Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Boris Johnson on the joys of drinking and cycling

Boris Johnson on the dangers of drink driving:

"Too many lives are tragically wasted through drink-driving accidents, so I hope that the message really gets through by having Lewis and Mika, two of the world's most talented and renowned Formula One drivers, leading the call for people to think before getting into a car. This is particularly prescient at this time of year when many of us will be enjoying a couple of drinks in celebration of the festive season."

Boris Johnson on the joys of drink cycling:

"I have just one idea, if more people rode bicycles and fewer people droves cars you would not have to worry about the drink driving laws and I sincerely believe that. I have absolutely no prohibition about drinking a pint of two of beer and riding my bicycle where as I would not do that in a car." (Full transcript)

So let's get this straight, Boris has "absolutely no prohibition" about risking his own life and the lives of others?

He has "absolutely no prohibition" about breaking the law and risking a large fine or imprisonment?

And he has "absolutely no prohibition" about encouraging other Londoners to do the same?

You do realise that you're meant to be the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority don't you Boris?

And what was it you told us last Christmas?

"Johnson continued, "There are a wealth of public transport options out there that can get you home 24 hours a day, and anyone in London can utilise our CABWISE text service, which gives you the numbers of two local licensed minicab operators and a taxi operator wherever you are in London when you text HOME to 60835. For a few pence it could just help to save lives."

Come on Boris this isn't a joke.

If you want to risk your own life by refusing to wear a helmet then that's up to you.

But drinking and cycling puts the lives of all of us on the road at risk as well.

38 comments:

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Didn't Boris ban drinking and using public transport? Seems inconsistent to say the least.

Robin Johnson said...

Please look up the facts on cycle helmets - they are not even *designed* to be any use in serious traffic collisions. He's no more risking his life cycling without a helmet than you are when you go for a walk without one. Boris is an arse, but I'm with him on that one!

AdamB said...

Personally, I think it's pretty obvious that a helmet will afford you at least some protection in an accident.

But like I said, it's up to him what he puts on his head.

Chris N said...

There's quite a long discussion about drink cycling on the Guardian bike blog. I question how dangerous a 'drunk' cyclist is to other road users (maybe to swerving cars?).

And I agree with helmets - research from Bath Uni shows that non-helmetted cyclists are actually safer than our lycra clad, helmetted friends.

All of that said, this was an absolutely idiotic thing to say because, as you say, he is the head of the MPA and is advocating breaking the law. Fool.

Robin Johnson said...

Plenty of things are "pretty obvious" but false. Cycle helmets are designed to protect in direct impacts of about 12mph, enough for a nasty bruise but nothing life-threatening. The worst kinds of head injuries come from sudden rotation of the skull about the brain, in which case increasing the size of your head with a helmet is likely to make things worse. The figures don't show that they have any effect on serious injury or death rates; and in countries that have made them compulsory, injury rates have gone *up* as fewer cyclists use the road and motorists become less used to sharing. http://cyclehelmets.org gathers a lot of the facts if you're interested.

(I appreciate that this is a bit of a tangent, and I fully agree with the main nub or thrust of your argument here, which is that Boris is a tosser.)

AdamB said...

I found the Guardian post:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/ethicallivingblog/2009/jul/06/alcohol-cycling

Interesting the amount of posters who think that they are putting nobody at risk but themselves by drink-cycling (as opposed to drink-driving)

Could that have something to do with the decades of campaigning/education about drink-driving versus the seemingly non-existent campaigning/education about drink cycling?

john b said...

Adam, you're absolutely wrong here:

1) The amount of 'risking the life of others' from drink-cycling is c.0, unless someone's enough of a tosser to cycle on the pavement or jump lights, in which case they should have the book thrown at them whether drunk or sober. A car weighs a tonne, has blind spots, blocks your hearing, and is indirectly controlled (so it goes on at full speed even if you lose alertness); a bicycle is none of these things.

2) Cycling while over the motor vehicle drink drive limit is perfectly legal. 'Drunk' in law is subjective term, as in 'drunk and disorderly' and in it being illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is 'drunk': it's based n behaviour.

Meanwhile, being over the drink-drive limit is quite specifically *not* defined as drunk, which is sensible, because someone can easily be well over the drink-drive limit without even approaching any sensible definition of 'drunk'. This is why the term 'drunk-driving' to mean 'driving over the limit' is somewhere between weaselly and counterproductive.

