Post by Nicole
Hands up those who were spooked by the untimely death of former boxer Gary Mason in a cycling accident at the weekend? I was. Apart from the awful loss of another human being, there are two reasons why this made such an impression on me.
Taking the kids to school
First, I had recently resolved to get my children cycling to school one or two days a week. We had done a couple of dry runs, just to measure the distance and see if they could do it. We live out in Sussex and currently drive along some country lanes to get to school. However, the danger with country lanes is that cars expect them to be empty and consequently use them to drive as fast as they can (un)comfortably go.
When I mentioned it to friends, they were less than enthusiastic, and one suggested that I would be certain to lose friends in the playground when my cycling was making the other mothers late! And then, on 7 January, I heard the news about Gary Mason’s death.
Asking the difficult questions that put people off cycling
Am I putting my children in an unnecessarily risky position, just so that we don’t have to drive to school every day? How can this be? That I feel that I can’t do such a simple and pleasurable thing because of the danger from car drivers, who are mostly comprised of a zillion other mothers trying to get to school on time, and who wouldn’t dare (or be bothered) to cycle. Am I really putting them at so great a risk? Should I?
The second reason it made such an impact on me was that since the week before Christmas we have been inundated daily, and sometimes hourly, with reports into the investigation of the murder of Joanna Yeates in Bristol. Does the death of a cyclist mean so little that it merits only a paragraph in the press, and only then because of the fact that he was a boxer and therefore already famous, while the death of a very ordinary young woman merits so much coverage.
There is no doubt that the two events are equally tragic, but the media only wants to highlight the ones which sell papers, not events which should be on our national conscience, or ones that we could prevent.
At the moment, I can’t say anything about the nature of the death, other than that Gary Mason was pronounced dead at the scene after a collision with a combi-van. Obits and plaudits galore for his prowess in the ring, but not a squeak about the nature of the problems that cyclists face on a daily basis in and around the congested South-East, the only comment being how dangerous it is to cycle nowadays!
Was it his fault that he was on the road? We need to be changing this mindset. I feel increasingly motivated to stand up.
There are any number of organisations and bodies requiring the vocal support of all cyclists, a lot of them with good things to say. Have a look at the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, the City of London’s Local Implementation Plan, to name just two. I’m not an activist. Nor am I political in the sense that I participate in party politics. However, I am coming around to the idea that we need to stand together with these organisations and make our voices heard. We need a more coherent strategy so that we can cycle our children to school if we feel like it.
What do you think?
Leave a comment below.
Related posts on other cycling blogs:
- Stop the child murder (Hembrows Cycling Blog) – how the Netherlands boosted their cycling levels by focusing on something we can all relate to: Children
- Lick your LIPS – It’s time to get the city to listen to cyclists (iBikeLondon)
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.