Darwin Among The Cyclists – Further Cycle Lobby Idiocy

Heavy Goods

Note : Anyone who reads this and starts to foam at the mouth at any perceived ‘anti-cyclist’ stance, “never been on a bike in his life, wouldn’t understand, etc, etc”, should really read the previous post before continuing.

In further cycle campaign based lunacy, it would appear that “cyclists” have been busy lobbying the EU

Legislation requiring hauliers to fit the 450,000 lorries in Britain with sensors and emergency braking systems is being examined in Brussels following intensive lobbying by relatives of a young woman killed when she was dragged under the wheels of a HGV

Bummer. And what was this poor young woman doing at the time ?

… as it turned without the driver noticing her in the vehicle’s “blind spot”.

Oh I see.

It is – of course – a tragedy when someone is killed, and more tragic if that death could have been avoided. It is an even greater tragedy when the death could so easily have been avoided by the recently deceased.

By, y’know, not riding down the side of a lorry, in its blind spot. Were I a coroner, I’d write that up as suicide.

Still, at least the bereaved family didn’t immediately blame the driver, who could have done absolutely nothing to prevent the incident.

Or did they ? Let’s have a look at the campaign they’ve set up “No More Lethal Lorries”

They have a five point action plan – and yes, of course, this will involve spending some of your money. And some of other people’s money that will eventually end up costing you more of yours. Natch.

1 Cyclist-awareness training for drivers

All city lorry drivers should be have ongoing cycle-awareness training, including on-bike experience.

2 Drivers must take more responsibility

Authorities must recognise driver responsibility for doing everything practical to reduce risks. Blaming a ‘blind spot’ should be an admission of guilt.

3 Safer design for London lorries

Lorries designed for off-road use should be taken off city streets. The best mirrors, cameras and sensors should be fitted as standard.

4 Higher standards from lorry operators

Quality-assurance schemes such as London’s Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) should be mandatory, and the police encouraged to crack down on rogue operators.

5 More responsible procurement

Companies must only buy haulage services from reputable firms, with government taking a lead in encouraging best practice.

Red tape, bureaucracy, legislation, quangos, enforcement. And not one bit of it the responsibility of the actual cyclist. Hmm. In fairness, at the bottom of their action plan is this further point that they haven’t even graced with a number

Plus: Better education for cyclists

Cyclists must be given the most accurate and up-to-date information on riding safely around lorries.

Let me save you the first five and completely implement the unnumbered, insignificant ‘plus’ : Don’t. If you are the sort of person who requires guidance as to when and how it is safe to cycle around a lorry, frankly, it is not safe for you to cycle around a lorry, so just don’t.

The life you save may be your own.

Legislation, Legislation, Legislation

Of course, it is to be understood that the grieving relatives of the recently deceased often make hysterical, emotive and frankly unreasonable demands of the world, been there, done that.

Campaigners called for hauliers to be compelled to buy equipment which alerts drivers if a cyclist pulls up alongside them and brings the vehicle to an automatic halt if there is a risk of a collision.

But as we’re all smart monkeys, we know this, and so there’s no danger of this stupidity – which strikes me as potentially dangerous in itself – passing through the EU as actual legislation is there ?

The Independent understands that Brussels will table changes to pan-European safety legislation by August, while an existing directive requiring all new HGVs to be fitted with cyclist sensors and automatic braking will come into force in 2013.

Oh, fucksticks.

And will this be expensive ?

The haulage industry said it was committed to improving safety for cyclists, pointing out that freight operators had spent £78m since 2008 on retro-fitting mirrors to their fleets.

Yes. If it cost 78M just to fit some mirrors, I think we can probably safely assume that fitting some crazy futuristic cyclist seeking radar and autopilot equipment will be hideously, outrageously, expensive.

Mirror, Mirror, on the, er, Junction. WTF ?

Until today, I had never heard of a Trixi MIrror, then I came across this petition while digging through a twitter search.

We the undersigned call upon the Mayor, as Chair of TfL, and the Members of the Greater London Authority to:

– Immediately install “Trixi” mirrors at every A Road junction, starting with the A503, Camden Road, then move on to B Roads. Let’s have London-wide safety for our cyclists, not a patchwork cover.

Have you guessed what a Trixi Mirror is yet ? (Perhaps this is common knowledge?) Here’s a pic and an apposite quote from the Guardian, which illustrate it nicely.

What's wrong with this picture ?