One of Boris's few redeeming features is his (albiet patchy) opposition to the kind of nannying puritanism that says 'a bike ride after a couple of pints is EEEEVIL'.

john b said...

Could that have something to do with the decades of campaigning/education about drink-driving versus the seemingly non-existent campaigning/education about drink cycling?

...or could the reason why there's been a campaign against one but not the other be because there's compelling evidence that drink-driving leads (statistically, on aggregate) to bystander deaths, whereas there is no such evidence for drink-cycling?

AdamB said...

No you're wrong John. Obviously drink cycling is not as dangerous as drink-driving but it does not therefore follow that

a) it is safe or that b) it should be encouraged by the Mayor.

If you've had a drink then you are at a much greater risk of causing an accident and the Mayor and chair of the MPA should not be encouraging you to do it.

It's not "nannying puritanism" to point out that out. Pissed up pedallers should not be mixing it up with cars on the road.

john b said...

If you can point me to a study showing that drink-cycling represents a measurable, elevated risk to others, then I'll retract my comment. This is very clearly the case for drink-driving; nobody I've seen (on that Guardian thread or elsewhere) has shown it to be the case for drink-cycling.

And the original post is unequivocally wrong on the 'legal' side of things - cycling after a pint or two of beer is not illegal, any more so than buying a second or a third pint of beer is illegal.

AdamB said...

How about I point you to a drunk person and then point you to a busy road? How would that do for a study?

"And the original post is unequivocally wrong on the 'legal' side of things - cycling after a pint or two of beer is not illegal, any more so than buying a second or a third pint of beer is illegal."

It's not unequivocally wrong. Cycling whilst drunk is illegal and risks a fine or inprisonment. Boris encouraged drinking and cycling and he shouldn't have done.

Anonymous said...

I once, cycled after a couple of pints and was decidedly wobbly. I was definitely at greater risk of having or causing an accident. I won't be doing it again - study or no study.

John

John B said...

How about I point you to a drunk person and then point you to a busy road

If the drunk person's barely able to walk, and you've strapped him to the bike and added stabiliser wheels and pushed him off the top of Highgate Hill, then fair enough.

But if someone's sober enough to get on a bike and stay up for long enough to reach the busy road, then I don't see how you can come to the conclusion, without evidence, that they're likelier to hurt other people than a sober cyclist.

Cycling whilst drunk is illegal and risks a fine or imprisonment.

But Boris didn't advocate cycling whilst drunk, he advocated cycling whilst (possibly) over the drink-drive limit but well short of drunk.

I agree that someone who meets the legal definition of *drunk* shouldn't cycle, in the event that they (albeit briefly) can. But Boris wasn't suggesting that people who meet the legal definition of drunk should cycle home - rather, that if you've been drinking but aren't drunk, then it's a viable mode of transport.

AdamB said...

"If the drunk person's barely able to walk, and you've strapped him to the bike and added stabiliser wheels and pushed him off the top of Highgate Hill, then fair enough.

"But if someone's sober enough to get on a bike and stay up for long enough to reach the busy road, then I don't see how you can come to the conclusion, without evidence, that they're likelier to hurt other people than a sober cyclist."

Are you always this deliberately obtuse?

There is mountains of evidence that alcohol slows your reactions and makes you more likely to take risks. You don't need a cycle specific study to prove that.

And this isn't some rural part of the country where the roads are empty and the pub is a five mile trek, It's London where there are busy roads and ample pubs within walking distance for most people, or within easy access of public transport for everyone else. There's absolutely no need to put others at risk by drinking and cycling.

James said...

If it's any help to this discussion, I saw Mr Johnson himself on his bike on Friday, and he was wearing a very smart black cycle helmet. I couldn't tell you how inebriated he was, unfortunately.

AdamB said...

So he's given into the helmet lobby now has he?

It's political correctness gone mad...

prj45 said...

I don't get on the bike after more than one, I treat it the same as the car, although there's no limit for being drunk in charge of a cycle, i.e. you can get done at any level of inebriation

I used to drink cycle but that was when I was younger and stupider ... Boris.

