Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Red Light Jumpers sans Helmets

OK, why is this ? Here's the heart-rending story of a widow, Pamela Smith, grieving the needless loss of her husband when he was killed by a cement lorry in Fulham. As the story outlines, Paul Joseph, 45, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. It's serious - life and death serious. You might expect serious consequences for someone who admits that his decisions and actions killed someone.

And yet : "At Southward [sic] crown court he was sentenced to 16 weeks' jail, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 120 hours of community service." There's no mention of whether he lost his driving licence - maybe he's still out there driving, doing his 'bird' in his spare time. He goes home to all the comforts, while Pamela Smith and her 3 children have had their life pulled out from under them.

Now that's enough to make any sensible person angry. If today's newspaper is tomorrow's chip wrapper, then I don't know what that says about yesterday's comments section. So I'm copying my own immediate reaction to the story :

"Can anyone be surprised that drivers are more aggressive, careless and selfish, and that cycling KSI's in London are increasing alarmingly? The Police do not enforce basic Highway Code rules against bad driving, and the courts let these deaths slide by as 'just one of those things...' This is one more case of drivers being given a presumptive 'license to kill.'

The Barclays Cycling Superhighways are bringing their sponsor into disrepute, and TfL are facing corporate manslaughter charges over Bow and King's X. But the only action we see is reducing pedestrian times on crossings and intimidating peds and cyclists off the roads - all in the name of Boris's election mantra - traffic flow - a sop to the outer boroughs.

If I, as an architect, designed a building programme and then the contractor pushed workers to flout H&S measures, then under CDM (Construction Design & Management) laws I could still be charged with Corporate Manslaughter - it's time we started looking at the hours worked, scheduling and pressure to perform that the haulage firms put on their drivers. If the haulage firms are too cheap to install cameras and decent mirrors, they should be excluded from public contracts, or barred from entering Central London.

Until the Mayor and TfL, the Police and Courts begin to take this seriously, deaths of cyclists and pedestrians will continue to be 'acceptable losses' - Everton Smith, Eilidh Cairns, Deep Lee and Brian Dorling were people, not statistics."

 Soon after my post, someone calling himself "Clarkson for PM, England - but sometimes it doesn't feel like it" chipped in. I can't repeat what he said because at some point his comment was removed - I hope he (and I'm sure it was a he, not a she) removed it in utter shame. Rather than empathising with Mrs. Smith, or even acknowledging any part of the story, his response was along the lines of "2 wheels bad, 4 wheels good, get a car." I paraphrase (and I'm being kind to him).

A little later, Davey_Buoy, Chertsey popped up and asked, "When will people understand that it has taken many years just to get the roads set up for Cars Lorries and Buses,two wheeled Bikes dodging in and out of this traffic is not really feasible,whether you have a silly plastic hat on or not."

Again, he ignores the story, of a middle-aged man cycling home from work, not (as far as we're told) jumping lights or being in any way the cause of this tragedy. Again, blame the cyclists.

 To this I responded, "Drop the patronising tone. Other European capitals manage a safer balance between vehicles, cycles and pedestrians - and maintain a better urban quality of life.
TfL and corporate influence have ensured that people are expendable for the sake of a few seconds saved in getting to the next bottleneck junction. If the roads are 'set up for' cars/lorries, you imply that the existing situation is acceptable - but it doesn't work for anyone - not cars, lorries, buses or cyclists.
On top of the road deaths, there's also the 4000 air pollution deaths in London each year - it's time for some leadership here, not pandering to the selfish interests of bullies.
Why do you people bring every conversation about cycling safety back to red lights and bike helmets, and ignore the attitude (fuelled by a not-fit-for-purpose infrastructure) of drivers?"

It seems that every time there's a story in a newspaper about cycling, a bunch of idiots quickly slither out from under rocks, ignore the story, and troll the comments section with inane (and often offensive) comments along the lines of "cyclists jump red lights....  Cyclists don't wear helmets.... Cyclists don't pay 'Road Tax'..."  This is their justification for aggressive, bullying or murderous driving.

So what I'm wanting to know is how this almost Pavlovian reaction crops up so often. Is it the Clarkson factor ? Is it some deep-seated anxiety coupled with a small penis ? (But then, there are occasional women who post the same inane crap... penis-envy?)  I'm no psychologist, but it seems to me that these reactions, and a lot of the bad driving that we see day after day,  are the very definition of psychopathic.  Here's the Wikipedia definition : "Psychopathy is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are very disproportionately responsible for violent crime. Though lacking empathy and emotional depth, they often manage to pass themselves off as average individuals by feigning emotions and lying about their pasts."

This story came out on the day following the news that there will be no new inquest into the death of Eilidh Cairns. Eilidh was run over by a lorry in Notting Hill in 2009, and a coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death. The driver, Joao Lopes was fined £200 and received 3 points on his licence because he had defective vision. It has been reported recently that this same driver struck and killed 97-year old Nora Gutmann. "Three months after the fatal incident in Notting Hill in February 2009, Lopes had failed an eye test and his driving licence was revoked. He got it back in April 2010, and returned to driving HGVs."

Now I'm starting to wonder not only about the mental health of these Clarkson trolls who infect the comments sections. I'm looking at the Justice system, and I'm looking at Boris, and I'm looking at the remote and shameless TfL bureaucrats, and I'm looking again at that Wikipedia definition of psychopathy.