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, is seeking government approval to place mirrors at traffic lights to prevent collisions by revealing cyclists and pedestrians hidden in lorries’ blind spots.

So again, lots of lovely taxpayer lolly to be spent on letting drivers know when people are in their blind spots.

Once more with feeling

Look at that picture. Look at the cycle lane. See where the cyclist has had to ride to get to that forward box at the junction ? Yup, right through the HGV’s blind spot. This is stupid. And the solution to this problem is not to add the mirror to make it safe to do so.

Far cheaper option is simply to remove the priority boxes, lose the mirrors and for cyclists who are stuck behind a lorry or bus to just wait there and deal with it.

Look ma, I just saved a bucketload of other peoples’ money. Oh, and some lives.

Note: Anyone feeling the urge to rush to the comments and leave a snarky message about traffic fumes, don’t bother, I ride bus lanes. If it bothers you, don’t cycle on the roads. Or buy a mask. Or get off and walk around on the pavement.

I will simply reiterate what I said last time. Your safety on a bicycle is your responsibility. You take your life in your hands. If you rely on things like trixy mirrors, putative cyborg lorry systems, other people’s awareness of you or any other road features to keep you safe, you will be dead soon. And it will be largely your own fault.

Wise, wise words :

Because if you’ve put yourself in a position where someone has to see you in order for you to be safe — to see you, and to give a fuck — you’ve already blown it.
Neal Stephenson – Zodiac

Riding Blind : Dead Hippy Axle Dressing vs Situational Awareness

Riding Blind

For my first post in a long long time, I’m going to talk about some things I have rarely mentioned since I started this blog. Those being cycling and blindness.

There is a reason – apart from whimsy – why this blog is called “Blind Cyclists’ Union”. I am a long time cyclist, and I am also ‘blind’. You’ll note that I’ve put quotes around that ‘blind’ there, because, apparently, ‘blind’ is a spectrum rather than a binary condition.

Well, it is according to those who are responsible for labelling the disabled in order to better pigeon-hole and patronise them – as the DWP (and they should know!) tells us :

Most people who are registered blind have some degree of residual vision.

Yeah, it came as a surprise to me as well, but there you go, in order to be registered blind, you don’t actually have to be.

So the question arises : “How blind ?”. And the answer is, frankly, fucked if I know. I mean how am I supposed to measure it ? Blind enough to be registered, that’s for sure, which is moire than blind enough to fail the mandatory DVLA sight test by a wide margin. It used to be a red letter day if I managed to guess the second line on an eye chart. It’s not correctable, and it obviously degrades with age like everybody else’s. There are additional complications around dazzling from bright lights, ‘floaters’ and various stuff.

Whatever. Anyway, 99.9% of the time this is utterly and profoundly irrelevant. I only bring it up because of a recent spate of spew from the cycling lobby which has particularly boiled my piss.

On Yer Bike

As I mentioned above, I am also a cyclist. I have been since I was a child. I ride on the roads. Less so these days – in my late 30s I trust my reactions less than I used to – but still reasonably regularly. Shock horror, eh ?

Anyway, there’s the background on my end, lets get on with the overheated urine.

Fuck Off Jon Snow

Initially my ire was aroused by this piece in the Indy, whereby Jon (C4 News Snow), the CTC and the Indy have all started a campaign to “Save our cyclists”.

Here’s a gem

The campaign aims to protect cyclists from lorries and buses, which account for a disproportionate number of the 230 cyclists killed or seriously injured every month on Britain’s roads.

HGVs and buses are the largest vehicles on the roads, and have by far the most limited fields of view. You are likely to be KSId if one drives over you, that’s for sure. Then again, they are the most visible – and most visibly dangerous – vehicles on the road as well, so it should be a surprise that they are involved with so many cycle deaths. But somehow I don’t think that’s the point that the Indy is trying to make.

Ambush Predator flags up that on the same day the AA launched a cycling safety campaign by giving away a huge number of free helmets and hi vis tabards. I’d have taken them up on that like a shot, free stuff – what’s not to like ?

Well according to the Evening Standard article AP links to and to it’s author’s blog a number of cyclists did indeed take the huff. The published comments are sourced directly from Twitter – of course – here’s a gem :

Oh, ho ho ho, my sides to fucking split.

Wait A Mo, Did You Say On The Roads ?

@geographyjim’s timeline contains various other tweets insinuating that all cycle deaths are the fault of poor drivers, criminals in charge of HGVs and the like. I am living proof that this is simply not true.

