Wednesday, 31 August 2011

On yer bike!

Yesterday I was watching a rerun of Francesco’s Italy, a charming programme following the journey of Francesco da Mosta around his home country. Last night he reached Naples. The busy streets were packed with mopeds and pushbikes. No one was wearing a crash helmet and often there were three to a bike or even young children riding on the crossbar of the pushbikes. As far as I could tell, no one was injured and the population of Naples hasn’t been decimated by this cavalier attitude to road safety.

Contrast this with the news that a father of a two-year-old boy was fined £200 for carrying his son on a crossbar seat on his bicycle in Burton, Staffordshire. The seat was bolted to the crossbar and further fastened using duct tape. The child was wearing a cycle helmet. Ghulam Murtza was handed a fixed-penalty notice by a police officer for the offence which he duly ripped up and threw on the floor in disgust. He was then handed another fixed penalty notice for littering.

Technically Ghulam was in the wrong as, according to the Highway Code, the bicycle hadn’t been adapted to carry a passenger, although one could argue that as the seat was bolted to the cycle frame, it was an adaptation. At court Ghulam was fined £100 for the cycling offence, £85 costs and the pathetic £15 victim surcharge that automatically gets slapped on any fine in this country, just so a bunch of quangocrats can enjoy fat pensions and gilded salaries by pretending to care about crime.

Meanwhile, cycling groups throughout the country are supportive of people being able to carry children on bicycles, as we’re all supposed to be going green and reducing our carbon footprints by using cars less.

However, the most chilling aspect of the story for me was the Orwellian weaselspeak from Chief Inspector Phil Fortun, commander of East Staffordshire Local Policing Team, which covers Burton. He said: 'It is our duty to protect people and ensure the safety of the communities we serve.

‘The bicycle was not made to carry a child in that way and officers took action to protect the young child from potential injury or worse, should the bike have been involved in a collision. The bike's owner was well-meaning in his efforts, but misguided with regards to the safety of himself and his son. Road safety is a priority for Staffordshire Police and we will continue to take the necessary action to keep all road users safe.’

They're only doing it to keep us safe. They could have had a quiet word with Ghulam if they really felt it was their business, but no... far easier to get the fixed-penalty ticket book out.

Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it? Which way is Naples?


  1. Hi Traction Man,
    I'm Danilo, the italian pharmacologist that wrote you a while ago. Because you are a freelance journalist, I'll explain why in Naples and the area around nobody wears helmet while riding a bike. There is a huge drug market run by the Camorra (the local Mafia), so they need to recognize everyone in their territory, otherwise you are a cop or a member of a rival gang that is trying to sell drug outside its area and they will shot you or give you very bad moments. Plus the helmet is the disguise of choice for hitmen, one stays on the bike, while the other sprays with bullets the people around. So now you have the real explanation, sorry for the British guy, but here is much worse...I'll be in Huddersfield in a week for a talk. Hope will work...


  2. wow...I've thougth the same thing as you about the swarms of people hauling each other and kids around on their bikes. Here in Alberta everyone under 18 (or 16) must wear a helmet and it is strongly suggested that adults wear them as well. Maybe english speaking skulls break easier than non-english speaking skulls?
    One Paramedic I trained with called not wearing safety gear as "natural selection".
    We here in Canada have some of your 'bobbie' working as police. I don't know the demographic spread but Calgary has a bunch. My son was stopped by one and didn't have a clue what the guy said 'cuz of the accent and terminology.
    I would say that if the seat had a belting system then it could be considered ok...except it would then need to be passed by the safety council in order to be AOK. I think I've actually seen approved crossbar seats for sale. Can't remember when.
    Thanks Danilo for the 'heads' up on helmet wearing in Naples, I'll keep that in mind when (if) I cycle Italy. I like living.


  3. GOSH reading that is enough to give anyone very bad moments. My romantic views of beautiful Naples is somewhat tarnished.
    I'll stick with a helmet, the British Isles and a 99 from the ice cream van...

    ps. keep it coming Mr TM!

  4. Hi Mark,

    Saw the first part of the One Show tonight with TV Chef James Martin who is involved in improving hospital food at Scarborough Hospital.
    Most food there seemed to be produced from tins and packets, including angel delight which he said he hadn't seen since he was a kid.
    It is on BBC next week