In the chairs in a line were from the left Roger Geffen of CTC a cycling charity, in the centre Chris Boardman cycling gold medallist and on the right Edmund King of the AA, who likes to pretend that he is speaking for drivers when he isn't.
It was striking that no-one from the committee raised the obvious question. 'If road cycling needs so much to put it right and it is so dangerous, why are we still doing it in 2014?' It's a fair question isn't it? Here I will refer to our two pages that show how lethal road cycling is. Road cycling's a killer and Top cyclists prove it Did no-one on the committee think of asking: 'Would we normally allow unprotected humans to mix mingle, and compete with a large number of big essential fast moving machines which are operated by complete strangers of very varying ability?'.
Didn't anyone point out from either side that: 'Since the Olympics of 2012, and politicians, Sky, and The Times encouraging more to mingle with these machines, so cycle death and injury has escalated tending to support the obvious risks and dangers of doing it? See 2012 a 5 year high & along with more cyclists cycling faster in the style of Wiggins, we have Dooring incidents up. Doesn't any of this prove the more that do it, and especially the more that do it faster, so the death and injury rises as one would expect from a dangerous activity?' Surely these three luminaries should have been interrogated on this if they were unable to face it on their own volition?
Not one of the Committee suggested that, 'if there were no road cyclists and anyone suggested it now, especially for kiddies, we would think them mad.'
Not one on the Committee challenged the false premise that 'We must still have road cycling'.
No one from the Committee asked: 'Shouldn't we just look at restricting road use now for what is absolutely essential for sustaining the community? or 'Does the community need cyclists in the carriageway at all?'
So from the forgoing, we can see that the whole debate is not only on a false premise, a distinct advantage to the cycle lobby, but the white coat aspect of the concept of road cycling is airbrushed out of the issue too.
Now given all these advantages, let's look at how the statements of these three stacked up shall we?
Chris Boardman wants a '10 point plan to make cycling a normal method of transport.' But how can being on two flimsy wheels, a hard seat, exposed to all weathers and very hard work be 'normal' to most people? If it were that great, most of our 65 million would choose it automatically. These cycling zealots are rather like the Green lobby, 'like it or not you must all do it too'. It's tantamount to joggers expecting more to jog! Cycling is only temporary for almost everyone and then even they don't do it in high wind, snow and blizzard when the drivers are still out there keeping our community running.
He wants us all to pay £10 a head, presumably per year, to make cycling take even more money from the community. Is that £650,000,000 a year no less? If there were an ideal time to ask 'Why have cycling at all?' Here it was and The Committee failed to ask it for the taxpayer.
Geffen agreed with Boardman but then this peculiar, animated and jerky fellow, went on to talk about 'intimidation by lorries and bad driving'. But this is all subjective from a cyclists perspective. His qualification to judge 'bad driving' is what exactly? The 'intimidation' is a natural effect of the body trying to tell its owner, 'I don't wanna be here this is a bad place to be' and then ignoring the message. That is what cyclists do continuously. He then said 'Cycling isn't a dangerous activity'. Did the Committee miss that? Well the concept is very dangerous as already shown above and the cycling death and injury corroborates it. Can any responsible politician ignore the reality like Geffen clearly does?
The Chair, in turning to King, asked 'You represent motorists?' to which King replied 'Yes'.
No he doesn't madam Chair. He is the media spokesman (designated a non executive) President, of an association that fixes cars, plumbing, and provides insurance but neither he or his association have any special qualification in driving, road safety, accidents or prosecution. It does profit from driver prosecution and has a vested interest in certain anti driver legislation. It and he support the wholesale prosecution of perfectly safe drivers and profit from it and he is very pro cyclist at the expense of the driver. So no madam you are misled. Edmund King is very much part of the cycle lobby. His association is now too diverse to be called a motorists organisation.
Yes he has 15 million people who pay for his services but how does that make it a motorists organisation? He polls them on a monthly basis he says. Well amateurs polling amateurs isn't the best way to run roads Madam Chairman, especially when the poll asks the wrong questions. According to King, his poll says that 76% want more children to mix and mingle with heavy essential machinery operated by complete strangers. Let them read my two pages of cycling reality and then ask them if they want kiddies amongst this? So determined a cyclist is King, he wants to imperil our kiddies too? Something I find particularly distasteful.
He then trotted out the RACFoundation nonsense that death on the road is still the highest cause of death of young people. RACF actually included 'more than from hanging themselves and from drugs too'. How dishonest of King. We certainly hope that death by accidents, on the road or not, will kill more healthy youngsters than from suicide, hanging themselves or by taking drugs or by illness too. He fails to point out that most of those were not drivers, many were not a driver's fault and in any case after 300 billion driver miles a year, all the death on the road from all causes, including of cyclists, are less than from accidents in the home. Wouldn't you expect someone speaking for drivers would have mentioned that?
Oh then King had to refer to his 'Two tribes' or on this occasion, 'Us and them barrier'. King cited inflammatory twitter account He loves to foment a fictitious cycle war with this. Drivers have every reason to be annoyed with cyclists for many reasons but I suspect reducing their essential contribution to the community and keeping our society alive, to that of another 'tribe' that doesn't, is part of King's failure to grasp reality and in denying that we must have drivers but not cyclists, he shows clearly why he cannot speak for drivers at Committee sessions or anywhere else for that matter.
Geffen told the Committee that 'It's not anti car to say less cars'. Oh really? But his slip shows that these cyclists see cars and thus their drivers as the big evil. Cyclists detest the reality that it is the private car that keeps all our public transport, including air and rail, commercial transport, our NHS, water and food supplies and in fact all our basic needs running and viable. The car is the one constant in all this.