I’ve been riding around on the roads – busy roads mind you – with lorries and buses for more than twenty years, and I am not dead. Here is a full list of all the accidents I have had in that time involving other vehicles.

Cluster Bomb

Age around 13, riding down my own street my chain came off, looked down at chain, became one with parked red Renault 5 stuffing face through rear driver side light cluster. Ouch. Knocked on owners door, paid for damage – well, my rightly angry dad paid, and it took many weeks of car washing and the like to pay it off. Spent about an hour picking glass and plastic out of face. Entirely my fault.

Junction Dysfunction

Age maybe 15, Riding home from school along busy A road, approaching minor junction with cul-de-sac, judged safe to cross junction as nose to tail traffic blocking vehicle egress from junction. Driver of white Ford Sierra decides to poke his nose out anyway, not paying attention, hits me. Arrive at road surface via bounce off red Ford Transit van on my right who was also crossing junction. Minor scrapes to me + van. Front teeth removed from Sierra driver by owner of red Transit, front bumper of Sierra ripped free by cycle pedal. Fault ? 50/50. He wasn’t looking, but his idiot behaviour was entirely predictable. I should have been watching him, not judging simply by traffic conditions. Surprised ? Transit driver was, he entirely blamed Sierra man. And he made him pay for the dent.

Rib ‘n’ Saucy

Age 30+, proceeding at speed (35 MPH) down steep hill through small light industrial area, vehicle (silver two door hatchback of some kind) reverses out of parking area in front of light industrial unit. Doesn’t see me. Taking evasive action I go wide and hit the kerbstone on the other side of the hill resulting in spectacular and very long distance pile up. Vehicle drives off, almost certainly never saw me. I arrive at destination 30 miles later bruised and bloodied. Subsequently it turns out that I have bust almost the ribs down the right side of my body and a couple on the left. That made the two mile stretch of disused rail track fun.

Fault ? Mine entirely. I know the road, I was going way to fast for the hazard level and not paying enough attention.

That’s all of them.

Dead Hippy Axle Dressing

So, if all of these cycling KSIs can be blamed on drivers, someone needs to tell me how come I – with my ‘low vision’/’partial/restricted sight’/blindness or whatever we’re calling it this week – have been managing to cycle around on busy roads and in bus lanes, four lane roundabouts with HGVs, hordes of zombie commuters and distracted school run mums with overloaded cars full of screaming brats and have only had three accidents in over twenty years, all of which were entirely or partially my fault ?

Surely by now I should have been murdered by one of these feckless criminal zombie drivers the cycling lobby are so keen to blame for all the accidents ? But I haven’t.

Situational Awareness

Because if you’ve put yourself in a position where someone has to see you in order for you to be safe — to see you, and to give a fuck — you’ve already blown it.
Neal Stephenson – Zodiac

The above is from some exposition in the cited novel about cycling in a city, they are words I have – literally – lived by.

If you are on a bicycle on the road it is your responsibility to pay attention to your safety. It is not a safe fluffy environment for cyclists, get used to it. Never assume that someone can see you, never put yourself in a position where they need to in order for you to keep your life. Situational awareness and anticipation skills can be developed to the point where even a blindy like me can ride around on the road without being killed or even seriously injured. If you cycle about the place with the arrogance of a self righteous hippy :

Jamie Crick, a presenter on Classic FM, also contacted The Independent to register his support. He said: “My producer and I both cycle into Classic FM and have been swapping terror stories. The lack of provision for cyclists is woeful in London.

Soon you will die. Simples.

I’m blind and I’m not dead. What’s your excuse ?

Fucktard of the day : Newcastle Council Leader David Faulkner

It’s hard to describe the profound fukwittery that inspired this particular post, so it will mostly be quotes. The first one is from the aforementioned David Faulkner, leader of Newcastle’s LIb Dem council, who, the Newcastle Chronicle reports, has written a letter to Nick Clegg thusly

A PLEA for help has been made to Nick Clegg as Newcastle faces up to “the toughest four years in its history”.

Well, I beg to fucking differ David, you utter cunt. I would say, if I were looking for the worst years, I’d start around 1939 or so. And take into account things like this

Millie Matthews is one of those people. Now in her 80s, she was 13 in 1941.

When the sirens sounded just after 11pm on the night of 3 May, Millie and around 200 others crammed into the Wilkinson’s shelter, beneath the town’s lemonade factory.

It was Saturday night and music from an accordion filled the shelter.

They couldn’t hear the bombs falling; they didn’t hear the direct hit that crashed through the factory at quarter to 12.

