Tuesday 3 February 2015

Does the GMB union hate cyclists?

Its hard to think why any trade union would or even could be innately anti-cyclist. After all, its hard to think of anything much more egalitarian than cycling - anyone can buy a bike, can go and ride it, it's cheap so its not something that is in any way exclusive, it's efficient, it's economical. Cycling has so many advantages, and they are not limited just to those who are fit and active (the reality is very different to that), it isn't restricted to by class or gender - its a wonderful example of something that brings us all to the same level. Very few of the mechanical or price factors involved in cycling make a great deal of difference in practical cycling, it is in every meaningful sense an  advantageous thing.

So you can quite imagine the surprise many expressed when they tweeted this alongside the claim that cyclists are killing tens of pedestrians on the streets of London, every year. This was, apparently, what cycling organisations do not want you to know.

Yes, that's right, your eyes do not deceive you - the blue text at the top of the PDF file there does denote a hyper-link to another document, and the data in the sheet gives us total pedestrian casualties, not those caused by cyclists. Even having been corrected thus whoever was manning the twitter feed for GMB professional drivers continued to defend this claim.

I and many others have covered cyclist on pedestrian fatalities before - and while any injury or fatality of any sort is unacceptable, you're around two orders of magnitude more likely to end up hospitalised in a tragic trouser donning accident than you are to be put in hospital by a cyclist crashing into you while you walk around. Lets get real here - you are 120 times more likely to be killed, on the pavement, by a motorist than by a cyclist. To assert otherwise isn't merely to misread data, it is to entirely ignore all other sources such that an assumed narrative where cyclists are the bad guys is backed up by, frankly, unbelievable nonsense that is out by many orders of magnitude.

But whoever was manning that twitter feed didn't stop there - having been shown to be wrong, the assault on common sense and decency continued first with a mindless defence of erroneous data...

...followed by lashing out and insisting that cyclists are dangerous and passively aggressively suggesting that those who pointed out the error are apologists for cyclists doing harm...
So we've got bland stereotpying of cyclists on top of rather stupid defense of data thats demonstrably wrong?

It gets better!

Arrogance? Bigotry? Christ on a bike, whats wrong with you? You were criticised for being factually incorrect - and now you've accused cyclists en masse of  all sorts of perceived social crimes just for correcting you?

Sorry guys, I don't know who was manning this twitter feed for you, but you need to do some things to correct this. Firstly, you need to take this person through your disciplinary procedures for publicly insulting people via. one of your feeds. Secondly, you need to get in touch with -all- of the people insulted or blocked over this and apologise to them, each one of them. Thirdly, you need to make a public statement regarding your full views on cyclist and pedestrian safety - and this needs to be completely devoid of all false and baseless accusations. 

And, lastly, you need to make sure you think before you open your gobs in future. In a nutshell, your august union has been brought in to significant disrepute - do you believe your members are better served by an idiotic attempt to declare war on cyclists by a rogue tweeter?


  1. Disrepute - more made to look a laughing stock, by not taking the shovel away from the person digging the hole.

    Seriously though we have more than just the Superhighways knee-jerk action, by commercial road users regulated by highly variable parochial system - basically whilst buses and trucks have their operators and drivers regulated by the Traffic Commissioners, who work to a basic mission statement "To prevent harm arising from commercial use of the highway" 'local' taxis are regulated by local councils, which in turn brings in some potentially questionable 'Spanish Practices' where many journeys cross Council boundaries (invite here for any legal expert?)

    Some sensible Councils and TDA have realised that there is no real competition between pedicabs - which can usefully circulate in pedestrian areas, and make those very short trips that are not viable for a motor taxi, and so a parallel licensing regime for pedicabs runs in Edinburgh complementary to that for motor cabs, presumably worked out by all parties sitting down together. Glasgow by contrast is battling in the High Court (ironically in Edinburgh) to block such a system - although for 8 years now one Travel Agency has circumvented the issue by sponsoring a free pedicab service - which needs no licence, and the sky has not fallen in.

    The logical detail is to move the regulation of ALL commercial use of the roads to a single regulatory body, and ideally to make that body, like the rail regulator, also the regulator of infrastructure providers, something already happening for many roads - for example the M25 and Dartford Crossing are managed by ConnectPlusM25, and other trunk routes by BEAR, Amey, Carrillion etc.

    But we can make a start - the burgeoning number of light vans (delivering online shopping), and small local courier services, Uber, Private Hire cars, and taxis, bring them all into a regulatory framework to ensure that operators have 'good repute', and drivers fitness to drive (for at least 10 times as long per day as a private motorist) is monitored and managed.

    Perhaps one of the parties in GE2015 would like to take this up?

  2. What a lot of noise about nothing. Do you cycle in London? Seems its your voice or no voice at all. My route from Mile End to Westminster takes me through dangerous roads but I still encounter other ignorant cyclists. Personally the fumes and HGV's are my main worry. Not a pixy spat where you feel 'insulted' grow a thicker skin!

    1. Eh? Anonymous, post with your name. Coward.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Oh dear what this empty rant? I for one am concerned with what the GMB by say and do. So should you be they are trying to block CSH upgrades on the very route you cycle.

      You know if you start your own blog Autonomous you can talk about fumes and the evils of other people on bicycles till the cows come home. When you do that let me know so I can follow it.

  3. This isn't trivial. GMB are lying about cyclists and it demonises us. GMB, whether accidentally or not, are hysterically inflating the danger posed by cyclists. This encourages resentment and hostility. People could get hurt. I responded on twitter, politely, and GMB blocked me. What on earth for? That's truly bizarre, they are promoting falsehoods that could result in an increase in antipathy toward vulnerable road users and they abuse, ignore and block people who politely point this out!

    1. I kind of don't mind that they're anti-cyclist, I mean thats their choice. Thats how the world works - they have their views, they speak out about them, we've every right to counter those views with our own. What bothers me is that an upstanding trade union should associate itself with excruciatingly stupid mis-use of data in a clear attempt to smear an entire category of road users. To use data so badly, so erroneously, and to defend that with such hostility... Well, yes, of course thats inflammatory. Intentionally so :(