Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Pervasive bigotry

Some mindless individual, R Henshaw of Liskeard, Cornwall, saw fit to write the following letter to the Evening Herald, Plymouth's local newspaper:

As ever, clicking the image will enlarge it on-screen, which should allow you to read it.
For the benefit of those who can't clearly read the picture, I copied the text of the letter below.

The printed version of the letter was in the paper published on the 14th of April 2014. Initially, there was no online version available, but early on the morning of the 15th, the Herald tweeted a link to the online version of the letter. Later on the same day they had pulled the online version again, though despite requests they have not disclosed why they did so.

"Cyclists should play by the same rules

When, and only when, cyclists are subjected to the same sanctions and penalties for breaking the law on the road, as other road users, should they be treated as equals.
  The minority who taint the remainder of responsible cyclists, must be made to realise that they do not own the road and that rules apply to them just as they do to the drivers of other vehicles.
  They should be liable to comparable fines for offences and costs for registration of their 'vehicles' the same as everyone else on the road.
  If there were any justice remaining in this once great country, all motorists would be allowed to eliminate rogue arrogant cyclists without penalty. Scores could be displayed on passenger doors (visible to cyclists) aka pilots in past wars. Seriously, until cyclists, good and bad, are subjected to the same rules and penalties regarding traffic lights, speeding, riding on pavements, vehicle lights etc, as other road users, no amount of official pontification will be of the slightest use.

R Henshaw

The bigotry and sheer arrogant ignorance of the letter writer is staggering, but the fact that the Herald chose to publish such drivel is even worse.

So, let's deconstruct these "arguments", shall we?

We'll start with R Henshaw's opening sentence. Basically, they gist of it that cyclists cannot be seen as equals unless subject to the same sanctions and penalties for law-breaking. Now, like most cyclists, I have no issue whatsoever with errant cyclists being fined, or taken to court, but to have the same standard for every road user means vastly unfair real-life implementations of the law would be required.

For example, let us look at the contentious matter of skipping red lights. There is this urban myth that ALL cyclists skip red lights, yet the cold research paints a different picture.
Research shows 1 in 6 drivers skip red lights. Yes, that is 16% of all drivers. Add to that the fact that drivers cannot always skip red lights, due to other vehicles in front of them stopping, and the real image starts emerging.
To get back to cyclists, according to Transport for London's own research, a certain percentage of cyclists also habitually skip red lights. Guess what percentage? Yep, 1 in six, or 16% of cyclists skip red lights, despite most cyclists having the ability to move to the front of the queue to skip the lights.

Or perhaps it is simply a case of 16% of PEOPLE skip red lights? Clearly the letter writer realises that a minority of cyclistsbreak the law, but they are unable to grasp that the same holds true for virtually any group. THAT is signature behaviour of a bigot, who tries to shape the world to fit their views, as opposed to making informed decisions based on reality.

Now given that the same percentage of cyclists and drivers skipping red lights, does that mean R Henshaw would accept cyclists as equals? No, I didn't think so either.

Of course, the full picture is vastly more complex. For starters, cyclists who do skip red lights tend to slow down, often stop, before proceeding, although there are of course exceptions. However, when drivers skip red lights they more often than not do so at speed. Speed, combined with mass, gives a far higher level of kinetic energy than what cyclists can achieve, and kinetic energy ultimately is what does the damage.

See, a cyclist weighing 75kg travelling at 18mph has 2.1 kj of energy, while a 1.7 tonne car at 35 mph has 208 kj of energy. That is an absolutely massive difference that can literally mean the difference between life or death.

R Henshaw clearly doesn't know the law very well at all, and expects cyclists to be subject to exactly the same penalties "regarding traffic lights, speeding, riding on pavements, vehicle lights etc." Except speed laws don't apply to cyclists. At all. Yep, that's right, cyclists (who are capable of doing so) can legally barrel along at 40mph in a 30mph zone, provided their manner of riding isn't dangerous.

This clearly makes a mockery of their claim that all rules should apply to cyclists as much as other vehicles.

But wait, then we get the call for registration of bicycles. Hmmm. Shall we begin by asking what the object of this exercise would be? Around the world, compulsory cyclist registration schemes have all suffered a fatal flaw: they simply cost too much for the tiny benefit they may offer. Nothing to see here, folks, just another empty thought from R Henshaw.

Then we get to the real core of what R Henshaw is about: saying drivers should be allowed to "eliminate rogue cyclists" without penalty, with a score count being kept on the vehicle, like WW2 pilots used to.

Let's pause a moment to think about this. R Henshaw is advocating that drivers be permitted to kill or maim total strangers, based purely on their irrational hatred of such strangers due to them having a different form of transport, while compounding the situation through total ignorance of the law on the part of such drivers.

What sick and twisted mind wants to do that to fellow human beings?

Would it then be OK for pedestrians to be issued with machine guns to shoot and kill drivers that misbehave? Because drivers DO misbehave. Between 2006 and 2011 there were 1011 pedestrians killed ON THE PAVEMENT by drivers. Where would this end? Who would want to live in a world like that? It'd be like living in a Judge Dredd comic!

This letter is a twisted and failed attempt to back up sick, bigoted views using solid arguments. The arguments put forward are hollow and don't stand up to scrutiny, though I fully expect the writer to be unable to understand that.

In an ideal world, people with an attitude like the one displayed by R Henshaw shouldn't be allowed to drive at all, as there is simply no way somebody like that can be a safe driver.

As for the Evening Herald publishing a letter that clearly incites violence, and possibly death to cyclists, I can only shake my head in disbelief. To be fair, the Herald was never going to be winning oodles of rewards for good investigative reporting, but this is simply despicable.
Clearly somebody at the Herald shares the views of R Henshaw, or somebody at the Herald appears to have been utterly unprofessional in allowing such hateful drivel to be printed.