Madam Chair asked about 'Mutual Respect'. But that implies that drivers in their millions are not accommodating cyclists thousands of times a day. The 'lack of respect' is a charge of the Cycle Lobby, mainly based on nature being unhappy with their self imposed scenario but not supported by the brilliant UK driver's record mentioned already. A failure to recognise their selfless acts and even deny their importance is, in itself, a lack of respect for drivers.
King took up the 'Mutual respect' call with relish. Again assuming two equal opponents which is a disservice to UKs 35 million driver voters.
He then made the extraordinary claim that his members know that 30% of drivers are texting or using their hand-helds. The Committee failed to challenge this example of King's polling. We have all seen drivers using their phones at some time or another but 30% of them? I have never seen anyone texting and driving at all. Yes no doubt in a long stationary queue there is more of it. Why not ask the poll, 'do you ever use your hand -held or text whilst driving?' because there is something clearly wrong with the one cited to The Committee.
He made the observation that if road cycling were made safer, more would do it. Yes that's exactly the point. Most sensible people don't really want to do it because they like to know what is bearing down on them from behind.
King, the drivers representative, told The Committee that he wanted to see 'police prosecuting drivers first' presumably before prosecuting cyclists. 'Let's dish out more £100 fines' He said.
But on the issue of offenders, red light jumpers etc, shouldn't we point out that there are 35 million drivers covering many more miles than cyclists so, per capita , more cyclists are committing these offences more often aren't they? Didn't any of The Committee spot that?
Chris Boardman wants a cycling Tsar only answerable to the Prime Minister and no-one else. Who are these people? Do we need them at all?
They want lorries re-designed. 'Not fit for purpose' they said. However the evidence is that it really is true that, by definition, 'Road cycling isn't fit for purpose' so why must everything else change?
Geffen said he want's 'lorry cabs changed and HGV drivers lowered to that of Bus and Coach drivers.' Err but they have engines at the back allowing the driver to be in front of the front axle you silly man. HGVs have the engine at the front and must have the front wheels more forward and thus under the driver. It really would be far cheaper to ask do we really need road cycling?
Boardman's £10 per head apparently could be worth it because cyclists bring in £590 per head. However that will be by using all sorts of spurious claims, and not counting the costs to the community of impeding, and adding an unnecessary liability to major infrastructure. We wouldn't find any fiscal advantage to cyclists cycling along airport runways or railway lines would we so there is clearly a cost in road terms which isn't mentioned. Has the Committee checked the real costs of road cycling?
European cycling was mentioned quite a lot. Does anyone actually go there and see for themselves? see Europe Cycling. The myth
Of course we have cycling towns too. But like those in Europe, not of the long distance racing style commuter but more of nice sedate upright local cycling. Our politicians would do well to note the difference. The faster people cycle, the more chance of accident and the worse the injuries too.
Martin Vickers, (Cleethorpes) Sensibly pointed out that yes towns do need drivers.
Geffen's response was that 'Cyclists were good spenders' Oh so let's get rid of all the retail park car parks and just fit bike racks if cyclist turnover is that good. Pull down the multi story car parks and only allow cyclists, unable to carry large purchases or other spenders either for that matter, and see if our retailers liked it very much. What dishonesty or naïve statements to a select committee. Is this what our parliamentary committees allow unchallenged?
Geffen was asked to provide research to prove that the increase in shoppers in pedestrian precincts are cyclists. That's what he told the Committee. If his research isn't any better than the 'Speculations and assumptions' as Boardman called his own vague guesswork, or King's spurious polls, then the Committee should take it with a pinch of salt. Geffen's idea of a fact is 'Driving instructors tell him that they can tell students who cycle by the quality of their road sense'. Has that been scientifically studied? But since nearly all of us who take up driving because we already cycle and it isn't fit for our purpose, how can any driving instructor tell the difference?
Geffen and Boardman raised the old chestnut about health and how much money cycling saves the health service. We would challenge that but here we have and extraordinary claim by one pro cycling person from the BMA, a union, and on which so much pro cycling debate is based, See BMA thinks cycling death is worth it and On BMA reports Suffice to say there are much better and safer ways of getting exercise than road cycling. Obesity is more to do with, less sport, wrong diet, play stations, Internet and TV and all that can be cured without road cycling. If we want to reduce obesity we have more chance by getting people to do what they enjoy doing most and what is easiest for them.
Geffen on cycle lanes. He was asked By Adrian Sanders (Torbay)
Since we are restricted with widths 'would you prefer no cycle lane at all or whatever could be fitted in if it was narrower?' To which he said 'If there is no space for dedicated cycle lanes and the road is busy then we must reduce traffic and slow it down' So we have to interfere and slow a major infrastructure? Good thing they don't cycle on railway tracks and airport runways then.
He then said 'We are not going to have much cycle use if we continue to assume that road space is predominantly for the motor vehicle.' So having raised that point, The Committee must ask 'do we need cyclists on the road in 2014?' It's the cyclists, trying to raise their game, who are causing a focus on their activity. The answer could easily be 'cycle and get on with it or don't cycle, go away.'
But the biggest smile was the very last comment of the session. All asked by Madam Chair 'what they'd like to see?' Dear Edmund King could only think of the Awareness Courses that he and the AA run for profit. Business first for the AA then?
Did you note that Madam Chairman? We did.
Now why not call these witnesses back, recall their remarks and put all this to them? Is this really the best case the Cycle Lobby can make, and only then because they weren't challenged?
I am a cyclist by the way.
Note: Since this was posted, the Government is to allocate £650,000,000 a year to road cycling as a cycle manufacturer has demanded.