Tom Richmond: Time to get tough on the menaces on two wheels

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IT goes without saying that the majority of cyclists on Yorkshire’s roads are responsible riders who are respectful of others.

Yet, just as there is a small minority of motorists who believe they are above the law, the same is equally applicable to the cycling fraternity – and in particular those who ride on pavements or endanger the safety of pedestrians by totally disregarding red lights.

It is an issue that the Department for Transport should tackle head-on as it looks to make a virtue of cycling’s record popularity thanks, in no small part, to trailblazing events like last summer’s Grand Départ when Yorkshire hosted the Tour de France.

Two helmetless idiots riding a bike pillion-style on the pavement in Whitehall Road, Leeds, on Bank Holiday Monday were lucky not to be badly hurt when they came to grief and fell into the road in front of my eyes.

And then there’s the disturbing case of three-year-old Lucie Wilding being knocked down by cyclist Andrew Holland on the pavement outside her Blackpool home.

Trying telling this, however, to Elina Kamellard who works in the DfT’s sustainable travel and equalities department. She is the civil servant who penned a rather dismissive reply to a reader of The Yorkshire Post who had taken the trouble to write to Ministers about those carefree cyclists who show a total disregard for others.

“The enforcement of cycling offences is an operational matter for local police forces,” she wrote. “As for those instances when people ride bikes on pavements, she advised that the maximum penalty was £500. We encourage members of the public to give evidence of specific problems and of particularly dangerous behaviour to the police...”

Talk about buck-passing. For, in case it has escaped the attention of Ms Kamellard, the police do not have the time, resources or, in some cases, inclination to deal with this issue – more so now the use of CCTV cameras is being scaled back because officers don’t have time to monitor the footage.

As such, the Government should use the first anniversary of the Grand Départ to launch a nationwide campaign, both in schools and on television, to promote cycle safety. Some 3,500 riders were killed, or hospitalised, last year, a number that will only grow unless action is taken.

As for the Department for Transport, can anyone explain why it needs an equalities department? This issue is not about race – cycling is a pastime that can, and should, be enjoyed by all in a safe environment.

WAS David Cameron right to slap a five-year pay freeze on Ministerial salaries? The Tory leader believes it would have been political suicide to sanction an increase when the salaries of MPs is already set to rise from £67,000 to £74,000 and when the Government is still trying to identify a further £12bn of cuts to welfare spending and benefits.

Yet, while the Prime Minister says this symbolic move will help to save £4m a year, it is indicative of the increasingly short-termist nature of political decision-making. If the country is to attract the very best people into politics, rather than those who are in the fortunate position of being able to subsidise this work from personal wealth, then it is going to have to pay the going rate.

And then there is the small matter of up 30 Ministers now being eligible to attend Cabinet meetings – even without the presence of the Lib Dems in government. Instead of taking the right of patronage to a new extreme, Mr Cameron should have used the election aftermath to construct a leaner and more efficient administration in keeping with timeless Tory values of prudence.

Not only would it have been cheaper, but it would have been the more responsible course of action.

AFTER the new contingent of Scottish Nationalist MPs - the so-called “troublesome tourists” – turned up for day one of the Queen’s Speech debate wearing white roses, what are Yorkshire’s MPs going to do in response to this hijacking of our county’s symbol?

GIVEN that player of the year Joe Root, the terrier-like Tyke, is in the form of his life, and Yorkshire has reclaimed its status as the pre-eminent cricketing county of all, I’m surprised at the lack of promotion for the Headingley Test now underway between England and New Zealand. Wandering through Leeds city centre on a couple of occasions in the past week, I was bowled over by the absence of any posters or promotional activity to raise awareness of the game and ticket availability. I hope this does not detract from attendances – the emergence of new venues means that YCCC no longer has a divine right to host international matches and has a new cricket test to pass.

MY criticism seven days ago of Andy Burnham prompted a polarising reaction. One Labour MP said that they had not fully appreciated the divisiveness of the Shadow Health Secretary while a Tory backbencher regretted the intervention because they want Mr Burnham to become party leader and, thereby, ensure that the Opposition remains in the political doldrums for the foreseeable future. They regard him as a lightweight version of Ed Miliband.

Yet I was more taken with the intervention of the widely-respected health whistleblower Julie Bailey, who worked tirelessly to expose the Mid- Staffordshire hospital scandal. Her observations are so profound that they’re worth repeating here. “While Health Secretary, Andy Burnham presided over a culture of denial and cover-up over NHS care scandals that cost lives in failing hospitals across the country,” she said.

“From ignoring repeated warnings about high hospital death rates, to dodging calls for a public inquiry, Andy Burnham put politics before patients every time. We believe him to be a grossly unsuitable candidate. It would be a disaster for patients if he was ever to become Health Secretary again, let alone assume any higher public office.”

I agree.