Saturday, 12 April 2008

The Golden Path

I remember when I read about the first cars. A rule was imposed that required a person waving a red lag walking in front of the noisy stinking Automobile. Ridicules isn’t it? Stop and think, what is the number one killer nowadays? It’s road accidents. So they had a point. But being conservative, sticking to only what you know leads to absurdities and stagnation. Was the industrial revolution good or bad? Should have Britain embrace it or reject it? Should all slaves be freed? Should women get the vote? We take for granted change that previous generations foght tooth and nail for and against, predicting the end of the world and Utopia. I expect that in a few generations Genetic research will not be so controversial as it is today and the objectors would be regarded as outdated as those who could not fathom the radical idea that the earth is round or thought the Eifel Tower is a mistake. I expect that in a year or two people will not even remember that once we had to campaign for eight years to get a cycle path along Aylesbury Raod.
It takes a good dollop if intuition and open mindedness to judge whether a change or innovation is worth the risk it carries or even to guesstimate the relevant risks. We all take these risks, telling ourselves rightly or wrongly they are calculated. We get married, we take a mortgage, we drive a car, we change jobs, we replace the ruling party and so forth.
We are very bad judges of risk. We over exaggerate the odds when the result might be calamitous and underestimate when it is inconvenient. The probability of being injured in a terrorist attack is miniscule compared to the likelihood of being hit by a motor vehicle. What do you fear more? Where is more money spent?
So does a path shred by pedestrians and cyclists pose a mortal threat? A disaster waiting to happen? Yes, if you envision a Tour-de-France rally whizzing down, expecting the path to be pedestrian free. No if you are more realistic and expect the cyclists to be casual bicyclers, who respect others and ride responsibly.
So courteous and lawful behaviour is the key. A two prong approach is called for: education and enforcement. The ‘Get Wendover Cycling’ Group will help promote the former and I hope the Parish council will guide the PCSO’s to keep an eye out for the latter.
The picture is similar to the one published in the Bucks Herald. It was a really cold day and very windy but we came because showing support for cycling in Wendover in general, and to cycle paths in particular, is important to us. But cycling is not the aim. It is the mean towards several personal & environmental benefits. I will not insult your intelligence by listing them.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Indeed we are bad judges of risk. Some people instinctively think cyclepaths are safer for cyclists, yet there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is.

    Look at the dangers. You start by forcing two streams of traffic much closer together than on a road, you add in potential collision spots with cars every few metres at driveways and give way markers at every tin pot side road (where sight lines are negligible compared to cycle stopping distance so cyclists have to stop).

    How does this make cycling in Wendover more attractive?