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Wednesday 24 August 2011
Letters: Perspectives on cycling
Terrorists of the towpath take no notice of us
Your article and comment on the resurgence of cycling (22 August) speak of it in terms of unalloyed benefits.
In this part of the world we are privileged in the variety of waterside walks which it has been our pleasure to enjoy together with the flora and fauna of the waterways. No longer.
Our walks are increasing blighted by a stream of cyclists who take no notice of, let alone any care of, the pedestrians who they share the space with. At worst helmeted and lycra-ed lunatics who treat the towpaths as racetracks are a danger to pedestrians, children and dogs. At best they will ride past without the slightest acknowledgement of the fact that you have left the path to allow them through. Nor are they interested in the wildlife which they are travelling too fast to notice.
Country walkers will normally look you in the eye, smile and say a word or two of greeting. Not so the cyclist who continues on his way as though you did not exist.
In our area cyclists are now a plague and the cycling organisations, local authorities and others who have relentlessly promoted cycling in the countryside should make sure that cyclists are compelled to be more considerate and encouraged to be better mannered in their use of the pathways which they share with others.
Peter Randell, Woking, Surrey
Middle of the road
Vaughan Thomas' opinion that the road is designed and intended for motorists (letter, 22 August) is the kind of selfishness that leads to pedestrians, riders, horses or cyclists who are injured being treated as "getting what they deserve" for encroaching on the motorists' preserve. With such thinking prevalent, it makes good sense to advise riders and cyclists to adopt prominent positions in the road. It may pique some drivers to have to make allowances for non-motorised travellers, but it will deprive them of the excuse of "I didn't see them."
Chris Clarke, Richmond, North Yorkshire
High-visibility not seen
Jenny Macmillan (letter, 19 August) says she feels safer cycling in high visibility clothing. My motor-cycling friends and family refer to high-visibility yellow tops as "cloaks of invisibility"" because many drivers SMIDSY them (Sorry-Mate-I-Didn't-See-You). The only time I was involved in a collision was when I was wearing a super-bright yellow reflective jacket. I have since switched to normal, bright and light-coloured tops and the close calls seem to have dwindled.
DJ Cook, Southampton
Matthew Norman's take on the underlying motivation for the recent widespread rioting and looting (17 August) was interesting but fundamentally no surprise.
We are blessed with a plutocracy (including those at the top of our slippery political class) who have a vested interest in the continuing erosion of the middle class in terms of power and influence, and the extension of a cowed and tractable – and eternally taxable – group of mortgaged workers, who are milked to pay for the benefits of the growing underclass of "unemployables" for fear of joining them.
If there is occasional trouble, use the police (and the army if you have to) to maintain order. The isolated rich – who are smart enough to avoid being a direct target – maintain their position, while the nation continues its long decline, and those in jobs pay Danegeld taxes to keep the mass of the unwaged poor from ripping them to pieces.
Are we downhearted? I think we are.
Seán Meaney, Gillingham, Kent
Matthew Norman asks us to imagine we are benevolent dictators who can choose how we might help the disadvantaged and disenfranchised, some of whose members were responsible for the riots and disorder.
The overwhelming need is to put in place in all these community organisations that can genuinely help to make the lives of young people better. Our son worked in one such organisation based in Portsmouth until earlier this year. This group works with some of the most challenging and difficult children and their families in the area and genuinely makes a difference.
Unfortunately, as a charitable organisation, its funding has been cut and thus so have the numbers of those they are able to employ.
Many of the support workers are young people themselves, who can identify with the youngsters on their caseload (this works both ways because the young offenders can also identify with the support workers). They work not only with the young people and their families but also liaise with schools (often working in the schools), the police, fire service, social services and all other involved bodies. Many of them, like our son, are graduates doing immensely valuable and challenging work for little more than basic wages.
What is required is that the funding of these organisations, which already exist across the country, is ratcheted up by government so that more people are employed to work in troubled communities and that they are paid a decent salary and made to feel genuinely valued.
This won't solve all the problems that, as Matthew Norman says, have been ignored for years, but it would be a start.
