Wednesday, 23 August 2017

"Despicable Scroat kills Mum"

The headline might as well be "Despicable Scroat kills Mother of two", and on the face of it Charlie Alliston looks like a pretty unpleasant character. Especially when portrayed next to his victim. But look a bit deeper and there are very disquieting factors and undercurrents at play in this case.

Martin Porter, QC, has written an excellent piece on his blog and goes into some depth about the various legal aspects of it. I strongly urge you to click this link and and read it. It is also covered in the Guardian.

I have a slightly more visceral take on the whole thing. This evening in the five miles of urban cycling commuting between my office and the edge of Long Ashton, seven pedestrians stepped out into my path while I was cycling on the road or on a clearly designated exclusive and separate cyclepath (ie not a shared path). That number excludes over a dozen who walked across a pedestrian crossing when the road light was green and pedestrian "man" was red, as I approached it. It also excludes the group of girls strung out across the road as I approached Long Ashton estate (they'd chosen to walk on a quiet road rather than the pavement) nor does it include the runner listening to music on earbuds who ran across my path in Long Ashton.

I also had to brake hard and swerve around the bonnet of a car that pulled out from a side road, who also fortunately saw me as I shouted loudly at the driver through his open window. He was looking the other way. He stopped as he heard me, his car half in and half out of the junction. If he had failed to stop, and he had not seen me, I would have been unable to stop in time and would have rolled across his car. If I was lucky.

That was not an untypical commute.

Whilst Charlie Alliston may be a particularly stupid and immature man, he has been harshly treated. Had his saddle height been a fraction lower his bike would not have required a front brake, and would therefore have been road legal, like many other fixies. And though remorse does have an impact on sentencing, it should have no place in charges and prosecution.

I expect pedestrians to be stupid so ride accordingly. But one day my luck may run out and I may hit and kill one. If this prosecution and its consequences are allowed to stand, it could be any of us that face furious cycling or manslaughter charges.

And if the criteria for manslaughter charges are now to be applied consistently, can we expect more of the (on average) 500 drivers a year that kill pedestrians to be charged with that offence?

Friday, 18 August 2017

We need new dreams tonight

Have you ever been on a plane, and just as you are getting into the film, the plane lands and you have to get off?

Well, that happened to me this morning, or last night, or sometime in the strange time-zone warp I was in. I may have to go and buy the film on DVD to find out how it ended. And of course this is a metaphor for the trip to the States we've just made.

But telling stories about America never ends.

So much has been, is being, written about America, it's almost impossible to say anything that is either new or prescient. I have hundreds of photos, Museum tickets by the dozen, memories a-plenty. All in a line, waiting for the elevator to take them to be smacked out of the ballpark.

I'll just focus on three things for you. If you are interested in more, come to the slide show...

The flag.

It's everywhere now. 22 years ago, when we last went, I just don't remember it's ubiquity. Is it strident nationalism running amok? Civic pride? Some kind of reclamation of a pride in its overseas adventures? I don't know. And although these pictures are mainly on public sites, the flag seems to be outside at least 30-40% of private houses, and all over many other places.

And the glorification of the military is treading on a thin line between healthy appreciation, and outright glorification.


No pictures on this one. But people are as massive as the portion sizes. We only ate twice a day, we couldn't keep up with the relentless conveyor belt of high carb, high sugar and grain fare that came with every order.

And on the TV the ad breaks are filled with medical remedies that "you should ask your physician about". Although half of them spent longer talking about the side effects of treatments that most Americans probably will soon not be able to afford, and could be rendered pointless by a good dose of riding a bike.


Almost everyone we met was friendly. OK some of it was commercially-driven, but most wasn't. I particularly enjoyed chatting to people about things I was interested in, they were always happy to chew the fat. Be it about their new President, the Battle of Gettysburg or why the security outside the White House has gone nuts (although not outside the Capitol, which tells a story I think), from ordinary folk, to officialdom, pretty much everyone was nice.

Which kind of makes me wonder why America has become so unpopular. As a nation they really have done more for Liberty than just about anyone. Think about the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Civil War, the Second World War and (eventually) civil rights, and the ideals they embody, and it adds up to a lot. I know there have been some bumps along the way (and they do try and airbrush a lot of that - like slavery, and the decimation of native American populations and rights), but even that is changing as we saw at the African American Museum.


Combine that tradition of freedom, with a bit more of the natural charm, and a bit less of the swagger, maybe some more exercise, and I'd say that might make a recipe for a damn fine nation.

What do you think?