Helen Martin: Mutual mistrust is a recipe for road rage

Cyclists and motorists must learn to treat each other with respect and consideration. Picture: PA
Cyclists and motorists must learn to treat each other with respect and consideration. Picture: PA
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BARELY a week passes by in our city, or for that matter in Scotland, without a cycling story hitting the headlines.

Too often, it’s a tragedy involving a cyclist being hurt, seriously injured or even killed, whether by getting caught in tram tracks, trapped in a large vehicle’s left turn or clipped by a car.

It's a challenge to make maths fun and engaging. Picture: Getty

It's a challenge to make maths fun and engaging. Picture: Getty

It could be a story about road planning such as the ill-designed cycle track at Silverknowes roundabout or trans-city cycle tracks.

Recently, the Pedal for Scotland charity bike race between Edinburgh and Glasgow was “sabotaged” by protesting locals with a similar response to the Tour O The Borders by angry farmers, both infuriated by road closures imposed for the cycling events.

Cycling, once nothing much more than a healthy hobby or pleasurable pastime, is now seen as a green, pollution-free, growing form of transport which is strongly supported by local authorities, government, and public funds and successfully represented by dedicated and vocal campaign groups.

It is also becoming more and more controversial, with opinion becoming more polarised as the business of travelling round on two wheels becomes a “political” issue (as does anything backed by the public purse).

The “middle of the road” is disappearing as increasingly people become for or against cycling. Committed, pedalling, commuting enthusiasts are “pros” while others, depending on how they are affected by the changes to our roadways, the apportioning of blame, or major cycling events in their area, are “cons”. And that’s not an ideal situation when what we all want is a happy outcome of mutual respect and consideration when it comes to driving, walking or cycling.

Every time I mention cycling in this column I receive a mix of agreeing or angry responses. Personally, I am on the fence. My son is a cycling commuter, the sort who wears jeans or shorts rather than black Lycra-type, skin hugging, professional-looking gear. My husband is a leisure cyclist. So I’m not an “anti”, though I am branded as such by some of the cycling lobby.

I believe that is because I can see the issue from both sides. I cannot agree with anyone who wouldn’t display caution or consideration towards a cyclist (especially my own son). But nor can I agree with cyclists who feel they are always in the right – and have more “rights” than anyone else.

Road closures for the Tour O The Borders disrupted the work of farmers who don’t have “days off” and cannot postpone animal care or major arable works. That was a ridiculous decision.

Folk in Clackmannanshire and Linlithgow were also restricted in their daily life by the limitations of Pedal for Scotland.

I don’t defend farmers allegedly attacking bikers with sticks or locals throwing tacks in the road to cause punctures. But that does show the strength of feeling among the non-cycling general public who feel thwarted and bullied.

Drivers must accept cyclists are more vulnerable on the road. But no wonder they become enraged when they so often see cyclists ignoring rules knowing that if an accident ensues, it’s always going to be the guy behind the wheel, not on the saddle, who is blamed.

For cycling to grow and flourish, mutual consideration and respect is the key. Local authorities and government must become more even-handed if they want a happy, road-sharing future.

Russian Roulette on a roundabout

NOW here is where I thoroughly back cyclists. Council transport bosses upgrading Silverknowes roundabout have had to rethink plans for a peripheral (left hand) cycle lane.

Not being a transport guru, let alone a regular cyclist, even I knew cars couldn’t leave that roundabout without mowing down cyclists who were dutifully sticking to their designated lane. Peter Hawkins from the Spokes campaign group was politely restrained in his public comments when he explained the danger.

In his shoes, I think I might have questioned who in the “transport” department was such a daft eejit they attempted to turn a busy roundabout into a game of Russian Roulette.

All things being equal, maths isn’t a lot of fun

AT school I was good at arithmetic (which in those days was a separate subject) but in algebra, geometry and trigonometry (all of which comprised maths) I became a female embodiment of Frank Spencer looking permanently lost and flabbergasted with my finger anxiously stuck in my mouth.

That’s often the case with people who love English, History and creativity. Maths requires a different mindset.

In my day there were many pupils who did excel at maths. Primary school education was based on learning by rote whether it was the alphabet, spelling, times tables, periodic tables, or French verbs. Remembering maths processes and symbols and understanding wiggly lines and calculus in secondary took that to another level which I couldn’t hope to reach.

By the time my son went to school, learning “parrot fashion” had gone and all lessons became part of wider projects. School was supposed to be fun, engaging and encouraging rather than harshly disciplined learning for each pupil.

I can’t help wondering if the shortage of maths teachers is down to the fact that it must be even more difficult nowadays to make the subject interesting, fun and appealing – unless Pythagoras, Newton, Einstein and Hawking are included in the class register.

Stocking chiller...

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