Letters: It’s time to make better use of laws for prosecuting reckless cyclists

A cyclist in Regent's Park
A cyclist in Regent's Park - Heathcliff O'Malley

SIR –  The inquest into the death of 81-year-old Hilda Griffiths (report, May 5), who was run into and killed by a cyclist riding at up to 29 mph in Regent’s Park, heard that, despite there being a 20 mph speed limit in the park, the cyclist had effectively done nothing wrong as no specific speed limit exists for cyclists.

On reading this, my mind immediately went back to 1954 when a friend of mine was successfully  prosecuted for “riding furiously to the public danger” on a downhill stretch of the A6 from Oadby into Leicester. This despite it being late evening, with no other traffic on the road and no injuries caused to anybody.

Anthony A Cooper
Clitheroe, Lancashire

SIR – Celia Walden (Features, May 7) draws attention to the lack of speed limits for cyclists, some of whom have become hazards to pedestrians in towns and villages across the country.

The explanation for this anomaly is quite simple: there is no requirement for bicycles to be equipped with a speedometer.
The level of risk to pedestrians and the behaviour of some cyclists surely now mean that speedometers should be made compulsory, with the attendant obligation to obey speed limits, together with a compulsory registration scheme.

Chris Mitchell
Faringdon, Oxfordshire

SIR – Isn’t it time to charge cyclists for using our roads? A reasonable road tax (and number plate) could soon go towards fixing our pothole problem and make road travel safer for all. 

Elizabeth Haynes 
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – Sir Iain Duncan Smith’s article on dangerous cyclists (Comment, May 9) draws attention to some archaic quirks of our road safety legislation. When dealing with matters of public safety, however, one needs to establish an accurate sense of the risks posed, and an accurate estimate as to the effectiveness of any proposed solutions. 

Between 2018 and 2022, cyclists contributed to barely 2 per cent of pedestrian injuries, and only 0.5 per cent of pedestrian deaths. While the individual cases that Sir Iain mentions are tragedies without exception, the reason he has had to pick them from so many different years is because such occurrences are incredibly rare; there were only nine such incidents from 2018 to 2022. In the same period, only 1,949 pedestrians were injured by cyclists; an average of just 1.3 injuries a day. Cyclists are simply nowhere near as dangerous as the public thinks they are. 

The Government could implement Sir Iain’s proposed reforms overnight, but this would have almost no impact whatsoever on the numbers of pedestrians being harmed on our roads. If Sir Iain would like to make a measurable difference to pedestrian safety, he should concentrate on finding more effective ways to prosecute motorists.

Dr Lawrence Davies
Newcastle upon Tyne

The Tory spectrum

SIR – Roy Perry (Letters, May 5) states that “to win an election a party needs to attract a broad spectrum of support”.

Perhaps Mr Perry – and, it seems, most of what is left of the Conservative Party – haven’t grasped the principle that if you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody.

Andy Bebbington
Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire

SIR – Any Conservative MP who crosses the floor to Labour should not have been on the Conservative benches anyway. But Natalie Elphicke’s defection does highlight how little difference there is between the modern tax-and-spend Conservative Party and Labour.

Only when the Conservative Party reverts to traditional Conservative policies will it again become attractive to the electorate at large. The shift starts with ensuring that only truly Conservative candidates are selected to stand for the party.

James Collins
Rye, East Sussex

SR – It is hard to disagree with Natalie Elphicke’s assertion that Rishi Sunak’s Government has abandoned the centre ground. It has moved much too far to the Left.

John Waine 
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Verdict on devolution

SIR – I hope that the British Government will, concurrent with the general election, find courage to hold referendums in Scotland and Wales on whether the devolved governments should continue in Edinburgh and Cardiff. 

Both were established with evidence of only minority support in the 1997 referendums: in Scotland 74 per cent voted in favour but from a 60 per cent turnout and in Wales only 50.3 per cent voted in favour from a 50 per cent turnout. After 25 years the electorate can now see a record on which to base a decision: one of financial waste, political posturing, partisan extremism and administrative incompetence. It would be timely to confirm the opinion of the people and would give an opportunity to reduce the cost of government.

Ronnie Bradford
Vienna, Austria

Campus protests

SIR – I have more reason than most to follow the campus disturbances in America and here (report, May 5). 

In 1968 I was a graduate student at the London School of Economics and remember vividly the Great Vietnam March, supported by our Students’ Union, with dramatic donations of blood to the Vietcong, and the year of commotions, closures and adverse publicity that followed. 

