By Ted Vibert
I COULD understand why some politicians are getting hot under the collar about our alleged polluted atmosphere if there was some scientific evidence – or any sort of facts – to prove that is the case. So far I have seen nothing.
In the absence of any facts I have to use my common sense and my experience of living or visiting various cities around the world.
I spent three years in London in the early 50s before the Clean Air Act restricted the use of coal fires. There were days when the air was so polluted that visibility was cut to two yards and if you drove a car you needed to have someone walk in front of it. I remember a comedian on television commenting that if you ‘live in London and blow your nose, you have a fall of soot’.
Paris, Rome and Athens were not quite as bad, but certainly not good. In Australia, Sydney and Melbourne certainly have their bad periods and Manila in the Philippines can be awful. One of my sons worked in Beijing, China, and lived on the top floor of a high-rise apartment block. On most days you couldn’t see the roads below.
What amazes me about Jersey is that the authority responsible for the issue here has no air-pollution-monitoring equipment to establish their case. Instead, they want the population to ‘get on their bikes’ so that we can improve our air quality and reduce the amount of pollution the population is causing by driving their cars.
To help create this pollution-free utopia they are prepared to dish out up to £600 of taxpayers’ money towards someone buying an electric bike. That will certainly be successful and will put more cyclists on the road, although I suspect that most of those applying are already cycling and will switch to an electric bike (why wouldn’t they?).
The time has surely come when some important changes to the road traffic law need to be made to deal with the probable increase in the number of cyclists on the road.
Any study of the history of any new form of transport shows that in the early stages of a transport type no controls exist and it is a free-for-all – even with aviation. In the early days ‘magnificent men in their flying machines’ just took off from a farmer’s field, crossed the Channel and landed where they wanted to, had a good lunch, drank lots of wine and flew home again. ‘Hoicks and tally-ho.’
I was a member of a golf club in Sydney, next to Sydney Airport, and in the foyer of the entrance of the clubroom was a picture taken in 1938 of a flying machine 50ft off the ground dropping flour bombs on players on the tee ‘just for a laugh’. The pilot was the club captain.
Since then, of course, aircraft are now strictly controlled via a complex web of co-ordinated and sophisticated systems which have made aviation the safest form of transport.
The same has happened with cars. When only the rich could afford them, and a car on the road brought people out into the street in wonder, there was no need for any form of control. Then along came Henry Ford and cars became the most popular form of transport, meaning laws and rules became necessary.
Cyclists mixing with cars and pedestrians is a dangerous cocktail for the three main users of roads. The time has come for cyclists to have the same – if not more stringent – restrictions as motorists. I believe the following list should be made mandatory for cyclists:
In all areas within the ring-road of St Helier it is illegal to ride a bicycle on any paved area.
For the rest of St Helier as well as within the ring-road:
All cyclists must have third-party insurance cover.
All cyclists must wear a crash helmet and a yellow visibility vest on which a number given by the parish must be prominently displayed on the back.
Any cycle on the road in St Helier must display a light and have a warning bell or horn attached.
Any breach of the above should be subject to a fine of £250 and confiscation of the bicycle for a period of month. Repeated offences should attract a punishment of longer confiscation.
All of these conditions should also apply to e-scooters. Trials in parts of the UK have shown that head injuries to e-scooter users have risen dramatically, as have accidents involving pedestrians, and the devices are not recommended for use in small towns where roads are narrow and it is not possible to have cycle lanes, which would be the case in St Helier. Because e-scooters have small wheels they are prone to tipping the rider over the front when hitting even a small pothole. I would ban them from all areas within the ring-road of St Helier.