Thursday, 14 April 2011

You Can Leave Your Hat Off

“It’s like criticising the health secretary for eating a cake.”

I couldn’t agree with this commentator more. There was a stushie, a kerfuffle or even a stair heed rammy recently when Transport Minister Norman Baker revealed he doesn’t like to wear a helmet when cycling round London as he likes to feel the wind in what’s left of his hair.

I’ve blogged before about Baker the Doughnut as he tried to claim for a bike on expenses along with hi-fi equipment and made a bizarre comment about how nice cars are in city centres.

But on the subject of helmets I’m with him and Boris the Baffling Mayor and others. If you gear up and cycling aggressively motorists behave the same way. If you look like a normal person who happens to be on a bike they give you a wide berth.

It’s a shame to see critics pointing to the number of head injuries when it’s not at all clear if those injuries would have been prevented by a tiny piece of polystyrene and plastic. I rather fear not.

I am a careful cyclist, especially since becoming a dad, and try to plan my journeys, making best use of safe routes.

One example being the Rose Street-Innes Street underpass in Inverness, possibly the ONLY safe way to get from the city centre to the Longman without risking a squishing under an HGV or dying of old age waiting for a gap at the Harbour Street roundabout.

I blogged a couple of weeks back about the recent introduction of barriers at the underpass. In a serendipitous moment the other day I was heading for the underpass when I noticed local councillor Janet Campbell and wee group in earnest discussion. It turned out to be a couple of council officials and a member of the Highland Cycle Campaign.

We had a wee chat about the barriers - not a huge problem in the grand scheme of things - and the end result I think was that the officials would look at altering them slightly to ensure while they were still slowing cyclists they weren’t ejecting them into blind corners and into the path of pedestrians.

I did make the point that it’s a useful cycle route and should be made easier for cyclists to use rather than harder only to be met with: “It’s not an official cycle route.” Well, maybe it should be!

There have been a few instances in recent times where cycling and walking just haven’t been considered by the car-centric authorities we have. (For example, what would it have taken to extend the path from the old Delnies School a very short distance to the Ardersier turn off on the A96? The authorities said it would be dangerous and the councillors I approached about it simply shrugged.) What was it HG Wells said? "When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." You don't need a Time Machine to know that makes sense now.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more. Edinburgh is pretty enlightened in this respect (see the recent Innertube Map). We are lucky to be blessed with an extensive cycle network based on the old suburban rail lines. But we still have some odd bits of thinking. Why for example would the exit from the bike path opposite a huge Sainsburys have barriers that prevent the use of a trailer. I have to shop by car as a result.