MP Stewart Jackson is right to criticise irresponsible cyclists who show little regard for anyone but themselves.
However, cyclists as a group receive a lot of bad press and I feel that Mr Jackson could have made it clearer that his comments apply to a minority of bike riders only.
In any group of people there will be a minority who don’t play the game. Mr Jackson will be aware from his own profesional experiences how damaging it can be when the public are led to believe that this applies to most members of the group.
Cyclists seem to be a regular and easy target for those with a voice in Peterborough. Marco Cereste shaking his fist at cyclists on Bridge Street attained maximum publicity, and even your sport columnist Alan Swann seems to enjoy belittling them at every opportunity. I have no wish to defend the minority of cyclists who behave in a selfish and irresponsible manner, or make light of the problems that Mr Jackson has experienced in his own neighbourhood, but feel that he is not taking a balanced view. In my part of the city, cyclists would find it very difficult to ride on the pavement due to them often being blocked by the illegal parking of motorists.
Why is nothing ever done about this? I have seen prams, wheelchairs and guide dogs forced into the road, yet the problem is ignored. Is there any chance of a traffic warden or two being sent out to the suburbs?
May I suggest that Mr Jackson pays a visit to Ferry Meadows one weekend. He will discover an environment where there is potential for all manner of conflict, yet walkers, runners and even cyclists co-exist with mutual respect and consideration for each other.
Mr Jackson extolls the virtues of Peterborough as a green city and, indeed, when townships, such as Orton, were built by the Development Corporation it was done with cyclists in mind.
Unfortunately, this visionary thinking from the planners has been let down by the council for many years. Cycle paths have been neglected, and such hazards as uneven surfaces and inadequate lighting render some of them potential death traps. In many places the footpath is split between an area for pedestrians, and a cycle path. It is common to find the pedestrian path made unusable as a result of overgrown and untended vegetation.
This results in cyclists having to weave round pedestrians on the cycle paths, which they generally do with good humour and good grace.
As for Mr Jackson’s suggestion of confiscating and destroying offenders’ bikes, I assume this comment was delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. How irresponsible it would be for a city proud of its green credentials to destroy perfectly good bicycles. Also,given that their value could be anything from tuppence to £5,000 it seems an unusual and unfair system of justice. One law for the rich and another for the poor in reverse.
Although, as an Orton resident, I am not one of Mr Jackson’s constituents, I would be more than happy to give him a tour of the neighbourhood to show him that things are not quite as rosy for cyclists as he perhaps believes, and that maintenance work from the council on our cycle lanes is long overdue.I’m sure he would witness a group of cyclists, on the whole, going about their journeys in a safe and considerate manner.