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On the road again

June 26th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

Yes, its the long-overdue reprise of using song titles as blogpost titles!

I was reading an article in The Times today. I shan’t link to it because it is behind the paywall and it is not so much the article itself as the comments that I was interested in. I really should stop reading comments on newspaper articles, along with comments on YouTube videoa or Tweets. They never display humanity at its best, but you know how it is. You read a certain type of article, and when you reach the end you see that it already has 130 comments and make a little bet with yourself that you can guess the gist of them.Today’s article was the sort guaranteed to bring out the worst in people. It was about employing more traffic police, something like the US Highway Patrol, who will crack down on speeding on motorways and A roads. Apparently the long term decline in road deaths has hit a plateau and even started to creep up a bit. The comments were much as you would expect, but a couple were such classics I wonder if they were writted as a parody of the angry Times-reading motorist archetype.

The first classic opinion was that all the road deaths are down to people driving cheap cars. This is like a Daily Mash headline or something. I think the writer would rather see roads means-tested, getting rid of all the bangers worth less than £50k. I can’t really work out the logic of this, though somebody who popped up to second the opinion said that if you drive an expensive car you will be more careful because you know it will cost a lot to repair or replace. Of course, if somebody is driving a £500 car it will also be expensive to repair or replace that, relatively, if that was their last £500. Less affordable than if you are driving a £100,000 car but have access to a million or two if necessary. You could argue that drivers of cheaper cars will be more careful because they can’t afford to lose them, but its all a silly argument to get into anyway.

At the end of the day, the original opinion is just a variation of the usual desire to see some group that you don’t belong to taken off the roads so that you can drive around without being stuck in traffic all the time, just with an exquisite elitist twist.

The other classic opinion was one of those arguments built on impeccable flawed logic, throwing numbers in to make it sound like it has some sort of scientific basis. It was to say you can reduce the accident rate by xx% just by banning all motorbikes because they account for xx% of accidents and then reduce by another yy% by banning cyclists because they account for yy% of accidents. You can just about imagine some Clarkson clone spouting this down the pub.

It really was a matter of supreme self-control to not dive in with the obvious retorts to this, but that sort of thing is for people with a lot more time on their hands than I have at the moment.

Obvious retort number one would be to question the statistics, which should be the first thing to do whenever an unsourced ‘fact’ is lobbed into an argument. That is just a matter of principle and should be done more often by everybody. 83.5% of such facts are just made up. I know that because I just made it up.

Obvious retort number two would be to ask whether the accident figures for cyclists and motorcyclists are for accidents caused by them or just involving them, because I suspect this is a case of further victimising victims by victim-blaming them. It is like an automotive version of that famous ‘contributory negligence’ judgement in the 80s where a judge more or less said that rape victims were to blame for getting raped. I can concede that in lots of accidents, a cyclist or motorcyclist has not been riding defensively enough to avoid being squashed when a car driver does something wrong and often both parties have a bit of blame, but it seems a bit much to suggest that two-wheelers should stay off the roads to protect them from four-wheelers.

Obvious retort number three is my favourite. Cyclists, motorcyclists and scooterists are actually going somewhere they need to be, just like car drivers are. If you were able to put in a draconian ban on them they would still need to go to those places and would probably have to go there by car instead. It would reduce fatal accidents enormously because it is hard to have fatal accidents when traffic is gridlocked. Granted, two-wheelers are more likely to go out just for the hell of it more than car drivers do, because it is a lot more fun, but there is also a lot of commuting happening on two wheels.

I don’t know if the commenter though all the cyclists would ditch their bikes, give up work, and just stay at home. Possibly he (bad of me to make assumptions but I just imagine it was a “he”) wasn’t thinking it through. I expect he has just had enough of sitting in traffic queues while pushbikes, motorbikes and scooters go flying past through the gaps; a case of ‘if I can’t get there quickly then nobody else should be able to’. A more logical reaction would be to say ‘that looks quicker, I think I’ll get myself a little Vespa’.

In which case… I am thinking of flogging my little 50cc Peugeot scooter. Give me a call. Only 1000km on the clock, perfect for round town, and if you have had a car licence before Feb 2001 you don’t even need a CBT or L plates. Make me an offer 🙂

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