Scaremongering with stereotypes

Where to begin in responding to Horsham district councillor Philip Circus’ latest piece of daftness (County Times August 9)? He starts with one fact and some statistics and then piles on the anecdata and opinion and stereotypes all cyclists with his poorly wielded tar brush.

I’m a regular and frequent cyclist, in and around the town, and a driver and a pedestrian. I don’t condone pavement cyclists or people who jump red lights, on bikes or in cars. Rhiannon Bennett’s death in 2008 was a tragedy, and yes the cyclist was convicted and fined only £2,200. This appears shockingly lenient.

Mr Circus claims a motorist doing the same would receive a substantial prison sentence, but provides no evidence for his assertion.

Our outspoken and opinionated councillor claims that cyclists have a sense of superiority and self-righteousness and this is likely to increase and with it the danger to pedestrians will increase.

Does Mr Circus actually know anyone who rides a bike or does he merely see himself as some sort of small town Jeremy Clarkson, spouting guff for the sake of attracting attention?

In Horsham district in 2010, the most recent year for which I have the DfT figures to hand, 81 people, including four under the age of 16, were killed or seriously injured (KSI) on our local roads, and so far as I can determine very few, if any of these were caused by a cyclist.

That’s 81 lives lost or dramatically altered and far and away the vast majority caused by motor vehicles but Mr Circus remains silent on the matter – could it be he knows most of his electorate are drivers but fewer ride bicycles?

To trivialise road safety as a cyclist vs. pedestrian argument is insulting to all road accident victims. Whatever our chosen method of transport we are ALL pedestrians for a portion of the time so people who use pavements anti-socially affect us all.

One can observe bad habits amongst all sort of class of road users many of them far more dangerous than cycling on a pavement.

Cars and delivery vans routinely drive on and park on pavements in Horsham creating obstructions and damaging pavement. Some streets in the town see cars routinely parked on pavements on both sides of the road regardless of the inconvenience this causes to other road users, on foot, on bikes or in motor vehicles, and there is zero enforcement of such illegal parking.

‘Cyclists’ are a diverse group; it includes Bradley Wiggins and a local vicar, children, teenagers, mothers, grandmothers, the Mayor of London and our Prime Minister. Does Mr Circus really think they all believe the same things or behave in the same ways any more than all drivers, or bus passengers or pedestrians do?

I am sure Mr Circus would not defend or identify with drink drivers or habitual speeders or amber gamblers, all of which we seem to have in abundance in Horsham by the way. In the same way the average cyclist doesn’t identify with pavement riders or red light jumpers.

He mentions ‘dedicated cycling lanes’, in the town, I’d like to know where they are. The lamentable cycling infrastructure in the town isn’t dedicated at all and mostly requires cyclists to mix it with cars and other traffic, the volume and speed of which is often inappropriately high and the driving standards often abysmally low, especially in respect of motor vehicle/cyclist interactions where many drivers don’t seem to have a clue how to behave around vulnerable road users with some preferring to sound horns, rev engines, swear, gesticulate, pass with only inches to spare and generally attempt to bully and intimidate others off the road and out of their way. Is it small wonder that some might choose to ride their bikes on the pavement as an alternative to cycling on the road as a result?

Finally he asserts that ‘mile for mile it’s more dangerous to be a pedestrian than it is to be a cyclist’. This may well be true, but the real danger to pedestrians doesn’t come from cyclists, as he well knows, it comes from poorly driven motor vehicles.

If he really wants to guard the safety of those on two feet he knows where he needs to look but instead chooses to look to a minority who represent a miniscule risk but whom he feels he can blame with relative impunity. Mr Circus, with your ill-founded opinions and scaremongering, you are part of the problem not part of the solution.

PS Yes I do pay ‘road tax’ though if my bike itself was taxed I’d pay nothing as it is a zero emissions vehicle, I have third party insurance, and I use lights at night, etc, etc.


Secretary of Horsham and District Cycling Forum, Hurst Road, Horsham