Letters: Cyclists, drivers and pedestrians

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The Independent Online

Road map to peace between cyclists, drivers and pedestrians

Sir: The negative response that James Daley has received for his backing of cyclists jumping red lights, including from cyclists themselves, indicates that it is in fact a minority of cyclists who are engaged in this activity ("I will go on breaking this extreme law", 15 August).

But James is wrong to rely on the argument that compared with the damage to the environment caused by cars, a little red light jumping by cyclists harms no one. In fact, it is amongst pedestrians that concern about red light jumping is palpable.

The best way to ensure a culture of co-operation and civility on our roads is not Daley's line that one group should unilaterally disobey the Highway Code, but to encourage all road users to stick to the rules equally. This applies to cyclists going through red lights and riding on the pavement, but also to motor vehicles parking in cycle lanes or monopolising the "advance stop" space for cyclists at junctions.

James is horrified that I may be considering a cycle registration scheme in response to red light jumping. Initial assessments from Transport for London show that a bike registration scheme would face a number of practical problems, and could discourage cycling, whereas my aim is to carry on increasing the numbers of cyclists. Given that such a scheme would have to be at least partly self-financing, the cost of registering cycles would also have to be passed on to cyclists, again discouraging cycling. A registration scheme could therefore only ever be seen as a difficult last resort.

What this means is that responsible cyclists and cycling organisations - and dare I say it cycling columnists - need to work with me to persuade the minority of cyclists who do not currently obey the rules of the road to take a responsible approach as part of an overall campaign to get all road users to do the same.



Targeting Muslims for security checks

Sir: The notion of profiling of Muslims at British airports seems absurd to many Muslim faith-based groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain and they have issued a veiled threat of potential non-cooperation by the Muslim community in Britain in the event that such measures are put in place.

Nevertheless, in spite of being a Muslim male with an increased chance of being directly affected by the introduction of such security procedures, I wholeheartedly support them. With the majority of alleged, convicted and deceased (through suicide bombings) terrorist suspects being young Muslim males, it will only be logical for the police and security staff at the airports to focus on scrutinising individuals from similar backgrounds. The practicalities of such measures, however, may not be so simple, as Muslims derive from numerous ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds.

With moderate Muslims not prepared to challenge the radical face of Islam in Britain, it is time that they at least prepare themselves to put up with minor inconveniences, which incidentally would make air travel safer for them and their families along with all other passengers, since terrorists would not spare them on the basis of their religious background.

Its time for British Muslims to either take some responsibility for the actions of their co-religionists and stand up to extremism or put up with a changing Britain.



Sir: I agree with your leading article of 16 August. As a British Asian male travelling by air and Eurostar most weeks, I am stopped and searched regularly. As an MEP I have taken up the cases of people who believe they have been unfairly profiled, including strip searching with no outcome.

This year I convened a meeting of NGOs and senior EU figures, including the EU anti-terrorism co-ordinator Gijs de Vries, to hear exhaustive research from the Open Society Institute showing that the implicit premise that race or religion is an accurate predictor of terrorist activity was a "recipe for disaster". Good intelligence, community support, good policing and sharper aviation security were needed - profiling on a large scale was not.

In the UK the proportion of "Asians" stopped by police under the new anti-terror legislation tripled in the 18 months after 9/11. To date none of these have resulted in conviction for a terrorism offence. Massive data-mining operations in Germany from the end of 2001 until early 2003 collected sensitive personal information about 8.3 million people but did not identify a single terrorist subject. Other manifestations of ethnic profiling in Europe researched by the OSI included invasive raids on mosques and mass identity checking, again producing no chargeable suspects.

Virtually all convictions have been the product of intelligence-based investigations, not profiling. By branding whole communities as suspect, ethnic profiling not only legitimises prejudice amongst the general public, it can also engender feelings of resentment amongst targeted groups. Intelligence gained from communities can dry up.

Most importantly, profiling may divert attention from actual threats that fall outside the criteria. Before the 7/7 attacks on London, MI5 had had come across the leader of the bombers in connection with another plot but had not pursued him because he did not fit their profile.



Sir. Since Britain and the US decided to legitimise "pre-emptive strikes", our crimes and misdemeanours (euphemistically called our foreign policy), have led directly to the death of many thousands of innocent men, women, and children. However, I whole-heartedly agree with our political leaders that our foreign policy cannot justify the actions of al-Qa'ida terrorists. I am prepared to say this loudly and openly.

Now, can these same politicians agree with me that the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah could in no way have justified the death and destruction rained down on Lebanon by Israel. If not, why?



Sir: I am a white, English Christian who has never voted Labour. I am totally against the illegal invasion of Iraq by Bush and Blair and the destruction of Lebanon by the Israelis. In spite of this, neither I or my fellow Christians have any plans to murder hundreds of our fellow citizens. Would the Muslim leaders who wrote to Blair please take note?



Sir: Forgive me. I have been on Mars. (Everyone is entitled to a holiday.) Am I right in thinking that the Prime Minister, "knowing" a terrorist threat to be "imminent", perhaps one with "unimaginable" consequences, left the country for a beach destination?



