Campaign LogoPedal Power

Issue 66
January 2007

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Tackling Obesity
based on an article in CCN News

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued the first national guideline for the prevention and treatment of obesity in adults and children. Its prescription is strongly in favour of more people cycling.

Concerned that the UK is second only to the USA in the number of people who are overweight or obese, and that obesity is the most serious threat to the health of the nation, NICE calls upon the NHS, schools, local authorities, employers and town planners to work together to address the problem.

Local authorities should work with partners, such as industry and voluntary organisations, to create safe spaces for physical activity, addressing as a priority any concerns about safety, crime and inclusion, by:

Schools should address their environment and ensure that the ethos of all policies helps children and young people to maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet and be physically active. This includes policies relating to building layout and recreational spaces, catering, the taught curriculum, school travel plans and provision for cycling.

Healthcare professionals should give people advice on maintaining a healthy weight that includes making being physically active such as walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics or gardening a part of everyday life.

NICE report: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG43/niceguidance/pdf/English (requires registration)

Reminder – AGM 12 March 7-30pm at John Storer House

Please come along and let us know what you think we should be doing. Some of the old stalwarts will be standing down this year so we need some new officers and committee members together with some new ideas.

“Cyclists” v “cyclists”
Comment by Peter Hopkins on the letter by Nick Moss

I agree strongly with Nick's letter, published in the last issue of Pedal Power. In general, cyclists do indeed have a poor public image.

I have always been a keen cyclist, but during the last couple of years have also done a lot of walking (i.e. rambling & hill-walking), and of course I am an occasional motorist, too. But it is only as a cyclist that I find myself "targeted" in an semi-accusatory manner. If my enthusiasm happens to be mentioned in non-cycling company, someone will usually turn to me and say "Oh, you're a cyclist, are you ? Well, the other day I saw this cyclist . . ." and then launch into a horror-story about some inconsiderate or dangerous riding they have witnessed. Yet if my walking comes up as a topic, no one seizes the chance to tell me about the suicidal jay-walker they almost ran down that morning or the teenagers they saw trampling three abreast through a cornfield after leaving a farm gate wide open! And as a motorist, I am never treated to an indignant account of how someone was almost forced off the road by a selfish driver, as if in some mysterious way I was linked to what occurred because I happen to have a car.

Yes, as cyclists, all of us tend to be tarred with the same brush. Often the bike story I hear is clearly the behaviour of some irresponsible oik, and the complaint is usually valid and legitimate. My standard practice on hearing these tales is to condemn the behaviour described, whilst pointing out that the incident really had nothing to do with me. To this the puzzled response is often "But you're a cyclist" - as if we all have some kind of shared corporate responsibility for each other's actions. It is obvious that people in general do indeed anticipate that we will blindly defend cyclists in all circumstances. And many of us do. I have been at meetings - CTC, Sustrans, local authority and others - where any criticism by a cyclist of some other cyclist's behaviour usually produces an embarrassed, reproachful silence! The mood is sorrow rather than anger, but the complainant is likely to sense from his fellow-cyclists the unspoken question "Whose side are you on ?" Perhaps, as minority road-users nowadays, we tend to be defensive and at times even confrontational. I know that Ray Clay has, ex officio, experienced plenty of examples of what he calls "cyclists' tunnel vision" in the county!

I accept Nick's point that cycling misbehaviour is "not just the preserve of a few bad apples", but I would contend that most of it is very unlikely to be the fault of regular committed Cyclists (hereafter distinguished by a capital C!). Unfortunately, public perception naturally lumps us all together. I remember in the cycling press some years ago a rather lofty, holier-than-thou letter taking an earlier correspondent to task for suggesting that there were such things as Real (or Proper) Cyclists, who could be distinguished from The Others or The Rest (presumably utility cyclists). I cannot recall whether the original letter was rather patronising about the "other" cyclists, but the high-principled correspondent was indignant and would have none of this class distinction. "There is no such thing as Real Cyclists," he claimed. "We are just cyclists - all of us" . Oh, no we're not. In practice, there is an enormous difference between a Cyclist and someone who happens to be on a bike. Unfortunately, the same word is used to describe both. To make the distinction clearer, consider the obvious walking analogy: there is a lot of difference between a pedestrian and a walker (or rambler), even though both use the same means of locomotion. My point is that the Cyclist is more likely to obey the law because he has a vested interest in his activity and its reputation. The person-on-a-bike has no interest in cycling for its own sake and therefore little concern for its reputation (hence the foul abuse frequently complained about, usually hurled by a young yobbo who has been rebuked**). One of the ironies here is that many irresponsible youngsters - who are all "cyclists" in the eyes of the law and the public - are only on a bike because they're young or impecunious, and what they're desperate to do is to become motorised as soon as they can! Drivers enraged by the dangerous antics of the tearaway lump him with the sober, serious Cyclist - never reflecting that in a few years the tearaway, who has no love of cycling as such, will be much more of a menace when he gets behind the wheel of a car.

