Letters: Spend billions on cycling – not HS2

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 18 August, 2013

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The report from the Institute for Economic Affairs says that infrastructure around HS2 could inflate the cost of the new transport system to nearer £80bn.

Initially, I was for this scheme, but the cost keeps ballooning. We have several problems related to transport here in the UK – people cannot afford high rail fares, and this will now inflate those. We also have an obesity epidemic with even the British Medical Association suggesting that more is spent on walking and cycling.

Imagine if even the original £30bn were spent instead on cycling or on fixing potholed roads. This country would be transformed.

As it stands, with the Government’s recent announcement, only £0.159bn (as road planning is measured in billions, governments tend to use millions to make things seem bigger than they are) is being invested in cycling, and that is over three years.

Scrap HS2 and give the money over to active travel.

D J Cook, Southampton

 

Have any of those who complain of cyclists not using cycle lanes, and using pavements instead, ever tried to ride in a cycle lane on a main road?

It’s about a yard wide, with drains to avoid, and it’s damned difficult to stay in. Then there are cars parked in the cycle lane forcing the cyclist into the traffic. And the cycle lane disappears at bus stops and road junctions, so it is not a really a dedicated cycle track but a symbolic one.

Until someone really stamps authority on providing proper cycle tracks, there will be deaths galore, and cyclists will, quite properly, use the pavement for safety.

Chris Harding, Poole, Dorset

 

George Meikle (letter, 16 August) says what a lovely city Bristol is for cycling. It isn’t for me as a pedestrian. Cyclists ride silently and ruthlessly on pavements, and recently at a pedestrian crossing the light said go, but a cyclist rode straight at me as I tried to cross, and I’m 70 years old with a walking stick.

It isn’t lovely for me as a motorist, either. I turned right in my car at a green traffic light and a cyclist ran straight at me, against the lights, and tore off my car number plate.

Victoria Thomas, Bristol

 

Muslim Brotherhood ‘victims’ are the aggressors

As a British citizen of Egyptian origin, I read with interest Mary Dejevsky’s article “The West must finally see Egypt as it is, not as we would like it to be” (16 August).

The situation in Egypt has been instigated to a great extent by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) through their failure as a government and by inciting violence and hate among their supporters.

Sadly, the Western press in general, and The Independent in particular, have naively presented them as innocent victims against a brutal regime.

The MB protesters for the past six weeks committed many illegal activities, including damaging public properties, intimidating citizens, inciting sectarian violence, blocking major roads and using firearms. It is the duty of any sovereign government to terminate such illegal activities.

Then there is the tragedy of Mohamed ElBaradei; unfortunately, this honourable man has failed Egypt twice.

The first time was when he withdrew his candidacy for the presidency. He could have unified the liberal and pro-democracy movements and he would have become the first elected president and a real representation of the aspirations of the 25 January revolution.

The second time was his recent resignation as vice president of the interim government at such a critical time. He has excluded himself from further contribution to the political life of Egypt, which is a big loss.

At desperate times, brave men take a clear position and accept the consequences. The choice that faced many was between standing for Egypt’s security and safety against a group willing to damage the entire state to achieve their narrow political objectives or let them control the country’s future.

Unfortunately, a price has to be paid. The sad loss of lives is distressing, but the survival of Egypt is not for compromise.

Sameh K Morcos, Emeritus Professor of Diagnostic Imaging, University of Sheffield

 

The final cut for cinema?

I am a celluloid junkie and I go often to the cinema. It is amusing that an American social media executive has proposed more distractions in cinemas so that people can further engage in social media (“The texters vs the shushers”, 15 August).

Many cinema enthusiasts believe that the best way to see a film is in a good cinema with a big screen, decent sound and competent projection.

They also recognise, nevertheless, that there are downsides to the cinema experience, and these certainly include people eating, rustling sweet bags and talking, not to mention advertisements and trailers – unless one goes to the few specialist cinemas that discourage eating, have fewer ads and trailers, and are often cheaper.