Eventually it all died down. By the end of the academic year only 13 students could be mustered for an occupation. Revolutionary fervour did not survive a few nights on a cold floor, as I pointed out on your letters page. Wealthy donors were threatening to withhold funding. The Left-wing students were reduced to asking for exams to be postponed.
Tides thunder in and ebb out. Sometimes the grievance is genuine, sometimes not. Many of those involved are half-baked.

Governments and university authorities should keep their nerve and stand firm. To do anything else would be a gross dereliction of duty – not least to the students concerned.

Margaret Brown
Burslem, Staffordshire

Vets and medical bills

SIR – Last week I drove my springer spaniel to our veterinary practice. It was 30 minutes after his appointment time when he was seen by our very good vet. We had a short consultation, during which my dog was prescribed a course of medication. The cost was in excess of £150.

We all love our pets and I am not knocking our vet. I am just offering support for our overstretched NHS, where we all turn up at various departments and are given the best attention and treatment that is possible within the immediate circumstances. Patients who need to spend more time in hospital receive a free bed and food.

I was chastised by a pal of mine for suggesting that people who had not contributed to a private health scheme but had substantial personal funds should be asked to make a contribution to the not inconsiderable cost of their treatment. Am I wrong?

Geoffrey Young
Smarden, Kent

Trump’s defence drive

SIR – Donald Trump has already made pertinent contributions to the debate over defence in Europe, and is now considering plans to push Nato members to increase defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP if he wins a second term in the White House. 

It is imperative that every penny for the renewal and day-to-day maintenance of the Trident nuclear deterrent is funded by central Treasury sources. That way, the range of conventional Forces necessary in the event of war in Europe can be scaled up. Employment in defence supply chains would be a winner.

John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex

SIR – Donald Trump wants Nato countries to increase their defence budgets to 3 per cent of GDP and, further to this, says that support provided to Ukraine should not be included. 

This second claim can be argued both ways; more to the point, we should not include Service pensions in the figure, as this does not translate into fighting strength. If Britain excluded pension payments, our Nato commitment would fall short of the 2.2 per cent currently being trumpeted.

Peter Smith
Limassol, Cyprus

Bacon needs butter

SIR – I must disagree with Christopher Allen’s desire for butties without butter (Letters, May 5). 

When tasteless white bread or a bun is served up without butter, one might as well wrap the bacon in two sheets of cardboard. The butter adds flavour and moisture and has little to do with obesity, which comes from eating too much junk food.

Jeremy M D Moger
Hazelbury Bryan, Dorset

SIR – A bacon butty should be made of white bread and streaky bacon. There is no need for butter. I do, however, have a preference for strawberry jam – it raises the standard amazingly.

A sausage butty, though, should have butter, or, to be more authentic, margarine.

Bob Axon
Hawick, Roxburghshire

Stop-start rugby

SIR – C R Rowe (Letters, May 5) was delighted with the standard of rugby in the England vs France Women’s Six Nations decider.

It was indeed a match of the highest quality. The only blight, which is now endemic in the men’s and women’s game, was when the referee and other officials stopped play and congregated in a huddle to discuss with the television match officials whether or not an infringement of the complicated laws had just occurred, and what (if any) the punishment should be. 

Sometimes such breaks in play can last several minutes and destroy the momentum of the game. The referee no longer seems to be in charge. This problem needs to be addressed.

Martin Henry
Good Easter, Essex

Apostrophe’s end

SIR – It’s essential that the correct use of the apostrophe is maintained. Its misuse is becoming rife, especially in the media. Computers should be re-programmed to recognise and accept this very important part of our language.

D Thom
Woolsery, Devon

SIR – The apostrophe is dying, but the gerund is already dead. I regret its passing.

Jenny Funge-Smith
East Hagbourne, Oxfordshire

Here’s to restaurants with a conventional menu

Wooden statue of an old butler or waiter at the entrance of a restaurant
Worn welcome: a statue outside a restaurant in Český Krumlov, Czech Republic - https://www.alamy.com

SIR – I would like to clang the bells and bang the drums for every restaurant in the country sticking to a conventional top-notch menu.

Here in the Lakes, most of the go-to places seem to be serving only tasting menus. We like superb food and eat out quite regularly. We hugely object to being stung for over £150 per head (plus wine, plus cheese, plus coffee) every time. Furthermore, we object to an executive chef dictating what, and how much, we should actually consume.

I realise that producing tasting menus is time-consuming and a skilled art, but can only think that it’s become such a fad because the chefs know exactly how much they need to produce, and so cut down on waste.

Hurrah for the Punchbowl Inn at Crosthwaite, where the food is locally sourced, beautifully cooked and presented – and totally lacking in lacquered sheep’s testicles, fermented beans caramelised in birch sap, or anything foraged from under a hedge nestled in fox scat.

Louise Broughton
Arnside, Cumbria