Yes, even sensible cyclists technically break the law at times, but not usually flagrantly and as a matter of course. Cycling in and out of Kegworth on the A6, I usually stay on the footpath after the cycleway runs out before the narrow, winding bends. Strictly, this is illegal. I do it because the A6 is particularly dangerous at this point and because nowadays no one walks into or out of Kegworth along the A6 (they all drive!) So I encounter fewer then one pedestrian a year on it. If I do meet one, I dismount. There is a lot of difference between this kind of thing and hurtling along a busy urban pavement, threading rapidly through toddlers and shopping pensioners. Where I live on Park Road, the pavement is narrow, but is regularly used by cyclists (small C!). They are invariably under about 25, and they don't ride slowly. A couple of years ago, as I inched my car out (it's a completely blind exit), my bonnet was struck by a girl hurtling along the pavement, who fell off and became aggressive. (A pedestrian, seeing my bonnet, would have had plenty of time to stop.) When I pointed out that she had been riding on the pavement, she snapped "What do you expect?" I could only say that I expected her to cycle into town on the road, as I always did, but I doubt if she believed me. Park Road is admittedly very busy at rush hours, but for some cyclists pavement riding along this stretch has become so habitual that many still do it even when the road is completely clear. It's hard to understand because it's much less convenient - but, nevertheless, it's what they do.

When I used to carry out my 8am - 9am traffic/cyclist count at Quorn traffic lights, I frequently observed cyclists riding over the crossing against a red signal. It was nearly always perfectly safe to do so as there was no traffic coming across, so they were not being foolish in that respect - but of course that is not the point. They were doing so in full view of dozens of drivers waiting for the lights to change. What a fuss we as cyclists would make - and rightly make - if motorists regularly did the same. So motorists see this kind of frequent minor flouting of the law is typical of cyclists. No wonder they become angry when the earnest Friend-of-the-Earth type of eco-cyclist attempts to claim moral superiority by taking the environmental high ground. As far as drivers are concerned, a cyclist is a cyclist.

Depressingly, I cannot see the answer to this. It isn't "education". The irresponsible tearaway is not going to be influenced by attempts to lecture him on danger and the law. He knows the law. Still less will he be moved by appeals to his concern for the reputation of cyclists in general. I don't know whether we Cyclists are outnumbered by the cyclists, but it scarely matters, because the Cyclist is relatively unobtrusive, whereas the hair-raising antics of the tearaway cyclist are so blatant that they attract a disproportionate amount of unfavourable attention.

Sorry to be so negative! I hope SOMEONE comes up with useful, practical ideas. Things were so much easier when a bike was the common 'vehicle' for most ordinary people, pre-1960. Nowadays there will be no support from 'The Masses' - because The Masses all have cars!

**Middle-aged & elderly cyclists would behave better, I believe, but sadly there are very few of them on the roads these days.

Perils for Pedestrians

This is a monthly television series promoting awareness of issues affecting the safety of people who walk and cycle in the USA. However it has an international perspective and there are some interesting video features available from its web site www.pedestrians.org .

In particular it has produced a 28-minute video featuring the Velo City cycling conference in Dublin in 2005 which can be viewed on-line at: http://blip.tv/file/5042169

China’s 500 million cyclists are finding that mobile phones provide a vital life-line for people in a developing country, but it’s often the case that remote communities are poorly served by power lines. With this market in mind, Nokia is developing a bicycle wheel-driven phone charger.

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