This blog begins where something ended; specifically, a Twitter parody account: @NicewayCodeGB (which is still suspended at the time of writing; the real account, by the way, is @nicewaycode and I borrowed the name’s format from @HighwayCodeGB). I’m not sure what caused it to be taken down: I doubt 88 tweets in 24 hours was enough to hit the spam alarm, and The Nice Way Code claim that they had nothing to do with it, so I vaguely suspect that one of the people who mistook it for real (most of whom were put straight by other followers) dobbed it in. No matter; I think it’s probably served its purpose.
Anyway, this post explains the reasoning behind that account, and is interspersed with some of the tweets from it.
(Update: The account has now been reactivated. The suspension was automated and was due to tweeting too many replies/mentions. Unfortunately, Twitter don’t email you any information and nor is it accessible via the mobile apps, so until you log in via the full web UI you have no idea what the reasons are.)
Let me introduce myself. I’m an ordinary bloke. I’m in my late thirties and – no doubt like you – I’ve been using the roads all my life; whether on foot, on a bike, or in a car. Some would label me a cyclist because as well as a means of getting around it’s a leisure pursuit of mine, but then I’m also fond of hiking, running and karting, none of which warrant using the terms ‘pedestrian’ or ‘motorist’ to define me as an individual either. I’m no more defined by the mode of transport I choose than I am by what I have for lunch (today I’m a sandwichist).
I’d also regard myself as a responsible road user. I don’t speed, I don’t jump red lights, I don’t jump out in front of buses. I’m considerate: when in the car I’m patient enough to wait for safe overtaking opportunities when passing people on bikes, and when on the bike on rural roads I’m happy to pull over to avoid excessively holding up traffic. And I’m courteous: I wave thanks to anyone who cedes priority and to any passing drivers who are patient and safe when I’m on my bike. I’m not perfect, but I try my best to understand my weaknesses and make sure I never make the same mistake twice. I’m a big believer in all these things adding up to making our shared lives just a little bit better.
So when a campaign such as The Nice Way Code, seeking to make us all more responsible and considerate and courteous on the roads – or in their words, “designed to make the roads a more tolerant and harmonious place” – comes along; well, that should be right up my street, shouldn’t it?
About The Nice Way Code
Unfortunately, The Nice Way Code have decided to launch this week, including on social media, but to withhold the real content of their message until next week. The thing is, the iron of social media heats and cools very rapidly, so to heat it up and wait a week to strike is only going to leave people making assumptions.
Still, assumptions aside, the initial messages are not good. One of the first posts (now deleted from their blog but still on Facebook) says “Delighted to see Bradley Wiggins’ former manager [Richard Allchin] wading into the debate about road use etiquette!” and links to a related story in The Times.
Unfortunately, as is clear from the linked article, Mr Allchin waded in rather clumsily, armed with totally unsubstantiated and opinionated statements (the article references some more credible data) that are partisan and harmful to the discussion.
We don’t really know much at this stage, other than that this kind of contribution delights the people at The Nice Way Code.
With this as an opening (and, at this stage, lonely) gambit; well, how can I put this politely? Expectations are low.
Equality is not what it seems
Anyone familiar with UK equality legislation should understand that equality is not about treating people equally. Equality is about understanding people’s disparate needs and allowing them to achieve the same goals.
This approach is empowering and egalitarian, and it is a fine basis for a civilised society. It is what enables people to contribute to and gain from the world that we build; whether it is a blind person learning from a web page being electronically spoken to them, a wheelchair user being able to go to the theatre, or a woman gaining a seat on an all-male company board.
Sadly, this approach is but a distant oasis from the desert of attitudes that govern our road space.
Here is just one example of the disparity of needs on the road (picture by @veloevol).
It’s a stark illustration of vulnerability. One vehicle can be seen crushed under the rear axle of the other. The incident was fatal.
Even a small, inexpensive car provides sufficient protection for its occupants to drive into a brick wall at 30mph or more and step out uninjured. At the same speed, replace the brick wall with a person on foot or on a bicycle, and there is a good chance they will die.
The needs of road users are wildly and fundamentally disparate. This, and the principle of equality as supporting common goals rather than refusing to differentiate, must be at the heart of any discussion about sharing on the roads.
The low expectations
We’ve been here before with “share nicely” campaigns. We’re still seeing people killed and injured regularly. There is no one single solution, but it seems fair to say that segregation is key to ensuring people’s safety. In urban areas, that’s simply (ha!) a matter of making it happen. In rural England, it’s more complex, and for various reasons – some transient, some persistent— some pragmatism is required. The bottom line is that at time people will have to share the roads. So how do we improve safety?
We know what’s coming: vehicularisation of cyclists and pedestrians (as if being car-like is actually a goal, rather than an unfortunate byproduct of wanting to travel at more than 20mph); helmets and hi-vis (as if those who are hit by cars are to share the responsibility of being hit); collective responsibility (as if drivers can’t be expected not to endanger one cyclist if the kid down the street rides in the dark with no lights on – why should my personal safety be contingent on utterly irrelevant third parties’ actions?).
Frankly, the usual evidence-free, counterproductive, vehicularist, victim-blaming bullshit. That’s what we expect. Which is why I took to reshaping parts of The Highway Code as The Niceway Code.
The Nice Way Code say that “If the Nice Way Code can inform, remind or nudge people to be more aware of each other and share the road, then that’s got to be good for everyone.”
No, it’s a waste of time for everyone. A pointless gesture. I’d like you to bear in mind the above image of the tipper truck here:
Nice schmice. Let me be clear: when I’m on my bicycle and I’m passed by a car, all I care about is whether it’s patient enough to wait for a safe opportunity to pass and then does so widely, so that the risk to me and other road users is minimised. That’s it. I don’t give a toss how they feel about me, whether they think all cyclists abuse the law or whether they think “road tax” still exists; I don’t care about anything other than they don’t hit me or come close to doing so. There’s lots of people I think are tossers, but that’s a whole world away from me finding people who wear the same jumper as them and deciding I don’t give a monkeys for their physical safety.
Equally, if someone drives a car into me I couldn’t give two hoots whether the nicest person in the world or whether their view of cyclists is entirely rose-tinted and adoring. They’ve got a car and if they’re not driving it with sufficient care, I’m fucked, and that’s all there is to it.
There is only one winner from a “be nice” campaign, and that is the person in a car who thinks they have a greater entitlement to the road than others.
The missed target
The problem is not really one of how nice people are. Even if we take it as read that the ideal solution is physical separation of modes of transport (which is what we should be striving for in urban and suburban environments), the secondary pragmatic issue is still not one of niceness. It is one of poor driving standards.
People who kill on the roads do not do so because they intend to. They do so because of incompetence and distraction. Whether it’s adjusting a satnav while driving, failing to slow down into a glaring sun, using a phone, failing to hand in a licence when eyesight deteriorates, or whatever, people do these things because they’ve got away with it for so long and they genuinely believe they’ll keep getting away with it.
Being nice does nothing about that. Retesting people every five years might. Effective punishments for bad driving that doesn’t cause an accident (this time!) might.
But the idea that if I’m a nice cyclist who uses lights and doesn’t jump red lights (and that’s me) then I’ll be safe is beyond satire. I’m not scared of the attitude that cyclists are twats, I’m scared of a Land Rover driving into my arse at 60mph.
The only real way in which misguided, generalised and prejudiced attitudes towards cyclists are problematic is in the context of gaining the political will to implement things such as dedicated infrastructure and better legislation.
Yet here we have politicians spending nearly half a million pounds of public money trying to address this meta-problem. These are the people who are in a position to actually do something, and all they’re doing is pointlessly poking around with something that does nothing more than hold them back from doing that. If they’re keen to address that problem then the maddeningly obvious course of action is to ignore it and actually do something.
We are not equal
The idea that everyone should be held to an equally high standard of conduct, and the idea that everyone should be apportioned an equal level of responsibility, are both fundamentally flawed.
The generalised activity of getting from A to B requires neither training nor regulation; what requires these is the act of operating a heavy and powerful vehicle. It is the ability to amass kinetic energy that presents danger and, therefore, it is this that demands responsibilty. This is why we train, test and licence people who choose these vehicles.
Roads exist, of course, to allow people to get from A to B. The choice of vehicle, and the choice of responsibility that goes with it, is fairly free. The idea that we should train everyone to the same standard in order to transport themselves is another example of being at odds with equality legislation: it is treating people as equal, rather than understanding their different needs and enabling them to achieve equal goals.
If there is a battle to be fought, it is the battle of separating these two concepts – transporting oneself and operating a vehicle – in the minds of many road users.
And this is a battle that I doubt The Nice Way Code can win.
Further comment on the Nice Way Code campaign can be found in the next post, The Horse and The Python.
Reblogged this on The Lapmosphere and commented:
Many things in this post that I have wanted to express myself, and it is expressed here much more concisely and elegantly than I could have.
I have to say what a superbly written commentary on the asymmetrical nature of our roads and the inane pointlessness of the Niceway Code.
Much less ranty than I wrote here: http://totallycranked.tumblr.com/post/36282379127
I also brought up asymmetry here: http://totallycranked.tumblr.com/post/48607055359 (I wish I had pointed out that the accumulation of kinetic energy is the issue, that was a superb point to make).
And I wrote this today, which outlines the kernel of an idea on how we might achieve some equality in non-lethal accidents: http://totallycranked.tumblr.com/post/56971487777
The sad thing is that the Nice Way Code has been drawn up by people who actually believe their own message, despite all evidence to the contrary (I actually know who they are). Looked at from an international perspective it is clear that Scotland dearly needs to adopt the principles of Sustainable Safety, after all we need to encourage people to use active travel to cut the cost of our health bill before we go bankrupt.
