Helen Martin: We share roads and the blame

Cyclists and motorists must learn to co-exist. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Cyclists and motorists must learn to co-exist. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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It was Thursday and I was driving down Salisbury Road, an exceptionally busy one-way street – one-way but for a ­cyclist who was happily cycling up the road against the traffic in the wrong direction.

On Friday I was at temporary traffic lights at a crossroads on Kilgraston Road, ready to go straight on. Opposite was another queue of traffic headed by two cyclists. The lights turned green, I began to cross, when suddenly both cyclists turned right in front of me, forcing me to brake suddenly. Perhaps, since they hadn’t faced a compulsory theory test they weren’t obliged to learn the rules.

On the Monday following I slowed and indicated left to pull into a ­parking place in Bruntsfield. My bonnet was halfway into the place when suddenly a cyclist overtook on the inside. Yes, while I was parking he pulled into the space and rode round the front of the moving car. I missed him by inches and sat shaking as onlookers stood, mouths agape, ­watching him cycle off without a care.

That same day my husband (who both cycles and rides a scooter) was sitting in a queue at a set of traffic lights when, without warning, the van driver in front began to reverse.

He shouted, waved his arms, passers-by shouted, but the van driver was oblivious. In fact, he stopped, then started to reverse again as my husband’s scooter crumpled under his rear bumper. Fortunately, van man finally got the message before he made contact with flesh and blood.

Cyclists and two-wheelers are not some sort of nuisance to be railed at by car drivers. And drivers are not inherently evil people out to get cyclists. But bad examples of both are dangerous. And that is why I am appalled by the notion of a law ­automatically blaming motorists for any accident with a cyclist unless the motorist can prove they were not in the wrong.

Whether it’s criminal or civil law, guilty until proven innocent is not a viable basis on which to reach a fair conclusion. It would be a boon for lawyers because some cases would be bound to be bitterly contested

I am horrified by the story of killer motorist Gary McCourt who in 1986 killed a young 22-year-old man by knocking him off his bike and was recently convicted for mowing down and killing 75-year-old cyclist Audrey Fyfe. But he shouldn’t be taken as “typical” of car drivers any more than the idiots I encountered should ­represent all cyclists.

We share roads. We need to ­consider each other. It is, pardon the pun, a two-way street. So I was also disappointed in the response from cycling group Spokes chairman Ian Maxwell to proposed changes in George Street removing at least half the parking places. He said: “. . . it will make a really good contribution to the overall atmosphere of the city centre for pedestrians and tourists as well as cyclists.” Not a mention of motorists who are also shoppers, tourists and business people attending appointments in the city.

Cyclists have a valuable place in our culture and on our roads.

But penalties and blame for recklessness should apply to all groups equally, with no automatic assumptions in the case of an accident.

George gets a real pounding

I’M keeping my options open but I can’t help but laugh at Chancellor George Osborne’s pooh-poohing of the SNP’s aspirations to keep sterling. That’s what he says now, presumably to scare people away from voting “Yes.”

But if Scots did vote for independence, the rest of the UK would then be begging us to stay in the sterling zone so that business on both sides could continue smoothly as before. On the plus side for Salmond, Sturgeon, Swinney and Co, the staunchly Unionist Orange Order is now cranking up its “vote No” campaign. . . what better gift to the nationalists?

A harsh lesson for our nurseries

NURSERIES have been criticised for turning out bad-mannered children unready for school because they allow pre-schoolers to play and do what they like all day long rather than organise structured activities run by a graduate-level teacher.

There has always been a difference between nursery schools which were traditionally run within the education department by a teacher as a fore-runner to school and private day-nurseries whose main purpose was child-minding.

The two seem to have merged in recent years and, naturally, settled on the cheapest and lowest of the two standards. The educationalists warned us this would happen. We didn’t