When is it all right to break the law?
When you’re a burglar? Probably not. When you’re driving a car? Definitely not, if I am to believe angry correspondents denouncing my views on excessively slow speed limits.
When you’re a cyclist, then?
Ah, that may be a different matter. A writer to Local Transport Today, the UK’s leading publication for the transport planning professional, suggests that “instead of focusing on the lawbreaking aspects of cyclists who run red lights and ride the wrong way on one-way routes, we should be looking at legitimising these manoeuvres”.
I don’t know which is more worrying: that someone should see nothing odd about pleading for people like himself – and only people like himself – to be allowed to break the law; or that the gentleman in question is a senior transport planner.
He feels that a cyclist flouting “most” traffic regulations is taking the same calculated risk as a pedestrian crossing at a “red man”, and this seems reasonable at first glance. But a pedestrian flouting the law in that way puts primarily himself at risk: cyclists popping up all over the place doing illegal things are a hazard to every road user.
Special pleading for cyclists is nothing new. I seem to remember that an anti-car campaigner in East Anglia seemed to think it was fine for him as a cyclist to drink a “pint or four”. But perhaps this latest idea is not so bad and should be taken further. If we let cyclists ignore red lights and cycle the wrong way down one-way streets, why not let car drivers ignore red lights when the way is transparently clear, and why not let them drive over lights-controlled pedestrian crossings at red when there is no-one about? Why not allow them to ignore speed limits when it is obviously safe to do so?
I’m all in favour of treating road users as if they have brains and can use them, but in my experience cyclists are no more likely to fall into this category than anyone else. What they are likely to do is call for more draconian laws against motorists while wanting permission to ignore the law themselves. Hardly fair. Or reasonable. Or safe.
Fly-tipping: a rubbish idea
Fly-tipping is one of the obvious blights on our society, and I think most of us are already aware of it. Nevertheless an evangelistic Norwich City Council is running a Fly-Tipping Awareness Week this coming month.
The idea, presumably, is to stop people fly-tipping. One of the most obvious ways to do that is to make it easy for people to get rid of their rubbish at the proper place. How does Norwich City Council do this?
Well, for a start they won’t collect bins with the wrong rubbish in them. They won’t collect bins where the lids are not fully closed or that are too heavy. Nor will they collect rubbish left next to your bin or on top of it.
And just in case you thought they were getting soft, they are planning to reduce the amount of waste they collect by introducing alternate weekly collections.
There is no excuse for dumping rubbish at the side of the road or at beauty spots. But Norwich City Council is working hard to create reasons for it. If they really want to reduce fly-tipping, it is easily within their power to do so. They should collect more, and be more flexible. Most residents want to recycle, but they resent petty rules and regulations.
After all, if you wanted to stop people parking on the street, you wouldn’t make car parks ridiculously expensive, would you? Oh, hang on, maybe that’s not a good analogy. Or perhaps Norwich City Council thinks it is.