Brilliant. You nailed it.
Agree with all you’re saying – simple as that. What I find is that after a lot of thinking and blogging, I’m becoming increasingly – if, as it were, quietly – radical. The whole panoply of ‘the establishment’, to judge by its deeds and not by its words, doesn’t give a damn about ‘cyclists’. Or, at least, it doesn’t care more than it cares about the oil/car lobby – which is far more lucrative.
The other day I posted Voters on Bikes, and that’s about as far as I’ve managed to get in terms of practical reaction to the problem. I don’t know if that’s enough or where to go beyond that. But I do know talk is cheap and it’s time for action.
Very well said
For sure it is nice to be nice but that is sod all comfort if you have just become another statistic. Great piece.
I am completely in agreement.
I watched this recently http://www.upworthy.com/take-two-normal-people-add-money-to-just-one-of-them-and-watch-what-happens-next
It occurred to me when reading your blog that based on the fact that many drivers see cyclists as not only smaller, but weaker and poorer than them (despite all the evidence that says otherwise), but on so many levels, even if you are Alan Sugar, once you don lycra and get on a bike, the bloke in a 5 series feels superior on some level. He’s not evil, it’s human nature. The two animals should not be allowed in the same cage.
Nice way only works under 20mph, ask the Dutch.
I’m actually so fed up with being back in the UK for 13 years, in that time I’ve had so many hits and near misses, now that my kids are getting into cycling I’m moving back to the Netherlands. I can’t wait for Cambridgeshire to build cycle paths, I will be a grandparent by then.
Oh just to clarify, if you go anywhere more than a couple of miles outside Cambridge, the modal share goes from 20% down to 1% cycling due to the fact that unless you are in a village most roads are 60mph with no pavement.
The blocking of your @NicewayCodeGB account with such speed speaks volumes about where we are in the process that Ghandhi described as “First they hate you, then they fight you, then you win” for the steady and passive pursuit of a campaign like this. As I highlighted when you claimed 100 followers in under 24 hours, the undercurrent of those who want this wrong righted is sufficient to bring out thousands on bikes with minimal promotional resources, with seriously noticeable (ie frightening) speed of delivery – at least 3000 for POP28, and more recently over 2500 at 24 hours notice to dmand action after the fatal crash in High Holborn. The PR companies getting paid to deliver the such weak and substance-lacking ‘campaigns’ would be ecstatic (us your own metaphor here if your wish) to produce the results achieved when the National caucus is wronged, and they mobilise with genuine passion for the cause.
The analogy of an iceberg haunts this debate, it goes back to the quietly suppressed Black Report results that pointed to a mass of hidden issues behind the visible crash statistics and the body count. It is a bit difficult (but not impossible) for a fatality linked to road and vehicle use to be ignorend, but the serious and minor injuries show up with progressively less .impact band urgency for action, and when it comes to journey foregone because of the fear of a crash the need for action is much easier to discount as ‘below the waterline’. Well listen up out there, its a bloody big iceberg below that waterline.
The @NicewayCodeGB account was not suspended for any underhand reason. It was automatically suspecnded due to tweeting too many replies/mentions. It has now been reactivated. Please drop the assumption that The Nice Way Code were trying to suppress it. Thanks.
> I’m scared of a Land Rover driving into my arse at 60mph
A collision from the rear is the least likely form of cycle-motor crash: even the doziest driver usually manages to look forwards, and even if they hate cyclists, they don’t want the paperwork that would follow a crash. Zoe Williams’ recent line that she feels “as safe as a bollard” when she rides seems like quite a nice truth.
Of course, being overtaken too closely, or drivers revving their engines impatiently as they wait to overtake, can be unpleasant and intimidating. But such behaviour is presumably the kind of sub-legal-threshold behaviour that the authors of “The Nice Way Code” hope to address.
I’d agree that 60mph (=96kph) is a mad speed just about anywhere that isn’t a motorway though; perhaps you should be campaigning for a reduction in speed limits? These have the advantage of being objective and potentially enforceable, pleasant as it would be to inhabit the roadworld of universal courtesy and consideration of the future right now.
As for those left-hook HGV deaths (which are common: >50% of cycle deaths in London when last I looked), they are 100% avoidable if cyclists position themselves correctly on the road, but the necessary moves can seem counter-intuitive (and involve disobedience to ASL lane markings from time to time). Again, a more courteous and patient road environment (a la “Nice Way”) would make these things easier for cyclists to do.
I’m still scared of something driving into my arse at 60mph. Regardless of how rarely it happens in comparison to other crashes, as someone who rides on open rural roads a lot and rides defensively and cautiously by anticipating accidents, the hit from the rear is the one thing about which I can do nothing and – other than a front tyre blowout at speed, which is a single-party incident and thus entirely my responsibility – it is the one incident that I do fear.
The statement that “even the doziest driver usually manages to look forwards” is sort of fine, but “usually” is not good enough. Do you want a list of cases where people have died because “usually” isn’t “always” (or at least “sufficiently often”)? Because I’m happy to drop a whole load of links in if you do.
Fine, I’m all for 50mph limits on non-trunk rural roads, but frankly the difference between being hit at 50 and being hit at 60 isn’t worth discussing.
You don’t need a courteous and patient environment to avoid sitting on the inside of an HGV. You just position yourself in the middle of the lane like a car. I’ve never once been subjected to any discourtesy or impatience when doing this. There is nothing here to fix, other than to remove ASLs and feeder lanes that encourage dangerous positioning and, even better, replace them with segregation.
You might be interested to know that while there’s still a debate going on in Britain about perhaps reducing the speed limit on rural roads from 60 mph, five years ago in the Netherlands many such roads in the Netherlands had their speed limits reduced from the default of 80 km/h ( 50 mph ) to 60 km/h ( 37 mph ). Even then, where these roads are likely to have many (where “many” is quite a small number) cars on them there will be a separate cycle-path.
While being hit from behind by a driver who has not seen you might be relatively unusual, it’s actually one of the more lethal ways to be crashed into by a motor vehicle. You avoid things like this from happening in the first place by applying sustainable safety principles, which on fast busy roads basically come down to finding a better place for cyclists to be than stuck in front of a speeding Land Rover.
“You just position yourself in the middle of the lane like a car. I’ve never once been subjected to any discourtesy or impatience when doing this.”
I’ve had a guy in a Land Rover tailgate me between two sets of lights leaning on his horn and roaring at me out of his window for daring to “take the lane”. I’ve also had a double decker bus deliberately swerved at me (the typical “punishment pass”, but very, very close) for it. My experience of the UK is that “taking the lane” is *mostly* ok – but one gets enough hassle from it (the two incidents above being only the worst I’ve experienced) to make me question whether taking a close overtake would be better each time I do it.
You can also (and I’ve seen this happen to other cyclists in Manchester) have left turning vehicles pull up alongside you (half in your lane, half in the next).
A collision from the rear is the least likely form of cycle-motor crash
Until it happens, of course. I still remember vividly being hit by a double-decker bus. My desperate attempt to dive out of its way; the feeling of being thrown through the air at 30 mph like a rag doll; the bus not stopping or slowing or being affected in any way. For a couple of years afterwards I found it psychologically impossible to “take the lane”: I would involuntarily flinch when I heard or saw any motor vehicle coming up behind me.
I’ve been fortunate enough not to have had an experience like Gareth’s, but I also brace myself when I hear a motor vehicle accelerate behind me, especially when I have my daughter in the child seat.
For the time being the sheer convenience of cycling outweighs the constant apprehensiveness, but I don’t know how long that can last.
As for being “as safe as a bollard”! Do I really need to tell you how often I see bollards knocked over at awkward angles? Likewise dented metal railings and broken walls. These things are all a lot less squishy than my fragile body, but they clearly weren’t safe at all.
Excellent article. Well said.
Dear Beyond the Kerb,
I can’t help but be saddened by the anti Nice Way Code campaign that you and others have embarked upon.
I worked on the NWC. But while I hope it does make a difference in changing people’s mentality on the roads, I have no vested political interest in its success or failure. I was merely doing my job.
However, having spent a lot of time around the campaign, it’s pretty clear that you are missing the point in a pretty serious way.
Firstly, I agree that launching the campaign before the work goes live was daft. It means people are debating something they haven’t seen. And some cyclists are getting very angry about something they haven’t seen, which is also daft. So 1-1.
But what will become clear when the work does appear is that it isn’t aimed at hardcore, militant cyclists. It’s aimed at the millions of ordinary people who use the roads every day. The people who don’t write or read cycling blogs.
And it’s pretty clear that a lot of these people don’t follow the rules – the simple rules like giving cyclists space when you pass them or stopping your bike at a red light. This campaign will simply try and convince road users that if you follow these rules, the roads will be safer. It baffles me as to why you have such a problem with that.
I agree that in a perfect world, the Scottish Government would spunk loads of cash building a cycling lane alongside every road in Scotland. But in order to justify the huge capital investment that something like that would require, there’s going to need to be more cyclists on the road. A hell of a lot more.
And campaigns like the NWC are trying to make that happen.
More cycling lanes would probably also do that, but this isn’t an either/or question: it’s a case of educating people then hopefully following that up by throwing loads of cash and cement at building better, safer roads.
So by all means continue to pressure the folk in Holyrood into taking what you think is meaningful action around cyclists’ interests. I don’t think anyone’s going to disagree with that.
But please don’t try to undermine a campaign that’s ultimately trying to improve the behaviour of road users and do some good. Because by undermining it, you’re potentially limiting its impact. And that could affect the number of people it convinces to go out and buy a bike and start cycling around. And if more people don’t do that, your dream of Scottish cities and towns being full of lovely new cycling infrastructure will become even more of an exhaust pipe dream.
