Thursday, 13 September 2012

Minutes of the Crapburgh Cycling Campaign (August)

1.  The meeting began with a minute’s silence for Derek, who was very sadly killed last month on the A202. Derek was our CTC “Right to Ride” rep as well as being one of our oldest and most valued members and will be much missed. Only two months ago he gave a presentation to the CycleNation conference, “Cycling is much safer than everyone thinks”, which was very well received.

Derek’s wife, Cynthia, has heard from the police liaison officer. Apparently the driver of the BMW which ran into Derek has 36 points on his licence (this is allowed as he needs his car for business purposes) and he has previous convictions for speeding, drunken driving, and talking on a mobile phone. However in this instance the driver insists he was only going at 69 mph and was thus within the speed limit when the collision took place. The sun was shining in his eyes and the driver states he therefore had no chance of avoiding Derek because of the poor conditions. Also, a medical expert consulted by the driver has stated that some drivers can suffer very temporary brain lapses, which are no fault of the driver and can incapacitate anyone. In these circumstances the Crown Prosecution Service has taken the view that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the driver for what was clearly just an accident.

2. Frank suggested that our group paint a bike white to make a “ghost bike” and place it at the location where Derek was killed. However the feeling of the group was that this might be seen as exploiting Derek’s death to make a political point, and this would not help cyclists to win respect. The suggestion was rejected (sorry Frank!).

3. Sue suggested that copies be made of Derek’s CycleNation speech, which could be distributed to local libraries, church groups etc. She felt this would provide both a memorial to Derek and help make our roads safer. Sue said that it was important to get Derek’s message across to the wider public, as too many people were under the mistaken belief that cycling was dangerous. They particularly needed reminding that:

(i) Statistics show that you can cycle for 18,000 years before having an accident that will kill you or involve loss of a major limb.
(For fingers and noses it is 14,000 years.)

(ii) It is a scientific fact that cycling is nineteen times safer than mowing a lawn.

(iii) Last year in Reykjavik more people were injured brushing their teeth than riding a bicycle on a Tuesday.

This suggestion was approved and Sue volunteered to organise the printing and distribution.

[ Please note everyone that this will be slightly delayed in view of Sue’s accident on the way home from the meeting. Sadly the driver did not stop. If anyone saw a dark-coloured 4X4 on the Crapburgh inner ring road at about 10 pm that night, please telephone PC Sluggard on 0666-00666. Sadly, Sue’s broken leg and spinal injuries mean she will be unable to attend the next meeting.]

4. Mary reported on the Fun Ride to Knatchworth Windmill.

The weather was perfect and 20 people turned up. The group set off in high spirits. Unfortunately it turned out that the bridge over the river had been fenced off by the council (Eric to ask at the next liaison meeting why the council gave us no warning and how long the bridge will be closed for). In view of the 47 mile diversion that would be involved in getting to Knatchworth it was decided to cycle instead to the Teapot Museum at Knibling. A good time was had by all.

However Eric noticed that although the museum contained a number of novelty teapots, none were of a bicycle. Eric said he felt very strongly that this was typical of the way cycling was not taken seriously in this country. He volunteered to write a letter to all teapot manufacturers in the UK asking them to produce a “cycling teapot”. He felt that if people made their breakfast tea using a teapot in the shape of bicycle they might very well then take the next logical step of giving up their car for the day and try cycling to work instead.

The group voted unanimously in support of this idea. (Eric to report back on results at September meeting.)

5. Council transport liaison committee, July. Eric in attendance. Eric reported that the council’s transport funding for next year has now been finalised. It is as follows:

(i) Crapburgh by-pass improvement scheme £3.5 million.
(ii) Crapburgh inner ring road improvements £2 million
(iii) new cycle stands for Crapburgh High Street £42.50p
(iv) new town centre car park £5 million
(v) “Encouraging cycling” week £2,000.

Eric said that although the cycling budget was lower than hoped it was nevertheless very encouraging that the council was spending £2,000 on leaflets explaining why cycling was much safer than people thought, and also very healthy. The message “It’s fun to cycle” is sure to attract some new faces to the town’s cycle lanes.

Cllr Bigot said he regularly received complaints about cyclists riding on the pavement and asked what Crapburgh Cycling Campaign was doing to put a stop to this. Eric said that it was not CCC members who did this and CCC deplored the irresponsible behaviour of a tiny minority who made it very hard for cyclists to win respect. However he felt that Cllr Bigot’s suggestion that the death penalty be reintroduced for pavement cyclists was going too far.

