Thursday, 22 December 2011

Of wolves and men...

As a species, we pride ourselves on our ability to reason. This, far more than possessing opposing thumbs, is what sets us apart from any other species. After all, primates also have opposing thumbs, yet don't compose hauntingly beautiful concertos, nor do they sculpt Venus de Milo, nor indeed do they know how to change a light bulb.

Many different species can do incredible things. Recently I watched, spellbound, as two wolves tracked and then ran down a herd of bison in the BBC's Frozen Planet. Two unarmed humans cannot do that.

What we can do is arm ourselves, and we've proven that capability again, and again, and yet again, every time with tragic consequences. Of course I'm not talking about guns or knives here, though they exact a horrendous toll every year. No, I'm talking about far more common weapons. Weapons we've come to idolise, to dream about, and are expected to aspire to own. I'm talking about cars (but don't forget about vans and buses and trucks!)

With our ability to reason, that we pride ourselves on so much, we really should be able to see through the chaff to the core issues. And yet we don't.

Almost weekly some tabloid rants about those "dangerous cyclists", in a manner that suggests cyclists are as lethal and as compassionate as suicide bombers. Seemingly kind-hearted people, perhaps your neighbour, your colleague, or your friend, will declare how much they hate cyclists, then proceed to justify that hatred with tall tales of how dangerous cyclists actually are.

I want to challenge you here: I want you to leave emotions by the door, and join me in looking at the cold, hard facts. Are you up for that?

It is a fact that some cyclists are natural-born idiots. It is a fact that some cyclists skip red lights. It a fact that some cyclists cause accidents. It is a fact that sometimes cyclists kill pedestrians.

It is also a fact that most cyclists are just normal, everyday people, who are NOT malicious, nor selfish, nor law-breakers, nor indeed dangerous.

See, when trying to fix any negative situation, the best strategy is always to go after the biggest cause. When patching a bucket full of holes, surely you start with the biggest hole first? So then we should apply our powers of reason to this issue.

It is a simply, well-documented and undisputed fact that car drivers kill a great many more people than what cyclists ever will. And therein lies the crux of the matter.

I'm not condoning, nor overlooking cyclists who are idiots, who jump red lights or anything similar. What I am saying is that compared to the daily carnage drivers cause on our roads, most such untoward behaviour by cyclists pales almost to insignificance.

The facts speak for themselves, and cyclists aren't the everyday killer on our roads. Drivers are.

So next time you drive, makes sure you apply your powers of reason, so that you won't overtake a cyclists when there isn't enough space to do so safely, only to have to stomp on your brakes at the red lights. Next time, don't overtake a cyclist before immediately turning left across their path. Next time, don't stop in the Advanced Stop Line zone at the lights, as that exists to help keep cyclists safe, and alive.

Next time, slow down when overtaking cyclists, and give them at least a meter of space when overtaking. On windy days, make that at least two meters! Next time, stop thinking of a cyclist as just another despised cyclist, but see them for who they truly are: real-life people, mums and dads, sons and daughters, grandmas and granddads. People whose bodies cannot survive the impact of your two-ton weapon being driven over them just so you can shave 30 seconds off your journey time.

Next time, be a human, not a wolf, and save a life!