Laurence Inman continues his campaign against the hypocrisy surrounding the nation’s love of vehicular transport.
Many, many years ago I was given a Walkman for my birthday. It was one of the earliest models. It took cassettes. As far as I was concerned it was the greatest technological breakthrough since the pointy-headed screw. I took to wearing it while cycling to and from work every day.
One morning, as I stopped at the lights in Vicarage Road, a policeman thought fit to proceed in my direction and tell me that it was illegal to listen to things through earphones whilst cycling.
‘How can this be?’ I enquired of him, ‘when it is plainly the established practice among car drivers that the radio is on, often at full blast?’
He gave me that copper look. You know the one.
I further opined that I would, if I am to meet my fate on the Pershore Road, as seemed inevitable given his profession’s reluctance to do anything about speeding traffic, prefer to meet it with Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony soothing my frazzled lugs.
‘Take it off or I’ll take it off for you.’
Plod was like that in those days. Hard-faced bastards, often with scars. None of this please-and-thank-you-sir nonsense. A few years previously a purple-nosed, red-faced, beer-gutted old sergeant at Kings Heath nick had told me that even though a whole bus-shelter full of people had witnessed a nutter deliberately sweep me off the corner of Poplar Road and the High Street, he ‘wasn’t satisfied that an offence had been committed.’ And laughed while he said it! The Criminal Injuries Board disagreed, and awarded me a lot of money.
Nowadays, drivers are allowed to distract themselves with satnav screens on their dashboards, flashing out little animated route-maps. I cannot imagine why sane people don’t see how dangerous this is. How are they still legal? Is there a satnav lobby, threatening MPs with dismissal, subverting the democratic process, like the ‘road lobby’?
The lorry driver who killed Hope Fennell in Kings Heath had been using his mobile to text someone earlier and then tried to delete the messages, while she was lying in the street. It will be interesting to see what happens when he is sentenced in a few weeks, on April 2nd.
We must change our attitudes to cars. These dreadful deaths on our streets are not something we lamely have to accept. If they were happening in plane crashes, there would be lengthy inquiries, followed by new legislation.
If the annual total of road-killings was matched by bomb outrages, the state and all its apparatus (including the police) would stop at nothing to find the culprits.
But idiots and psychopaths can kill hundreds every year with their vehicles and we say: ‘Oh well, it’s just one of those things, can happen to any of us, wasn’t really anybody’s fault, accidents will happen…..’ And the attitude of the courts reflects this.
I hope that on April 2nd we see a change. But, to be honest, I’m not optimistic.
Read Laurence’s article last week on this subject here.