Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Because you chose to wear a mini skirt!

Women the world over sometimes suffer enormously from rape, or the risk of rape - this is well known. What is less well know is how some women are made to suffer after having been raped. The fictitious conversation below puts it in context:

This is the culture of victim blaming, but it isn't limited to rape (even if rape is often far more serious!).

A few days ago a monumental occurrance took place: MPs had a debate about cycling, based on the Cycle Safe campaign. By all accounts it was well-attended, and surprisingly enough didn't degenerate into the childish and stupid point-scoring behaviour MPs seem to prefer.

Even more surprisingly, it appears that virtually all MPs present expressed support for the campaign!

There were some wonderful examples of deep understanding of the plight of cyclists, and it was obvious that some MPs didn't simply see the issue as a bandwagon to hop on, but were instead genuinely concerned. So much so that Alison Seabeck, an MP from Plymouth, even commented on the unduly lenient sentences drivers receive after having mowed down cyclists.

And yet, quite predictably I suppose, the references to Hi-Viz clothing and cycle helmets started rolling in. Another MP, Oliver Colvile (sadly also from Plymouth) expressed a desire for bicycles to be fitted with loud hooters, as opposed to "those insipid little bells", before mentioning how annoyed he gets by cyclists riding on the pavement. Alison Seabeck waded into, yes, you guessed it, cyclists than jump red lights.

Now these people probably think they were being highly supportive. They weren't! They simply engaged in victim blaming. They never once stopped to think why some cyclists jump red lights.

Quite some time ago The Times published an article based on research done for Transport for London, about cyclists skipping lights. The results of that research was so shocking that TfL tried to suppress it. The article was located here, before The Times put up their paywall.

The researchers found that cyclists often were safer by skipping red lights, and those that didn't were at a higher risk of being crushed by HGVs. Our illustrious MPs didn't elaborate on this point.

The Dutch Cyclists Union recently published a research paper about cycling helmets, which may be found here. That research paper shows what little value cycle helmets really offer, and there are many medical experts who independently agree. In fact, as the research shows, in certain cases cycling with a helmet increases the risk of injury, and sometimes the severity of injury (specifically brain rotational injury, which can be fatal).

Again, our MPs seemed oblivious to the research, and were most happy when engaging in a spot of victim blaming.

The reality is this: road design and driver behaviour are the two biggest threats to cyclists. THAT is where you'll achieve results, if indeed results are what you were after!

Anything less than that is equivalent to saying "But surely you can see how you invited him to do that to you, because you chose to wear a mini skirt!".