My local newspaper is the weekly Halifax Courier (it long since lost its prefix ‘Evening’) and the letters page is always a good read. It’s a (mercifully) watered down version of the comments that appear on the paper’s Facebook page (a scary, dark place, frequented by ill-informed people who probably spend much of their lives shouting) but one where you would expect people to really think carefully about what you are writing, no? Well, last week the following letter appeared:
We have been told for years now that we should all be getting on our bikes – for the environment and for health reasons. Well, I can’t imagine anything worse for your health than being laid under a truck or car after being hit by one, as I saw two riders come very close to in Sowerby Bridge the other day.
Everyone, especially children, should have to undergo something akin to the cycling proficiency test and have knowledge of the Highway Code.
Our roads are simply not geared to cycling in the same way many European countries are. Drivers are not alert to cyclists and many cyclists are a danger to themselves.
Watching the Tour de Yorkshire, purchasing a £4,000 carbon Cannondale racing bike and the latest lycra does not a cyclist make.
B Taylor, Cumberland Close, Halifax
I sharpened my pencil, emailed a response (not easy with a sharpened pencil…) and yesterday my letter appeared as the featured letter in the newspaper:
I cannot be the only cyclist in Calderdale whose eyebrows were raised upon reading B Taylor’s letter (‘The latest Lycra doesn’t make you a cyclist’, Courier, March 30)…
We have never been told that “we should all be getting on our bikes”. We are increasingly encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles and for many, this could include cycling, an activity with undeniable all-round benefits for a person’s well being.
The rather flippant comment that Mr Taylor makes about cyclists “being hit by [a truck or car]” reveals a worryingly callous attitude towards road safety. Cyclists should be considered as vulnerable road users in the same way as pedestrians and horses. Impatient, speeding, close-passing and aggressive driving can make cycling an unpleasant, occasionally dangerous activity. To place the blame firmly upon the cyclist is simply wrong.
Through the Bikeability scheme, children do engage in cycle training. Most adult cyclists hold a driving licence. I am aware of no country that has an obligatory test for cyclists; neither am I aware of any country that has obligatory tests for pedestrians in how to cross the road.
The assertion that “our roads are simply not geared to cycling…” could be rewritten as “our roads are simply not geared to driving…”. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the invention of the bicycle. Our roads were not built for bicycles but they weren’t built for cars and lorries either. B Taylor will welcome the proposed Calderdale Cycling Strategy that aims to address the concerns that our roads are lacking when it comes to provision for cyclists.
Watching the Tour de Yorkshire, purchasing a £4,000 racing bike and wearing Lycra may not a cyclist make, but getting on your bike a little more often does make for a healthier, more enjoyable lifestyle that places fewer burdens upon our environment and healthcare services.
I am a cyclist and proud to be so.
I doubt B Taylor will be coming along to Square Chapel Arts Centre this afternoon at 4:30pm to hear me speak but he would be as welcome as anyone. More details here.