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There’s a long history of motorists wanting to rid the roads of cyclists. From a 1920s Road Congress in the Netherlands comes this juicy quote:
“After all, the construction of bicycle paths along the larger roads relieves traffic along these roads of an extremely bothersome element: the cyclist.”
Hitler may have been a calisthenics-obsessed vegetarian but despite the obvious health benefits of cycling, he wasn’t too keen on cyclists. In 1934 his Nazi government passed a law regarding “the problem of disciplining cyclists” who did not use cycle tracks. Bicycle associations were also outlawed.
Not wishing to invoke Godwin’s law here but there’s a parallel between the Nazi desire to carve routes for the ‘people’s car’ and Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 parody of a road-hog amphibian, Mr Toad of Toad Hall.
There are quotes from the book below. They frighten me because so many motorists now drive like Mr Toad, especially as their vehicles are now so safe. For them. But not, of course, for those on the receiving end of crumple-zones.
I’m reminded of all this by a woundrous [sic] article on an Indian news website. Vaatupura A. Jayaprakash is the Indian sub-continent’s version of Mr. Toad. In a piece titled ‘Bicycles: Silent killers on the road’, Jayaprakash writes that cyclists have become a “danger to motorists.”
Cyclists used to be chastened by having their tyres deflated by “angry police officers” but not any more. Instead “this once-ineffectual mode of transport is increasingly becoming a threat to many motorists.”
Mr Toad of India: “…Careless and casual cyclists, who go hither and thither on their way to their destinations, cause 20 per cent of…accidents. They simply take twists and turns…so unexpectedly that the unsuspecting motorist…out of his instinct, not to hurt anyone, is forced to negotiate his vehicle out of panic, ending up in accidents, killing and injuring many, including himself.”
Yep, cyclists in India may indeed weave hither and thither but is it not incumbent on motorists to keep their speed low so they don’t hit these “silent killers”?
Not according to our Indian Mr Toad: “When it comes to accident, it is always the driver of the bigger vehicle who bears the brunt. The cyclist and even motorcyclists, for that matter, go scot-free.”
Hmm, except the dead ones.
Mr Toad would like to see more action from the police:
“A few incidents of flattened tires and public warnings would make a big difference in the road safety awareness of our people.”
EXTRACTS FROM ‘WIND IN THE WILLOWS’:
Glancing back, they saw a small cloud of dust, with a dark centre of energy, advancing on them at incredible speed, while from out the dust a faint ‘Poop-poop!’ wailed like an uneasy animal in pain…they had a moment’s glimpse of…the magnificent motor-car, immense, breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot tense and hugging his wheel, possessed all earth and air for the fraction of a second, flung an enveloping cloud of dust that blinded and enwrapped them utterly, and then dwindled to a speck in the far distance, changed back into a droning bee once more.
‘Glorious, stirring sight!’ murmured Toad, never offering to move. ‘The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here to-day— in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped— always somebody else’s horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!’
‘O what a flowery track lies spread before me, henceforth! What dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I speed on my reckless way! What carts I shall fling carelessly into the ditch in the wake of my magnificent onset!”
[Mr Toad] increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was…Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night.
Mr Toad later got 20 years in the clink. Not for his reckless driving, but for stealing a car.
Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, a Disney-themed DH route above Lake Tahoe in California, the fun name for Saxon’s Creek trail.