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“Dangerous driving is a choice”: Cycling and walking MPs call for tougher sentences for motorists driving larger cars, as well as strict enforcement of speed limits

A new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking argues that driving the heaviest vehicles should be viewed as an “aggravating factor” for motoring offences

Motorists who commit driving offences while behind the wheel of larger, heavier cars should receive tougher penalties, with the size and weight of the vehicle seen as an “aggravating factor” when it comes to sentencing, a new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking (APPGCW) has advised.

The cross-party group’s report, set to be published tomorrow morning, also calls for speed limits to be strictly enforced, with the current tolerances for inaccurate readings scrapped, along with recommending that anyone who is banned from driving for a period should be forced to undertake a fresh driving test, while criticising those who use the “exceptional hardship” excuse to avoid bans.

In June, the Sentencing Council published 12 new and revised sentencing guidelines for those convicted of motoring offences in England and Wales. According to the guidelines, which came into effect on 1 July, the status of the victim in fatal and non-fatal collisions as a vulnerable road user now qualifies as an aggravating factor for judges to consider, increasing the severity of the offence and potentially increasing the sentence, and reflecting last year’s changes to the Highway Code.

The offender’s status as a commercial driver, or if they’re behind the wheel of a heavy goods vehicle or large goods vehicle, is also now listed as an aggravating factor, recognising the extra responsibility of those driving the most dangerous vehicles.

> Judges told killing a cyclist now an 'aggravating factor' for driving offences, could lead to longer sentences

And now, in their new report, the MPs of the APPGCW have called for the measures to be expanded to include those driving the largest and heaviest private cars on the road.

“Passenger cars vary greatly in weight so the aggravating factors should, we argue, take this into account,” the report states.

However, the recommendation has been criticised by motoring campaigners, who claim the measure would do little to make the roads safer.

“Driving a 4x4 does not make you a more dangerous motorist and driving a smaller car does mean you are safer,” Claire Armstrong of the anti-speed camera campaign group Safe Speed, told the Telegraph.

“It makes no sense to suggest that killing someone while driving an SUV is worse than killing someone while riding a motorbike.”

Meanwhile, Ian Taylor, director of the Alliance of British Drivers added: “I am not anxious to be knocked down by any vehicle. That is what they should be seeking to avoid rather than fiddling with the rules to make life more restrictive.”

According to new large-scale analysis, published last month, of more than 300,000 road collisions between 2017 and 2021, the risk of serious injury increases by 90 percent and the risk of fatal injuries increases by almost 200 per cent when a pedestrian or cyclist is hit by a pick-up vehicle.

A pedestrian or cyclist hit by a car with a bonnet that is 90cm high was also found to have a 30 percent greater risk of fatal injuries than if they are hit by a vehicle whose bonnet is 10cm lower.

In the case of a crash between a 1,600kg car and a 1,300kg car, the risk of fatal injuries decreases by 50 percent for the occupants of the heavier car, while it increases by almost 80 percent for the occupants of the lighter car.

> "Increasingly at risk of fatal injuries": Danger to cyclists posed by larger, heavier cars laid bare by new research

Elsewhere, the report called for all speed limits to be strictly enforced, bringing an end to the current guidelines which advise that motorists are only prosecuted if they exceed the limit by 10 percent plus two mph, a tolerance purported to account for inaccuracies in speed cameras.

The MPs argue that the current leeway offered to drivers encourages them to ignore speed limits, with the report pointing to data from 2021 which suggests that half of all British drivers exceed 30mph limits.

“If drivers exceed posted speed limits, their capacity to avoid collisions reduces and the gravity of any collision increases,” the report says. “Moreover, if the working assumption is that one can speed (to an extent) with impunity, this fosters a belief that traffic law does not need to be taken seriously.

“We hold the view that speed limits and their enforcement represent the foundation of road justice because speeding accounts for the lion’s share of offences committed on the roads. We therefore recommend that tolerances in the enforcement of speeding be removed.

“Without entering a debate about whether the removal of tolerances would be fair or feasible, we point out that mechanisms for measuring speed are now both more sophisticated and more accurate than they were when guidance was last revised.”

> Parliament urged to close 'exceptional hardship' loophole that lets motorists who go on to kill keep licences

The group also criticised the use of the ‘exceptional hardship’ loophole by motorists seeking to avoid a driving ban after receiving 12 or more points on their licence.

Between 2017 and 2021, almost twenty five percent of motorists who amassed 12-plus points each year escaped a ban after pleading mitigating circumstances.

