What can be done on our roads?

2012-09-29 23.33.08

In the last 9 days, 6 people have died whilst riding their bike on British roads.

Just look at that again and let it sink in. That’s 6 children to grieving parents, 6 minds taken away from society, parents, brothers and sisters. Because they were riding a bike, putting themselves into a situation where they are making a net contribution to society, freeing up space on roads for smoother transport flow, not burning petrol, being ‘green’.

As someone who is both a child, a brother, husband and parent I am horrified and saddened by these numbers – for what they mean right now, and for the implications further on down the line as people may decide that it’s just ‘too dangerous’ to ride a bike.

I ride 10 miles into Nottingham every day, along busy A-roads, through villages, by-passes and through the city itself. The reason being that, for starters, I really enjoy riding – it gets my body working, gets happy chemicals flowing through my system and keeps my weight stable, but more than that, it allows me to do a degree – to take a year out of work to study full time – the course is expensive enough as it is, if I had to add transit costs to the tab as well it would another £5k to the cost. So by cycling I can afford to study, to further myself and to make this investment for my family.

I’ve ridden around 20,ooo miles in the 2 years I’ve been riding and thus far, the worst I’ve had are some near-misses and a bottle thrown at me (it hit, and this was a week after I purchased my bike!). I’m glad I am in the minority in this, because underneath my racy lycra and my swanky glasses I am just a soggy bag of meat, kept in place by my 1mm layer of skin which doubles as a protective barrier.

As cyclists we can ride offensively, we can ride defensively, we can own the road or cede it to the bigger heavier vehicles. We can use lights and hi-viz, or not. We can ride on pavements and risk injuring pedestrians (would we be any safer there, cars still manage to kill up on the side!), but I would hazard a guess and say most people on bikes are not comfortable doing even that.

And none of that can make a single bit of difference if the driver is not paying attention. Not a single bit, not one!

We place our lives in drivers hands every minute of every ride, and we trust that they care enough to respect that. To not be fiddling with a sat-nav, to keep within the speed limit, to be sober, to stay off the phone and to focus on their driving and accept the enormous responsibility that comes from driving a tonne of metal. Yet on that list how many of those items are considered to be morally and socially unacceptable?

The police don’t see road safety as a priority, despite the huge sums of money that are spent by the NHS fixing broken people.  As citizens our views are seemingly treated with contempt by politicians for fear of angering the far more powerful motor industry. And let’s not even get started on the, frankly idiotic, ramblings of the Daily Mail and it’s mouth-breathing readership.

So what can be done?

Should we be launching petitions to ensure that all new cars are fluorescent yellow? How about making sure that drivers wear helmets and body armour – for their protection?

I propose that we reinstate ROAD TAX!!!

Now I am not 100% on the economics of this, but I have been pondering over it whist I ride so it may be slightly off in the numbers.

Should it be done on the following… emissions, weight of vehicle, cost of repairs caused by class of vehicle, cost of development of new infrastructure for vehicle class, or size of engine?

Everyone pays a fair rate depending on where they fit into the scheme whichever it may be. And because of this everyone gets to ‘own’ part of the road.

So, for example, I would pay £1 for a tax disc for my bike towards road repairs, and using the Portland, Oregon figure that 1 bike does 1/9600 the amount of damage that a car does, the car could then pay a true market value of £9,600 towards road upkeep – simple.

Everyone pays according to the damage that they do.

Or how about engine size? Well, my bike doesn’t have an engine, or emissions, so I guess that puts my Road Tax at zero (my fair share, happily paid) and the cars, vans, trucks etc can pay more.

So everyone pays and everyone is happy.

I think it may be slightly unworkable, so what can be done?

We all own the roads, we all have a right to be on them, and contained within those rights there should be the right to return home safely at the end of our journey.

Chris Rock (comedian) spoke about the lack of need for gun control, but instead the need for bullet control – make the bullets $5,000 each to end the menace of innocent bystanders being killed.

There must be a paradigm shift in peoples thoughts about ‘accidents’ ‘incidents’ ‘collisions’ and personal responsibility behind the wheel. Not a war on motorists, but a full-on blitzkrieg on bad drivers, inconsiderate douche-bags who cause mayhem, death and in turn drive up insurance premiums for considerate drivers.

Display bad driving and lose your license, no quibbles – gone. Handguns where banned in the Uk after Dunblane, when 16 people were killed, yet 12 people have died in London alone this year whilst simply riding their bike and what’s being done?

<sad face>

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