Sunday, 8 September 2013

Laura Trott's utopian government where all policy is based on her anecdotes

Last week Laura Trott claimed that:
Cyclists wonder why they get a bad name... I see cyclists jumping in and out of the buses and people wonder why they get hit. It’s not always the car’s fault.... Cyclists need to help themselves and should not jump red lights. I would ride in London but I certainly wouldn’t ride like that, you just have to be careful.
She then called for helmets to be made mandatory.

Laura Trott: a great professional cyclist, but unfortunately also frustratingly stupid.
Two issues massively irk me about this:

1) "It's not always the car's fault." I'm sorry, but don't you mean, "it's not always the driver's fault". Would you ever say "it's not always the bicycle's fault"? This an example of Laura Trott, without even knowing it, using the English language in a way that immediately absolves drivers of the responsibility for killing and maiming other human beings on foot, on bikes, or in other cars (something regular readers will remember I've blogged about before, as it is especially prevalent among journalists). "It's not the driver's fault, it's the car's fault"... I've never heard so much crap in my life. It's drivers that kill and maim other humans, not cars (or lorries, for that matter). That's why we have a cumbersome driving test in this country (and even more so if you want to drive a lorry), so that once you've passed the test you can take responsibility for your vehicle (just as someone riding a bicycle unhesitatingly takes responsibility for what their bicycle does).

2) Laura's opinions are entirely anecdote-based. She hasn't bothered to look at any of the stats for who's blame in those on bikes getting hit by cars. In fact, even the cycle-phobic Westminster Council recently published data showing that drivers were to blame in over two-thirds of incidents where they hit people on bikes. Moreover, all available evidence from countries such as Australia which have introduced mandatory helmets laws show two key consequences of mandatory helmet laws: firstly, a negligible drop in fatalities and serious injuries among those on bikes; secondly, a highly significant drop in total cycling rates leading to fewer cycle safety measures being taken by local and national government (because that's how democracies work) and cycling becoming more dangerous and fatal in the long run.

Allowing Laura Trott to expound on these issues is like a conversation with David Cameron about Syria going along the following lines:

"Have you looked at any of the evidence, especially from the US and UK intelligence services? Have you perused any of the factual data we have from previous military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya?"

"No, unfortunately not. But I have got some great anecdote-based opinions. I think I remember seeing Syria on a map once and I have also travelled in the Middle East (Israel). In any sane world personal anecdote should be the bedrock of what local and national government does. Everyone knows that."

We don't let Lewis Hamilton tell us how to design a safe urban environment where cars don't kill people, nor does Michael Schumacher tell the Germans how to build motorways and bridges that are safe for drivers to use. Therefore, why the bloody hell should we let Laura Trott, Bradley Wiggins, or Mark Cavendish tell us anything whatsoever about cycle safety. These guys are all professional cyclists. Cycling to the shops to buy milk is not professional cycling. Therefore, I, for one, am going to fiercely defend my right not to be forced to wear a helmet while cycling from A to B.