Is This The Action Of A Responsible Parent?
You’re doing WHAT? Taking your kids on a tow-along trailer thing on the public highway? Where there are CARS for Chrissake? Are you either totally mental, or just don’t give a damn about your kids’ health?
OK - enough of that. And I’m exaggerating a whole lot anyway.
The issue of whether or not it’s "safe" to ride on the road with a child behind you on a tow-along was raised today on the BabyRambles blog . In essence, Emily - the author - had seen someone riding along the road through her village with a tow-along behind them for their child on it:
The road through our village is busy, narrow, hilly and winding in places. People are meant to drive at 30mph but many don’t. Would you cycle with your three year old on a road like that?
Let me say that I think all children should be encouraged to cycle, it’s a healthy and environmentally friendly thing to do. But I think they should only do it in certain places, it only takes a split second for something to go wrong.
And what followed was an explanation of why she wouldn’t be letting her children ride on the road.
There are three opposing views to this problem:
- Cyclists shouldn’t be on the road, as they don’t pay road tax - no pay; no play! Oddly enough the kind of people who seem keenest on this sort of approach also seem the keenest on pointing out the menace of cyclists on the pavement. While it’s tempting to take these two together and conclude that they’re just anti-bike, let’s apply Occam’s Razor to the contradictions implied, and assume stupidity & ignorance rather than malice.
- Expecting bikes and cars to share the road is asking for trouble, as accidents will happen, and when they do it’s the bike that comes off worse, leaving the poor innocent driver to deal with the guilt. This kind of thinking generally implies no cycling until we have Dutch-style segregation everywhere to allow for everyday cycling as transport. Until we get that, it’s just too damned dangerous for anyone to ride a bike. Oh, it also assumes fault on the part of the person riding the bike, causing an "accident" whereby the driver "accidentally" kills / maims the cyclist. An accident would be something that couldn’t be reasonably foreseen and prevented by a competent person - doesn’t sound like most of the cyclist or pedestrian fatalities you read about, does it?
- Expecting bike lanes & routes to go everywhere is asking the impossible. Besides, we already have bike routes that go everywhere - they’re called "roads" . In other words, learn the rules of the road, be assertive, and exercise your right to be on the road over those poor fools whose presence we suffer under license.
I think that (1) is definitely wrong, but where the balance lies between (2) and (3) is a harder question to answer - especially when the consequence of a driver’s error is so severe. There’s nothing particularly dangerous about being on the roads, it’s just that when you’re riding a bike and mixing with large, armoured, fast-moving vehicles, the situation is very unforgiving of mistakes.
My thinking is that it’s worth the risk. In riding regularly, you buy yourself an extra two year’s life (even after the risk of being rubbed out by a driver is taken into account), and health levels that would be expected in someone ten years your junior. In other words, longer life but without the long slide into decrepitude.
So if the roads where you live are too "dangerous" to ride on, maybe it’s because you’ve let the car-centric hegemony creep up on you. Perhaps it’s time for you to take control and change your environment for the better:
So the problem still comes down to the cars & their drivers - many of whom ignore the speed limits or treat them as minimum speeds.
The question is, what are YOU prepared to do about that? Can you get the road’s speed limit reduced to 20mph? How about speed cameras? Or will the police set up a mobile camera? What about traffic calming? Or if you can’t get the local council to install this, you can make your own - you’d be amazed at how easy it is to make chicanes from cars parked on alternate sides of the street! Yes, there’s a risk that some moron will clobber your legally parked car, but compared with the cost of your child’s extra two years life, isn’t that a price worth paying? If you’re artistic, look at Road Witching (google it), plant trees alongside the road, obscure sight-lines, tighten junction radii. Take control.
Rather than saying riding a bike is dangerous, it’s time to address the source of the danger - too many people driving too fast, too impatiently, and too aggressively. I t is time to reclaim the streets from the car-centric culture we’ve allowed to take over.