“If nearly one quarter of any group is treated as exceptional, there is something wrong with either the definition of the term or its application,” the report states.

“The consequence is that many drivers who should be serving a ban are instead allowed to continue driving. This is unacceptable, first because they may pose a threat to other road users and second, because it sends a signal that the totting-up disqualification can be circumvented.”

Instead, the report recommends that magistrates should no longer be able to grant exceptional hardship exemptions for points-accruing drivers, who made be made to appeal to the Crown Court.

The report also argues that anyone banned from driving for a period should be forced to take a fresh driving test before they are allowed back on the roads.

“This report is a key step in our work to redress that balance and ensure that there is true road justice. Doing so is essential if we are to unlock the walking, cycling and wheeling potential, and reap the associated benefits of that,” the APPGCW’s chair Ruth Cadbury said.

‘’We will be campaigning hard in Parliament for change on the recommendations within the report, and welcome support from those who share our commitment to this issue.’’

Active Travel England Commissioner and former world champion Chris Boardman, whose mother was killed by a careless driver while riding her bike, added: “We should remember that dangerous driving, law breaking, and endangering others is a choice.

“The recommendations in this paper simply seek to support laws that people should already be obeying and, if implemented, these measures would only negatively affect those that break the law, especially repeat offenders.

“I know personally the horrific consequences of road danger and I think these recommendations are completely consistent with what a civilised society should pursue. No one should have to go through what my family did.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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86 comments

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Patrick9-32 | 10 months ago
7 likes

It would be fun if the speed limits were posted as "30/vehicle weight in Tons" 

If your car weighs 2 tons your speed limit is 15mph. not only would the roads be safer but the nation's mental arithmatic would be improved overnight ;P 

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Braindead replied to Patrick9-32 | 9 months ago
0 likes

Your 40 tonne lorry is stuck doing .75 mph and the produce has all gone rotten, thus the nation starves.

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chrisonabike replied to Braindead | 9 months ago
1 like

Well, lorries could be outside sumptuary laws.

Alternatively - there's a massive disincentive to truck cheap plastic tat around our cities or fly in food, and we're incentivised to enjoy our local turnips just like what the government told us.  Or improve our rail network.

OTOH we consume way more than we produce locally (see "carrying capacity") and apparently our economy runs on people borrowing more money to buy more plastic junk. (Which is imported on credit, etc. - maybe that's why we're so hot on the financial sector?).  I guess China and other producers don't take payment in mangold-wurzels, so perhaps this needs a rethink?

Can't help wondering who pays for them potholes that all the pedestrians and cyclists are causing though.  I wonder if there is a tight enough feedback loop between those most responsible for production of potholes and the money due?

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brooksby | 10 months ago
6 likes

Road casualties have become normal in Britain. But there is another way (Peter Walker, The Grauniad)

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2023/sep/12/road-casua...

Quote:

Poll after poll has shown that the biggest reason for people not wanting to cycle is perceived danger. And anyone who has dared to ride a bike on unprotected roads will soon discover that a large part of this danger comes from pure illegality, not least the vast proportion of drivers who speed, especially on residential roads.

This neatly leads us to the other factor highlighted by the report, and its reaction to it: the howls of outrage if people politely suggest that people could perhaps be less of a danger to others when they drive.

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peted76 | 10 months ago
6 likes

Anyone read the report?

I'm halfway through there are some good bits..

https://allpartycycling.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/APPGCW-Road-Justi...

A3 - In addition to being a very useful tool, a car has the potential to be a lethal weapon. And those who drive dangerously (as defined by the offence) are effectively wielding a lethal weapon. The maximum sentence for having an offensive weapon (or bladed article) in a public place without good reason or lawful excuse is currently four years. We recommend that the Government increase the maximum sentence for dangerous driving to four years.

B2 - Standardising third-party reporting systems -We therefore recommend the implementation of a standardised system across police forces for submission and processing of third-party reporting, based on best practice and supported by adequate resourcing. Submission would be made simple and easy; there would be standard rules for assessing and acting on evidence (as prosecution rates currently vary widely across forces), and for the ongoing provision of information to witnesses.

PLUS...  Sentences for driving offences to reflect vehicle weight In keeping with the Highway Code’s hierarchy of road-user responsibility, we argue that those in charge of vehicles with the greatest capacity to do harm should face greater penalties for not taking the requisite care. Vehicle weight is a contributing factor to the severity of a collision, so we contemplated making a recommendation along these lines. But sentencing guidelines that came into effect on 1st July for a range of serious traffic offences include as aggravating factors: “victim was a vulnerable road user, including pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists etc” and “driving a LGV, HGV or PSV etc”29. This is an encouraging development though it could go further: passenger cars vary greatly in weight so the aggravating factors should, we argue, also take this into account. 

