If you would like to get a flavour of our town's view about tolerance towards young people, and the strange sense of perspective that underpins "risk assessment" thinking around cycling in Darlington, read the report of "The Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee“ on the 10th of September 2009 about cycling in the town centre, monitoring accidents and incidents and behaviour involving cyclists during the summer of 2009:
„There have been six incidents involving pedestrians either on the ring road or in the town centre.” Now you are waiting for a report about rowdies on bikes injuring innocent pedestrians:
„One incident was with a HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle), two with a car and three with buses. Two of the casualties were classed as serious.”
So we know now that there were at least two serious accidents in the summer 2009 involving motorised traffic injuring pedestrians. But then the report continues with its real subject, i.e. reported incidents with bicycles:
„During the period 1st June to 31st July there were two emails recorded regarding people on bikes in the town centre. One comment gave information about a report from a member of the public regarding youths sitting on bikes blocking the pavement on Tubwell Row near the Nags Head pub. The second email was regarding young people doing ‘wheelies’ on High Row. A phone call was also recorded regarding an incident that had occurred in Northgate Subway when a cyclist, carrying a stick, almost hit someone. Nobody was hurt in the incident and the caller did not leave contact details or a time and date for the incident.”
So there we have it. A few lads sitting on a wide pavement with their bikes requires the attentions of a council committee. Six accidents with cars and HGVs, two classed as serious? Well, that's the natural way of things, is it not? Clearly, however, wasting council time is not enough. More must be done to stamp out this appalling behaviour (by youths on bikes, not accident-causing motorists).
Luckily there is a Code of Conduct for Cyclists in Darlington printed on glossy paper: "The Neighbourhood Policing Team“, says the committee's report, „have taken a supply of the Code of Coduct leaflet to give out in schools. The leaflet will be used as part of a schools education programme to teach children about responsible cycling.”
Perhaps most pupils would rather see a Code of Conduct for Darlingtonian Car Drivers that reminds them of their responsibility (and the Highway Code) and is handed out to any driver parking around the town centre with the parking ticket.