Why is it acceptable for a Time columnist to blame British cyclists killed by trucks?

Time magazine on #bloodycyclists

Re the above column, I’ve sent this letter to Time.com

Would it be acceptable for Time to apportion blame to the victims of indiscriminate shelling by Assad’s forces in Syria? Of course not. So why is it acceptable for a Time columnist to apportion some blame to cyclists in Britain killed by trucks?

Matt McAllester may wish to reflect on why many cyclists “get too close to trucks.” When such a truck overtakes a cyclist, the cyclist is automatically “on the inside” of this truck. Cyclists are often put at extreme risk when trucks come from behind, and then cut in front to turn.

Instead of blaming victims, a Time columnist ought to be asking why so many of London’s citizens (pedestrians as well as cyclists) are killed by a certain type of construction vehicle, the so-called tipper truck? Might it be because of the piece-work pay structure of the drivers of these trucks? Tipper truck drivers are under enormous financial pressure to get through London as fast as possible. Sadly, squishy humans often get in the way and it’s almost always not their fault when they’re maimed or killed.

Carlton Reid
Executive editor

Traffic professionals need to understand why cyclists don’t use “cycle routes”

That’s the view of Chris Parker, a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, in a letter in the New Civil Engineer, responding to a (thankfully retired) traffic engineer who wrote that it’s “alarming to see so many cyclists…ignoring their protected cycle path and needlessly holding up traffic.”

'Alarming to see cyclists ignoring protected cycle paths & needlessly holding up traffic'

There are usually very good reasons why cyclists don’t use bike paths, ‘protected’ or otherwise. Too many are crap: narrow, strewn with glass, blocked with lamp-posts and other street furniture. And those “pedestrian pinch points” Mr Barker mentions are some of the worst examples of how seemingly “safe” infrastructure is actually dangerous: motorists often rush to get past at such pinch points and the cycle access sometimes provided at the side of them is often incredibly narrow and invariably stuffed with leaves, glass and other detritus.

Cyclists are not “holding up traffic”, they’re part of traffic. Traffic isn’t just motor vehicles. Roads were not built for cars.

If bike paths were wide, direct, well-maintained, continuous and gave priority at junctions and crossings, cyclists would use them.

It’s therefore good to see a forthright response to Mr Barker in this week’s New Civil Engineer:

NCE 7 Nove 2013 1

NCE 7 Nov 2013 2

And given Mr Barker’s use of the word “Lycra” perhaps he might like to draw on some of the following points for his next letter to the Not Quite So Civil Engineer? William Bowie certainly has!

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