My partner took this picture of me yesterday morning as I was leaving to go to the vigil for Edinburgh Nurse James Harrison, killed at a road junction in the city, on his way from work.
It begs the question –
Is this the last time he will see me alive?
I have a tracker on my Garmin and on my helmet, one will tell him where I am constantly updating, and both will alert him if I have an accident with my last known co-ordinates. I will also text him at various points on the route, and at my destination, to let him know I’m safe. I know many other cyclists who do this too.
Why do we do this? Why do we need to do this?
During lockdown, and even now, there are fewer cars on the roads, but the ones that are are not obeying the rules. The speeding has increased, the severity of accidents has increased. So what do that mean? Is it that many people are so dangerous it takes traffic congestion to reduce accidents?! Yes, basically. Without congestion we have more traffic offences and more road deaths. That’s a scary thought isn’t it. This is how bad the standard of driving has got, and the way death on our roads is accepted as a calculated risk. It is a reflection of the victim blaming in the media, and the acceptance that car is King.
In Edinburgh, I am seeing cars and vans jumping red lights because they don’t see anyone coming the other way. I am seeing yet more pavement parking, in spite of the fact that a 3 year old child was killed this week when a car mounted the pavement.
I am seeing cars parking in cycle lanes, including the new ones with their ‘magic’ wands. I am seeing cars and vans loading parking on double yellows, and on bends, and in blind spots, and all to save a few metres of extra walking. I am seeing trucks parked on pavements to unload right next to perfectly good car parks and even loading bays. Often they are just getting 3ft or so closer to the door – it is shear laziness and a disregard for people, and I am seeing pedestrians struggling to get past them, even without considering social distancing.
What I am not seeing is the Police taking any notice. I have seen, and it has been evidenced in photos on Twitter, that Edinburgh Police cars are driving past lorries parked on double yellows and on pavements, blocking cycle lanes, and junctions, and not doing a single thing about it.
I am not seeing traffic wardens, and when I do they don’t seem to be issuing any tickets. Are we still issuing those little notes that say “oh you are naughty, please don’t do it again”?
It’s not just Edinburgh.
What will it take before the Councils across the UK do something about public safety?
What will it take before the Police across the UK do something about road offences?
What will it take for the media to stop victim blaming and stop car driver bias?
This is what myself and the crowd who gathered at the crossroads to remember James Harrison want to know.
But most of all, my partner wants to go a day without wondering if I am coming home in one piece if at all. This is how the partners of our armed forces feel when their partners are on deployment. Going to work in the middle of Edinburgh shouldn’t be like going onto a battlefield. This isn’t war.