Paula Saunders, St Albans, Hertfordshire
Of course Tony Blair doesn't think that moral decline is a problem (Andy McSmith, 22 August). It would be like Satan suggesting that we should address the issue of sin. His raison d'être during his long time in office was to serve the interests of the feral rich.
That doesn't make his analysis of the malaise of the underclass wrong – it's just that, even though it has already been said so often that it is a dull truism, the growth of an underclass, and indeed widening inequality between the middle and the top was seen as an inevitable function of "free" (crony capitalist) markets and laissez-faire for the privileged few.
This was the New Labour project. For most of us, it seems to have failed. For those it was always designed to aid, it succeeded spectacularly.
So Blair's prescription is a bit like a looter who has smashed in your front door subsequently sending you a perfectly good book on carpentry – It's not necessarily bad advice, but...
Qasim Salimi, London W1
No religious discrimination
John Wainright (Letters 23 August) claims that the Equality and Human Rights Commission defends equal rights for everyone unless they are Christians. Unfortunately, this blinkered view is too prevalent among certain religious groups who are ever on the lookout for "discrimination", conveniently forgetting two things.
The first is that any employer making allowances for particular requirements of one faith group is inevitably going to discriminate against others. The only proper and fair way of setting employment rules is to have one set of rational and justifiable rules for all. If this appears to discriminate against someone's conscience, as in the case of Lillian Ladele, whose religious objection to providing civil partnerships went against her obligation as a registrar to provide a service to which gay and lesbian couples have a fundamental right, then so be it. The employee is not compelled to continue working with that employer.
The second point for those "persecuted" Christians to remember is this. A third of our state schools have the capacity to discriminate against staff and pupils because they are of the wrong or no religion. Public services are being contracted to religious groups with huge opt-outs from equality and human rights law. And community cohesion in this country is being threatened by the misguided emphasis given to religion in public policy. So the idea that the EHRC should spend its limited public funds on alleged trivial employment discrimination against Christians is quite simply preposterous.
Finally, it is worth remembering that the EHRC's remit covers age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. Of these, only religion is something that is not irrevocably determined by nature. Faith is no more than belief without evidence and, like any other opinion, can be changed.
Ian Quayle, Fownhope, Herefordshire
John Wainwright says that Christians are committed to apply what they perceive to be the principles of their faith in the workplace. As a Christian, I like to think I manage to do just that without discriminating against gay people. Perhaps, it takes an outside agency like the EHRC to recognise the plank in my brethren's eye.
Daren Brooker, Portsmouth
There is no discrimination against Muslims in the tuition fee system (report, 22 August), since it treats all students on the same basis. It is Muslims who choose to believe that it is immoral to pay interest. If they truly do, then they should not seek a loan. Instead, they expect the system to be changed so that they can obtain one.
This special accommodation will cost money and effort, and until it is available we can be sure that we shall continue to hear that they are "suffering discrimination". But this is surely nonsense: which Muslim (or sensible secular) country would go through such bizarre gyrations to appease the irrational demands of a minority?
Alex McKenzie, Hertford
Why should anyone "take seriously" your social commentator Terence Blacker (23 August), when he fills out his column with a rant about unspecified "whingeing clerics" and a gratuitous slight on the many thousands of Christians in this country who are not moneyed but do much unpaid social service. Their faith is not tied to buildings, but they work to make their churches real centres of their communities.
Alan Harding, Edinburgh
Giving a kidney
You report on kidney specialist Dr John Scoble's successful donation of a kidney to his cousin (23 August). It shows he had faith in the safety and success of this brilliant NHS system.
Any healthy UK citizen aged 18 (17 in Scotland) and over can be considered for careful assessment and possible donation. It is no big deal for the donor but a very big deal indeed for the recipient.
For donor and recipient money does not come into it, but each successful kidney donation saves the NHS about £200,000: the cost of 10 years' dialysis
While most donations from living donors are to family and friends, it is also possible to make an altruistic non-directed donation. This means you give your kidney for the NHS to decide who will benefit most from it – you do not know the recipient and may never know them unless they wish to contact you afterwards.
A medical colleague and I have done this and think there should be an organisation to ensure the public are informed fully about this possibility and process. We gave to be useful, and would encourage others to consider likewise to give a kidney, because one's enough.
