Boris & the Blame Game
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has been criticised for what he said in a radio interview following the deaths of several cyclists in road accidents in London (six have been killed in November). He has widely been accused of victim-blaming and insulting the dead after suggesting – in the interview – that cyclists have a duty to obey the laws of the road and heed signals. Sickeningly insensitive is what CTC's Campaigns Director Roger Geffen called it and in last Friday's CycleClips CTC newsletter was a piece titled 'Boris Blamed' with an invitation to write a letter to Johnson demanding him to 'end the disproportionate threat that lorries have posed to cyclists and pedestrians in the capital for years.' It is worth listening to the whole interview, I think.
Boris Johnson doesn't blame anyone. It is too soon for that, until the facts are established in each of the six accidents. No-one has yet been arrested. So what should he say?
He mentions ongoing investment in education – how to use the roads – and the need to look again at roundabouts and other places where cyclists feel especially vulnerable. Much of this is aimed at increasing the confidence of cyclists using the roads of the capital; the paradox is that increased confidence may be a factor in the tendency of some cyclists to forget the 'laws of the road'. In some of these cases 'the heart bleeds.' He probably means it. Johnson's comments seem generalised and reasonable to me. If anything it is the interviewer Nick Ferrari who raises the subject of red-light-jumping, the 'inherent dangers' of cycling and the need to 'cycle with care' then goes on to ask whether 'the cyclists were culpable in the recent deaths'. Boris: "We can't say that," then says truck drivers are perhaps not to blame either.
He concludes by saying that cyclists, motorists and pedestrians must think about each other. So true. I have always believed the attitude and behaviour of people towards others, in this case fellow travellers and road users, is the way to a better society, not more regulation. No British politician has done more to raise the profile of cycling in recent years than Boris Johnson, and it's a pity the CTC – supposedly the national cycling charity – feels the need to behave like every other pressure group, Tweeting and Facebooking every bandwagon going.