Get a grip on cycling fatalities

Even the bloody Observer is treating thus non-story as though it was national news. Grrr…

Sirs,

According to the Department of Transport, over 540,000 cycling journeys are undertaken in London every day. That’s nearly 200 million a year. A dozen or so fatalities is a tiny proportion of these and indistinguishable from background noise, statistically.

Every death is unfortunate, of course, but when cycling is as close to 100% safe as it is, I have to question the mayor’s spending a billion pounds trying to improve this number. He’s doing it by taking vehicle lanes away and allocating them to cyclists, thus dramatically increasing the overcrowded on roads which are already close to capacity. This is going to heighten the risks for all road users, including pedestrians, who die at a rate some 600% that of cyclists – where’s the hand-wringing for them?.

We are going to have to recognise that beyond a certain point, we cannot reduce the number of fatalities given the fundamental nature of cycling and cyclists behaviour.

That billion pounds could certainly be put to far better use in London to provide social housing, for example, and I resent it being wasted on an unsolvable problem just because the victims are white, middle class and affluent.

And bless my soul, they printed it – without the contentious last two paragraphs, of course…

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Observer Letter: Half of Hillsborough fatalities could have been avoided

Missive to The Observer in response to them, and others, going all headless chicken over Hillsborough. They won’t publish it, of course.

Sirs,

With reference to your front page item stating that had the emergency services performed better, half the fatalities at Hillsborough might have been avoided.

This may be true, but there’s an elephant in the room that nobody seems to have the courage to point out:

100% of the fatalities could have been avoided if the fans hadn’t crushed each other.

Why, in all this hand-wringing and blame-apportioning, is this simple fundamental truth not being voiced?

Or is it, as usual, a case of always being someone else’s fault?

Paul Harper

Teaching Coding to Children

Letter to The Observer supporting their campaign to get computer programming, or coding, taught in classrooms:

Sirs,

I agree wholeheartedly with your campaign to get coding taught in classrooms – as a programmer of 35 years’ standing, this is probably unsurprising. However, it has nothing to do with wealth generation or our high-tech industries.

I want to see children taught to code because of the impact it will have on their ability to properly analyse problems and situations. Being able to break down issues into their constituent parts makes them far easier to understand and solve. This is a fundamental part of coding, and is something not taught anywhere else.

Questioning assumptions and deconstructing are vital parts of avoiding being fooled by those who would seek to influence, defraud or profit from us, whether through media ownership, political means or other potentially corrupt mechanisms.

Having a population that is less easily fooled might not suit “those in power” like Murdoch, Dacre, Cameron, Clegg, Livingstone and the like, but society will be much better informed and empowered as a result.

It could even spell the end of Britain’s Got Talent, the X Factor and The Jeremy Kyle Show…

Yours,

Paul Harper

… which got published: