What do they have in common?

John Griffin Addison Lee & heavies_ Cycling die-in

Photos: Norman Baker MP; Mike Pennington MP; Addison Lee’s Mr Griffin with staff: (DfT; Daily Telegraph; Cyclists in the City)

Above are the two Government Ministers responsible for cycling and road safety and the Chairman of Addison Lee (with members of his staff). They all claim to be concerned for the safety of cyclists: indeed all have signed up to The Times campaign.

It may seem unfair to link the author of a tirade against cyclists with elected politicians nominally committed to supporting cycling. But I think it is there. Essentially all three start off with assumption that cyclists are “vulnerable road users” – so-called because they are outside motor vehicles when travelling, as is most of humanity – and are a problem because of this.

As explained in the last post , the way that the two Ministers – expressing traditional “road safety” ideology – measure the safety of cyclists actually works against more and safer cycling. It does so because a road user who is more likely to be hurt in a collision because they are outside a motor vehicle – namely cyclists and pedestrians, particularly if they are elderly or children – are a particular problem because of this vulnerability. This is echoed by Mr Griffin of Addison Lee, with his implication that being inside a crashworthy vehicle involves fulfilling some sort of responsibility.

(Somehow this doesn’t extend towards the most hazardous form of road transport, namely motorcycling, but let’s not go there now).

What is missing is, as usual, the elephant/gorilla in the room. The Bull in the China Shop. There is little, or no mention of the failure of motorists to fulfil their responsibilities towards other road users. One of the failures of The Times campaign is the absence of commitment towards relevant law enforcement and sentencing with regards to errant driving.

Indeed, The Times editor’s outing at the evidence session at the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport’s enquiry into road safety appeared to present motorists as equal victims in an “adversarial” road context. It sometimes appears difficult to work out who is endangering whom when looking at this kind of narrative.

On a brighter note, your Chair attended the Big Ride on 28th April – what may be the biggest political gathering of cyclists.

PHOTO: Piccadilly on April 28th (RDRF)

Plenty of enthusiasm shone through the rain. Let’s hope it is directed effectively. And that is likely to mean finding ourselves at odds with those in power who claim to be on the side of cyclists.