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Monday 18 April 2011
Letters: Cycling Campaign
Cycle helmets 'no protection'
James Derounian assumes that his helmet saved his life (letters, 16 April).
The helmet is not tested for impact with motor vehicles, neither is it guaranteed for such an event. So it is impractical to assert that it saved a life. Sheer luck played its part.
Compulsory helmet legalisation will lead to the increase of head injuries seen in Australia and the abandonment of cycles once used daily as people return to cars.
Would it not be better to fight to stem the flow of the real problem: causation? Once we deal with the cause we deal with the problem. A study by Erke and Elvik (Norwegian researchers in 2007) showed: "There is evidence of increased accident risk per cycling-km for cyclists wearing a helmet. In Australia and New Zealand, the increase is estimated to be around 14 per cent."
One could argue that the helmet made Mr Derounian's driver assume he was protected and thus increased his risk.
And Phil Higginbotham (letters, 16 April) blames the victim. He asserts that people have no rights unless they pay for them. "Road tax" does not exist. It is vehicle excise duty and is based on CO2 emissions, a levy targeted at motorists to reduce the use of the more heavily polluting vehicles. Since cyclists have no emissions they would pay nothing.
The biggest problem we have as cyclists in the UK is how the UK public are just unwilling to recognise the law-abiding majority. They use the minority as a stick to beat us all with. As long as this continues we will see casualty after casualty on our roads.
D J Cook
May I applaud your campaign to provide safety for the cyclists and for highlighting their appalling death rate on our roads. You made salient points for motorists to abide by yet astonishingly made no reference to the responsibility that cyclists need to have for their own safety.
Perhaps for greater protection for the cyclist you could advise them that the Highway Code applies to cyclists as well as other road users.
That means red traffic lights mean stop, the law states you must have front and rear lights when cycling in the dark, and it is safer to wear high-visibility clothing.
Cycling on pavements and in pedestrian precincts is dangerous. You are in danger of being knocked down by cars emerging from driveways and you endanger pedestrians, especially if you do not use a bell to warn of your approach.
It is also safer, when there is a group of you, to ride single file on busy roads. You can cause real frustration by holding up traffic, and don't weave recklessly in out of traffic.
These points are totally ignored by many cyclists and if there is a serious campaign to ensure safer roads then it is obligatory that cyclists as well as motorists obey the rules.
J D Sharkey
Your front page is an insult to all law-abiding pedestrians. What about us pedestrians, the elderly, the disabled, young mothers with buggies and or toddlers, all of whom are terrorised by these thugs on two wheels using the pavements.
I am disabled and have to use a white stick; many times I've been tempted to put my stick in the spokes of one of these arrogant lawbreakers, but that would only put me in the wrong.
Cycles should have number plates and should be kept to the roads, and cycle lanes should be enforced. There is no reason why cyclists should not be subject to the same controls as other road-users. Most schools run training courses in their playgrounds, so test, license and control cyclists. Bikes may be "green" but they are still weapons of intimidation not only on the pavement but at junctions when cyclists jump the lights or mount the pavement to cut the corners.
If bicycles had number plates front and back, enforceable by law, we could photograph, report, and prosecute offenders, so encouraging others to follow the rules.
You stressed the use of cycles in Holland as an example of what should be aimed for in the UK. I lived for many years in Holland and I noticed that in a hilly region such as near Maastricht there were a lot fewer people on cycles.
Near where I now live there are enough hills to cause problems. We just do not have the same flat areas of Holland and Denmark to make cycles really popular.
G F Steele
I shall feel much more inclined to join your campaign to "Save our Cyclists" when they, in turn, help to save pedestrians by not cycling straight through red lights.
So who created this Creator?
Iain Davidson (letters, 15 April) is wrong in claiming that atheism is a faith. Atheism is the rational decision not to accept the claimed existence of a god(s), without concrete evidence of their existence; "divine revelation" and centuries-old books of cautionary tales and unreliable, semi-fictional accounts of past lives (written centuries after the event) do not qualify as evidence.