And when the bomb exploded on the floor above them it sent heavy machinery crashing down on the people cowering below.

Ninety six people died there and then; others died later from their injuries.

So no, David Faulkner, not really.

Breaking Lefty Habits of Mind

A thought occurs. For the last thirteen years we have lived under – and I do mean under – a horrible state that attempted, and in many cases succeeded, to stick it’s scaly statist tentacles into every last orifice of our private lives.

And during that time, countless of the Labour party’s useful idiots have told us just to put up with it, because the state knows best. We know what is good for you better than you do.

It’s an appalling kind of attitude from my point of view, and ugly habits of mind like this usually take years to break. Now of course, we still live in a horrible state that will attempt, and in many cases succeed, to stick it’s scaly statist tentacles into every last orifice of our private lives.

Only now it’s a Tory state.

And in the possessed minds of the hard core Labour drone, there can be nothing worse than a Tory. So now, every incursion by the state into an arena where it has no business being will be a Tory incursion. Every overreaching bureaucratic asshat poking his nose where it doesn’t belong will be a Tory overreaching bureaucratic asshat.

Every encroachment of civil liberties, every act of violence by the state will be seen as a grotesque insult. Because it is now a Tory state.

Well, welcome to my world.

The habit of blind obedience to the state (by proxy of the party) will be burned away by the all consuming hatred of all things Tory. It’s to much to hope that by the time Labour gets another crack of the whip – let’s not kid ourselves, politics hasn’t changed that much, if at all – the blind obedience to the party will have been likewise erased, because Labour are the only party that hate Tory hard enough. And that won’t change. Fuelled by a vicarious race memory of Thatcher, stoked by professional Common Purpose bullshit artists, that hatred will keep them warm – if not united – through the cold, dark years to come.

But perhaps by the time it comes to pass, some of those idiots will be just that bit less useful.

Well, I can hope.

Child Benefit Whine Unites The Political Tribes

Nothing, it seems, unites the political tribes like a good whine. In the run up to all the evil Tory cuts, this is particularly evident in the reaction to the proposals on child benefit.

Tax breaks for the wealthy are EVIL! Scream the Guardianistas. Cut benefits! Shout the suburban high Tory cliques.

How apposite then, that this sort of cockwaffle should appear in the Graun

Amanda Foley in Pottery Corner, a paint-your-own pottery studio, calculated that her family would lose £35,000 over 16 years, “which when you add it up is an awful lot of money”.

She has three sons: Samuel, three, Joseph, two, and three-week-old Oliver. Foley, a former teacher, said: “I do not work but my husband is a contractor and is well-paid so he will be above the threshold for claiming child benefit. But because I have three very young children it will have a knock-on effect on me.”

She believes the government must rethink its decision. “It is my pocket money and it will affect me because I don’t have any other income – I regarded it as being paid to look after the children. But it does feel that it is my money that is being taken away.

You’d think, really, that axing a universal benefit for the well off would satisy both camps. Less tax breaks, lower benefit bill.

But no, you see, when they were all screaming about the unfairness of tax breaks for the well off, the Guardianistas meant other well of people, not them.

And when the well off blues called for benefit cuts, they meant other people’s benefits, not theirs!

Surely the single best indicator of the fairness of axing an iniquitous universal benefit – cak handed as the implementation may be – is that self entitled pompous dickwads across the entire political spectrum are joined in unity in a plain chant whinge of “That’s not fair!”.

Pay for your own brats, you whiny douchebags.

A reply to Ian Dent

Ian Dent, whom I heavily criticised in my last post (or the automated cut’n’paste bot that claims to be him, it’s hard to tell) took the trouble to leave a reply. It’s long, and it’s largely irrelevant, like his report, you can read the full reply here

I’m mostly concerned with this bit, since the rest was utter cockwaffle, so much so that it would barely pass a Turing Test :

This document, produced by Ian Dent, has been orchestrated so as to stimulate the beginnings of a much needed public debate – to raise questions about decisions currently being made over our future, solely by ICT experts and the European Commission with NO active public debate in a common language.

Bollocks. The way it is framed, and the absolutely appalling way in which it is referenced, your busy swapping between UK and US styles of quotation that makes most of it look like ‘scare quotes’, and your complete misunderstanding of computer science terms of art contribute nothing to any such debate other than confusion.

Take IanPJ for instance, who claims to be trying to track down the EU document that he erroneously believes your quoted text “An ‘object’ in this [computing] context … ” to be drawn from.

