These are dark days, my friends, and it would be quite wrong for any of us to cycle around London without lights. Which is why it is all the more depressing that in Blair’s Britain they steal your bike lights within five minutes, and you are lucky if they don’t steal the saddle and the wheels as well.
So for the last two years I have used something called a Danlite, a magical device that fits in the side of your handlebars, winking white to the front and red to the rear.
And when you park your bike, you simply unscrew the Danlite (it is about the size of a large walnut) and put it in your pocket.
On the subject of cycling risks, I am asked everywhere to comment on my friend and colleague Tim Yeo’s proposal that cyclists should face fines and penalty points for using mobile phones while cycling. Since this is a Tory proposal, and since I am a Tory, I am honour bound to try to see the advantages of this suggestion.
As I understand it, the train of thinking is that it is somehow unfair on motorists that they should suffer these fines and penalty points for talking while driving, while cyclists do not. Motorists already have very strong feelings about cyclists, not all of them favourable, and it apparently gets their goat to see cyclists jabbering away whilst pedalling, and enjoying a freedom that is now forbidden to the driver.
The Tory intention, therefore, is to impose equality of misery on both groups.
Of course no one should be actively encouraged to use a mobile while cycling. It is risky, and I once almost went over the handlebars in the palio of Trafalgar Square while conducting a particularly tricky negotiation – I think it was about Israel – with Conrad Black. If you must do it, you should IDEALLY get a hands free set or a blue tooth attachment, and fix the mobile in a bracket to the handlebars.
In those circumstances, or when you are hugging the kerb and going slowly up a deserted street, I believe it can be perfectly safe to cycle and talk at the same time, just as it can be safe to cycle and listen to an Ipod. Indeed, it is notable that those who object to mobiles, on the ground that they interfere with a cyclist’s hearing, make no such complaint about Walkmans: which leads me to think that their position is incoherent, if not nonsensical.
But the main reason for dissenting from this proposal is that it is simply unnecessary. There is already plenty of stuff on the statute book to prevent you cycling dangerously. If the police think you are cycling without due care and attention, they can already stop you and book you.
Why, for heaven’s sake, do we need a new ban, which the police will be obliged to enforce uniformly across the country, when the decision to take the trivial risk of making a phone call on the move should be left to the cyclist?
Why is the Tory party – the TORY party – proposing an infringement of liberty, when of the 19,000 accidents involving cyclists per year, not a single one involved the use of mobile phones?
It may be that it will gratify the resentment and jealousy that burns in the breasts of British motorists, to see the pedallists punished. But that is no way to make law.
We should be resisting new and vexatious regulations, of which this government produces so many thousands every year, not adding to them.
Not even Labour – bullying, bossy, hysterical, nannying Labour – sees the need for this change to the law.
The Tories should stick up for safe cycling, not new bans. We are the party of freedom, or we are nothing.
(Image via Nanny Knows Best.)