Cult Of Fear

Last week we had this on the front page of The Independant:

On the same day that this article was published, we had the Great AA Helmet Handout:

On the subject of helmets, and whether or not they protect you, I read this on the same day:

The result of all this Cult of Fear? This via the Facebook page of “Ask Me Why I Cycle Without A Helmet”:

Am I justified to label all this as a “Cult of Fear”? Or is the fear real?

Over lunch on Friday I was talking with some guys from Sustrans about the tragedy of Elizabeth Brown’s death on a local road. The A189 “Spine Road” is a dual carriageway that’s arguably more dangerous than a motorway to ride on – at least a motorway has a hard shoulder. The Spine Road has a great cycle path running parallel to it . . . for some of the way. The only way you can make a trip along its route in safety is with detailed local knowledge. In a car, you’d just follow the big obvious road, with the big obvious signs.

People can bang on about the “right to ride”, but there are some roads that I wish cyclists were excluded from – thin end of the wedge, I know. But given the murderous levels of inattention that the UK’s drivers can get away with Scot free, it’s maybe time to face up to the fact that we’ve already effectively lost the right to ride on some roads.

It’s time to move on, and focus on the real issues.

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Posted in Bike Culture
0 comments on “Cult Of Fear
  1. The “cult of fear” gets discussed in the Newcastle City Council cycling forum… in its road safety guise.

    Come along and voice your concern on 2 June 2011, 18:00 at the Civic.

    Here are the two sides. Rather contrasting.

    Council: “it’s award-winning”

    Cycling community: “it’s turning people off cycling”

  2. As I’ve said before, I’ve ridden roads like that in France, laden with touring gear, into a headwind at 10mph, and been fine. Well, dull, compared to most of the riding we did there, but not terrifying in the way that leaving Dover at the other end of the journey was.

    The roads, per se, are not dangerous. It’s the fact that they have British drivers on them that makes them so, a cossetted bunch used to having their own way, bullying other traffic, and with perceptions reinforced by years of road safety placing the blame for collisions with vulnerable road users on the victims not doing enough to avoid them.

    That *is* a “real issue” – because quiet roads still have those drivers on them, because not everywhere has quiet roads (try getting across Stoke sometime), and because the future shouldn’t be a series of frightened dashes between bits of segregated infrastructure.

  3. Kim says:

    The is a major problem in the way “road safety” is promoted in this country, rather than taking a harm reduction approach, the focus is almost entirely on the blame the victim approach, this needs to change.

    However, cycling has another problem which has a distorting effect. It sold almost entirely as a sporting activity, the idea of cycling of purely as a means of transport has been lost. Unlike driving where the sport and transport side of things are seen as (largely) separate, cycling is seen as a form of transport than is only for the “sporty”.

    Driving in all its forms is more dangerous than it cycling equivalent. However, driving as transport is regarded as being relatively safe and therefore not needing special equipment, whereas cycling as transport is seen as being as dangerous as the more dangerous forms of cycling sport (even though these are generally safer than driving as transport).

    In motor sport it is common for the drivers to wear special protective clothing and a helmet. Yet the ordinary motorist would never consider donning flame retardant suit and helmet to drive to the shops (although a strong cast could be made for doing so based on hospital admittance studies as this would undoubted save lives). Whereas, to ride a bicycle it is considered necessity to use sports based “safety equipment”. There is also confusion about the intended function of this “safety equipment”, the helmets worn for racing aren’t primarily for head protection, but rather as they offer the ride a small aerodynamic advantage. Although this advantage maybe very small, racing is about winning and 1/10th of a second advantage can be the difference between winning and loosing, but not much use when going to the shops.

    So to make progress we need to normalise cycling as an activity, put in a separation between cycling as a sport and shopping by bike.

  4. […] under a placebo moon, without encountering any creatures of the night. A cyclist complains about biking’s cult of fear. An interview with the Brazilian driver who plowed through the Critical Mass ride that injured at […]

  5. […] was recently reading a blog post on “Cult Of Fear” when I was struck by the story about a woman killed while riding along a dual carriageway, the […]

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