the papers
Or broadcast media about their capers.
They’re either being squashed by a lorry,
Or scaring pedestrians without a ‘sorry’.

That’s if they’re not on a charity ride.
UK media knows on which side
Its bread is buttered; The motor trade
Provides advertising revenue aid

To an ailing publishing industry
The reviews of cars keep the dead tree
Press from croaking and going under
So against alternatives they thunder.

“Pinko commies! Yoghurt knitters!
Freeloading scum!” Littlejohn titters.
But if you approach it rationally.
It’s seen that, internationally,

The countries travelling actively
Have no need for behaving reactively
To the current cycling revival.
They promote vulnerable road users’ survival.

By thinking properly, in proportion
To the cause of carnage and of caution:
The motor-vehicle, whose use has been
Growing to levels never seen.

So I would argue the most rational
Form of transport is the bicycle.
Low impact and low emission;
It needs no coal and needs no fission.

It provides necessary mobility
While helping postpone morbidity.
It will contribute to the task
Of making more civil cities; is that so much to ask?

West addicts facing jump in drug prices by end of month

This is a parody. Oil is an addiction.

Addicts in the West could be paying up to 130p a hit for drugs by the beginning of next year, an industry body has warned.

The Retail Drugs Industry Independent Crack Dealers Association (RDI Crack) predicted prices could soar by 3 per cent ahead of the August Bank Holiday weekend and 8 per cent by the end of 2010.

RDI Crack, which represents around two-thirds of Britain’s 9,000 drugs forecourt sites, said the average crack price nationally could rise as high as 125.9p per hit in the new year, smashing the current record high of 121.61p.

But that could rocket higher in the West Country, where many addicts are already paying in excess of 125p per hit for ecstacy and amphetamines.

RDI Crack chairman Brian Madderson said: “The rebound in raw drugs pricing is disappointing but not entirely unexpected.

“It will further increase pressure on independent dealers who are fighting for survival, especially in rural areas, due to the double hit of falling volumes and tighter margins.

“This raw drugs increase will feed through the supply chain and could result in prices going up by as much as 4p a hit in the next three weeks.

“We also need to remember that the coalition government did not cancel Labour’s Budget commitment to raising drugs duty by 1p a hit from October 1 and a further 0.76p from January 1, with both having VAT added.

“Then we have the coalition’s Emergency Budget proposal to increase VAT to 20 percent from January 4, so the outlook remains extremely difficult for junkies and dealers alike.”

The drugprices.co.uk website currently shows the average prices in the Taunton area at 117.8p for ecstacy and 119.3p for amphetamines. However, the highest prices are 125.9p and 126.9p respectively.

In Dorchester, the averages are 118.3p and 119.8p, Bristol 115.6p and 118.2p, Swindon 115.7p and 119.3p and Cheltenham 117.6p and 119.3p.

John Franklin, from the RDC, said: “The future looks bleak for junkies, with rising drugs prices and further tax hikes.

“The coalition Government have promised to take a look at options to control the price of crack. However, the planned drugs duty and VAT rise are likely to add a further 5p a hit.

“If the Government really want to help junkies, they should abandon these planned increases.”

My comment to Radio 2 on cycle helmets

As widely reported elsewhere, a “judge has ruled that cyclists may be partly at fault if they are knocked off their bikes while not wearing a helmet”:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/outrage-at-ruling-on-helmets-for-cyclists-1645736.html. The issue was discussed on “BBC Radio 2″:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/ by Matthew Bannister, standing in for Jeremy “Daily Mail FM” Vine.

Just after the intro to the piece, there was an advert for the BBC’s coverage of Formula 1 car racing (something that encourages some drivers to drive like idiots), an unfortunate juxtaposition but typical for the MSM, where “dog bites man” or “car driver kills people” isn’t news.

Seeing as my comment wasn’t read out, I thought I’d publish it here.

bq. Cycle helmets aren’t a panacea. They tend to cause cyclists to take more risks, and some research has shown that helmet-less cyclists are shown more respect and given more overtaking room than helmet-wearing ones.

bq. The only thing that compulsory helmet wearing will do is reduce the number of cyclists. Fewer cyclists = less safety for those who remain. The greatest thing that would increase cycle safety is more cyclists.

There were lots of messages and calls saying “yes, you should wear a helmet” “a helmet saved my life” and “helmets should be compulsory”.

They should all go and read “The Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation”:http://www.cyclehelmets.org/. The issue isn’t as simple as “wearing a helmet = greater safety”.

There was also the usual “serves them right, pavement terrorists” rubbish, as well. This person should ride a bike for a bit, and then comment further.

A shepherd

(I found this in my inbox during a clearout…)

A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young man in a Prada suit, Gucci shoes, Dior sunglasses and D+G tie, leans out the window and asks the shepherd, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?”

The shepherd looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answers: “Sure. Why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Vodafone cell phone, surfs to a NASA page on the internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds, he receives an e-mail on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of complex formulae. He uploads all of this data via an email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturised HP LaserJet printer, turns to the shepherd and says: “You have exactly 1,586 sheep.” “That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my sheep,” says the shepherd.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the boot of his car. Then the shepherd says to the young man “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?” The young man thinks about it for a second and then says: “Okay, why not?” “You’re a consultant” says the shepherd. “Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie. “But how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required,” answers the shepherd. “You showed up here even though nobody called you, you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked, and you know f**k-all about my business. Now give me back my dog.”

Off to Austria

Got up and packed the van in a hurry, got the 9am bus back into Venice and visited the church Santa Maria della Salute and the church Santa Maria Gloria dei Frari which was really impressive. There were lots of large paintings (it was like a gallery) and 2 huge tombs, one that of Titian _(he’s a painter, if you don’t know)_.

Checked out of the campsite at noon and headed towards more Alps! Joined the motorway and enjoyed the awesome and fantastic scenery, didn’t do any mountain climbing this time, which I’m sure the van was thankful for. Had Burger King on the way (shocking, I know) as Tim had a craving for a burger.

Venice here we come!

After heading into Bologna for some last minute essential purchases – sun-dried tomatoes, parmigiano, porcini and fresh figs (yummy) – we set off for Venice.

Arrived at the campsite at about 2:30pm (it took a bit of finding); we settled down, visited the supermarket and then chilled out in the sunshine.

Had a bit of a lie-in before catching the campsite’s private bus at 12:30pm. Arrived in Venice at 1pm and wandered around the bus station for a while a bit unsure as to where we were supposed to go. Found a busy main street and followed it; bought a map of the city.

Venice is pretty, with lovely views but we got a bit swept along the tourist trail without really knowing any better. There were lots and lots of shops and street sellers selling beautiful venetian masks and glass objects (vases, jewellery, sweet dishes). This was all wonderful to begin with but after about 2 miles it began to wear a bit!

We had unwittingly taken a long route to the main attractions such as the Basilica but we got off the beaten track a bit and enjoyed seeing the canals and bridges. When we arrived at the main square – Piazza San Marco – it started to rain (only the second time in 2 weeks so we didn’t complain too much) and everyone headed for shelter. The area was completely jammed with people and the queue to get into the Basilica was large so we headed for the Bridge of Sighs. Was still raining so we didn’t linger too long.

By now we were quite tired from all the walking so we walked back to the Rialto (large bridge) and grabbed some pizza: huge yummy slices. We bought a few pressies (you’ll have to wait until Christmas!!) and headed back for the bus. We felt a bit disappointed and worn out by the crowds and endless shops so we decided to return early the next day and visit a couple of the sights we wanted to see.