From the Editor’s smokin’ laptop, comes this predictable grumble about compulsory insurance for electric bicycles, due to come into law across the UK, once some type of Danegeld deal is struck with the EU in late February 2019. But will Third Party Insurance for electric bike riders really make the roads – and pavements – of Britain safer? No, argues Alastair. But then, he is a keen cyclist.
VNUK JUDGEMENT PROMPTS BAD LAW, AND SOLVES NOTHING
The EU Directive published earlier on 2018 has the usual high-minded motives behind it; more road safety regulation, a sweeping arc of rules that apply across all member states, plus the bonus of making EU politicians look like they’re doing something useful, rather than simply running up a 50K expenses bill every year. Wonderful.
Except in Britain, the big problem on the roads as regards cyling is clear to anyone who has tried to negotiate the packs of lycra-clad, sweating Bradley Wiggins wannabes, all trying to set PBs (Personal Bests) on their various phone/GPS apps, as they pedal furiously around the same back roads, or suburban route. Then there are the groups of teenage BMX tricksters, MTB duckers `n’ divers swerving around cities, plus the hardy perennials who favour cyling from work/pub/bookies without lights and dressed in black jeans and a camouflage anorak.
You see, battery assisted bicycles are fantastic for all kinds of people who like moderate cycling, but aren’t interested in racing other men called Colin, who have Decathalon on speed-dial in their phone favourites.
Men and ladies alike enjoy electric bikes because they take the sweatiness away from the entire experience, defining the two-wheeled experience as an intrinsically leisure activity, not an audition for Tour De Yorkshire. Women like battery bikes because they allow many of them to wear normal clothing, and not arrive at the coffee shop perspiring like Davina McCall leading a hot yoga class.
In reality, risky road behaviour is primarily about a couldn’t care less attitude to the journey, not the mode of transport.
And that is the root cause of many a cyclist/pedestrian collision too, as legions of young men, all riding around in the winter darkness with no hi-viz, and no lights, can demonstrate to many car drivers, and pavement users. I’m being blunt here; these unlit, weaving, darting, stealth bikers on their mountain bikes and pseudo MX bikes are a bunch of irritating bellends, who really should have their hot wheels seized after being caught riding illegally – just as uninsured drivers have their cars and motorcycles taken away from them by Mr Plod.
But the EU Directive does nothing to solve that problem. Every city in Britain has dozens of MTB riders breaking three or four traffic laws in as many minutes, and the total lack of Police on our streets means they go unchallenged, unregulated, no matter what the EU may like to enforce in their Brussels Nirvana.
Equally, nothing in the EU Directive is there to address the Sunday road racer cc sportive clubs, all busily forming pelotons down country lanes and shouting the mandatory distance requirements at anyone who dares to overtake them. Men who are racing themselves in time trials are likely to take risks; run a red light, fail to obey a STOP sign at a junction etc. Common sense tells you a pack of them should require Public Liability insurance on their Sunday outings. But no, according to the EU a lady called Linda, cyling down to an artisan cheese shop on an electric bike with a wicker basket on the handlebars is a potential Fast ‘n’ Furious hazard to us all. Ridiculous.
SHARE ROAD SPACE, ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS? NOT IN THE FRACTIOUS, TRIBAL UK
In the absence of Dutch/Danish infrastructure – where bicycles are truly separated from motorised traffic – the UK has a hotch-potch of painted-on cycle lanes, and pathetic sections of pavement which are seemingly decorated by council employed Banksy characters. These gifted jokers produce a type of comedy street art, where jaged white lines and symbols entice cylists to ride alongside pedestrians, and then suddenly bring them to a dead end after five yards at the next set of traffic lights, with a painted on DISMOUNT sign. Most people under 25 in Britain have no idea what `Dismount’ actually means by the way.
The result is a battle for supremacy on the roads, and pavements, and many cyclists have become You Tube vigilantes, so they can shame all other road users, on their virtue-signalling quest to monetised superstardom. Great. Again, the knee-jerk reaction to the Vnuk judgement by the EU, in passing the Directive does nothing to prevent that Orwellian spying, snooping and the inevitable violent confrontations which ensue from petty arguments over lane-shifting that immediately escalate when someone says, `you’re on You Tube mate.’
If cyclists need insurance, then let every two-wheeler produce it, including the under 18s. Fact is, their parents can pay – or watch local Police forces auction off that £1000 carbon-framed BMX you bought young Zach for Christmas.
Why pick on electric bike owners, when the real problem groups on the roads are those who see road furniture as being essentially useful for stunts and tricks, or those who refuse point blank to fit working brakes, lights or tyres with tread? Should a gentle commuting minority be made to pay a premium to ride, when others who race £3000 lightweight Fixies on sunny Sundays are completely exempt? Even when we leave the EU, on paper at least, there’s no doubt in my mind that this Directive on compulsory insurance will become law in the UK, and the essential unfairness – the easy-targeting behind it – highlights why ordinary people loathe and despise politicians who frame such bad laws.
Eventually, we will all become jaune gilets. Bon chance, and Ride Safe in 2019 😉