One of the proudest moments of my life occurred at about 3 minutes past 4, on the afternoon of Wednesday 4th February 2004. There I was, walking through the centre of Hereford, minding my own business, my white cane alerting pedestrians to my presence in their midst, when it happened. A cyclist, riding where he had no business to be, at a ridiculously imprudent speed, collided with my cane. The crash as both rider and conveyance fell to earth was delicious. So was the terror that emanated from him after he was volubly chastised by an elderly lady, who can’t have been much taller than his bicycle.
One of the most shameful moments of my life occurred yesterday morning. There I was, walking through the centre of Hereford, minding my own business, my white cane alerting pedestrians to my presence in their midst, when it happened. I got out of the way of a cyclist who was riding where he had no business to be. He was on a narrow pavement, so I meekly stepped into the road in order to let him past. Damn my innate curtesy!
On this occasion, there was no reckless speed. In fact, the cyclist was peddling towards me in what can only be described as a rather somnolent manner. Nor were there any cars traveling down the road. There was, therefore, no danger to my person. But it’s the principle of the thing. Cyclists, and by extension those vile velocipedes they insist on propelling, have no legal right to be on pavements, unless it has been clearly stated by a local council, that a given pavement is to be shared between peddling lunatics and pedestrians.
Not only do cyclist illegally hog places properly reserved for pedestrians, but they have the indecency to be smug about it. They insist that they are keeping fitter and healthier than the rest of us, and benefiting the environment. Dear reader, they are wrong. Utterly, irredeemably wrong.
Let us first consider health. How many cyclists who have suffered serious head injuries have been wearing good quality crash helmets? If they had been, how much money would they have saved the National Health Service? How many car accidents have there been because cyclists have finally vacated pavements and decided that the rules of the road don’t apply to them?
As for the environmental benefits, what is the impact of cycling compared to, oh, I don’t know, walking? The process of making bicycles and assorted accessories must do more damage to the planet than the manufacture of shoes.
These beings are a public menace. They hurtle through pedestrian spaces, indifferent to the trouble they cause. They do as they please on roads and blame motorists when things go wrong.
So, dear reader, what is the answer? You’ll be glad to know that I’ve been giving it some serious consideration.
I first considered the idea of making both possession and use of a bicycle a having offence, and that twelve members of the perpetrator’s family should be hanged with them. The mass culling of various families would, I think, deter the majority of cyclists. The resultant population decrease would also have a positive impact on matters environmental. However, the rainforest of bureaucracy that each case would generate, would negate any benefits. It would not, therefore, be a sensible solution.
Another possibility would be to simply outlaw bikes, and for the forces of law and order to confiscate them, and have them melted down and turned into railway lines, or ships for the Royal Navy, or planes for the RAF or guns for the army, or swings, or scaffolding, or cutlery, or … or … or … something. And that is the problem with the idea. It’s bad enough that these things should be cycled, without having to argue about how they should be recycled.
So, dear reader, I have come to the conclusion that as bicycles are vehicles, cyclists should be subject to the same rights, privileges, rules and responsibilities of those who are in charge of motor vehicles. They should have the freedom of the roads. However, they should be properly licensed, and properly insured. Drunk cycling should not be tolerated. Any breach of legislation should incur the same penalties as it would for a motorist.
I’d vote for any party that promised to do this. Let the pavements be restored to pedestrians, and the roads be the place for all things vehicular. As for those cyclists who are squeamish about sharing space with cars and lorries, tough. To backpedal slightly on Norman Tebbit’s words, and to mangle the English language a little, get off your bikes, and go back to walk.
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