Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cyclists and Disabled Unite

Today's Northern Echo has a letter in its Hear All Sides section from Gordon Pybus, chair of Darlington Association on Disability. Here is the Cycling Campaign's reply:

Dear HAS,

What a pity that Gordon Pybus, of all people, encourages prejudice. His letter (HAS 15th Feb) damns all cyclists as “a real danger to pedestrians”, before demanding that we use a cycle route of his imagination (“there is a cycle path around the ring road”) instead of the Pedestrian Heart.

I leave the question of Tim Stahl’s evidence that cyclists usually come off worse in collisions with pedestrians to him – he did work for many years in the Memorial Hospital’s A&E after all. But public evidence does show where cyclists get hospitalized – the ring road, where 45 cyclists have been seriously injured since 1988, and one killed. “I believe that motorists provide a real danger to cyclists” is a phrase that has all the backing of cold statistics, but not all motorists are dangerous, nor should they be banned from the ring road.

Gordon calls for cyclists to “be in the correct setting”. Well, we wholeheartedly agree. Please let’s look more closely at the bicycle as a unique form of transport, and not as some kind of “motor vehicle without a motor”. “Correct settings” are finally appearing here and there in the town, designed with cycling in mind, and not by the bizarre visions of car driving traffic engineers.

But even these “correct settings” are not going to segregate us from disabled pedestrians. Cycle paths are actually very pleasant surfaces for wheelchairs, and I see no reason why they should not be used as such. As Darlington Cycling Campaign continually stresses, we want to encourage responsible, considerate cycling in the Pedestrian Heart. It really is time to wake up to the fact that there are many ordinary citizens in Darlington who also cycle, and do not wish any harm on others.

But there is another reason for encouraging cycling in the town – to make our environment and our people healthier. Because Darlington is a Cycling Demonstration Town, we now have a unique chance to make a collective difference by making cycling safe, attractive and convenient to people who currently drive their car on short journeys (how many town centre pedestrians arrive by car, I wonder?) . That is why cycling needs to become less of a war of attrition with the motorist, and more a pleasant way to get from A to B.

So come on Gordon, stop building walls between us and chasing us back on to the roads. Sign up for the Cycling Symposium (http://cyclingsymposium.blogspot.com/) on March 17th and join other good-willed people in trying to make that vision a reality.

Richard Grassick
Chair, Darlington Cycling Campaign

1 comment:

miketually said...

In a typical week, I ride through the town centre twice every weekday travelling to/from work. Yesterday, I forgot my lunch and so rode home for dinner, meaning I rode through the town centre 4 times in total, two of them when it was particularly busy over lunchtime.

The only 'incident' I had was when a taxi entered the pedestrianised section of Northgate at about 6pm, despite the signs saying entry for taxis was between 10pm and 7am only. Should all taxis be banned from the town centre because one taxi driver acted irresponsibly?