Venn Diagram: The War On The Roads

Like many, I watched that programme on the tellybox last week – “The war on Britain’s roads“.

Like many, I was left feeling rather depressed by the whole thing – its sensationalist chasing of the biggest shouting, and whole futility of it all left me feeling empty. The two parts that were worth watching was everything Cynthia Barlow said (though the actual footage of her daughter Alex’s death still brings tears to my eyes), and the final words from one of the taxi drivers.

As for the portrayal of an “alleycat” race as somehow normal behaviour… just don’t get me started.

But one of the things that did strike me about the whole programme was that there’s a clear lack of understanding between the two tribes involved. Some people will try to tell you that there is no war, because in reality there aren’t two tribes at all – we’re all the same people.

For instance, did you know that…

Figures from the Government’s National Travel Survey (NTS) show that 83% of ‘cyclists’ (as defined by the NTS) live in households with access to a car or van – and this is actually just above the GB population average of 82%.  94% of CTC members have driving licences, while 18% of AA members say they cycle regularly. If there is a ‘war’ between cyclists and motorists, then we must surely be at war with ourselves!”

Roger Geffen, CTC

That’s probably a little confusing, so here it is in video format:

Still none the wiser? Maybe this’ll help (click to enlarge):

So we’re not quite all the same people. It seems that most people on bikes also drive (and so have a degree of empathy with drivers?), whereas most drivers don’t regularly ride a bike, and so are understandably baffled when cyclists do things like “take the lane”, “assert themselves” or generally refuse to act like “plebs”. Bafflement doesn’t equal a “war” though.

But wait a minute! What’s that tiny red dot just below the cyclists’ 17% crescent?

Ah. If there’s a war on Britain’s roads, it’s only a tiny minority who are taking part. This is probably why one of the TV programme’s contributors, Gareth Williams reckons he’s been passed by 3/4 million cars in the last three years, and had maybe a few dozen altercations: Mindless, conflict-seeking, and potentially violent twats are actually REALLY VERY RARE. But they do exist, and you’re as likely to find them behind the wheel, on a bike, or just hanging around outside the local kebab shop. So this “war” isn’t a “road” thing at all, so much as a “twat” thing.

There are two problems for me with this though.

Firstly “really very rare” in Gareth’s terms equates to one every 450 miles – i.e. one every three weeks for him. When you consider that far more people drive than ride a bike, the majority of Britain’s “twats” you’ll come across when cycling are encased in steel vehicles, which weighs 15-400 times as much as you do, travel at high speeds, and are operated by precisely the kind of people who shouldn’t be behind a wheel. Why would you want to put yourself in their way?

The second point is that Wife and my mum both watched last week’s TV programme. They’re now both convinced that I’d be safer volunteering for a bomb disposal unit in Afghanistan than I would riding to the shops. And they certainly have no desire to expose themselves to such dangers by riding a bike.

After watching The war on Britain’s roads, who could blame them?

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Posted in Bike Culture
One comment on “Venn Diagram: The War On The Roads
  1. […] his windows tinted to allow only 17% transparency. If there’s a war on Britain’s roads, only a small minority of drivers and cyclists are taking part; personally, I’d call that one a must read. An Aussie writer says it’s time to declare war on […]

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