Each year on the roads of this country upwards of 2,000 people are killed and many tens of thousands more are injured in road crashes. The perception of danger is one of the most common reasons people have for not riding a bicycle. Why do we, as a society, tolerate this level of carnage? What can be done? In the studio to help answer these questions is Dr Robert Davis, author of the acclaimed book Death on the Streets and currently serving as Chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum. Some more reading.
In the studio is Bike Show regular ‘Buffalo’ Bill Chidley, who brings news of London’s burgeoning bicycle polo scene (note imminent rebranding as ‘urban bike hammer ball’). The London Open 2011 is on 30-31st July. Steve Evans, a bicycling paramedic from the Liverpool Century RC, gives some excellent practical advice on how to provide immediate post-collision assistance to an injured cyclist. Steve’s free first aid guide for cyclists is available from the Rough Stuff Fellowship. Also featured is long distance cyclist and bearded wonder James Bowthorpe, around 18 hours into his 24 hour non-stop bicycle ride in a shop window. Phew!
You may not have heard of Norman Baker. He is the member of parliament for the town of Lewes in East Sussex. He is also a junior minister in the Department of Transport. Among his responsibilities is the promotion of cycling. Admirably, he cycles himself – he’s not one of those ‘do what I say, not what I do’ politicians.
Norman Baker is also a member of the Liberal Democrat party, a party that despite currently forming a coalition with the Conservative Party, thinks of itself as the heir to the great liberal tradition of British political thought, from John Locke to John Stuart Mill and beyond. As such we should expect that he espouses liberalism. One of the essential questions of liberalism is framed by Isaiah Berlin:
“What is the area within which the subject — a person or group of persons — is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons?”
Norman Baker, like most British cyclists – and Dutch and Danish cyclists, come to that – rides a bicycle without wearing a helmet. Yet he has recently been the subject of criticism in the media for saying so.
He has not told anyone else what they should do, rather he has explained that he’s made his own decision on the matter, and others are free to do the same. A very liberal point of view.
In choosing to ride without a helmet, it seems Norman Baker is not alone among politicians.
And it’s not just Tory toffs and Austro-Californian hard men who choose to enjoy the wind in their hair.
Norman Baker is making the case for the freedom to choose. And one of the things about freedom is that we are free to choose differently.
Jenny Jones asks all the right questions. Good, campaigning stuff from the Green Party Assembly member.
Not much text needed to accompany these photographs taken yesterday on the streets of Southwark and posted on the SE1 Forum.
Exhibit A: Lorry and cyclist collide on Borough High Street, junction of Dover Street. Keltbray services the Shard construction site and one of its lorries killed a London cyclist back in March, just a few yards from this spot. Note the lovely ‘guard rails’ that trapped the cyclist on her left. Photo credit: Phoney.