P.S. If you are going to continue bashing the NWC, maybe do something a bit more imaginative. I mean, a parody Twitter account is hardly ground-breaking territory. In fact, it’s just a bit shit.
Thanks for the comment. Much appreciated.
I fully agree on several fronts:
Firstly I am not idealist in calling for infrastructure. I certainly believe it is the correct goal for urban areas, but it will take time and it will cost money and it won’t be ubiquitous. There is, and absolutely should be, space for other approaches.
I agree that the campaign is being pre-judged. But it was launched, or at least half-launched, so what do we do? The kick-off tweet was simply “let’s all get along”, soon followed by the delight at Allchin’s ridiculous contribution. If the team behind this was remotely in touch with cycling they would have seen the response that his comments rightly received and would have reconsidered their delight (maybe they did – I’m not sure which of those alternatives is the more badly-judged).
Maybe you’re right that once we see the campaign some or many of us will reconsider our position and get behind it. I’m fully prepared to put my tail between my legs and post a follow-up to this piece if so; indeed, it’s a possibility that was at the back of my mind all along. But on the evidence so far I’m afraid I remain rather sceptical.
I also take your point about risking limiting its impact. Again, something that was at the back of my mind – though, to be honest, it was already taking a hefty kicking anyway. But this has to be balanced with other things (not least the possibility that its impact may not be universally positive).
Prominent among these, to my mind, is this spurious concept of equality. This campaign seems to emphasise the need for everyone to contribute equally, to become as vehicular as the highest common denominator in that regard. This is difficult to square with the facts that motorised traffic presents the vast majority of danger, not only through basic physics but also through the behavioural causes of incidents – even without anything resembling presumed liability or culpability; I’ve lost count of the verdicts I’ve seen where little or no blame has been apportioned to drivers who could at least have driven in a more safeguarded manner. At the same time, of course, motorised traffic offers the greatest level of protection to its users, so the playing field is heavily skewed no matter what angle you view it from.
Another thing about this campaign is that it will produce zero additional uptake because the people who would like to cycle but don’t are prevented from doing so by much, much more than the few drivers who aren’t “nice”. In fact by ramming home the “stay off the pavement” message (arguably fair enough given the law), it will drive some less confident people away from cycling. It’s arguably subjective as to how much of an issue this is, but given the health benefits and so on it would seem odd if it was thought of as positive. But, worse, consider two recent crackdowns on cyclists choosing safer but less legal routes, one in Spalding and the other in Holborn, London. In both cases, within a couple of working days cyclists were hit by vehicles on nearby roads. In Holborn, the result was that fatal incident above. Have the risks of clamping down on, or at least further stigmatising, safe-but-illegal cycling been factored into this campaign?
What’s more, I really can’t see it impacting safety for those of us who do already cycle. Branding straight from a cupcake shopfront, a “humorous” take on things – who are we appealing to here? If it’s the people who aren’t “nice” on the road then I fail to see that approach finding purchase in their psychological outlook whatsoever.
And yes, we’re all probably over-focusing on the “nice” thing, but that’s the branding: nice. Nice pastel colours, nice humorous messages.
But here’s the thing.
See that picture of the tipper truck? That’s the reality. Have you ever had to have a conversation with someone who is mentally all there but who can move only their eyes – not even their fucking breathing muscles for Christ’s sake – and have you ever felt completely numb when imagining how they must be feeling and wished the ground would swallow you because you know that whatever you say will sound ridiculous and when you walk out of the ward after half an hour you will go and see your friends whilst they will never, ever, leave their bed until the day they die? Because THAT is the reality and it is NOT nice. THAT is the message and it is NOT humorous. And let me tell you it fucking hits home harder than a grinning man with a brightly coloured lollipop because I am shaking and have tears on my face right now.
And, breathe. (I am fortunate in that I can, after all.)
We are not all the same on the road. We have equal goals: to get to work to get home again, and to see our children, our family and our friends at the end of the day. Equality on the road is not about us each being reminded of a seemingly arbitrary selection of transgressions in some sort of bizarre trading exercise. Equality is us all achieving that goal of just getting home safe and sound.
Please, read the facts and statistics and deliver action that achieves that equality of goals, not this.
I was nicely riding my bike when a nice lady nicely turned her car across my path and broke my leg, my thumb and my bike. If I didn’t laugh about it, I’d just cry. Given the attitudes to cyclists from pedestrians and vehicle drivers, judges, lawyers, and the government are laughable, a parody account is absolutely appropriate.
And, yes, a parody account is puerile and shit. Some of the content is plain daft, slightly devilish for the hell of it, and not really productive. But that content is really a platform for a number of tweets on there which I will firmly stand by as illustrating some crucial bits of cognitive dissonance and other types of lazy thinking that frequently cause real harm in the politics and the reality of road safety.
There is one interesting thing about it, though. It’s racked up quite a few followers through its humour and satire. But it seems they’re mostly, if not all, of a similar opinion. Perhaps it demonstrates that delivering a serious message in a light and humorous way serves only to preach to the converted.
Food for thought?
How? I mean how? You’ve presumably read the widespread, widely explained criticism. You’ve seen examples where this approach has failed, for decades. You’ve seen the comparisons with other crass examples of victim blame. You’ve read blog posts giving excruciating detail as to why this is vacuous crap. How on earth can you profess not to get it?
It’s “nice” that some of backlash against the Nicewaycode has fed back to the people that worked on it.
I’m interested that you think it’s the “anti’s” who have missed the point as sadly it is them (us) who feel that the campaign has missed the point entirely. The majority of people I know who have taken gross exception to the campaign would probably normally welcome near £500k investment in a road-safety campaign. We all want safer roads. Desperately.
So why have so many of us taken such umbrage with the “we’re all equals, let’s just get along” approach?
Let’s get inside the mind of a cyclist, and try and get to the root of the issue. Consider road users. Are they all equal? It is the cyclist that is the vulnerable road user – 10kg of metal with 1/4 horsepower moving at 20mph is so unequally matched with 1,500kg of metal with 150hp moving at 40mph that it’s just not worth trying to compare the 2 as equals. And let’s not get us started on 15,000kg of metal with 500hp. Whatever the power and weight and speed, the cyclist will ALWAYS come off worst, no matter who is at “fault”. And by coming off worst, that means at best a light injury and damaged bike, at worst, death. So we’re a pretty vulnerable bunch, we’re pretty aware of this fact and we’re pretty connected to family or friends or friends of friends who’ve had a close shave. Or who’ve lost their lives.
But that’s just subjective, isn’t it. So let’s be a bit more objective. Well please can YOU tell me why the campaign has decided to throw every freely and widely available statistic or dataset out the window? They all show that in the overwhelming majority of serious or fatal accidents involving cyclists, it is the driver that is solely to blame. Focus groups are not objective, and they’re not impartial, and they’re not data. They’re the opinions of a bunch of selected (randomly or otherwise) people and they are liable to be grossly ill-informed. So why has the campaign not cited any of the thinking or expert advice that caused it to disregard the cold, hard facts and why is it not responding to the multitude of requests for it to do so? If it knows something we don’t, I’d love to know, because perhaps I’m wrong and if there’s research that shows me being “nicer” on the road will improve safety for myself, I’m all in.
So where else have we taken exception. Oh, that’s right “cyclists run red lights”. That’s an opinion isn’t it. So let’s stick it in our first press release, and let’s not try and point to all the evidence that says that this is an urban myth. Let’s just stick it in there, unchallenged, and re-inforce a negative stereotype as a valid excuse for the dangerous (wilful or otherwise) behaviour or others. Well, you know what? I’ve got an opinion too. I’ve got an opinion that there isn’t a taxi driver in this country who knows where his indicators are, or what they’re for, or who can use a rear-view mirror. My experience on the road suggests to me that this is true, and most of my fellow cyclists would agree. But it’s not a fact. It’s just an opinion. But why isn’t that in the press release? If you’d asked a bunch of cyclists in your focus group they could have told you it as perceived wisdom, but you only chose to include the age-old “cyclists run red lights” one.
So we’ve hardly got half way through the initial press release for the Nice Way Code, and we’ve found it lacking in any academic rigour and perpetuating unsubstantiated cobblers.
I’m not going to go on to cover the victim blaming, the aggressor-apologist, the specious psychology or the gross waste of a potentially useful budget on a frankly amateur embarrassing marketing campaign. I just don’t have the will or the time.
If the campaign had bothered to consult with those who are aware of how dangerous it is to be on our roads, I don’t think it would have come out with the same “let’s all be nice and get along” approach. I really don’t think anyone is more acutely aware of how hostile and dangerous our roads are than those who are obliged (by lack of alternatives) to cycle them day-in, day out.
I work hard. I pay my taxes. I try to live a good life and be “nice” and considerate on the roads. And frankly, I get fuck all thanks for it, I get endless aggression and my life put at risk day-in, day-out. So forgive me for thinking this campaign is pissing away my tax on a well-meaning cause but in an ultimately futile (and frankly insulting) manner.
And I wouldn’t worry about the NWC-bashing being restricted to social media and parody blogs. There are many an email and letters being written, all across the country, to anyone who might listen, soundly bashing the NWC and drowning it in facts, expert opinion and established reasoning to the contrary
Apologies for coming back with a third reply to your one, Sean, but I think this cuts to the chase:
I think the essence of your post is this part: “This campaign will simply try and convince road users that if you follow these rules, the roads will be safer. It baffles me as to why you have such a problem with that.”