Mr Davidson also states that intellectual honesty requires us not to know whether there is a Creator; nearly, but not quite. If evidence could ever be produced of the existence of a Creator, it would not end the discussion. It would mean accepting creation as a universal principal, from which it follows that all things must have been created, including the Creator. From here, the question "Who created the Creator?" would repeat ad infinitum, or maybe that should be ad absurdum.
Mr Davidson tells us that belief in God and atheism are both matters of faith. No, they are not. Atheism is a matter of lack of verifiable evidence for God's existence. The reason I do not believe in gods is the same as the reason I don't believe there are fairies at the bottom of my garden.
Nothing to fear from the burkas
Having just returned from a three-week trip in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, the discussion in the letter column on wearing the niqab in the UK – or banning such – proves intriguing. The implication from those wishing us to follow the lead of France is that the wearing of this mode of dress or similar is in some way a threat to civil rights in this country, to its security and its values.
The total number of niqabs or burkas (I struggle to be interested in the difference) that I saw in these three weeks in the Middle East would easily be outdone by what can be seen during an average morning of people-watching in nearby Leicester city centre and yet civilisation, "normal" social and commercial activity and acceptable civic behaviour continue in the East Midlands.
There were quite a number of headscarves in evidence on the heads of young and older Syrian and Jordanian women, but then my mother wore one most of her life whatever the weather or occasion.
I was also intrigued by the number of lingerie shops in Damascus and Aleppo whose window displays were comprised of the frankly steamy, seedy and incredibly gaudy items of women's underwear on open display which, I suspect, would be overmuch for the traditional Ann Summers party.
I think the whole situation is rather a less serious menace to Western values than many would have us believe. Life really is too short to get excited by what people wear, otherwise why do we tolerate the kilt, the dress suit, the shell suit, navel piercing, the judges' regalia and the bare midriffs of portly youth and most examples of high fashion?
Newbold Verdon, Leicester
I was married for 46 years to a Muslim Arab (he died seven years ago). During this time we spent three years with his family in his Arab country. This included our two young children. My mother-in-law and my husband's sisters and young cousins never wore niqabs, hijabs or even the burka (a very rare sight). I was told that many, many centuries ago it became a fashion and spread originally from Turkey. The burka has nothing to do with religion. The Koran calls to dress modestly.
While living as a family with my in-laws, I was never asked about my religion or told to change (I am a Scandinavian). For me, it was the most remarkable and culturally rewarding experience which I will aways be grateful for.
Finishing touch on Ruby's lathe
Like your correspondent B A Fewtrell (letters, 14 April), I was also delighted to see Laura Knight's picture of Ruby Loftus screw-cutting on her lathe. As an apprentice-trained turner from the 1940s, I wholeheartedly agree with all your correspondent says.
And although Ruby is said to be cutting threads on the breech ring of a Bofors gun, these threads were not for the breech mechanism itself but for screwing the breech ring onto the barrel.
So the plain screwing which Ruby is doing would never have taken anything like the "almost a decade of dedicated experience" said to have been normally required. Nearer that length of time may well have been needed to machine the complex interrupted threads of a screw-type breech.
One item in this realistically accurate painting, not usually mentioned, is the thread gauge in the background above Ruby's right shoulder. This would be screwed into the newly cut thread to check its accuracy.
Let us hope that it is not too late for the exhibition's curator to caption the painting with a technically correct as well as an artistic interpretation. I wonder whether Ruby was ever interviewed, and what was her fate?
Long Eaton, Derbyshire
Why politicians are distrusted
The reason politicians are held in such low regard these days is simple (Steve Richards, Opinion, 7 April); we have been subject to a series of political coups.
During the recent election campaign, there was no mention of the radical changes the Conservatives intended to make to the NHS. In fact, Cameron was going to protect our NHS, he said. Once elected, he has thrust his radical agenda on us. A coup.
My local MP, Vince Cable, said before the election he would vote against any proposed rise in tuition fees. The Liberal Democrats are now in Government and voted for increases in tuition fees. A coup. Ed Miliband was thrust on the Labour Party in the face of what most ordinary members and voters wanted (and he knew that, but so what, he said). A coup.
What happened to democracy?
Fox has failed Armed Forces
The credibility of Britain and France as world powers is being laid bare by the way in which they are being given the runaround by Colonel Gaddafi. It speaks volumes for the Anglo-French alliance when the combined efforts of these permanent members of the UN Security Council – supposedly two of the five most powerful nations in the world – are unable to sort out a failing rebellion in a Third World country.
