We’re all Aristoteleans now

Nigel Warburton, whose Philosophy Bites is among the brightest stars in the podcasting firmament, appeared on The Bike Show late last year, with materials scientist Mark Miodownik in a discussion about the talking about the physics and ethics of running red lights.

In the current issue of Prospect Magazine, he takes a deeper look at whether breaking the law can ever be morally justified. In a passage on ‘the red light question’ Nigel writes:

Jack Thurston, of Resonance FM’s Bike Show, argues that cyclists are different from other road users: “I see a bicyclist as a kind of hybrid pedestrian that should be granted the freedom to keep rolling as long as it’s safe to do so. Those who say cyclists should follow precisely the same laws as drivers of motor vehicles are making a basic category mistake.” This is more promising ground, suggesting an Aristotelean approach in which we clear up what the “essence” of a cyclist is understood to be, and also what the telos—or goal—of traffic signalling really is. If the aim is to create a safe flow of traffic without unduly hindering progress of the various users (including pedestrians) then perhaps cyclists should be deemed a special class of road user, and given their own appropriate laws. People like Thurston think that cyclists are not quasi-car drivers, but a species of quasi-pedestrians. Running a red light, on this logic, should be treated more like jay-walking.

You can read the article in full over here.

TfL Draft Cycle Safety Action Plan: plenty of carrots but where are the sticks?

Transport for London has published a draft Cycle Safety Action Plan. Comments on the plan are required by December 11th 2009. The plan is good in parts but the emphasis is on voluntary measures, partnerships and awareness raising, when what is really needed is tough action against dangerous driving and facing up to the hard decisions needed to make London a cycle-friendly city. Continue reading

Cycling questions and answers from the Mayor of London: Oct 09

Here are the cycling-related questions from the London Assembly answered by the Mayor this month. The questions cover a wide range of subjects, from lorries killing cyclists (including a question specifically about the Vallance Road/Whitechapel Road junction) to the new cycle superhighways, the London cycle hire scheme and much more.

I’ll be publishing the digest, kindly provided by the GLA, regularly. It’d be great if listeners to the show and readers of the blog would help crowdsource some analysis, give reactions etc in the comments. If there are other questions or follow-up questions that you think should be asked, post them too and I’ll do my best to persuade an Assembly Member to ask them. Continue reading

Harriet Harman: On Your Bike!

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the House of Commons Harriet Harman is ‘helping police with their enquiries’ about a minor car crash in which it is alleged Ms Harman committed two offences: driving while talking on a mobile phone and leaving the scene of a collision without swapping contact and registration details. Both are serious offences, the latter carrying a potential 6 month prison sentence. Ms Harman has form here. In 2003 she was fined £400 and banned from driving for a week after being convicted of driving at 99 miles per hour on a motorway, 29 mph above the speed limit. In 2007 she received a £60 penalty notice for driving at 50 mph in a 40 mph zone. As The Times reports today, Ministers convicted of traffic offences have traditionally had to resign their ministerial careers, though these days it does seem to take a lot more before ‘honourable’ Members to do the honourable thing. As the row continues to rumble on, perhaps there’s an opportunity to turn it round to her own benefit. Continue reading

Cycle Super-MyWays

Boris Johnson is London’s first cycling Mayor and he has put a ‘cycling revolution’ at the heart of his programme of government. As well as the Cycle Hire Scheme, Mayor Johnson has announced plans for what he has dubbed ‘cycle superhighways’. There will be twelve superhighways, each offering “safe, fast, direct routes to central London from the outer boroughs”. But there are growing concerns that the plans are being watered down. Continue reading