To unbaffle yourself, and to see the hidden fallacy in the idea that getting everybody to follow the rules will intrinsically make the roads safer, please read this background to the Holborn fatality:
Sean: I can only suggest that you reflect on Bez’s reply, and on the recent considered blog posts of Scottish cyclists (such as this from David Brennan in Glasgow http://www.magnatom.net/2013/08/nice-but-wrong.html , who’s not a great fan of the parody account either). I’m not even a cyclist (I’m mainly a pedestrian in the relatively unthreatening streets of Kirkwall and Stromness in Orkney), but even I can see that the @NicewayCodeGB parody account is an attempt to cope with frustration and anger, and is not primarily aimed what may well turn out to be excellent TV and print creative work for the campaign (we can reserve our critique of that work until we finally get to see the ads). It is aimed at the obviously stupid and evidence-free commissioning approach underlying the campaign, which we can only assume has come from the Scottish Government. (Many requests have been made via the blog, Facebook and twitter for details of the research said to have informed the campaign, and for what the Scottish Government brief was. If and when what is provided turns out to be unexpectedly compelling, I will apologise and withdraw.) It is what the Scottish Government is commissioning, and how they are thinking about roads policy that the main critisism is aimed at (from, in their own different ways, Pedal on Parliament, Bez, David Brennan – indeed from most other critics I have engaged with- and also from me) . Please don’t take it so personally.
You say that the timing of this week’s launch was daft. I agree, and cannot understand how (shortly after 3 cycling deaths in 3 weeks) it was expected that everyone who had a view would patiently wait to comment until everything was finally published. Was the thinking that only the press would be interested in a press launch? If so, the people thinking that need to catch up with the online age. So I agree that the timing was daft: I also say that the design, tone and operation of the blog, twitter account and Facebook page so far (and the logo) have been amateurish, inept and insensitive to an unbelievable degree. The few motorists that I have seen engage so far (with the press release, with the ministerial video, or with the article on the Arnold Clark website) seem simply to have been encouraged in their (provably) wrong assumptions (such as that cyclists jumping red lights causes lots of accidents, equating the need for that to be addressed with the need to save lives and serious injuries by the behaviour of motorists such as in the videos on David Brennan’s blog). In fact (even by your own argument), it seems that the campaign so far has managed to entrench existing views of cyclists and motorists (exactly the opposite of what the campaign seems to be aiming at). As I say, maybe the creative work in the TV, press and billboard will overcome this unfortunate preliminary outcome, in ways in which all similar campaigns anywhere in the world seem not to have done over the last few decades. If so, I will apologise and withdraw.
To be quite honest, the concept behind the campaign (and I do not mean the creative work which I have not yet seen) is (to coin a phrase) hardly groundbreaking and, in fact, more than just a bit shit. (What is it about being groundbreaking, by the way? It is also claimed that #kidsinthecar is groundbreaking: I’ve not seen the creative work for that either, but at least I can understand the concept, and the supporting online elements are pretty good. What campaigns like this one and #kidsinthecar need to be is effective!) And although idea of a parody twitter account may not score highly on originality either, at least it does not cost £424,000 of precious funding (as I understand it, nearly £1 in every £50 of the funding from Transport Scotland on ANYTHING to do with improving conditions for cycling in Scotland this year), and it has managed to highlight the issues and engage people in a way which the official campaign has completely failed to do so far.
As I say, my anger is firmly focussed on the seeming attitudes which have led to this campaign being commissioned at this time, in the way it has been. I have no direct personal interest (political, professional – or even cycling). If the people who have tried to make the campaign the best it can be are feeling a bit bruised, then I can understand that, and do not seek to make those bruises more painful. But my real interest is in how public money is spent, making sure that most spending (in this area) takes account of easily-available evidence as to how deaths and serious injury can be prevented, and is not “spunked” on political whims and naive hopes.
I will continue to cycle illegally on the footpath around where I live when out with my children because the only reasonable alternative is to take my kids on a trunk road with cars and lorries doing 60mph or 70mph. Even if everyone were playing nice, this would still be inherently unsafe. The road would not be a better place. It would still be a very dangerous, potentially deadly place.
Andy & Bez
Some great points, very well put.
Firstly, the team behind this campaign are well aware of the perils and pleasures of riding bike, whether that’s in Scotland, Boston, London, Paris or beyond. (If we weren’t we’d have no right to be involved in a campaign like this).
Yes the odds are stacked against a cyclist, but in the eyes of many many motorists cyclists are far from perfect, and many use this fact to justify their own behaviour.
Now you might not like that, it might not be right, (and as a cyclist, it’s hard to take), but some of the criticism is fair. Agreed, these criticisms are minor and certainly not life-threatening compared to e.g. a driver looking at their phone – yes they should lose their license immediately. BUT, and here is the big but…we are dealing with perceptions, and if people don’t think cyclists are playing by the rules they naturally wonder why they should. That’s why the campaign has to have an even-handed approach. This might be hard to swallow but if the campaign asks cyclist to do their bit too we’ve got a much greater chance of getting drivers to do theirs, e.g when overtaking…Slow down, give plenty of space and treat cyclists with respect.
If that feels like making a pact with the Devil for some of the lobbyists I’m sorry (especially as they do a great job 365 e.g Kim). But I believe that a driver (esp. one who doesn’t also cycle) is far more likely to listen and do a bit of self-relection if a campaign is even-handed, doesn’t lecture and is endorsed by people who they trust e.g the RHA, AA, Lothian Buses – who as you know have an excellent driver cyclist awareness campaign and policy, and the IAM.
I’d also hope the fact that several cycling bodies also gave their input and support would suggest that as well as taking the temperature we have interrogated the stats.
Asking people to ‘get along as they get around’ was always going provoke debate, and I know many long-time campaigners will hate it. But if it stops someone thinking we should ride in the gutter, that it’s not fine to overtake at 60 on a country road, that signalling isn’t optional for any road user, and that we all know what a red light means- car, bike or texting jaywalker, then in my book it’s got to be a good thing,
Dialogue is good, so a genuine thanks for raising the level of the debate on twitter.
And there it is. No data, no objectivity. Just repeating them opinion that the criticism of cyclists made in this campaign is fair.
Stats do not support your contention. This is prejudice, and you are reinforcing it. Cite one example of a campaign against prejudice that succeeded though pandering to that prejudice.
Hi Ken, thanks very much for the comment.
You know what? I agree with you. I always stop at red lights and so on and one of the reasons I do it is as a PR exercise. I behave like a car so that drivers see a cyclist behaving as they have to. But that’s my personal choice. As it happens, I’ve never experienced real aggression on the roads – plenty of sloppy driving but no malice, other than a couple of shouts from the sort of person who would shout at a packet of biscuits if they thought it might provoke a fight – so to a point I believe it works.
But then, I’m in my 30s, fit, I’ve cycled frequently for 20 years, I’m capable of doing 20mph, and I’m plenty confident enough on the road to assert my right to be there and to ride in a defensive manner.
But only yesterday I briefly watched someone trying to deal with cycling on the road near my office. This person was doing half the speed that I like to do in order to feel safe, and as a result had no choice but to be relegated to the gutter. Instantly, it is impossible to behave as a car in this position. They then had to navigate a 3-lane section of road, and this was too much. At 10mph you cannot cross three lanes of traffic without fearing for your life, even if you could be certain that all the drivers were paying attention and abiding by the law and were not aggressive. So they waited on the pavement to cross. After a few minutes of solid traffic it became clear that this was futile, so they rode along the pavement for a few hundred yards to a crossing and waited there for the lights.
There’s the rub: demanding that people on bikes adhere rigidly to the letter of the law is a barrier to cycling as far as concerns anyone who’s not fortunate enough to have the skills, the confidence and the physical fitness required to accelerate quickly, maintain a high speed and take the lane.
For the Mamils, your campaign makes sense. But most people on bikes are not Mamils. For the vast majority of people, this approach of strict vehicularisation raises the bar for them in the face of clear danger and is obstructive to cycling as a mode of transport.
Questions have been asked on Twitter as to how many people on the team ride regularly and what their age/gender distribution is, but these – like almost all of the pertinent and valid questions raised – have been flatly ignored. Likewise, my question on the site asking what objective metrics had been gathered prior to the campaign, what would be gathered afterwards, and what the success criteria based on those metrics would be, has sat unmoderated for 36 hours. This lack of engagement with the one target group that has grave concerns about the campaign – and the one that stands to lose most if it fails and gain moat if it succeeds – is really not helping the cause one bit: it makes it look one-sided, dictatorial and ignorant. Nor is the lack of objective goals and metrics: it makes it look like a political box-ticking exercise which will be spun a certain way whatever happens.
Sincerely, thankyou for engaging in the discussion here. But it’s vital that equally constructive engagement takes place across all media.
Thanks for the response and I totally agree with you about the challenges for the less able or confident cyclists.
For the record I’m in my late forties, have cycled for as long as I can remember and stayed fit as a result. I’ve been at the end of some road rage and verbals and done plenty of stuff that many drivers would think I shouldn’t.
To re-assure you and some of the more vocal critics, the campaign is not about treating cyclists as if they had the same acceleration, braking capability and impact resistance of a car. Hopefully it will become abundantly clear that cyclists are much more vulnerable and should be treated as such. (Drivers who’ve never thought twice about this might even notice the message).
As a cyclist we have to fight the facts and battle Ill-informed prejudice on a regular basis; we are not responsible for the majority of accidents and fatalities, we are not riding erratically for the hell of it but to avoid the potholes, we ride down a one way street to avoid a killer roundabout, etc.. etc.
But, a number of people ride without lights because…? Without signalling because…? And don’t stop at red because..? (Yes,I know why people don’t stop at red especially when there’s no cars or people crossing, but that’s a very hard one to sell to a driver who’s sat through 3 sequences without moving).
Like it or not (and I don’t like it) this minority has a disproportionate influence on how a huge number of drivers feel. We can all tweet about how we disagree with what these drivers feel and get nowhere, or try to do something to reduce that prejudice. Stopping at red, signalling, and a few other small requests shouldn’t be too much to ask.