I don't wear a helmet though, rather I stopped wearing one, and I feel safer on the roads, you get more space and people are more careful around you.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Brilliant.

People are actually defending the idea of cycling drunk, what idiots.

I was once hit by a bicycle, the driver was sober but thick, it hurt like fuck.

Best to stay off the ale when biking it.

John B said...

Are you always this deliberately obtuse?

I'd've said no, but do feel free to check the masses of broadly-sensible commentary I've written on t3h internets and/or ask Dave Hill and Tom Boriswatch. I just don't understand the demonisation of drinking here, or the Safety Must Win Over All Other Concerns At All Times-ness.

When you're in a situation like 1970s Britain, where driving a tonne of heavy machinery home after five pints is acceptable and is also the cause of a huge proportion of serious car accidents, then a giant megacrusade against said scourge is worthwhile.

But when you're in a situation like 2000s London, where the only evidence suggesting that cycling after a couple of pints is a problem is the obviously true starting-point that alcohol slows your reflexes, I don't understand the point. Alcohol makes you more likely to walk home in a stupid fashion, take risks and make cars swerve out of your way, thus causing accidents, but that doesn't mean people walking home after a couple of beers is a social problem. And if drunken walkers were a social problem, I'd agree that something should be done about them.

saifu03 said...

Sometimes it is just easier to use bullet points so you can argue with each point separately:
Drinking affects your reactions and level of confidence - more likely to take risks AND less likely to react to changes in a situation.
Cyclists should be in the road with drivers of vehicles and should interact with them safely.
Pedestrians should not walk in the road and so they are likely to collide with other pedestrians if they misjudge walking - usually leading to little damage.
When "cruising speed" cars collide with bicycles, damage is done. If cars have to deal with cyclists (at night, if post-pub), they would presumably want them to be fully aware of their surroundings.

Cycling is getting a deliberate push for popularity, there may not be much of a problem now as it is not THAT common, if you start saying that it is not only OK, but recommended, to drink too much to drive and then get on the road anyway, you are storing up problems for later. Youy may notice that some older people still think that drinking after "just a couple" is fine....

Anonymous said...

According to the much loved health and safety act you are responsible for your own safety and that of others around you. If you drink then you measurably reduce your reaction times, by then going onto a road and coming into contact with other road users you are putting yourself and others at risk, others potentially being car (or even heavy lorry) drivers who may well have to swerve round you should your riding be erratic.

As much as the act is derided by some, if you are responsible then the act is basically saying you should look after your own health and safety and that of others, which drink cyclists clearly aren't doing. I can imagine how it might be really useful to be able to cycle home after drinking a few but if you are self centred enough to actually do it I hope you get caught and have the book thrown at you.

Anonymous said...

Adam, Boris is a sorry right wing fool who is potentially dangerous,however the issue of having a couple of pints and cycling is irrelevant so get real,and do some useful investigative journalism before you disappear up your own.....

AdamB said...

"I just don't understand the demonisation of drinking here, or the Safety Must Win Over All Other Concerns At All Times-ness."

What other concerns are those then? The right for Boris to wobble back to Islington on his bike?

And where is the 'demonisation of drinking'? I love a drink as much as anyone, I just don't think people should be encouraged to do stupid things (like getting on a bike) once they've had one.

Like Boris himself said, there's no shortage of other ways to get yourself home.

AdamB said...

Deaths on the road are just as relevant as deaths from other causes such as knife crime. The main differences are that far more people die on the road than they do by a knife and that far more people think they've got the right to drink and drive/cycle.

"so get real,and do some useful investigative journalism before you disappear up your own...."

Thanks for the advice, now do....

John B said...

But can you point to even *one* person who's been killed by a drink-cyclist (third-party; if drink-cyclists merely obliterate themselves, then meh)? If so, then I'll accept you were right all along.

Helen said...

A debate on the subject on the Special Constables' forum: http://www.policespecials.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=38503

Anonymous said...

Here you go

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/study-links-alcohol-and-bike-deaths/

AdamB said...

The statistics aren't separated at that level, plus I suspect that most cyclists who collide with a car aren't in a fit state for a breathalyser test (if these are even done on cyclists I don't know)

That said are you really suggesting that *no* lives have been lost because of drunk cyclists.

"If so, then I'll accept you were right all along"

Something tells me that nothing will convince you that drink cycling shouldn't be encouraged.

