Earlier this week we carried news of a bizarre anti-cyclist article in the Guild of Experienced Motorists’ customer magazine but as well as in print, there’s plenty of woolly-thinking on the company’s website.
An article entitled “Kids Should Get up and Glow like the Ready Brek ad” suggests children travelling to and from school should be compulsorily decked out in day-glo orange gear.
GEM chief executive David Williams said: “We believe a compulsory orange uniform, giving kids that ‘Ready brek glow’ would have an immensely positive impact on the safety of our children in the winter months.”
There is no mention of motorists adapting their driving styles to the demands of winter motoring in the article which goes on to claim that a GEM poll – no information given about size or methodology – “found that a staggering 86% of drivers said they worried about being able to see child pedestrians in the dark winter months. 9 out of 10 motorists said they felt parents did not do enough to ensure their child’s visibility and almost three quarters believed that fluorescent, reflective clothing should be compulsory on children walking to and from school.”
David Williams continues: “It is a very dangerous time of day and at the very least they should be wearing reflective arm bands or shoulder belts. We know that young people today are very style conscious and may well resist the idea but it is a concept of personal safety we are beginning to win with cycle helmets.”
That last reference concerns GEM’s adherence to the notion that helmet-use should be compulsory for all young cyclists in the UK and its sponsorship of a campaign by the British Helmet Initiative Trust to achieve that aim.
There are shades of “thought control” in the organisation’s backing for schools information packs which, according to David Williams: “provide information and guidance to allow teachers to create stimulating and interesting lessons on why all young cyclists should always wear a helmet. Teachers can also apply for a free demonstration kit which shows how an egg can be prevented from breaking when ‘fitted’ with a helmet like protector.”
Williams continues: "The scale of the problem of young cyclists receiving severe head injuries also requires government action. It is unreasonable to expect children to make an informed choice as to whether to wear a helmet or not. There needs to be clear guidance from Government in the form of legislation making it compulsory for all cyclists under the age of 14 to wear an approved safety helmet.”
Again there is no reference to the fact that compulsory helmet use would likely reduce the overall number of cyclists on the roads and bolster the notion that the car is king.
We can only assume that the reinforcement of GEM's perceived hierarchy of road use is the insidious message behind these initiatives which purport to be based on a concern for the safety of all road users. Jane King’s article – despite the apologies and protestations of editing mishaps – amply demonstrated that.