I hope he campaign will prove the doubters wrong, and create some healthy discussions. Maybe we should all meet up for a civilised pint?
(Re demographics and the cycling habits of the the team they range from 23 to 50, an equal gender split, have experience of living and cycling in a number of countries and cities, pedalled on Parliament, have Reclaimed the Streets (and been police videos in the process).
We’ll get some info on the KPI’s and stats to you next week).
Bez, not sure why you are saying the campaign is for Mamils. I’m 44, wear Lycra and ride a carbon frame bike. If people saw me they would pigeon hole me into that Mamil category.
I don’t jump red lights, I don’t ride on pavements, I ride defensively, I take the lane. I’m not a lycra-lout, yes if a motorist puts my life at risk then they will know about it, but I’m a safe, courteous cyclist that will pull over on country roads to let trucks pass. anytime I see a cyclist stopped at side of road with a maintenance issue I’ll stop and ask if they are okay and have everything they need (last week I stopped and fixed this guys broken chain because he had no tools). I don’t need to be told to be nice, this campaign isn’t aimed at me, even if there are those that class me as a Mamil.
Cyclists that I’ve seen break the law, which isn’t as many as motorists seem to think, are all different types of cyclist
Mike, my apologies: my comment was quite unclear.
I didn’t mean to imply that Mamils are more in need of being targeted. What I meant was that campaigns which discourage pavement cycling etc force us into vehicular cycling. For the Mamils (I’d be pigeonholed as one myself on many days of the year, much as I’d dislike it) that’s achievable. For people who are less physically fit, or less confident, or who are towing children, or who are children – and so on – it simply makes cycling less accessible or more dangerous.
Those of us who tow their children would simply not ride with them if we weren’t tolerated riding in a deferent and respectful manner on at least some pavements, whilst Spalding and Holborn are arguably stark warnings of what happens when people migrate to dangerous pieces of road.
Quote “a driver looking at their phone – yes they should lose their license immediately”. Well Ken, there are scores if not hundreds of videos by helmet cammers showing exactly that (and worse). Please tell us how many have lost their licence so far? But here you have hit the nail on the head – you need enforccement to accompany a road safety campaign (“they should lose their license”) – I haven’t heard much about policing bad driving so far in the releases. And you shouldn’t be “dealing with perception” when peoples lives/health are at stake.
See also analogy with drink driving – http://mancbikemummy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/the-nice-way-code.html
Thanks for your reply.
Unfortunately I personally don’t know how many people have been prosecuted for using the phone at the wheel. I think these people should be severely punished and that mobile companies and car manufacturers ( e.g. SKODA friend sponsor of the TdF) should be beating the message into their customers’ heads.
What I do know is that Police Scotland will be supporting the campaign, and would be open to any help they could get in identifying dangerous drivers.
As for dealing with perceptions, we’ll just have to disagree on that because we live in a world that is governed by perceptions, I wish we didn’t when lives are at risk, but I believe (as do many other cyclists) that we do.
Happy to keep the conversation going.
Ken: I have replied to your comment, but it’s appeared further down the blog as a new thread – apologies.
But if the campaign is supposed to make drivers nicer to cyclists, why raise the whole red-light jumping thing at all? Why not educate drivers about why cyclists sometimes legitimately do things that annoy them, like not ride in the gutter? That would be genuinely useful.
(oh and as a pedestrian too – there’s no such thing as jay walking in this country. Pedestrians can cross the road when and where they like, using any gadget that they choose. If they choose to text and cross the road, then they’re not breaking any laws, so they shouldn’t really be lumped in with dangerous driving OR cycling)
Disgruntled, thanks for feedback..
The campaign will educate drivers, it’s also a first step, they clearly need educating and all the posters on this blog and others can help in that process.
Sorry about the Americanism re Jaywalking, yes you have every right to cross wherever it’s safe to so. But call it what you will it’s dumb to do it whilst texting if you don’t look out for other road users as you;
A. Might get taken out
B. Might take out a cyclist.
Difficult one on the law thing though disgruntled. Highway code rule 163 about giving a cycle as much space as you would a car when overtaking isn’t law either, it advisory. Unlike rule 129 when a vehicle crosses solid white lines to overtake anything doing over 10 mph, is breaking the law ( which I have a nice video of a coach doing to me)
Ken, you said:
“we are dealing with perceptions, and if people don’t think cyclists are playing by the rules they naturally wonder why they should”
You have hit the nail on the head. It’s a shame therefore that this campaign chose to completely reinforce that perception from day one. (Btw, when mentioning people cycling on the pavement, you should be explicit and add the caveat “except where they are allowed or required to do so – please look out for blue sign before passing judgement”).
Which is why so many of us are raging at this campaign and have very little faith in it. It missed the point entirely from almost the opening sentence of the press release and almost the first post on Facebook. Time and time again this type of campaign has failed – it will be interesting to hear why either that inconvenient fact was ignored, or why this time it will work?
Maybe on all the previous occasions they used the wrong font or pastel shade? Which stats did you interrogate? Do share……
Ps – govt funded cycle organisations don’t count! You don’t question your paymaster. How many independent cycle organisations showed their support?
I admire you guys for feeling so strongly about the issue of cyclist safety and for taking an active stance on the subject. But, alas, I fear you’re still missing the point. You may not agree with the NWC’s messages (although why you don’t is still a mystery to me) but by undermining it at every opportunity, you’re achieving nothing. If you want to get to the guys in charge – the people who call the shots and hold the purse strings in Holyrood – target them! Don’t waste your considerable energy commenting, blogging, and reblogging about a campaign that’s trying to educate the Scottish people about the importance of respecting cyclists. Keith Brown doesn’t read the NWC’s Twitter feed. But some curious members of the public might. And if all they see are other cycling folk having a go at it, then they’re going to be a bit confused. Why not give the NWC a chance? Focus your efforts where they could be more usefully focussed.
If the NWC is a catastrophic failure, then by all means say I told you so. But the money’s been spent. No amount of chit chat on the web will change that. I for one hope the public responds positively to it and it convinces some more people to get on their bikes, some drivers to be less selfish/dangerous and some cyclists to do likewise.
So do I. Genuinely, I do. But, given that the campaign seems to rely on hope – hope in it succeeding where other similar schemes have achieved little or nothing, while enforcement schemes have proven effective – how will we know whether that hope has been rewarded?
There is no measure of success here. Even if you accept that the few bullet-pointed aims of the campaign are well-defined (which I’m not sure they are) how will success be measured? Have statistics been gathered for numbers of cyclists jumping red lights before the campaign and will this be measured afterwards? I mean, that’s the absolutely obvious and most basic type of metric: to measure your stated goal, regardless of whether that goal is in itself wise. It would be prudent to also measure other important effects, eg on the number of cyclists actually observed at all, to see if there is a negative or positive effect on that.
Such metrics would involve people standing at traffic lights counting. It’s low-tech, cheap, blindingly obvious, and absolutely vital.
Are these figures being collected? If so then great, but why have they not been mentioned, why have specific questions been evaded and why were Allchin’s clearly incorrect figures so warmly welcomed?
However, if these and other simple metrics aren’t collected, then the campaign is just pissing hundreds of thousands of hope-stained pounds into the wind.
Sean: I am pretty certain that even if @KeithBrownMSP doesn’t read the @nicewaycode or @nicewaycodeGB’s twitter feed (and if he doesn’t it would be very a very disappointing failure of engagement in his use of twitter), his attention will certainly be drawn to it over the next few days and weeks in many emails, questions and possibly (who knows) old-fashioned letters!
I’m afraid that pleas to keep quiet now simply reinforce the effect of the errors in the timing and operation of the campaign so far. The expectation that those interested in a subject will not engage via social media immediately there is press coverage, and social media forums to do so, is either disingenuous or naive. We could all be behaving as you suggest if the blog, website and twitter feed had been launched on 5 Aug instead of about 7 days earlier.
Anyway, we probably just need to agree to differ on approach. In my opinion, anyone who was likely to respond to the campaign, and who notices the parody or other comments online will not be much less likely to respond anyway. For those who are not going to respond, we’ll need to wait for tougher enforcement, or infrastrucutre improvements.
(Apologies, by the way, that my earlier comment didn’t appear as a proper “reply” to your original one. And I want to reiterate that my focus is very clearly on those politicians and senior officials who commissioned and resourced the campaign, not those (like you) who have worked on the creative side, or who are being expected to make the best of a tough social media environment.)
Ken: I have read your contribution and Bez’s patient reply. I’ve also now read the Pedal on Scotland analysis of spending (http://pedalonparliament.org/that-58-million-in-full/), and it seems I was wrong to say that Nice Way Code represents £1 in £50 of the available funding this year: it’s more like £1 in £35, if you accept the PoP figures. Either way, it is a significant amount of a budget everyone seems to regard as inadequate in the first place.
Having dealt with my error, I’d also like to add a few words to my comment above, to take account of what you say in your comment (as it largely boils down to saying Andy and Bez are just nice but wrong, all their points and mine still stand). If I were writing it now, the last paragraph would read:
As I say, my anger is firmly focussed on the seeming attitudes which have led to this campaign being commissioned at this time, in the way it has been. I have no direct personal interest (political, professional – or even cycling). If the people who have tried to make the campaign the best it can be are feeling a bit bruised, then I can understand that, and do not seek to make those bruises more painful. But my real interest is in how public money is spent, making sure that most spending (in this area) takes account of easily-available evidence as to how deaths and serious injury can be prevented, and is not “spunked” on political whims and naive hopes, or on some the desperate belief system of some politicians that wastes £1 in every £35 of the available funding (I got it wrong in my first comment), which cannot see beyond playground ideas of fairness.
