James Moore: An open letter to the Minister for road safety

Other motorists can hurt me when I'm in a car. And when I'm on a bike, they can kill me

James Moore
Friday 03 February 2012 01:00 GMT

Dear Mike Penning,I might be misinformed, but it seems you are no great fan of cyclists. You count the number who run red lights on your way to work, I have seen it reported.

Cyclists running red lights is bad form, I know, Minister, but some cyclists run red lights because that is one way of avoiding lorries.

Of course, lorries are supposed to stay out of cycle lanes and the green boxes with cycles painted on them near junctions. Those boxes are there to ensure cyclists can get away before HGVs get started when the lights turn green. The trouble is that HGV drivers don't always stay out of them as they should. Like the driver of a tanker who hit me when he was turning left.

I should say, Mr Penning, I am also a motorist – or at least I was before I was seriously disabled by that tanker. And I can tell you that, as a motorist in London, the thing I'm afraid of is other motorists, not cyclists. That is because other motorists can hurt me even when I'm in a car. And when I'm on a bike, they can kill me.

Cyclists are uniquely vulnerable. Maybe some cycle badly. But they seem to attract far more opprobrium from people like you than motorists who drive badly. The practice of blaming the victim is rather repellent, don't you think?

As Minister for road safety, you ought to be looking at ways to make roads safer. One thing might be to impose tougher penalties on motorists who ignore cycle paths and stop boxes. Another might be to force companies operating HGVs to fit sensors to their vehicles so drivers are alerted to the presence of cyclists who they either don't see – or don't look out for. If the driver who hit me had seen me, maybe I wouldn't be writing this. I'd be in Kensington writing business news rather than working from a home I'm basically confined to on account of my legs being wrecked.

Sensors cost £500 per lorry. I know you're keen on cutting regulation to make life easier and less costly for business. The economy's in a bit of a state. I'm a business journalist. I get it. But look at it this way. If the prospect of saving other families from the agony that mine has been through (and thousands of others), please think about this: the costs of the sensors ought to be offset by a reduction in insurance costs. Every road death costs nearly £2m in terms of hospital costs, rehab, police time, not to mention all the resultant criminal and civil claims, according to the charity Road Peace, using figures from your Department of Transport. So why not act? You might save some lives. And if that doesn't excite you, you'd certainly save some money. How about it?

Yours sincerely,

James Moore

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