Many of us have at home a large screen and good sound, and DVDs are now very cheap. Cinemas are becoming quite expensive, making a trip to the cinema less easy to justify. We may be near to the time when many of us who take film seriously give up on cinemas altogether.

Dennis Leachman, Reading

 

Science and the single-sex school

Dr Kevin Stannard (letter, 17 August) says that in all-girls schools there are more girls who study maths and physics at A-levels than in mixed schools.

One possible explanation is that the number of pupils who can be taught each subject is limited.

If schools can only teach the top 30 pupils in each subject, and boys are slightly better at this subject than girls, then it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this subject will be dominated by boys in a mixed school. In an all-girls school the top 30 students in physics will all be girls, while in an all-boys school the top 30 students in English will all be boys.

Thus, single-gender schools create the illusion that each gender is being repressed in mixed schools, when all that mixed schools are doing is trying to help their best pupils study the subjects they excel in.

The only way to change this would be to introduce gender quotas in all subjects, but this would result in boys who are good at physics and girls who are good at English being denied their right to study these subjects simply to appease a misguided notion of political correctness.

Thomas Wiggins, Wokingham, Berkshire

 

While I was a grammar school pupil in the early 1960s, my headmaster announced: “In the light of the findings of the Crowther Report, the teaching of general science has been discontinued.”

Over 40 years later, and while I was seeking a secondary school for my daughter, I was astonished to discover that, far from having been discontinued, so-called “combined science” has become practically ubiquitous.  

I dragged the old report from a mouldering library stack. Published in 1959, it concerned the proposed raising of the school-leaving age from 15 to 16 and reported that the uptake of science in the sixth-form was limited almost exclusively to pupils who had studied the full science option, with physics and chemistry as separate subjects, in the lower school.  

It so happened that the only state school within commuting range offering this option was a girls grammar, and I found it in the process of expanding its sixth-form because “the girls all want to do physics” – something Crowther would not have predicted.  

My daughter went on to read mathematical physics at a Russell Group university. It may be that girls do better in single-sex schools but, particularly for more able students, it is the teaching of general or “combined” science that should be challenged.

Iain Salisbury, Edgbaston, Birmingham

 

Let the boat take the strain

You report (“Girl, you’ve gotta carry that weight”, 16 August) that Google is extending Street View to canals and you picture a volunteer carrying a 40lb backpack containing 15 cameras which will take photographs along the towpaths – with each volunteer walking 100 miles a month.

Google drove around every street with a similar setup on top of a car. Since most canals are navigable, wouldn’t it save a lot of backache to mount the cameras on a boat?

Phil Wood, Westhoughton, Greater Manchester

 

Getting into bed with Cameron

David Cameron is to allow big companies and lobbying firms to leave their message on the beds of Tories staying at the “official hotel” during their conference.

The Liberal Democrats are offering to sell “poster spots” to lobbyists in their conference washrooms (lavatories).

Why stop there? Toilet rolls carrying all the details of these companies could be installed in the lavatories of all the Tories at the official hotel, and in the Lib Dem washrooms. This would get their message to a captive audience who would be sitting quietly on their own.

Derek Hanlin, Gilfach Goch,  Rhondda Cynon Taf

 

With reference to your article “£1,750 for access to the Prime Minister’s bed”, 17 August), having looked up “bribery” and “corruption” in the Oxford English Dictionary, I have come to the conclusion that it takes both for such lobbying to exist. Am I correct?

Fiona McIlwain, Holcombe Rogus, Devon

 

My husband wants to know if, were he to pay, say, £2,000, he might have access to Sam Cam’s bed.

Sara Neill, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

 

Beards ahoy

Men in the Royal Navy who are pogonophilic may wear full beards.

Sailors call soldiers “pongos”, members of the RAF “crabs” and Royal Marines “bootnecks”.

Pongos (except the drum major in the Argylls) may not become pogonic; neither can crabs nor bootnecks. They may wear moustaches; sailors may not.

I hope this aspect of pogonology is now as clear as Howard Jacobson’s view (Voices, 17 August).

Mick Humphreys, Commander RN, Creech St Michael, Somerset

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