I don’t want to sidetrack the debate onto other issues, but the sort of argument Ken advances is getting more and more prevalent in politics at the moment. More than one UK minister has been ridiculed lately for publicly and brazenly using “belief” to justify a course of action that is entirely contrary to the available evidence. It seems to me that the Scottish Government’s approach to this campaign has been very, very (and depressingly) similar.
Having read Ken’s comment again, please also add patronising and evasive as you read my list of shortcomings of the campaign’s social media engagement in the second paragraph of my comment above.
For the record the figures that are on the PoP website (http://pedalonparliament.org/that-58-million-in-full/) come directly from Transport Scotland, these are the Scottish Government’s own figures.
While advertising and marketing have they place, when money is this short and people are dying on the roads, there more affective ways of spending it. What we really need is a Sustainable Safety approach (http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/sustainable-safety) to make the roads safer for everyone. It is the failure of those who the power change things to act that is causing the anger (although what animal rights lobby will make of the “give me space to swing a cat” ad remains to be seen).
Disclaimer: all the assumptions I make are based on the “pre-launch” communications by Niceway code. I hope to be proved wrong, but really do not expect to be. If it looks like a duck & quacks like a duck, then it’s usually a duck.
Although I have been negative towards the Niceway code both on Twitter and on my blog, I do actually understand and appreciate the nub of what they are wanting to achieve and that is to try and achieve a change in attitudes. I just think the way they are doing it is wrong
I appreciate the points made here, and on their blog that separated infrastructure is ideal, and that we need to act before all that is in place.
I completely and totally disagree with the way the campaign has so far been even handed.
The assumption and prejudice that ALL cyclists jump red lights and cycle dangerously and recklessly needs to be challenged and put to sleep, not reinforced as the Niceway Code does.
I see way more speeding & red light jumping drivers, than I do cyclists or pedestrians, and that behavior is way more dangerous.
Most people are “nice”, and frankly most of the ones that are not won’t listen to a campaign like this unless it is backed up with some very strong messages and enforcement.
How is this campaign going to change the attitude of the vectra driver last week who almost knocked me off my bike overtaking though a pinch point, then treated me to a punishment pass, then repeatedly coming alongside to hurl abuse several times. Answer is it won’t.
How is this campaign going to change the Passat driver furiously beeping, revving as I waited (in a car) for a green light, then again overtook and verbally abused me. Answer is it won’t.
Will this campaign target drivers who repeatedly park on pavements making it difficult for pedestrians, or will it just ignore that & focus on the prejudice of cyclists on pavements, when in many instances now councils make pavements shared use, and that is often partial and ambiguous
Will this campaign change the minds of drivers who think people on bikes don’t pay, so should not be on the roads. I really doubt it will change such entrenched attitudes.
I don’t take sides by the way. I cycle, walk and drive, and see bad behaviour from all. The real menace is from drivers though which will ignore it anyway.
I’m sorry but you should really look at the actual evidence and maybe use the campaign to educate everyone that I ride on the pavement because I am with my children. That I am barred from cycling with them in a vehicular fashion because the road design and speed of traffic has forced that upon me. That very few cyclists jump red lights. Some actual facts. Rather than getting your knickers in a twist that people are pulling your campaign apart.
You sound like a petulant student that has had an assignment marked badly because it contains no substance.
Go back to the computer. Fire up the blog or the Facebook page and start producing some answers about where this has come from. Who you spoke to. Because to me it is is very one sided and just giving motorists the opportunity to gob off their ill conceived preconceptions of the majority of cyclists.
“False equivalence” doesn’t begin to cover it. When I drive, I have a completely different set of concerns to when I cycle.
Most of the roads that I use are designed to get me from A to B as quickly as possible, with lots of foolproofing built in. If I doze off on a motorway, a rumble strip wakes me up. If I go a bit fast, a speed camera sign reminds me that there might be some (relatively mild) financial consequences a couple of hundred yards ahead. If I’m involved in a collision, a combination of metal and airbags will let me walk away. So instead, I’m worried about the cost of petrol, or being late for something because the traffic is a nightmare. My safety doesn’t figure.
When I cycle, I’m much more aware of the risk to my safety, the potential consequences of doing something stupid, the potential consequences of someone else doing something stupid. If we do counter-intuitive things like taking the lane, getting the drop on cars at the light, or riding on the pavement, it’s not because it feels safe, it’s just less unsafe than the alternatives.
Cyclists and pedestrians do not need telling to “play nicely” – if someone drives a 1-tonne vehicle towards, us, we get out of the way. We don’t have a choice.
Ken, thanks very much for the replies – what you’re saying is certainly much more reasonable than the content website or Twitter account (in my opinion at least). Maybe this will turn out to be a decent campaign of sorts with a phenomenally bungled launch. I remain sceptical but who knows. The KPIs and other metrics will certainly help the discussion.
A pint is a splendid idea; unfortunately I am a little distant (I will understand if anyone takes umbrage at an Englishman criticising a Scottish campaign, but it launched via the internet and has been picked up nationally, including by the Highway Code Twitter account). On that note, will the TV material be available on YouTube, or will it only be broadcast north of the border?
Again, thanks for the reasoned discussion. Perhaps you should take over the social media role full time ;)
Agree about twitter, it’s ideal for being absolute but not for discussion.
The campaign TV will be on YouTube, as will the outdoor etc. The softish launch could certainly have been better! But I think it’s great that conversations are starting.
I’m sure some people will think that I and other keen cyclists in the team have either been disloyal or duped, but that’s fine. I think we should be using all avenues available (lobbying, debating, building, prosecuting & promoting) to mainstream and take the risk out of cycling. We might even need to adopt a tone of voice that makes us feel uneasy.
And no problem with criticism from down south, neither the highway of digital superhighway discriminate between nationalities, (I’m English, with a Dutch wife living in Scotland).
The social suggestion … .erm no!
No one is against “using all avenues available” to “take the risk out of cycling”. After all, we’re the cyclists – the ones facing the danger and most likely to be doing all the dying. The objections seem to be that this campaign will not, no matter how well intentioned, take the risk out of cycling and that the money could have been better spent. Of course, we wait with breath bated to see the actual campaign. Maybe we’ll be stunned or maybe it’ll be as successful as Foolsspeed. Five years of campaigns. Five years! At what cost?
Anyway, this is the quantitative evaluation of the first three years, which is pretty damning in its faint praise (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2002/10/15695/12380) and here’s the lukewarm final evaluation where the research is scaled back to 10 focus groups. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/171178/0047895.pdf
“But I think it’s great that conversations are starting.”
‘Conversations’ is a little too business-speaky; conversations starting is only good if they turn out to be worthwhile and productive. These conversations are between people involved with the campaign and people questioning it, not between the people concerned at the potential for effectiveness of the anti-people-scrunching campaign and the people who have the power to stop scrunching people with their vehicles. It would be great if you thought it great that the attitudes and aims of the campaign were being vociferously questioned and were modifying the campaign accordingly.
I think the reaction to this campaign has been way over the line, since when was education not important?!? The road infra can’t be fixed overnight, but people can be told how they are expected to behave. Yes, it seems the launch has been stupidly staggered, and the response rate on social media has not been acceptable (people often comment on social media use without really understanding what is going on behind the scenes with resourcing etc), but a lot of the activity from what seems to be a hardcore group is nothing other than damaging. I’m not a cyclist, I drive my car about once a week, but I do travel on foot a lot. I’ve been hit by a car when I was 22, the guy was on his phone. My nephew was hit by a cyclist who jumped up onto a kerb in order to take a shortcut, he fell over and broke his collarbone. I’ve actually glanced a ped with who stepped out while on their phone. Do I think a well delivered campaign can help? Yes I do and I hope when this thing is fully out there, that the wider road user will get behind it, and will be allowed to, not shut down by cyclists with narrow vision. No road/path user group is perfect, the response from cyclists to this campaign have failed to address that. I’m not attacking cyclists here, just the response from what actually appears to be a small group. Bez, thanks for a very well thought out blog posts and comment responses.
I’m with Farnie on this one.
1. Where did this campaign spring from and what are the parameters of it?
2. Will there be a breakdown of costs for this campaign?
3. What will be the perceived outcomes of this campaign?
I am also drawn to the comments made about how blogging and social networking and the negative implications it has on this campaign. I beg to differ. This campaign has shot itself in the foot in a variety of ways. Lack of public engagement,poorly written and premature media communication, and an unwillingness to be proactive with statistics to back this campaign. Then when the public aims to engage with you, you throw up your heads and and howl ‘NEGATIVITY – you don’t understand what we are trying to get at’. Well, we don’t.
Blogging on the other hand has led to some great campaigning outcomes, especially in London. There was a ride that was organised by bloggers in London called ‘The Tour du Danger’ which then led to TfL to review the cities most dire junctions. Boris’s new plans for cycling infrastructure in London has been because of this pressure by this public, which has been partly aided by blogging.
I would say that this has been one of the most important blog posts that has come out this year and highlights our frustrations on cycling campaigning, infrastructure and liability of road users. I hope that I will be proved wrong by the nice campaign but it all seems to have the emperor’s new clothes to it.
Why is this a non-issue in the States? Is it because our roads have shoulders wide enough for a bicycle? Is it because drivers are more respectful? Is it because of people like my friend, who has a Glock holster mounted on his handlebars? Is it because of my martial arts instructor, who has a bumper sticker reading”You are driving like I am unarmed?”
And yes, I jump red lights when doing so gets me through the intersection more safely. And I wait when not.
I think the Invisible Man (another blogger who now lives in the US) would disagree with you. His site: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/
Never heard of anybody swerving to threaten a bicyclist. Too great a chance they’ll be armed. You wanna get shot in the US? Just drive like the other guy is unarmed.
