Friday 17 April 2015

Fair and Proportionate Road Safety

Motons portray cycling advocates as somehow unbalanced in their view of road safety and, from that, imply that our joy from being on two wheels somehow unhinges our minds. Far be it from me to state that unlike them our brains are far enough from our arses to not be thus influenced, even when riding on cobblestones, but I would like to address 'fair and proportionate.

Lets keep it simple - lets assume that the attention given to cycling and motoring should be proportional to how people are killed by cyclists/motorists. 2,000 people or so are killed by motorists, per year, in the UK. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but its a good round figure to start with. While each such death is an unmitigated tragedy, statistically this pales into insignificance against the number of people killed by the air pollution, which largely results from our road traffic, estimated to be 60000 or more per year.

There are numerous articles linking obesity to driving, I shan't bore you with endless links, but this is a phenomenon visible across the developed world. The less physical activity we take, as a society, the fatter we collectively get - and the most direct correlation is found in motoring. More than 30000 obesity related deaths occur in the UK every year - but lets be generous and say that despite the evidence of a direct causal link between driving and taking next to no exercise, we'll only blame 25% of those deaths on driving.

So driving costs us, give or take, 69,500 lives. Per year. In the UK. Yeah, I know you're going to say 'but some of that pollution comes from Europe!'. It does, and much of ours blows over there too, and the balance is absurdly in our favour with the prevailing wind in this part of the world. 

Now on to cycling. It transpires that cyclists kill so few people you can barely find them - its something in the region of 1 per year. 

So just in terms of body count, if we're going to take a proportionate view of people dying as a result of road transport, we should pay 1/69,500th of the attention to cyclists. And the rest to motorists. To put that another way if we put out a message about road deaths, once per day, every day of the year, then we should talk about the harm cyclists do once every 190 years, concentrating on motorists all of the rest of the time.

The truth is that anyone asking for such a discussion to be 'proportionate' while insisting that we talk about cyclists is an idiot, a bigot, or both. Don't be suckered in to accepting that 'there are faults on both sides' or 'yes we should be more responsible'. If they drive, and you cycle, you have the moral high ground.

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