 

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ROOTminus1 | 10 months ago
4 likes

I would love some reform in favour of these proposals, and I think in places it could go further, for example in a reduction to the total accrued points before a ban and retest is required. Some leeway is still required, I'll give my own experiences with a FPN as an example; I received a ticket and an invite to a speed awareness course for being clocked at 48mph heading N on the M6 between J7&J8. Gantry after gantry posting 50mph, cruise control set at 50, steady traffic across all 3 lanes, lane 3 clears and lanes 1&2 slow slightly for J8, I'm carrying on up the road so focus is on the traffic to make sure suicidal Brummie drivers don't be stereotypical urban drivers on a motorway. I miss the one gantry that dropped the limit to 40.
Mia culpa! I was in the wrong, but in the scheme of things I was a saintly motorist compared to the almost-certainly-drug dealer in a blacked-out Audi A4 who swerved across 4 lanes in equally heavy traffic just 3 miles previously.

If I could play devil's advocate I think there is *some* merit in treating all motor vehicles equally, regardless of size, as the concept of a small car doesn't really exist anymore. Unless you are a professional arborist, farmer or gamekeeper, there is no reason for pickups to be on our roads. Similarly a Range Rover Velar has no legitimate market in the UK, but on the other end of their product line, a range rover Evoke is barely larger than a VW golf. The description of SUV is so tied up in marketing BS that is has no bearing on the actual vehicle it describes.

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to ROOTminus1 | 10 months ago
1 like

I imagine the vast amount of people caught for speeding will tell a similar tale. I personally have fallen foul three times over the past 25 years. 40 in a 30 zone, where the camera man positioned himself 20metres before the road became a dual carriageway and a 70mph limit, 60 in a 50 zone, which i thought was 60, felt like an idiot on that one (camera man positioned himself on the only overtaking lane in 10 miles to catch people like me trying to get passed slow moving lorries), and 36 in a 30 zone where the camera man positioned himself literally behind the 30 sign, and caught me slowing too slowly... if that makes sense. 

In all cases, I would love to argue that I had been respecting the spirit of the law; I had been observing the 30, I thought I was able to drive at 60, I was slowing to 30... but each time I've been caught bang to rights.

The reality is that mobile cameras are placed where the forces know they'll catch the most people. Most offenders are not drug fuelled crazies, or rampant yoofs, its the complacent, absent-minded average Joes. 

That's why I think these driver courses are good. As a timely reminder to be better at adhering to the limits for those getting complacent with their driving. It also means it is a lot harder for people to absent mindedly accrue 12 points on their licence. Therefore, the courts really should judge those with 12 or more points more harshly than they do!

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Simon E replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 months ago
3 likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I would love to argue that I had been respecting the spirit of the law; I had been observing the 30, I thought I was able to drive at 60, I was slowing to 30... but each time I've been caught bang to rights.

The reality is that mobile cameras are placed where the forces know they'll catch the most people. Most offenders are not drug fuelled crazies, or rampant yoofs, its the complacent, absent-minded average Joes.

Most collisions are not caused by crazies or yoofs and from my experience ANPR cameras are used at known collision sites or where speeding is a known issue.

Perhaps if you put a little more effort into respecting the LETTER of the law you would not fall foul of it. It seems that many people want to decide for themselves what is a 'safe' speed (i.e. safe for themselves, not anyone outside their metal box) then complain when they are at odds with the real speed limits.

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

That's why I think these driver courses are good. As a timely reminder to be better at adhering to the limits for those getting complacent with their driving.

Why do you need a reminder? Learn the rules. Don't be so complacent.

If speeding/texting/drink-driving etc in a vehicle on public roads had the same consequences as shoplifting I might think you had a point. But it's not. You have a duty of care to all other road users and the law is there for a reason. Or can we all decide which rules to abide by and which we can ignore?

If you have an issue with enforcement then ask the safety partnership, though I'd argue that it's the lack of enforcement that is the problem. I'm sick of so many drivers speeding past the end of my road or along the busy 30mph A-road which goes past a busy supermarket, a ped crossing and junction. And I could name a hundred other places in the town and nearby with the same behaviour. They drive like it doesn't matter when it most certainly does! And it has long been known that speeding and aggressive driving deter people from cycling on the road.