More loss of life on Scottish roads. We don’t know the circumstances of the collision, other than the enormous kinetic energy difference between a heavy car on a wide, fast moving A road, versus two slow, old delicate human beings. We probably do know that neither party set out this morning with the intention of either killing someone, or being killed.
So Ken and Sean C of the Niceway Campaign, I bet you’re all sitting in your offices kicking yourselves that you didn’t actually launch your “be nice” campaign at the same time as the social media launch. These mean selfish old people then might have realised they have to be nice to the cars zooming by as they legally tried to cross the road, and the driver might have realised it would be nice not to crush an old man to death and put his wife into intensive care. I’m sure your campaign could have made a big difference…err
You know what, I’m angry. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I come from a motorsport background. On the ticket it always says “motorsport is dangerous” and that is a risk we all accept and take when we go to events. However, -however-, that is not an excuse for the organisers to do fuck all for the safety of competitors and spectators. They help safety by changing the environment. They tape off areas by the side of the road where you must not stand, these areas determined by the laws of physics – rule 1, you don’t stand anywhere a car would naturally go if its brakes failed, again I don’t do that to be ‘nice’ but because of the laws of physics. When incidents do happen, improvements are recommended. For instance, Formula 1 has gone from “nice gentlemen racers” – drivers had a 2/3 change of dying every event – to the safest form of motorsport in the world where a driver has not been killed for 19 years. I regularly drive past Kilmany, birthplace of Jim Clark, widely acknowledged to be one of the most skilled – and nicest – formula 1 drivers ever, but that didn’t stop him being any less dead. Jackie Stewart was the one in the 60s and 70s who dragged Formula 1 kicking and screaming from “be nice to each other” to the levels of safety we see today.
But unfortunately, just like on our roads today, it is those outside of the cars that face the most risk at a race weekend. A formula 1 driver has not been killed for 19 years, but unfortunately track marshals have, these are the people who are not earning millions and getting their faces in the papers every week. Recently a cameraman was hit and injured by a tyre that had flown loose in the pitlane. It was ALREADY against the rules to send out a car without all four wheels firmly attached (learned from previous bad experiences). When people are thinking about saving 1/10th of a second to win a race (or to get to work, or get to the next traffic light) the EVIDENCE SHOWS that asking people to be nice and follow the rules DOES NOT WORK. So cameramen have been removed from the slightly dangerous pitlane to the less dangerous (but still a little bit risky) pit wall – but the same accident physically CANNOT happen again. Change the environment = improved safety.
I’ve driven hundreds of miles on Dutch roads – they are not any nicer or any less nicer than drivers or cyclists or pedestrians here in Britain. But their death rates are much lower. Hmm, I wonder why???
Some of the discussion rang a bell & I remembered this campaign http://www.whatmattersmost.org.uk/index.html – trying to do a similar thing (educate drivers and cyclists) AND in a positive way but without any finger pointing on both sides. I don’t know if the Nice Way Code people had a look at it before starting their campaign?
There is a lot wrong with this campaign, and the early signs before the proper launch, are worrying. And cyclists have every reason to be angry, as the money is coming from the tiny cycling budget.
1. The name, imagery, logo is infantile and puerile. Before I realised this was the so-called mutual respect campaign the govt had been talking about (and which got a loud boo at POP) the logo and branding itself made me sick before I even saw the content. To say it is patronising is an understatement. I felt insulted. It’s no use saying “wait until you see the adverts”, the logo has been there from day one. “Nice” is one of the blandest words in the English language, I remember being told at school never to use it in an essay as it showed a lack of imagination, just like this campaign. What does it actually mean? And they refuse to publish any evidence upon which this campaign is based, or even what their targets are for the number of people that will change their driving habits. Have they focus grouped the childish “be nice” logo with, for example, taxi drivers?
2. The cringingly awful press launch, with its ill-conceived press photo which had to be recalled. To think our money was being spent on a stunt involving a lollipop man, which suggested that even the minister was not taking it seriously and did nothing to convey any form of road safety message. People were actually being paid to arrange that!
Your cycling money paid for that lollipop stick!
In and of itself the stunt sent out the message that this was a childish affair, not to be taken seriously. Shame on everyone involved. I reiterate, that press launch was paid for out of the cycling budget. Would a campaign about drink driving or some other serious subject be launched in such a juvenile manner? I doubt it very much – it revealed what this campaign is: paying lip service to a serious subject which those involved do not fully understand. TBH I am surprised that the minister’s advisers let him take part – I would sack them. He looked ridiculous. The sheer awfulness of the launch suggests that whoever is being paid to run this campaign has no idea what they are doing – how come Cycling Scotland are deemed to be the most appropriate organisation to do it? I would suggest the AA might b better suited – they know how motorists think.
3. What were the first messages this campaign came up with? A story about bikes and horses, a story about cyclists and red lights, another about the BBC and Daily Mail-invented “two tribes”. The wording of the initial releases and statements were equally revealing – cyclists are to be “targeted” apparently. Not dangerous and illegal driving, illegal parking, and the litany of deadly behaviour I see daily that the police refuse, yes refuse, to act upon as they see it as harmless. And of course the police back it – it absolves them of any responsibility to actually do anything about it.
So far, all I can see is that this campaign will reinforce prejudices. It reinforces the perception that cyclists all jump red lights and are to blame for accidents. To non-cyclists, it reinforces perceptions that cycling is dangerous and we are “vulnerable”, therefore undermining attempts to promote cycling. It is also very confused in its messages – don’t cycle on the pavement, we’re told, yet in Edinburgh that’s precisely where we are meant to cycle – look at where all the new cycle “facilities” are being put (St Andew Sq -pavement, Seafield Rd – pavement, even Princes St at the bottom of the Mound – on the pavement) because of course no money or effort is being spent on actual cycle infrastructure. It’s very confusing – should we cycle on the pavement or not? Does the presence of a Sustrans magic number make it ok to cycle on the pavement? I am glad about the horse story though, I can barely cycle 10 metres on my way to work without coming across packs of feral horses.
It comes as no surprise that the ineffectual Cycling Scotland are running this – they of the Give Me Cycle Space initiative in which they managed to scare parents out of letting their kids cycle with photos reminding them how vulnerable children are on our roads. There need to be serious questions asked about the money they and Sustrans get. They get the largest chunks of the cycling budget, and how much of that is spent on chief executive salaries, rent, phone systems, finance people, administrators, corporate identity building etc? Deduct all that from the cycling budget and even less gets spent on actual cycling infrastructure. And of course, I believe it’s all exempt from FOI as they are separate legal entities, although I may be wrong. Maybe someone should try an FOI request about the be nice campaign?
the Govt have said that this campaign was part of CAPS. Who wrote CAPS? Cycling Scotland. Who is getting paid handsomely to run this campaign? Cycling Scotland. It’s money laundering. The same applies to many of the other things that are on the CAPS list – Bikeability etc. Is any of this money put on the open market for people to tender for? No. It’s all a big cosy club, and the end result is that year in, year out more of the same trite nonsense keeps coming out, and none of it ever works. How much of the cycling budget gets spent on Cycling Scotland’s Spin magazine for example? It’s nothing more than a marketing tool for Cycling Scotland and seems unsure as to whether it’s a mag about mountain biking, road racing, BMXing or commuter cycling. All paid for from the cycling budget. If I want a decent cycling magazine that takes more than 4 minutes to read, there are lots to choose from in WH Smiths. I don’t need a government subsidised one. I’d rather the money was spent on proper cycle lanes so I can cycle safely to work instead of reading about it.
Compare all of this with the Forth Bridge replacement crossing. Did they set up a charity to do it and give them all the money? No. It is all handled by a government agency who put it all out to tender. A Grown up way of doing things for grown up people doing serious work. Instead, for cycling most of the money goes to Sustrans and Cycling Scotland who then compete with each other to do the same thing (Cycling Scotland has an engineering department designed to compete with Sustrans). And meanwhile, despite the existence of all these expert organisations, Edinburgh was still able to get away with the Quality Bike Corridor – with the full backing of Sustrans.
It beggars belief that in a recession government money is being spent on a campaign for people to be “nice” to each other.
Shame I haven’t got time to read all this (who has?). Perhaps you could all practice making your points more concisely (and leave off emotional blackmail, it’s off-putting, weak and unpersuasive).
Would like to make some important points: the UK’s roads are among the very safest in the world, if not the safest. If you think British drivers are sloppy, what must you think of those elsewhere?
Humanity pays a price for its mobility. That’s the reality of the harsh world we live in. Nothing any of you lot can do will ever change that. The price we pay currently is the death and serious injuries of tens of cyclist, hundreds of pedestrians and thousands of drivers/passengers.
Bez, you are very clear about what you are against (stupid people allowed to drive obscene cars). Could you spell out more clearly what you are for, specifically the sacrifices you will be making (rather than the things you expect everybody else to stop doing).
That’s completely irrelevant. 40 or 50 years ago would you have said “Britain’s airlines are among the very safest in the world – what must you think of Russian airlines?” as some sort of justification for doing nothing about air safety, or would you have said “people are dying on aircraft – more so in Russia perhaps, bur still too many here. Maybe we should make recommendations after each accident using the evidence to try to stop future loss of life through means we can address?”
And do you think that will be Spain’s response to the recent disaster on its train network? Or do you think they’ll do something to address the human and systematic failings in that incident? That was probably their entire fatality count for the year, and it’s significantly less than the number of cyclists – let alone pedestrians and drivers and passengers – that will die on our road network this year, but they will address it. Why not address the considerable levels of death and injury on the road? Even if you consider a zero rate to be unachievable, why not aim for fewer?
