The rise in injuries to cyclists on Scotland's roads is a reflection of the prejudice and hostility cyclists face in our car-addicted culture (Worrying rise in cyclists injured on Scotland's roads, News, November 11).
Cycling injuries are only the tip of a gigantic iceberg of social, health, environmental and transport problems that stem from the unique influence that motorists have over government at all levels. No other group in society has more power to delay taxation, every proposed increase being challenged, often successfully. No group gains more publicity when it wants to delay other fuel charges, and no activity is more subsidised at the expense of health, safety and quality of life.
Cars are the number one cause of violent death and injury in the world, far surpassing war, terrorism and murder. Yet anti-cycling prejudice dominates discussion, exaggerating the "menace" of cyclists jumping red lights or cycling on the pavement.
The reason why a disproportionate number of women cyclists are killed is because they are too passive and do not jump lights to get away from danger. And all successful cycling cities have shared space, where cyclists, pedestrians and other gentle forms of transport mingle freely and where human interaction determines safety rather than draconian rules.
The solution is to place restrictions on driving, so that communities and people can emerge out of the shadow of traffic hell that has dominated urban planning since the 1960s. Only when radical action is taken against petrol dependence will human beings be able to enjoy the streets safely again.
Many people who are wary of cycling on roads are happier to use off-road cycle tracks and routes. However, recently I have heard many comments about lack of maintenance of cycle tracks, leading to a big increase in punctures and other hazards. Cyclists are choosing to bypass dedicated safer cycle tracks for the public roads. Perhaps this is contributing to the increased number of injuries. Surely it is time that cycle-track maintenance was taken seriously and put on a par with road maintenance. In particular, tracks should be regularly swept, and kept ice-free in the winter, with potholes repaired.
Fallen leaves are a particular hazard, and I have witnessed cyclists bypassing dedicated cycle routes covered in leaves which may hide unknown hazards for an adjacent clear public road. In my own area of Fife at the moment I see regular clearing of leaves from the roads but cycle-track maintenance is very irregular. We need joined-up thinking and action. If the Government's targets on cycle use are to be met, maintenance combined with encouragement to use and promotion of Scotland's off-road cycle routes must be a priority.
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