John B said...

No, *evidence that it's worse than not having drink cycling* would convince me.

The obvious benefit to the cyclist is that, if drinking after work, you don't need to leave your bike in central London where it might get nicked (or leave it at home in the first place, which rules out spontaneous plans), and then pay for transport home and transport back into town the next day. The benefit to society is that the cyclist isn't taking up scarce, expensive, overcrowded space on public transport (or in a cab).

The cost to the cyclist is a slightly elevated risk of death - but as a cyclist you're *already* choosing a slightly elevated risk of death in exchange for greater convenience and cheaper, more environmentally-friendly transport; this is just more of the same.

So the cost to wider society is the only reason to ban it. And so far, there's no evidence that there is such a cost - or at least, that if there is, it's at all significant.

I base my views on policies by weighing up the costs against the benefits. Boris bases his on irrational prejudices about articulated buses and conductors, and playing up risks without mentioning the corresponding benefits or the risks of alternative actions.

The 'drinking and riding is bad, and it doesn't matter if it's convenient, it just *is*' argument is a Boris argument, and the 'in the absence of any evidence that it does more harm than good, there's nothing wrong with it' argument is a B/CA argument.

AdamB said...

You've still not given any reasons why the mayor should be encouraging people to drink and cycle other than it might mean a few less people on public transport and the fact that it's quite nice to wobble back home after a session.

I don't think either of those are a good reason to actively encourage drinking and cycling, but like I said, I don't think we are going to agree here John.

saifu03 said...

I was just wondering, is there any direct research that shows it is more dangerous to operate a flamethrower when under the influence? I don't think there is so I propose that this is a safe activity.

Appealing of Ealing said...

Anyone who thinks a cyclist can control a bike equally well after drinking, is plain wrong.

The point I'd make however, is that, as a society, we already accept a certain degree of risk, including unnecessary risk, in many aspects of our lives. It's practical.

Except in the case of actual drunkeness, I'd guess the increased risk for cyclists (to cause an accident) is much more marginal than in the case of car drivers.

...more marginal than their increased risk caused by not obeying traffic signals, or cycling on the footpath, while sober.

AdamB said...

"...more marginal than their increased risk caused by not obeying traffic signals, or cycling on the footpath, while sober."

As he was famously caught doing:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/sunday-mirror/2008/05/11/video-exclusive-boris-johnson-breaking-law-as-he-cycles-98487-20414272/

Also, he'll soon be advertising the joys of drinking and cycling on prime time television of course

http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/boris-drops-in-on-tv’s-albert-square/20098448

(H/T Mayor Watch)

saifu03 said...

How did we elect a mayor that needs to ask directions from St Paul's to London Bridge?

AdamB said...

Interesting discussion with Matt Seaton from the Guardian on Radio 4 about this today

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00lrpvp/PM_29_07_2009/

(about 39 minutes in)

Anonymous said...

All of this is a perfectly legitimate debate but (as always) there is a further issue of course -

It isn't simply the cyclist's risk to themselves - There's the impact of involvement in an accident on an innocent driver who happens across an erratic, unpredictable beered up cyclist.

Just because it isn't your fault doesn't mean you aren't directly affected - often very deeply so.

More than anything though its another instance of individuals randomly choosing which laws to obey - A not dissimilar debate to politicians banging on about 'free buses' actually - allowing others to somehow excuse themselves from their own illegal behaviour - The big difference here though is that the end result could be far more than a financial loss - and not only to the offender.

Appealing of Ealing said...

His Worship takes a view -- and apparently doesn't like what he sees.

sarah hart said...

There are some strange postings above (as alweays) From this i've learnt that being hit by a bike isn't as bad as being hit by a car. That if you're pissed on a bike you're not as bad as being pissed in front of the wheel of a car.
Therefore riding a bike while pissed (ie over the limit if in a car) is safe.
Somehow I don't think so - they just have different dangers, just as a drunken pedestrian can walk in front of a car in the road. (Just a few weeks back myself and others were held up by hte Elephant by a drunken idiot sat down with his can of exportin the middle of the Old Kent Road)
It's drunkenness, not the type of vehicle that's the problem. At least the pedestrian only has abuse and vomit at his disposal, rather than a lethal weapon.