Sorry, which article were you reading? I’ve said nothing about intelligence, nor have I even alluded to any obscenity of cars. I’m not even sure what an obscene car is supposed to be.
Not sure which bit you’re referring to specifically, but I can only assume you mean the bit where I suggest people shouldn’t be doing things like using the phone or programming the satnav whilst driving. In any case, the “sacrifices” (really? driving with due care and attention is “making a sacrifice”?) I’m willing to make are exactly the same ones. Why on earth should I behave any less carefully than the least I would expect of others?
“the UK’s roads are among the very safest in the world” by what measure? The total number of deaths? Deaths by distance travelled, deaths by mode of travel? It is very difficult to get accurate data to make like for like comparisons. However, the work that has been done show that Britain has one of the worse records in western Europe for child pedestrian and cyclist safety, especially given that British children have among the of lowest rates travel by these means.
As for the attitude that “Humanity pays a price for its mobility”, this shows that you are part of the problem. There is nothing inevitable about road deaths, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a very strong economic argument for making our roads safer, the sheer cost of road KSIs currently is costing the UK over 1.5% of its GDP, and that is nothing compared to the health cost of inactivity, air pollution, etc.
Other forms of mobility have nothing like the level of cost to humanity as that of the private motor vehicle. We don’t tolerate this level of death rate in aviation, on the railways, shipping, etc, so why should we tolerate it on the roads?
If you think that drivers in Britain are somehow better that those in other countries, as an ex-driving instructor, I would say you are clearly deluded. People are people, the drive to much the same standard everywhere, what make the roads safer for vulnerable road users in other places is their approach to making the infrastructure more forgiving of human error, having lower speed limits, and strict enforcement of the rules.
We are far from a world leader in protecting vulnerable road users, there is much we could learn from elsewhere in Europe. Try getting out of your metal cage once in a while and find out what real road safety is about, you might even get some exercise and experience some of the real culture of the countries you shut your self off from as you drive through.
Driveeuropenews, this is nonsense.
Britain has ‘safe’ roads by effectively excluding anyone not in a car. Rates of cycling and walking are woeful here. Our roads are far from the safest for vulnerable road users, the result being less active transport, and an ever more sedentary and obese population.
The reality of to which you allude is one where others pay the blood price for your mobility. And strangely you seem okay with that.
What’s frustrating is that its needless. We can design such problems out our road networks. You want to know what those of us opposing this sickening campaign are in favour of? Start there.
“I suggest people shouldn’t be doing things like using the phone or programming the satnav whilst driving”.
A tiny, tiny minority of British drivers do that. It’s already against the law.
The point is that trying to make out it’s carnage on the roads, or that British drivers are commonly incompetent, does not accord with the facts. We should be clapping ourselves on the back for being so good at driving in this country. We are world leading. Our burgeoning road safety industry should be looking for ways to export this expertise and improve our balance of payments.
Nine cyclists killed by ‘safe’ drivers in Scotland this year. What would carnage look like?
Might want to check some figures. For instance, from The Telegraph: “Just over eight in 10 drivers (81 per cent) admitted using their phone without a hands-free device while on the move, even though it has been illegal to do so for more than seven years. Just over half (52 per cent) said they used their phone to make calls, while 44 per cent admitted that they used it to send text messages while driving.”
Over 80% admit to it. Granted, that’s just the first figure I found because I’m not spending the rest of the night trawling the web, but every figure I’ve seen has certainly not represented a “tiny, tiny minority”, in fact in almost all cases they represent a majority.
Well, carnage their certainly is in each incident. The question is one of the frequency of incidents. I’d say it’s too high and is worth reducing; you appear to be fine with it.
Are British drivers commonly incompetent? Tricky. I’d argue that “commonly inattentive” is true – it’s easy to observe that on a daily basis IME.
The point I was making was not strictly about the extent of the problem but the nation’s reluctance to confront it; it is at best ambivalent, and more often simply fails to assign any responsibility to anyone or seek to improve matters.
Surely we got to that position by constantly improving on the status quo?
driveeuropenews, you can’t be bothered to read words, so go up to the top of this page and look at the picture of that mangled wreck under the lorry and then tell us we should all be clapping ourselves on the back for our safety achievements.
What I want, Dutch-style space for cars, space for bikes and space for pedestrians, built upon the ideals of Sustainable Safety. Cost? – a few miles of motorway.
I can only think driveeuropenews must have very limited experience of cycling in mainland Europe to believe we in the UK have the world leaders in good driving.
Hi there well thanks for your feedback. Kim Harding, I might listen a bit harder if you’ve been a driving instructor in other countries. It isn’t hard to get accurate accident data. By any measure we’re right at the top.
Ron Stewart, actually I do have experience cycling in other countries (quite apart from five years commuting by bike from Plaistow to Charing Cross Road in the early 90s, you know before we’d heard of cycle safety). Holland, Germany, Belgium and South of France.
Cycling in Holland is great for 95% of the time, until you come to some immovable piece of infrastructure when they happily throw you into the thick of the traffic. A big issue in the Low Countries is bike parking. They had to cut bikes off railings in Leuven recently because they were impeding the emergency services.
In the UK we’re getting to the point of diminishing returns in road safety, of cutting into the bone, getting carried away with emotional, emotive arguments. Improvements are always possible but should be conducted by calm, rational discussion against a backdrop of world-leading success. Not by trying to persuade people the situation is desperately bad and that something must be done.
By any measure? Go on then. Cite your stats. Let’s see… number of pedestrians and cyclists killed per unit distance travelled would be a good start. Compare with countries at similar latitude, I suggest Denmark and Netherlands.
You’re right, many places in Holland do have problems with bike parking, and yes many abandoned bikes have to be removed. But imagine if those 10s of thousands of cycles that go on for practically as far as you can see was replaced by a parked motor vehicle, they’d have a FAR worse problem, wouldn’t they? So instead of discouraging parked bikes, Holland is building even more modern, indoor, safe, well-lit and secure parking complexes integrated with the public transport system, and the safe cycle paths to get to your front door (where, by law, all new builds must have secure easy-access cycle parking at your home), what’s not to like?
You ask us to be calm and rational when discussing road safety, but you don’t even seem to realise that it is even an issue. You must seem to think that deaths and injuries on the road is something that ‘only happens to other people’. If you believe that there must be a certain quota of people who must die in order for the general population to use the roads, then given enough time that must one day include you, or your family. It’s like the army commander who came in and told his men they’re going over the top and 80% of them were going to die, so all the privates look around at each other and think poor buggers.
If we treated road safety like planes or railways, every single death on the roads could be prevented, and who doesn’t want the number of people dying on the roads to be zero?
Jackie Stewart faced the same problems getting safety into formula 1, even at a chance of death at 2/3 per race, people just didn’t think there was a problem that had to be solved. You just couldn’t possibly reduce the risk of motorsport, the danger’s part of the attraction, stop being such a girls blouse. Circuits didn’t want to spend money on upgrading their facilities, like moving houses and trees and barrels of petrol out of the way and replacing them with safe run-off areas. Now a formula 1 car is considerably safer than any road car today, would you have told Jackie Stewart to be more calm and rational?
I guess if you think that the roads are adequately safe now, you’d be happy taking your 88 year-old grandmother, your 57 year-old obese but wanting to be healthier mother, and your 3 and 4 year old children along the A92 into town for some ice cream. Or up the A9 for a trip to the Highlands, or a jaunt around Edinburgh or Glasgow city centres. Go on sit-up bikes with panniers full of shopping, or you could add a trailer and go to B&Q. Or how about letting your children walk or cycle to school on their own?
Last year’s summer holiday I spent 3 wonderful weeks driving (yes driving) in Holland, what was the first thing we saw ON THE OFF RAMP from the ferry, not even 10 minutes after arriving back in Britain, but a cyclist that had been squished by a campervan, blood pouring from a head wound. Welcome to Britain. This is not statistics, it’s not hyperbole, it’s real life.
Lots of good points well made, particularly the importance of relating a road users level of responsibility to the potential level of hazard they could pose to others. We need to move forward of many fronts, education, enforcement and engineering, there is no simple single way. While this campaign may be flawed I wish it well but all involved must understand that at best it can only be a small part of the solution.
It is understandable why people get so angry, any new scheme or campaign can only be a partial solution and successive administrations have failed to demonstrate real commitment to cycling as a mainstream transport option. I would like to make a plea though.
All road deaths are avoidable tragedies, our road system is too car focussed and the general attitude to driving is too casual and careless. We must continue to work at improving all these but, even as things stand, the benefits of cycling in the UK still greatly outweigh the risks.
We are throwing the baby out with the bathwater if all we focus on are the awful negatives. Every day hundreds of thousands of people make enjoyable, incident free cycle trips and are healthier, happier and better off for it. We can’t ignore the tragedies but if we don’t put them in context we can hardly be surprised when the majority not only choose not to cycle but also dismiss those who do as cranks with a death wish.
I think one of the problems is that there is a lack of empathy from drivers towards cyclists. They don’t really have any idea what it feels like to be a cyclist. The don’t really know what someone over taking within a foot of you or wondering whether the car sitting next to you to the lights has just forgotten to indicate left and is about to turn across you. As I see it, the solution isn’t to tell them about these things but to make experience them.
I think that to do this, it should be a legal requirement that in order to obtain a driving licence, one must have passed a cycling proficiency test within 3 years of your driving test, exempting medicine reasons etc. This would be something that doesn’t require additional infrastructure, is not onerous to drivers (it would become normal to take your cycling proficiency test at 15 or 16), and would normalise cycling as a method of transport. Of course it would be of most effect to those who had to take the test, but the increased amount of cyclists on the roads would inevitably make existing drivers change their behaviour as they would start expecting cyclists, rather than not.