Dr Chris Burns-Cox, Consultant Physician, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire
Women on the board
Your piece on the Equality and Human Rights Commission report on equality in the workplace made interesting reading ("Women face 70-year wait for top jobs equality", 17 August).
The timing of the report is particularly pertinent because we are only days from the deadline that Lord Davies' report imposed on organisations to demonstrate methods they will use to attract more women to sit on their boards. Noise about the issue has been created by groups such as the 30 per cent club, but few companies have been particularly vocal so far and women will be waiting with interest to hear what plans the UK's top employers will be introducing at the cut-off date.
We applaud any steps taken to address the lack of female representatives at board level, but we also need to look at female progression at all levels of seniority. Recent research from the Chartered Management Institute shows that the issue of female progression is not unique to the boardroom, with 40 per cent of working women further behind in their careers than they would like to be.
To address this, we need measures such as flexibility in parental leave to encourage parents to share their time off if necessary. We should also increase scrutiny of companies proven to pay men and women unequally, by introducing pay audits for offending organisations. Only by making the workplace more equal at all levels will real change begin to be felt.
Petra Wilton, Director of Research and Policy, Chartered Management Institute, London WC2
Out and about with Mooncup
As the founder of Mooncup Ltd I am writing in response to Julie Burchill's slating of our ad and our product (19 August). We chose to run this particular campaign because the Mooncup team also live in Julie's home town of Brighton. We actually take part in the Marine Conservation Society's annual Beachwatch survey, so we have personally collected some of the unsanitary items that contribute to the figure given in the ad.
Far from being "a new way to keep women at home" the Mooncup overcomes the inconvenience of carrying tampons or pads around everywhere. It will also hold a lot more than these other products so needs "fiddling around with" far less often when you're out and about.
Contrary to popular belief, emptying your Mooncup is a straightforward and un-messy process, which doesn't leave your bathroom looking like a slaughterhouse! And because the Mooncup is positioned low in the vagina there is no need to locate your cervix (with or without a satnav).
Su Hardy, Director, Mooncup Ltd, Brighton
Christopher Robin's shop
What a sad little article (20 August) on the closure of the Harbour Bookshop, founded by Christopher Robin Milne.
I live in Hampshire, where any old shed that Jane Austen put a toe in has at least a blue plaque and more often entry fee and memorabilia and a jolly volunteer to convince you of its connection with the author. The stories of Christopher Robin are a huge part of children's literature and should be commemorated.
Roald Dahl has his shed, so can we please give something to Christopher Robin Milne to say thank you for all the misery he endured trying to be allowed to shake off the image of the boy with the teddy bear.
M Donnison-Morgan, Winchester
Is that quite clear?
While accepting that English is a living language, I am becoming increasingly irritated by the inability of our political leaders to "say" anything. They are invariably "clear" about whatever momentous event they are commenting on.
The Prime Minister is "clear that Colonel Gaddafi must go". Ed Miliband was equally "clear" about his views on the riots. Is that "clear" as in "clear blue sky" (devoid of any offending cloud), or "clear" as in "clearing out" (devoid of anything at all)?
John Wells, West Wittering, West Sussex
In short ...
Martin A Smith believes that the forms "dwarfs" and "dwarves" have co-existed for a long time (letter, 23 August). In the grammar from which my German grandfather learnt English, the plural of nouns ending in "f" is illustrated by the sentence: "Have you seen those dwarfs who are exhibited in that hotel?"
Michael Raeburn, London W6
The Libyan people have had Gaddafi as their leader for 42 years. It's amazing he has any support left at all, except from his immediate cronies. Most British prime ministers have become deeply unpopular by the time they leave office. Imagine if Blair or Thatcher had stayed on for another 30 years.
John Boaler, Calne, Wiltshire
Both the letters concerning costs involved with rail travel (22 August) reveal a lack of understanding about how most goods and services are priced: that is to say, by charging the maximum somebody is prepared to pay per single unit. That realisation has been a wonderful tool in helping me deal with the otherwise incomprehensible price structures that I encounter daily.
Robert McMillan, Stoke on Trent
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