Thursday 19 May 2011

Sir Alan Beith's Private Member's Bill

Yesterday afternoon Sir Alan Beith spoke in support of his private member's Bill which would "require the Secretary of State to make provision requiring the fitting of equipment to heavy goods vehicles to eliminate driver blind spots; to make other provisions relating to the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and other road users; and for connected purposes".  The Bill passed its first reading.  This development, like similar proposals that achieved widespread support in the European Parliament and are now before the Commission, result directly from the hard work of the family of Eilidh Cairns.
I have said plenty on these pages already about the hazards presented to cyclists by lorries.  Let us hope that the old acceptance that lorries can be permitted onto our crowded streets with 'blind spots' will soon be a thing of the past.  I see that the Bill is also supported by Dr Julian Huppert, whose good sense I have already noted.

I am relieved to see sense being talked in Parliament after the disproportionate reaction to the unfortunate, but extremely rare, death of a pedestrian after being run down by a cyclist which led to Andrea Leadsom's private member's Bill earlier this year.

I have also seen this week on The One Show, James Cracknell calling for legislation mandating cycle helmets.  Mr Cracknell is plainly a nice guy who cycles but he is in league with the definitely non-cycling Angie Lee (who chooses to lecture children on the hazards of cycling without a helmet rather than on the dangers of diabetes and heart disease).  Despite the failure of his helmet to save him from a very serious brain injury, James Cracknell genuinely believes that he would be worse off without the helmet.  He goes so far as to condemn non helmeted cyclists for not thinking of their relatives.  What I cannot understand is where were the thoughts for Mr Cracknell's relatives on the part of the lorry driver who apparently slammed his wing mirror into the back of James's head at 70 mph?  I would be interested in a follow up story that indicates whether this driver is now languishing in a prison cell or still driving a truck.  I cannot understand why some are more focussed upon the dubious benefits of a helmet rather than on ensuring that these lorry/cyclist collisions do not happen.  I applaud Sir Alan for grasping the right end of the stick.


  1. A bit of polystyrene and plastic isn't much use when 40 tonnes of metal hits you... It probably did save James, but a top-spec full face lid would've done more good, but we don't want to go down that road. Lets wrap everyone in at least 3 inches of bubblewrap whenever they leave the house!

    Hope this bill goes through, it's surely negligence to allow such vehicles to have blindspots given the vast number of incidents where someone is injured or killed simply because they couldn't be seen.

  2. The helmet clearly failed and provided no absorption of force. They are not designed to help in impacts of over 12mph anyway. I wonder if Mr Cracknell would allow his helmet to be examined by a helmet testing expert for a 'proper' analysis of the accident?

    I was having some physio last year for a dislocated shoulder. My therapist knows personally one of the chaps who was in Cracknell's party at the time of the accident. In the news report we see a picture of him in a coma in a hospital bed. After the accident, he was sitting up conscious and talking fine. The coma was induced by US medics as they do for ALL head injuries. Use of that picture is purely emotive and in no way describes the injuries he received.

  3. My own fear is that Cracknell is being used and may not be the best judge of character... Obviously this is just my slightly paranoid opinion.

    I do fear that if Cracknell's case were properly demonstrated you'd see a range of things that contributed to his survival:

    - the bike being pushed forward
    - the wing mirror folding in
    - his body slumping forward and out of the way
    - the fact that he is an athlete and his skull may be more re-enforced from training (looking at boxers you see the skull hardens up, looking at runners the leg bones become tougher, etc. All down to vibrations that cause microtears in bone structure, the bone heals and heals stronger. Cracknell is a known runner)

    Cyclists have to accept limitations in helmets and ride accordingly. There is parallel with HGV sensor tech, lets hope a culture of "blame the tech" doesnt arise as a result in place of good road practice.

  4. Mandatory helmet laws are an unmitigated disaster - don't do it!!!!!

    We held the inaugural 'Punk Commute' in Sydney last week, and even managed to score a police escort to Parliament House from Town Hall steps where the protest started.

    One brave politician came out to meet us punk commuters, waving a limp little olive branch and listening to what we had to say! OK admittedly a tenuous start to revocation of the draconian regulation 256 (NSW Road Rules), but a start nonetheless!!

    Don't do it!! - helmet laws killed cycling in Australia, and have left us with a next to impossible task clawing ourselves out of our very self-dug hole!

  5. It's all about confidence.

    UK cyclist need to build their confidence to actually step up to the plate and start a sensible debate. We constantly get lost in talking about the petty fringe things that really don’t matter to us (but only to others thereby diffusing the cycling discussion).

    As a minority group it's a decidedly difficult task – but a necessary one if we really want cycling to be mainstreamed.

    Confidence through solidarity.

  6. James Cracknell, who claimed he had no commercial relationship with a helmet manufacturer, is actually Brand Ambassador for Alpina:

    Follow the money.

    He also seems to be or have been a BA for BMW:

    Encroyable :/

  7. There would certainly appear to be a commercial relationship between James Cracknell and Merida/Alpina, unless sponsorship is not considered to be a "commercial relationship", of course. I will leave that one to the lawyers...