It's motorists, not cyclists, who are the dangerous lawbreakers
two-wheelers need to grow up, but forcing them to register won't make roads
safer, says Robert Davis, Chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum. Robert
responded in The Guardian Wednesday June 7, 2006, to an earlier
article by a Catherine Bennett who argued that too many cyclists are now
possessed of an absurd, impenetrably smug belief that they are "...
entitled to defy all petty regulations", and that they should be subject to
"compulsory registration" and "training in road/pavement
We believe Robert's views to reflect simple common sense, and deserve to be retained for a wider audience, and not consigned to the recycling skip at the end of the week.
As a local authority officer, I organise cycle training programmes to discourage cycling on pavements and disobeying traffic signals. I find her argument for imposing restrictive regulations on cyclists simple and attractive - but wrong.
The only arguments for compulsory registration of cyclists, mimicking regulation on motorists, would be proof that such controls would work and that the problems associated with cycling are comparable to those of motoring. Clearly, the number of cycling accidents that result in pedestrians being hurt is tiny compared to the number of accidents caused by motorists - despite the controls of vehicle and driver testing.
Of course, just one cyclist - or pedestrian, or motorist - who defies regulations is one "too many", and they do indeed "need to grow up". But the real issue is that we live in a society where everyday rule- and lawbreaking by motorists has become acceptable.
There should be no special dispensation for cyclists - just the continuing need for equitable control of anti-social behaviour on the road and of lawbreaking which endangers others. That includes questioning the refusal of the Great British Motorist to obey the law, which - despite endless discussions on speeding, not to mention literally billions of law infractions and insurance claims annually - is as persistent as ever. Indeed, part of the problem we confront with bad driving derives from motorists feeling that they are special, simply because they have passed a test.
Of course, if Bennett wants to regulate everybody, she could try bringing pedestrians (who can also selfishly endanger others) under the control of the law as they are in Germany and the US. Conversely, no country currently requires cycling tests.
All minorities - and Bennett "having cycled around for years" identifies herself as a cyclist - tend to believe that pandering to the prejudices of those who oppress them will liberate them. It won't. And backing up this prejudice - voiced for decades before cyclist misbehaviour was commonplace - will end up making it worse for all road users' safety.
High-quality cycle training and equitable law enforcement should be implemented, and might work to prevent further incidents involving pavement cyclists, like the one described by Bennett. However, punitive regulation for cyclists will not work - after all, has registration worked to stop motorist misbehaviour?
I have had the same "argument with myself" as Bennett about rule-breaking cycling. But the numerous complaints about badly behaved cyclists are utterly disproportionate to general bad road-user behaviour. We need a civilised approach to road safety which has to be based on recognising the different potential to harm others of each form of transport.
Editorial Footnote: It would be interesting to know
how many parents, motorists and non-motorists alike, DON'T tell their children
to stay on the pavement when they go out on their bikes. That figure would
surely speak volumes in the on-going debate on road safety, and the perceptions
many of us have of driver awareness and alertness.