The front page of the Daily Telegraph today (30-03-10) proclaimed “The End of the Road for Postie’s Bike”. It was a tiny snippet hidden right at the bottom, no more than 30 words and a very sad little tale indeed, and clearly not deemed important enough for the website. However, the Daily Express forever on the ball, has reported a little more in depth and with better alliteration that it is “End of the road for pedalling postmen“, only a day later.
Apparently, Royal Mail has decided to phase out the cycling workhorses of the line, replacing them with trolleys and vans, while the bicycles will be shipped off to Africa and other countries. The reasoning being:
“The roads are too dangerous.”
Tosh. Utter utter rubbish. Though I encountered my first accident on a steel steed shortly after writing the previous entry (well one involving a car), I would beg to disagree with such a statement most whole heartedly.
Cycling schemes and awareness now abound throughout the country. London itself has seen the numbers of its biwheeled brethren rocket up over the past four years, and drivers’ awareness of them has in turn grown too. It is hard to believe that a capital city renowned for the ferocity and hectic nature of its driving could see such an increase had the roads suddenly grown so dangerous. It is far more preferable to cycle now in London than it was say six years ago when really you were dicing with death and a general distaste for self motivated propulsion.
So why the sudden call to halt Posties hopping on their bikes and delivering the letters and parcels in this much beloved manner?
Presumably most of the cycling done for the Royal Mail would be in urban areas – as opposed to the rural wilderness where the heavy and cumbersome nature of transport might count against the wheeled messenger (of course I could be wrong here) – and therefore the rise in cycling that we are seeing in the townships should surely be making conditions safer for your average postie? Perhaps the harsh winter and the increasing amounts of pot holes we are seeing could have something to do with it all –recent coverage in the tabloids would definitely label pot holes as a danger that needs to be tackled – but I sincerely doubt Royal Mail would react so swiftly to the death of a soldier by bringing an end to the bicycle’s distinguished service in the force.
I should think a number of things have spelled its demise. I will swiftly skip over the increasingly litigious side of today’s society and the role this may have had, as that has been done to death elsewhere and is really quite a dull argument. I imagine, however it is actually more of a cost cutting exercise.
Royal Mail’s financial situation has taken a frequent battering over the past years with the rise of email etc replacing the humble letter and the impact this has had, as well as a number of poor management decisions too I am sure. A man in a van could cover the patch of several free wheeling posties, and therefore I will not be too surprised to read in the near future of further job cuts at the Post Office.
This danger argument is just pure sham – and also supremely hypercritical. Shipping bicycles to a continent where the “global road fatality share is three times as large as it’s motor vehicle share” due to dangerous roads over in the UK just does not wash with me. Pedestrian fatality in motor accidents is almost consistently higher than either drivers or passengers in Africa, and increased cyclist numbers could well take this higher. Unless of course, awareness was increased…however with far more worthy causes already struggling in Africa in their efforts, road awareness must always be far down in both the agenda and funding.
Anyway…a bit of a mountain out of a molehill I suppose. The flexibility of transport that bicycles could bring and the accompanying benefits with this will presumably outweigh the dangers a few thousand extra bikes would have on the African road – look what the introduction did for the French after all (they grew taller as their men folk started visiting further afield villages and giving greater depth for the collective gene pool according to one study – need a source) – I just dislike the dishonesty behind Royal Mail and their reasoning for such a shift in their modus operandi.