The poor sod is convinced that because it’s a quote in a report about the EU that the relevant, sinister documentation must be buried deep within the EU. Had you referenced it, you could have saved him the ghastly heartache of this fruitless search, because it is taken directly from the Wikipedia article on Object Oriented Computing.

That part is double quoted, though unreferenced, and the rest of the time you seem to be using single quotes almost at random.

The phrase ‘Biological Economic Device’ appears to be your coinage, but you’ve put it in single quotes and bold for emphasis. Writing like this encourages the unwary to believe that everything you say is attributable to the EU, when in fact most of it is not.

As an academic is simply impossible that you are not aware of the proper conventions for quoting, referencing and footnoting, so one can only assume that your failure to use them properly here is a purposeful distortion.

We can see the results of that distortion, fielded with the weight of your academic credentials in IanPJ’s behaviour. He has run off completely confused in some paranoid never was fantasy panic.

So no Ian, your report contributes only confusion to any such debate, and I would also point out that the privacy and social implications of technology are being widely debated every single day. You managed to use Google to do most of your research, so how did you miss that ?

And last but not least, Ian

These are technical, complex and largely ‘un-soundbite-able’ issues. So a few references may help readers to investigate for themselves in a more measured and balanced way:

Well yes, Indeed they would, so why have you provided so few in your report ?

Human beings NOT classified by the EU as ‘biological economic devices’

FFS

I rarely click on Ian Parker Joseph’s twitter links, he is after all the main reason I felt I couldn’t join the UKLP. He does a great job of illustrating why it’s good that he is no longer the leader today.

This was his tweet :

An idiot, earlier

Good god! Could that be true ? That would be dynamite. Worth a click for once.

Idiotarians

Well no, of course, it isn’t true at all. It’s not even hyperbole, it’s just bullshit. Pure and simple. I can’t be arsed to fisk Ian’s godawful post in its entirety, so lets just pull out the relevant parts. Ian says :

Over the past week, as the result of being passed some high level academic reports in the field of technology and ICT reasearch, I have been doing my homework, researching the claims made in the documents, and looking for corroborating EU documentation.

OMG! So far so shadowy. He was passed some “high level academic reports”, bloody hell! No. He wasn’t. The report that he refers to is in fact on line here which of course just adds to the hilarity when Ian promises to email anyone a copy, and subsequently ‘makes it available’ in a download. How fucking generous of him.

For whatever reason he decides that he doesn’t want you to know that this is a freely available document. Presumably he feels it adds to his mystique. To everyone else, not linking to source is just plain fucking rude.

Citation needed

Enter one Ian Dent, allegedly of Cambridge University, although if that’s true they seriously need to sack the fucker. Ian is quoting from the linked document “Beyond Broadband – The True Cost Of Digital Britain” by the aforesaid Dent.

Here is the money quote from Dent’s ‘report ‘(his emphasis)

In computing terms (where the concept originated), an ‘attribute’ can be defined as: ‘a specification that defines a property of an object, element, or file . . ‘ An ‘object’ in this [computing] context can be defined as: a collection of co-operating objects . . . capable of receiving messages, processing data and sending messages to other objects and can be viewed as an independent ‘machine’ with a distinct role or responsibility . .
This is how each person will become defined within Grid profiling – as an object – a ‘Biological Economic Device’.

Wow, Just Fucking Wow

So Dent here goes from a straightforward definition of a computer science term (a definition which, incidentally, he hasn’t referenced) to suggesting that a phrase he has just made up based on it is how we will all become defined by the EU.

No.

I would recommend against reading Dent’s eleven pages of poorly referenced and clearly delusional word salad, – which contains more than the average Daily Mail’s worth of ‘scare quotes’ – in it’s entirety. It will probably actually make you stupider. But this is just stupid. And for someone who is supposedly a Cambridge academic it is practically unforgivable. No citation, no reference. Not true.

Ian, however is prepared to report this as though it were some kind of hard, verifiable fact, rather than just some paranoid phrase that Dent coins on page 17 of his ridiculous screed.

Since Dent doesn’t cite any document that supports his delusion, perhaps the redoubtable IanPJ can help us out, since he states

(documents are there.. if you can find them)

Wow! Links to them ? No.

Seriously people, do better

I have no love for the EU, it’s a crawling horror of a bureaucracy, largely unelected and almost completely unaccountable, but for fuck’s sake people, shout them down for real things that they actually do, rather than just making shit up.

Sad fucks.

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