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to Simon E | 10 months ago
0 likes

...be careful, it's easy to be sanctimonious until it's you that's been caught out.

That holier than thou attitrude is exactly how complacency develops and mistakes to creep in... good luck with it all from up there in your ivory towers. 

 

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chrisonabike replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 months ago
0 likes

I would agree it's more "mistakes" than "maelvolence" out there.  However ... that is also a problem.  Drug fuelled crazies are an issue (I'd love to see stats on how much) but ... we all take driving too casually, much of the time.  Lots and lots and lots of "but I've never had an accident before..." makes for a problem.

"But we can't always be focussed like fighter pilots".  Again - that's the issue.  We are expecting (and society is encouraging us) to drive too often, for too long, when we're not alert or free from distractions.

Mostly, we get away with it.  Because other people are alert when we're not, because of decades of safety features inside and outside cars, because despite so many drivers we've made a LOT of space for driving in, because the policing of the laws are minimal.

Yes, some of these laws / limits may be arbitrary - but the general intent is in the right direction (safety) I'd say.

Despite prevailing opinion you don't have to go at the speed limit.  Yes - I know this is not easy because other drivers!

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chrisonabike replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 months ago
1 like

When you say "camera man" - was it a mobile check every time?  Pretty sure that the locations of all the static ones are posted, and they're painted so you can see them, and they put up signs....  Also as you say yourself you saw the 30 sign...

The mobile ones I've seen around Edinburgh always seem to be in the same locations.

I would agree that it's likely that forces go where they will catch people but you could see this as pragmatism rather than as sneaky "war on the motorist".  Probably your career in road policing wouldn't go far if you constantly set up speed traps at the end of cul-de-sacs.

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Sriracha replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 months ago
2 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

...be careful, it's easy to be sanctimonious until it's you that's been caught out.

As spoken in many a jury room.

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Simon E replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 months ago
3 likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

...be careful, it's easy to be sanctimonious until it's you that's been caught out.

That holier than thou attitrude is exactly how complacency develops and mistakes to creep in... good luck with it all from up there in your ivory towers.

If I get caught speeding in my car I'll be willing to admit I broke the law, whether inadvertently or deliberately. I'll not cry about it and play the victim when I am aware of the rules and nowadays I'm even more aware of the danger my vehicle's speed poses to others.

So you can take that attitude and shove it up your arse.

 

Edited to add this tweet:

Speed is a leading contributory factor in fatal road crashes, approximately 50% of those in London.
https://twitter.com/AndyCoxDCS/status/1633539874476179457

TFL yesterday:

Since we lowered speeds on the @tfl roads, collisions have fallen by 25%.
https://twitter.com/willnorman/status/1701216003454026074

RoSPA information page:

Exceeding the speed limit and travelling too fast for the conditions were assigned by police officers as contributing to 27% of fatal collisions in 2020, as well as 16% of collisions in which a serious injury occurred and 13% of total collisions.
https://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/drivers/speeding

Plenty more data out there if I had the time...

Plus a roadpeace tweet from May 2023:

 

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ktache replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 months ago
1 like

The complacent, absent minded Joe's kill and seriously injure many.

Maybe concentrate a bit more.

And from the ones I've seen those camera people wear bright yellow.

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eburtthebike | 10 months ago
2 likes

Either it's a limit, or it's guidance.  The current formula, allowing many drivers to break the limit with impunity, shows that it's guidance.

It should be made a limit, but we live in a car-obsessed society, where everyone else uses the road on sufferance, so it ain't gonna happen.

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brooksby replied to eburtthebike | 10 months ago
5 likes

.

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to eburtthebike | 10 months ago
0 likes

I hear ya, but I'd argue that the speed limits and subsequent flex around them were set together with careful consideration. 

The idea that road planners set 30mph speed limits where actually driving below 30mph is imperative to safety is a trifle naive. That's what 20mph speed limits are for.

It's a bit like recommended alcohol intake. The weekly recommended allowance is set at roughly half of what it could be if people actually reported their intake accurately. I think there was a study a few years back that looked at the alcohol reportedly consumed according to what consumers / patient said they drank, and compared it with UK alcohol sales. There was a very distinct gap between the two and guidelines were adjusted down accordingly. 

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Squidfish | 10 months ago
11 likes

I have a theory from miles of cycling in the peaks that *generally* the bigger/more expensive the car, the closer the pass. Obviously there are exceptions, but it does feel like smaller, older & cheaper cars give me a wider birth when overtaking. Does this resonate with anyone?

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levestane replied to Squidfish | 10 months ago
0 likes

Maybe there is a correlation with those who ride bicycles?

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Oldfatgit replied to Squidfish | 10 months ago
1 like

Certainly where I am, I've found the big, top end Auldi and BMW saloons to generally driven quite well.
It's almost as if the people who drive them don't want to blemish them with the blood and crap that hitting another road user would cause.

Cheaper, smaller cars and SUV - which are more likely to be on HP or lease or given by parents - on the other hand, are quiet often driven with reckless abandon towards others, including their fellow drivers.
It's almost as though they are trying to prove something ...

Ricermobiles ... or the body modified guys - I've found tend to be largely well behaved; these guys tend to love their cars and already know that they are sailing close to the legal wind and don't want to do anything to risk losing their wheels.

To be honest though, aresholes and shitheads come in all shapes and sizes and drive all different vehicles.

Met a group of LEJOG'ers yesterday form the SW, and they were quite complementary about the drivers in the Central Belt of Scotland... mind you, they hadn't crossed the water in to the hellhole that's Fife ... 😅😅

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Browsie replied to Oldfatgit | 10 months ago
1 like

Just wondering if Auldi's are readily available from the middle Isle of a certain cut price german supermarket!, sorry I'll get me coat🤔

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eburtthebike replied to Squidfish | 10 months ago
5 likes

Squidfish wrote:

.....smaller, older & cheaper cars give me a wider birth when overtaking.

Underpaid midwives?

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bensynnock replied to eburtthebike | 10 months ago
2 likes

All delivery drivers seem to be dangerous drivers - maybe midwives are different?

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eburtthebike replied to bensynnock | 10 months ago
0 likes

Well, what they deliver is different.

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Tom_77 | 10 months ago
5 likes

Quote:

Elsewhere, the report called for all speed limits to be strictly enforced, bringing an end to the current guidelines which advise that motorists are only prosecuted if they exceed the limit by 10 percent plus two mph, a tolerance purported to account for inaccuracies in speed cameras.

My understanding is that the guidelines are due to there being so many speeding drivers that there are not enough resources to prosecute all of them. Therefore the police only prosecute the worst offenders.

I can sort of see the logic to it, but the outcome is that for a 30mph zone the de facto limit becomes 35mph, 40mph becomes 46mph and so on. If the policy was to prosecute everyone exceeding the limit by even 1mph then I think you'd get a lot less speeding and the number of prosecutions would not significantly increase.

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Sriracha replied to Tom_77 | 10 months ago
0 likes
Tom_77 wrote:

My understanding is that the guidelines are due to there being so many speeding drivers that there are not enough resources to prosecute all of them.

Now you wouldn't run a business like that, turning away customers eager to make purchases because you simply can't take their money quickly enough.

The government needs to overhaul the system, until it is equal to the task.

For example, on motorways where roadworks have finished, they often leave the average speed cameras, but post signs to say they are not in use. Why?! They should just be seen as part of the motorway improvement, reprogrammed to 70mph, tickets issued automatically, car impounded if not paid. If people want to then take a dispute through the legal process, let them join the queue after the fine is paid.

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Left_is_for_Losers | 10 months ago
0 likes

I look forward to drivers of electric vehicles (which are, of course, typically heavier than their combustion engined counterparts) being more highly punished and penalized. 

Keep the good old diesels. They make much more sense 

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the little onion replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 10 months ago
6 likes

Errr, no. EVs are undoubtely heavier than internal combustion engine equivalents. The main points here are: autobesity means that there are more heavier cars (4*4s, ghastly pickups) that should by rights be replaced with lighter 'normal' cars. And perhaps more importantly, the shape and height of the vehicles, and whether a pedestrian is flipped over the bonnet of a 'normal' car versus having their torso crushed by a square-fronted high 4*4

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chrisonabike replied to the little onion | 10 months ago
3 likes

Bigger in this case often means "worse visibility" - even though "higher". (There's something psychological here - people like a "lookout" and obviously "above others" can make you feel superior!  Tangential but perhaps part of the reason I like the Dutch bike / roadster riding position is your head is a little bit higher...)

Aside from the constant treadmill of "bigger, newer, more resources, more expensive" which all humans are engaged in, there is absolutely no need for the more recent crop of bigmobiles and "semi-trucks".  There are better designs for every conceivable use except (thanks notjustbikes!) carrying fragile egos.

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eburtthebike replied to the little onion | 10 months ago
2 likes

At least the fashion for those ludicrous bull bars has ended: to be replaced by massive vehicles with huge, flat front ends.

Is that progress?

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