Mr Cameron may fear that we'll lose our place at the top table of nations if we don't renew Trident. But the biggest threat to our shaky claim to our seat on the Security Council is the rushed and incompetent cuts he is implementing to our conventional defences, and his failure to bring the Libyan situation under control without calling the Americans back in to bail us out.
The Coalition Government has messed up badly on defence; Britain now seems to be struggling to participate effectively even in small-scale coalition operations in a very one-sided Libyan conflict. There was (and remains) ample scope to achieve the defence savings this country (supposedly) needs, but where our Coalition Government has messed up is that it's chosen the wrong things to cut, and cut too quickly.
The Defence Secretary's credibility is in tatters, his 10-year master plan for Britain's Armed Forces having fallen flat on its face within six months. There is now a compelling case for Dr Fox to go, and for a competent individual such as Menzies Campbell to take over and "mend" last October's botched defence review.
Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis
R E Hooper (letters, 14 April) is right to remind us about the 33 per cent income tax rate which was paid for a long time by the older generation. He could also have mentioned that we paid mortgage interest at a rate which was sometimes above 12 per cent. Despite this, we still managed to save, but are now receiving a historically low rate of return on our savings.
Spot on, Johann Hari (Opinion, 14 April). I would prefer an elected head of state. If said person turns out to be a duffer, he or she can be voted out again. Our present hereditary monarch is generally respected as a competent head of state, even by republicans. Were she to stand in a presidential election she would probably win. Perhaps her grandson may renounce the throne and offer himself as a presidential candidate.
Life's a dream
Charlotte Raven (14 April) laments that she is "fearful and full of regret about the decisions that have meant the dreams of my youth were unfulfilled". She hasn't yet reached the age when she can't remember what they were.
Perspectives on health reforms
Postcode pricing for physiotherapy
The excellent analysis of the problems in the Health Bill ("Health reforms are ripe for exploitation", 14 April) could have mentioned two other important and unnoticed issues, price competition and "Any Willing Provider" (AWP).
Andrew Lansley has claimed that the price competition has been removed from the Bill. This is only half-true in relation to the removal of competition where there is a fixed national tariff.
But national tariffs do not exist for many services such as musculoskeletal services (back treatment) by physiotherapists. For these services, the price will be set locally in each separate commissioning consortium, and there could be 250 in England.
Without a national tariff, there will be price competition and a race to the bottom between localities, which will radically affect quality of care.
Mr Lansley might have changed "Any Willing Provider" to "Any Qualified Provider", but semantics do nothing to alter the underlying threat his proposals carry for the NHS.
Chief Executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy,
We are treading on dangerous ground
One of the basic tenets of the proposed NHS reorganisation is still unclear to me. How will it give better value for money? Given the continued provider/ purchaser split, the consortia will continue to provide the same purchaser function of the old PCTs and so will need similar management. The prime difference would seem to be paid committees of GPs to run them.
An alternative way of paraphrasing the same proposal might be that "PCTs will be reorganised by doubling their number and paying GPs to manage them. But only about 60 per cent of the budget will now be managed by them. The remainder will be administered by a separate organisation with its own management costs.
So how will it save money? The economy could come from increased rationing by the GP lead consortia. But caring clinicians who feel the pressures of their patients' health needs are not likely to be good at denying their patients the care they feel they need. GPs are also providers so as well as clinical conflict there is potential economic conflict.
With increasing health costs meaning an ever-tightening budget it might be feared that this will all lead to a very unevenly distributed service with many tales of local medical hardship, failures to keep within budget and a deterioration of trust in GPs.
Their clinical motives may justifiably be questioned while at the same time they take the blame for the failure of an underfunded NHS. The phrase "a poisoned chalice" springs to mind. We are treading on dangerous ground.
Dr Philip Cunliffe
Relax, it's just a coincidence
What an odd time for the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to revisit populist proposals for getting rid of immigrant wasters and scroungers, just when the disastrous nature of the proposed NHS reformation was coming into focus.
Colin V Smith
St Helens, Merseyside
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