6. Guest speaker: Sam Jelley on “Why Holland is not the answer”.

[ The scheduled speaker, Dicky Gargoyle from the CTC, was sadly unable to attend as he is in intensive care after exercising his "right to ride" on the A3 through Guildford. A big thankyou to Sam for taking over at short notice. ]

Sam said he had to start with a brutal historical truth which should give everyone food for thought, namely that it was the Nazis who first invented the idea of driving cyclists off the roads and making them use cycle tracks. It is a frightening thought that something as apparently innocent as an off-road cycle path can be just the first step in a deadly scheme for world domination and genocide. Sam said his message was very simple: be careful what you wish for.

Sam said he was proud to be a CTC “Right to Ride” rep. The CTC has always been there for Britain’s cyclists and was successful in suppressing cycle tracks in this country. Unfortunately the CTC’s battle for cyclists to ride on roads without lights at night was lost. This was a great pity as the right to ride on an ‘A’ road at night with no illumination was a freedom well worth preserving. Luckily the right to use dual carriageways and ‘A’ roads in daytime, unencumbered by attachments, remains.

Sam said that no one should be under the impression that the CTC was completely against how they do things in Holland. In Holland they have a Total Liability law. This means that any driver who collides with a cyclist is automatically fined 10,000 florins. This makes Dutch drivers very, very careful.

Also in Holland they have safety in numbers. Sam said if we could just get more people cycling in Britain then everyone would become as safe as in Holland.

Sam then showed a very interesting diagram showing how safety in numbers works in Holland. Here we see a typical Dutch street scene where a lorry driver pauses before turning. Dutch lorry drivers are used to being surrounded by lots of cyclists, which is why they take extra care at junctions.

However, not everything is rosy in Holland. For example, cyclists are banned from all roads and regularly get shouted at by policemen.

Cyclists are brutally forced on to cycle paths, which slow down fast cyclists and also are very dangerous. The greatest thinker that UK cycle campaigning has ever produced, John Franklin, established many years ago that off-road cycle tracks are highly dangerous. His collection of research paper digests from the period 1927-1962 is quite simply irrefutable. We do not need to go to Holland to know this, of course. Milton Keynes and Stevenage have networks of off-road cycle paths, but almost everybody there still prefers to drive a car.

In short, cycle paths sap the moral fibre of cyclists and make people helpless and lacking in the necessary skills required to cross a six-lane junction filled with heavy goods vehicles and car drivers doing 60 mph. Also Holland is very flat, unlike Portsmouth, say.

Finally, Sam said it should not be forgotten that in Holland everyone is obliged by law to build a segregated cycle path across their lawn, right up to their front door. This would never get support in Britain. All things considered it is therefore quite pointless asking for something that will never happen. The CTC has always known this but disappointingly every few years a tiny unrepresentative minority put forward the view that the Dutch know how to get people cycling. It is thanks to these people that cycling has never really taken off in Britain because just as it’s about to take off everything is spoiled by cyclists disagreeing. That is why everybody needs to get behind the CTC and stop all this nonsense about segregation. What Britain needs is mutual respect on the roads, which is why Total Liability is so important.

In a lively question and answer session the speaker was asked about recent rises in cyclists killed and injured on Britain’s roads. Sam said this showed that more people were cycling, which was very good news indeed. However, numbers were not yet great enough for the safety in numbers effect to work, which is why we must get more people cycling by spreading the message that cycling is safe.

Sam circulated a petition for the group to sign, asking the government to introduce a Total Liability Law. Daphne proposed an amendment reducing the fine to 2,000 florins for a driver who hits a cyclist. She said we had to be realistic about what was acceptable. Amendment passed.

7. Meeting adjourned early

The meeting was adjourned when the driver of an articulated lorry lost control on the bend and crashed into the building.

Apart from poor Sam and Eric everyone escaped relatively unscathed apart from a few broken bones and some spilt blood!

An emergency motion was proposed by Dick and it was agreed to send wreathes to Eric’s and Sam’s funerals and also to write a strongly worded letter to Crapburgh Council pointing out that it is now 37 years since our group first asked for a SLOW sign to be installed in the road outside.

Mary said she would be happy to take over from Eric as the CCC rep on the transport liaison committee and would mention it there. She would also write to the teapot manufacturers.

The dust from the rubble made further discussion difficult. Meeting adjourned at 9.15 pm when emergency services arrived on the scene.