Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Column, June 27, 2006

IF any accident victims deserve a memorial then surely it is those who lost their lives when out on their bikes with Rhyl Cycling Club.
Plans are still in hand for what form that memorial might take and the club is, quite rightly, consulting the families of those who were killed to take into account their wishes.
The deaths of Maurice Broadbent, Dave Horrocks, Wayne Wilkes and 14-year-old Thomas Harland has understandably united cyclists across the country and the club has received donations from far and near for the fund set up in their memory.
The precise details of why this accident happened remain to be probed by an inquest and a trial, but one thing it has shown is the fragility of cyclists who take to the roads.
This week we have learnt that the UK government is not on course to meet its target of trebling the number of trips made by bike by 2010. In fact since the government made that commitment, cycle use has actually fallen.
It’s easy to see why that is, after all, if you are a parent, how happy are you to see your kids go out on a bike nowadays?
And let’s face it, it’s not the weather that’s worrying you, or the fear that your child might develop a tendency to dress in dayglo lycra.
No, the thing that worries you is what might happen to them on the roads. No matter how careful they are, no matter how well versed they are in the rules of the road, you cannot account for how safe those roads are.
Cycling any distance opens your eyes to just how appalling the standards of driving are in this country. In fact it might be an idea, before you allow anyone to even have a provisional driving licence, to require them to cycle everywhere for a year, just to show them how terrifying it can be when confronted by drivers oblivious to anything other than other car drivers.
It might do something to improve driver behaviour if they have an awareness of what it is to be vulnerable. Part of the problem is that modern cars are so comfortable, sound-proofed, air-conditioned and powerful that the driver loses touch with the outside world, cocooned in a metal cage.
This creates a sense of security which is only ever punctured in an accident that shows them just how little protection that steel cage affords them.
And if a car affords little protection, imagine how vulnerable you are on nothing more than a few steel tubes and a couple of wheels.
It’s going to take more than the leader of the Tory party cycling to and from Westminster to make this country fall back in love with the bike, especially when we learn that ‘Dave’ Cameron has a car following on, carrying his shoes, briefcase and a change of shirt.
Many journeys made by car could equally well be made by bike – better for the environment and better for the cyclist’s health and wallet. But it’s hard convincing people of those benefits when they know that a trip to the shops will be a white-knuckle ride worthy of Alton Towers.
So a memorial to the riders of Rhyl Cycling Club would be well worthwhile. Firstly as a focus for those who knew them and as a mark of respect. But secondly as a reminder to those passing that cyclists are just about the most vulnerable of our road users.
The French memorialise those who lose their lives on the road more anonymously. If you travel any of the country roads there you will see silhouettes of men women and children dotted here and there – indications of victims of crashes on the particular stretch of road. Macabre, but very effective.
If a memorial to the Rhyl cyclists makes more motorists take more care then it will truly serve their memory well.

I DO enjoy the occasional contribution from readers, especially when they are moved to write in verse. David Evans puts pen to paper on the subject of the England team, following the revelation that unlike bandwagon jumping politicians with their eye on Number 10 Downing Street, I am not supporting England in their forlorn attempt to win the World Cup.
Mr Evans writes: “Ingerland, Ingerland It’s the same old story, Surely you have little hope, And certainly no Glory.” Masterful, Mr Evans, masterful, and all the more appropriate when we hear that 100 England fans were arrested for racially abusing other fans and hurling chairs from the balcony of a restaurant at them.
It was, of course, inevitable given previous form and you only have to wonder at the news coverage of their behaviour which greeted their beer-sodden antics with relief as long as they weren’t knocking lumps out of other fans or one another. It comes to something when you’re grateful that your countrymen are merely behaving like boorish louts and not boorish, violent louts.
Classy behaviour, and little wonder that the German authorities are wondering if they behave this badly when they win, albeit unconvincingly, what are they going to be like when England lose a match?

BUT to return to happier World Cup matters, my chosen team, Ghana, continue their march to glory with a supreme performance against the USA who were duly sent home humbled.
Now the Black Stars have only the small matter of …erm…Brazil, to get past this evening. But look, the Brazilians have hardly been firing on all cylinders have they and anything is possible. Keep the faith. If they pull off a sporting miracle then they face France or Spain in the quarter finals and then, oh so sweet, England in the semis, that is making the rather large assumption that England will beat Portugal in their quarter final.

Trounced by Brazil and out they go. Still, good while they lasted.
So, now, who to support next?

No comments: