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Changing the ‘Top Gear’ mentality

Cycling and road safety

David Standard
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David joined Leigh Day in 2011 and is responsible for all marketing, business development and client care across the firm.
This blog has been inspired by the unfortunate events that befell Bradley Wiggins and his British Cycling and SKY coach Shane Sutton both hospitalised after collisions with motor vehicles within 15 hours of each other.

I don’t assume the causes of these specific incidents, however I’ve felt the need to write on the subject of road safety for some time having lost my own father in a cycling road collision and from my own experiences on the road.

I must begin by reiterating what British Cycling have been saying which is to say that cycling is not intrinsically a dangerous activity and actually saves lives through its health benefits.

But, how do we make cycling safe, not just safer, for all?

Most times when I am out on my bike I am buzzed, that is to say purposefully passed at such close range (even on wide roads) as to be a clear warning that I shouldn’t be there.

Worst still, on narrow country lanes being driven at, at speed, by drivers unwilling to slow down despite the fact they may kill us if they, or us, judge it wrong.

We have to change this ‘Top Gear mentality’, which is fostered by a massive and very powerful motoring lobby and is not helped by common misconceptions.

To do this I’d like to run an advertising campaign. This advertising campaign would raise awareness of one key phrase and would save lives.  I would run the campaign on both TV and on every large billboard, beside every major road, out of every major city.

This road safety campaign would be like no other. It wouldn’t tell the poor soul who is most likely to be killed if hit by a vehicle to wear a helmet for the very little effect it would have. Neither would I tell the potential victim to have a bell on their bike, reflectors or to wear bright clothing, although all of these precautions are not to be discouraged.

I would instead direct my advertising spend at the following slogan:

‘THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ROAD TAX’.

It’s not the catchiest slogan in the world but I think, nevertheless, it would save lives. Why?

Well, it is my belief that the vast majority of drivers, I would hazard a guess at 99%, believe that what they pay annually to the DVLA is a road tax, a tax which pays for the very road they are driving on.

This leads to the belief that they, as motor vehicle drivers, have the most rights on the road. Those who don’t pay road tax are ergo, somehow getting away with things and have the sheer gall to use THEIR roads.

What the 1% knows is that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ROAD TAX (see it grows on you!).

There is Vehicle Excise Duty; this is a UK tax on tailpipe CO2 emissions. Cyclists don’t pay this as they make no emissions neither do many other road users whose vehicles issue very little or no emissions, such as owners of the Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI Bluemotion 105 (non-sponsored blog!)

So who pays for the roads? Well we all do, that is to say, as long as we pay our council tax, income tax and all sorts of other direct and indirect taxes, which pay for the provision of public services, be they hospitals, trains or roads.

So many cyclists, who don’t drive, are paying for the damage to roads caused by motor vehicles disproportionate to the damage they themselves cause.

So maybe next time you are held up whilst driving by a cyclist, after making sure you go round them safely wave a cheery thank you as they may be paying a lot more than their share!

David Standard is Leigh Day’s Head of Media Relations and a former Great Britain cyclist on both road and track. He still currently rides regularly and is in two minds about racing again next year!

for more information on this subject visit www.ipaymyroadtax.com

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