Letters: Don’t try to blame the cyclists for these deaths

These letters appear in the 21st November edition of the Independent

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I’m pleased that Emma Way’s “bloody cyclists” tweet and Boris Johnson’s callous comments were covered (“Boris turns on cyclists with threat to ban headphones”, 20 November).

Statistics suggest it’s careful cyclists who are killed. In contrast, the aggressive behaviour of boy racers protects them.

I’ve cycled to work for 35 years but, like most adults, I’m also a driver and pay as much road tax as anyone. I agree that I shouldn’t creep up on the inside of a lorry, but usually that lorry has just overtaken me before it cuts me up.

A nurse who knocked me off my bike said she thought I was turning left because I was on the left side of a road with no left-turning lane. A driver who knocked two cyclists flying (just one broken back) had been blinded by sunlight.

My colleague’s ex-partner, who was killed, was a man in his sixties. He didn’t jump lights or wear headphones. Another local cyclist was killed by a car that reversed back over his body. A van driver recently drove straight at me because he wrongly thought I’d gone through on red. Being pelted with snowballs by car passengers was a regular experience in Manchester.

You never get treated like this in the Netherlands or Germany, because a higher proportion of drivers are also cyclists.

To end on a positive note, when I was knocked off my bike in Park Lane by a motorcyclist weaving between lanes, although he didn’t stop, all the cars stopped dead. Very impressive.

Dr Andrew Charters, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire 


The promotion of cycling and road safety for cyclists isn’t something that has been evident, despite both the boom in the activity and the recent tragedies on London’s streets.

As a London cyclist, I feel it would be encouraging to see a multifaceted approach, bringing safe cycling to the forefront of the minds of cyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike.

Signs that clarify rules of the road that are commonly neglected or misunderstood would be a great relief for many cyclists, such as those who have been cut up by drivers turning left without checking their mirrors.

Similarly valuable would be reminders for drivers not to edge out at junctions, drifting into the sights of oncoming cyclists, who must brake suddenly or dangerously swerve.

A campaign would also have to focus on the responsibility of the cyclist to respect the rules of the road and adhere to every safety precaution, in terms of clothing and lights. And there needs to be a further step: to encourage all road-users to respect each other, show humility and slow down.

I know that my own arrogance and pride have been as dangerous as bad driving to my safety while on my bike, and this is something that I have to address and need to be reminded of. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

There must be changes to encourage non-cyclists to get on their bike, including a real improvement of road quality. There’s nothing more frustrating than riding down a “cycle lane” littered with potholes. Equally annoying are cycle lanes that suddenly disappear.

Lastly, promoting affordable cyclewear, and explaining how to ride through all the elements in comfort and how to become involved in bike-to-work schemes will help move us towards a more bike-friendly, sustainable and healthy society.

Sam Edwards, London SW8


I am shocked by Sean O’Grady’s moaning about being penalised for using a mobile phone while driving a car (“Look, no hands”, 19 November), and by his sneeringly referring to the younger policeman who gave him three points and a fine as a “rookie”.  Having been penalised twice, he still does not seem to get it.

As a result of using a phone while driving, his attention is distracted from the road, and one of his hands is not free to control his car. This applies even when driving “at no great speed”. The fact that an intelligent man such as O’Grady does not understand this, despite being fined twice, is worrying.

John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire


Somalia does not deserve a penny

David Waldrop’s complaint that “poor old Somalia” (letter, 18 November) isn’t getting any money from the rest of the world is tripe.

Somalia’s pirates and government are no friends of the British public. I dare say they still get lots of money in overseas aid despite this. But I will not give to a country that kidnapped and killed a relative of my family.

Perhaps you will, Mr Waldrop – but until this happens to you, stop acting the do-gooder and think about who deserves our  country’s money.

We give to people who deserve it, not just anyone. Look at Children In Need or the Philippines crisis.

If you wish to give to this disgraceful country, you can. In the meantime, my family and I will continue to grieve. Let’s hope you are never in the same position, having to tell young boys why their Grandpa won’t be coming home, or why Mummy is crying so much.

This letter is for my dead father-in-law, killed while trying to help out some people in Somalia.

Mark Buckmaster, Reading


Why I am not a ‘follower’ on twitter

John Rentoul (“One-Way tweets”, 20 November) is touchingly concerned that I “follow” nobody on Twitter.

Of course I don’t. Twitter is a left-wing electronic mob, and I visit it only to promote my Mail on Sunday blog, and to respond to and correct the ignorant attacks that are sometimes made on me there.

This activity is like unblocking the sink: necessary, disagreeable – but satisfying when you succeed and positively enjoyable when you hear the waste gurgling away down the drain.

As John rightly points out, I debate with readers on my blog, where there is room and time for intelligent discussion.  

Peter Hitchens, London W8


The many problems of condom use in africa

Finger-pointing at African women and especially sex workers for not using condoms (“The condom conundrum”, 19 November) is misguided and at odds with what people in the article said.

The problem with condoms is not that sex workers (or women) do not want to use them – condom use is high among sex workers – but that condoms are often not available, that women and men do not want to use them for various reasons, that sex workers carrying them face the threat of arrest and violence from the police, and that religious leaders do their best to prevent their use.

As for new prevention technologies such as gel and pills, the intention is certainly not for these to be used secretively, as it would foil their purpose.

HIV prevention is a shared effort by both men and women. Though it is encouraging to see articles on the HIV epidemic as we approach World Aids Day, these should be an opportunity to dispel myths and misconceptions rather than perpetuate them.

Roger Tatoud. Senior Programme Manager, International HIV Clinical Trials Research Management Office,  Imperial College London


That bedroom could be for children

Rivers Pound’s story (“Forced to pay the bedroom tax – even if the room is used for a kidney dialysis machine”, 19 November) elicits sympathy, but the fact is he could move to a one-bedroom flat, and if he comes to need dialysis, he could put the dialysis machine in the bedroom or lounge.

Then housing benefit would cover the full cost of his flat, and a family could move into his two-bedroom council flat.

Surely it is better that children have their own bedroom than that he has a spare room in which to put his dialysis machine?

Dan Dennis, Philosophy Tutor, Department of  Continuing Education, University of Oxford


You reported (“Every little helps Nadhim Zahawi”, 11 November) that a Conservative MP claimed almost £6,000 in heating expenses for his estate, but was to repay the part that was accidentally claimed related to heating his stables.

There is a severe housing shortage in this country. For the state to pay the heating bills of MPs is surely a form of housing benefit. As such, it should surely reflect the genuine needs of those affected.

To encourage recipients to move to properties  more in line with their real needs, I suggest their housing expenses should be reduced by £14 per week for every unoccupied bedroom.

Ken Gofton, Tonbridge, Kent


Who is innocent in financial services?

Is there anyone in financial services, anywhere in the world, who doesn’t deserve to be in prison – and what’s her name?

Martin London, Henllan, Denbighshire


Make a royal  meal of horses

Would sibling solidarity be enhanced by marketing stallion steaks and filly burgers as Duchy Originals?

Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon


Man with the perfect CV

Should not the Mayor of Toronto become the next chair of the Co-op Bank?

Philip Goldenberg, Woking, Surrey