Sir: Ruth Kelly says that she cannot accept that foreign policy should be decided by a small group of people. I thought it already was.



'Biased' views on the Middle East

Sir: In criticising Howard Jacobson's column on Richard Ingrams, Patrick Tuohy (letter, 16 August) asks: "From whom are you most likely to get an unbiased view of events in the Middle East: an Arab, a Jew or a Gentile?" Clearly Mr Tuohy fails to grasp that the question itself condemns his argument, and incidentally that of Richard Ingrams.

The notion that intelligent Arabs, Jews or Gentiles are incapable of expressing unbiased opinions on the Middle East - or on anything else - is offensive to all three. Moreover, demanding to know who and what you are in order to validate what you say is intellectually unsavoury, and not a mile away from that "Are you now, or were you ever ..." inquisition of the American witch-hunts during the 1940s.



Sir: I am a little confused over complaints that Jews displaced Palestinians in 1947 (letter, 15 August). As I recall my history, the Jews were originally there first. How is it that their descendants should not have the right of return?



One pension fund in good health

Sir: Contrary to the implications made in Richard Smith's article "Save our charities from the Government" (10 August) the Children's Society's pension scheme is in good health. The 2006 financial statements (to be published shortly) show funding of our pension scheme at 92.4 per cent. Our scheme is in far better health than many other companies and organisations who are struggling to keep their commitments to their employees.

The Children's Society has managed to combine this good stewardship of its finances with an increased programme of spending on its beneficiaries; again, against the implication of the article. This year, for example, our trustees committed to spending an extra £1m a year on children's services.



No wonder science is seen as uncool

Sir, Only one of the interesting people in your piece on memories of university (Extra, 16 August), Shazia Mirza, studied science. Unlike most of the others who studied the humanities, her subject was not given under her name. The message seems to be that scientists are too boring to have anything interesting to say about their university careers. .

Given the importance of science and engineering to the economic heath of the country, as reported recently by you, it is disappointing to find The Independent choosing its movers and shakers almost exclusively from people with backgrounds in humanities.

No wonder science is seen as "uncool"', even by adults, and numbers studying it are declining in our schools and universities.



Carers left to struggle on

Sir: Jean Humphrey-Gaskin paints a harrowing picture of what it means to be a carer (letter, 16 August).

Carers like Jean should not be left to struggle on, invisible and unsupported. Yet one in five of the population could end up losing their pension rights and their jobs, and facing a future of abject poverty, through having no option but to become the sole carer for a loved one.

The vast majority of carers have a right to expect their needs to be met by local authorities. But a massive shortfall of government spending means that local authorities have no option but to severely ration their social care provision and set ever more stringent eligibility conditions for those in need of support. Couple this with an ageing population and lamentably insufficient state benefits for carers, and the need for a full-scale review of local authority social care provision has never been more urgent.

Vitalise is a national charity which provides subsidised respite breaks for disabled people and carers. The tragedy is that many people in dire need of respite breaks do not qualify for them.



Why we need animal research

Sir: I would like to challenge comments made by Andre Menache (letter, 7 August). Professor Tipu Aziz has never claimed to have discovered the technique of deep-brain stimulation, a discovery made by Dr Alim-Louis Benabid while performing surgical lesions in humans. However it was only after extensive studies in rodents and monkeys by scientists including Dr Benabid and Professor Aziz that the chance observation was transformed into a reliable technique for the treatment of conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

For some human diseases such as Aids there are no exact animal models, but even here animal research can teach us a lot. Much of what we know about the biology of HIV and Aids comes from studying monkeys infected with the closely related SIV. Such research played a vital role in the development of HAART therapy for HIV, and remains crucial to the development of new preventative measures such as microbicide gels and HIV vaccines.

As a veterinary surgeon Andre Menache will be aware that the vast majority of veterinary medicines and surgical techniques are identical or very similar to those used to treat humans. It is foolish to uncritically extrapolate from the results of studies in animals to humans, but animal research provides vital information that cannot at present be obtained by any other methods.



Trivial crimes

Sir: A useful way I have found to assess every new crime law New Labour come up with ("Labour's crime spree", 16 August) is to imagine how many people it could affect - very few mostly.



Tony and the kids

Sir: I deplore the widespread use of the word "kids" for children? Once it was limited to gossip over the garden fence; now it appears in formal speeches by the Prime Minister, who, I think, was largely responsible for this debasement of language. If he seeks a legacy, this is it.



Labour's old hopeful

Sir: As a Lib Dem activist I wish John Reid every success in any bid for the Labour leadership. He looks every bit as old as Ming and has far less hair.



Sir: Many years ago a man was assassinated in London by having a poison pellet inserted in his leg from an umbrella. If that happened today John Reid would ban umbrellas at once.



Arrivals and departures

Sir: "Immigration during the last few decades has been so huge", pronounces Peter Kevan (letter, 16 August). Any steer on numbers, from when to when, alongside emigration figures for the same decades, please? From the son of a 1930s immigrant from Czechoslovakia,



Solid achievements

Sir: I would like to suggest that you follow your two wonderful series of posters of works by famous artists with a set of models of famous sculptures, although I fear my paper boy would object.