Street fight: cyclists vs motorists

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    'We need to encourage people to do both: cycle and wear a helmet'

    Make headgear compulsory
    Franca Tranza, spokesperson for the British Medical Association

    Last year the BMA passed a policy calling for helmet-wearing to be made compulsory. All cyclists should wear helmets. In the USA, a 30-month study of 3,854 cyclists showed that helmet usage decreased the risk of brain injury by 65 per cent and severe brain injury by 74 per cent in all age groups.There is a concern that making helmets compulsary would result in a reduction in people cycling, and that is why we need a big public information campaign to highlight the dangers of not wearing a helmet and to promote the health benefits of cycling. We need to encourage people to do both: cycle and wear a helmet. Even though London’s traffic is quite slow, there are still too many accidents on our roads. The BMA believes cycling can be made safer by ensuring everyone wears a helmet

    Obey the law
    Nick Coleman, driver and cyclist
    The cyclist, in his regalia, flew up the inside of a line of crawling traffic. As he passed my car, his regalia flicked the tip of my wing-mirror. The contact he made with the Nissan in front was much firmer. It was turning left when the bike hit it midships.

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    Caught in between the 'robot killing machines without a conscience'

    Tunk. Flump. Pung-pung-pung. This was the sound the cyclist made as he hit, as he fell, and then as he attempted to kick the Nissan’s passenger window in. He screamed too. ‘You fucking fucking fucking cunt!’ was all he had to say. The old lady in the passenger seat cowered, covering her mouth with one hand, the side of her face with the other. The cyclist ceased kicking the window after a while, picked up his buckled machine, threw it down again, offered a final kick at the car and stalked off to adjust his clothing in the shade of a tree. The Nissan remained in position, mid-turn, its windows steaming up.

    There it all was, revealed as in mythology: the fall of Superman. It was this instant that changed my view of cycling forever.

    I cycle and I drive and I know which is better for the planet. It is important that we are rewarded for cycling, and that we recognise that the act of cycling is better than the act of driving. It is equally important, however, that we do not think of cyclists as being morally superior to motorists.

    Cycling in London is scary and dangerous. Where there is danger, there is also the instinct to fight. And where that instinct holds sway, so too does the need to assert moral superiority. And which member of our society ascribes to himself the most unassailable moral superiority? Got it in one. Yet which member of our society goes about breaking the rules most freely – in the absolute certainty that he has the right to do it because he is better? Yup, same guy. He jumps lights, mounts pavements, overtakes on the inside, kicks in the windows of innocent old ladies…

    To most cyclists, cars are not vehicles conveying humans about their business; they are robot killing machines without a conscience. I know this from my own experience on a bike. It is discomfiting to feel small, invisible and as soft as a peach. We need to feel in control, but that robust feeling is very hard to achieve when you’re on a bike. You’re slow, you’re unprotected, you’re not setting the agenda, you’re wearing stupid clothes. You are vulnerable on too many levels. In the case of Superman in his fight with the Nissan, the feeling of vulnerability was consummated in the nastiest, most emasculating way. But none of that made him right or his actions defensible. His actions are only defensible where, in that philosophical contruct sponsored so assiduously by the Mayor, the cyclist is deemed the moral superior of the motorist.

    Tendentious bullshit. Cyclists need to let go of the sense that they ought to be in control of events. They need to let go of the delusion of moral superiority. Cyclists need to climb down. We ARE slow, we ARE unprotected, we ARE wearing stupid clothes. Start from that position – obey the rules, treat motorists and pedestrians as equals, acknowledge our weakness, wear proper trousers – and then, when we try to kick glass in the faces of old ladies, we might begin to deserve the understanding of ordinary mortals.

    Nick Coleman writes for the Daily Telegraph

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