Tag Archives: cars

You don’t own the road – we share it

The other day I was cycling  along a quiet,  midmorning Kesgrave Road when I was hailed by a driver. She had stopped me specifically to tell me that I shouldn’t cycle on the road!

Why? Simply, because she didn’t like it.

I was incandescent. I reminded her that cyclists are perfectly entitled to use the road, and she grew angry that I was too busy to listen to ‘her side’.  Lady, you HAVE no ‘side’. Stopping a cyclist because you are in a larger and heavier vehicle to tell them not to cycle where you are driving for no better reason than you are ignorant of the law is  not a matter for discussion. It is harassment.

And that IS against the law.

Bad DriverImagine how this driver would have felt if her car were cornered by an articulated lorry whose driver wanted her to stop driving on the road?  If only I had a magic wand I would have conjured one up just so she got a taste of what it feels like.

Most people on the roads are – largely – considerate.  Most are aware that a bit of give and take is necessary. And most are – largely – law abiding. But for the very few drivers who are unaware of the law and uncaring of other road users, here is a brief reminder:

1)      Bicycles are allowed on British roads unless there is a sign saying otherwise;

2)      Just because a cyclist is on a bicycle and not in a car doesn’t mean they don’t have somewhere quite as important to go as you do. You are not entitled to prevent them from getting there;

3)      Yes, sometimes a cyclist will go faster than you do in your car. This is generally because you are in a traffic jam. As they are not contributing to this jam you have no reason to feel miffed;

4)      And it is NOT appropriate for a car driver to feel entitled to bully a cyclist because they are in a bigger, heavier vehicle

5)      O, and that ‘Road Tax’ you say you pay and which entitles you to take a high hand with cyclists? It was abolished in 1937. Most cyclists also drive, so they pay Vehicle Excise Duty too, which is what you are talking about. Personally, I don’t drive, but I pay half of the munificent annual £140 it costs to licence the family 2CV.

Which has never once made me feel entitled to say ” Get off my road!” to other road- users.

The BMA and Passive Driving

I see the BMA have put their mighty muscle behind preventing passive smoking in cars.

As a reformed Fag-ash Lil – now 8 years smoke free – I have a lot of sympathy for the plight of the in-car non-smoker. But come on, BMA,  put your money where your mouths are and admit it -it’s not just the cigarettes,  its the people we should be getting out of  cars!

Why not collate all the damage done to people by passive and active driving?

I’ll make a start. Let’s see, there’s: the breathing difficulties  and chemical inhalation we get from exhaust fumes; the damage to life and limb from crashes and collisions  (drivers,  passengers, pedestrians and cyclists); other health risks to car drivers and passengers of hours of inactivity:  things like  obesity, heartdisease, back problems ,  family arguments;  the environmental impact of air pollution, CO2 emission, oil spills and  and diminishing public transport;  and above all,  the complete perversion of our infrastructure because people need to be near roads rather than services, have hard standing rather than gardens, and car-accessible supermarkets and shopping malls rather than local shops.

Like passive smoking, all these have an  undue impact on the ‘innocent’ :  the children,  the non-driver, the passenger,  the cyclist, all those nationally or internationally  who don’t partake but who suffer from the effects of those who do. And it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to assert that there are many many in the middle east who are currently passive victims of our horrible driving habit.

If you cost up the impact of all of these ills  it will be many many many times  higher in both human and financial terms than the damage done specifically by in-car passive smoking.

Legislation against the car itself would be a infringement of the right to choose  -but one that would  bring far greater benefits than the infringement caused by legislating against in-car cigarettes.

So why has the BMA not gone down this route? Cynically I imagine that the number of car-reliant  BMA members far outweighs the number who smoke. It is always easier to object to other peoples‘ vices, isn’t it? That’s why so many people are ambivalent about speeding.

So come on BMA. Come on everyone. Lets stop being so partial  and protectionist in our health messages, and tackle head-on the health damaging behaviours of  the majority –  that is,  ourselves  – the damaging behaviours that we contribute to and enjoy as well as those done by  ‘other people’.

You know it makes sense!