Two assertions that I cannot prove:
· No one, anywhere, ever, has been killed by a bicycle bomb.
· No life, anywhere, ever, has been saved by the life jacket under their seat.
Anywhere is a large place, and ever is a long time. The most one can do is broadcast an appeal for disproving evidence. In the case of bicycle bombs I have broadcast my appeal on my website, on various cycling Internet grapevines and on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. So far nothing.
There remains a possible source of disproof. James Daley The Independent’s personal finance editor and cycling columnist (an inspired marriage of responsibilities) had his bicycle confiscated by the police for parking it near Trafalgar Square – http://blogs.independent.co.uk/independent/2008/04/my-bikes-been-n.html .
When he finally tracked it down he discovered that it was in the possession of Superintendent Ovens of Belgravia who justified his confiscation of James’ bicycle by producing a list of bike-bomb incidents dating to the 1930s –http://blogs.independent.co.uk/independent/2008/08/cyclotherapy-fi.html .
Intrigued by Superintendent Ovens assumption that James’ bicycle might have been a bomb I sent him an email asking if I might have a copy of his list of bike bomb incidents.
Dear Supt Ovens
I read in a blog by James Daley – http://blogs.independent.co.uk/independent/2008/08/cyclotherapy-fi.html – that you have a list of bicycle bomb incidents going back to the 1930s. Is it by any chance the list on which I comment on my website
If your list is different might I have a copy?
Since posting my commentary on 28 July my request for evidence justifying the Westminster cycle parking ban has been picked up and more widely disseminated by various cycling grape vines. I also had an opportunity on 30 July to broadcast my request for evidence on the Today Programme and the BBC World Service. So far I have yet to receive a single convincingly documented case of a fatality caused by a bicycle bomb.
I am amongst the large number of cyclists who have routinely experienced significant inconvenience as a consequence of the cycle parking ban. We would like to see the evidence justifying it.
I would be very interested in any comments that you might have on the commentary on my website.
Despite two chasing emails the only response I have had to my message, first sent on 10 September, is “All rather busy but it’s on my list of things to do.”
So I still cannot prove that a bicycle bomb has never killed anyone, anywhere, ever. Proving a negative is notoriously difficult. When I confronted a senior police official recently with the fact that I had been unable to find a single instance of anyone, anywhere, ever having been killed by a bicycle bomb he replied instantly with “Yet”.
This takes us into the realm of “worst case scenarios”. Must everything imaginable, despite the fact that it has never happened and is highly improbable, now be guarded against? Guarded against by authorities who cannot be challenged? This appears to be the state of affairs governing cyclists in the political heart of London.
When trust in those responsible for our safety is lost we become less safe. If their warnings and commands are not credible they will be ignored or disobeyed or – worse – construed as evidence that our guardians haven’t a clue.
Consider another example of bureaucratic paranoia: the life jacket under your seat. I recently asked the most senior person I know in the world of aviation: has any life been saved by the lifejacket under the seat, whose location and fitting is explained on every trip? He knew of none, although he did comment that many thousands of life jackets had been stolen by passengers heading for boating holidays in the Mediterranean.
So here we are. The police in the political heart of London are defending against a highly improbable terrorist threat in a way that seriously inconveniences thousands of cyclists, and the airlines continue to insist that billions of passengers pay attention to meaningless safety advice. Why should we trust them with our safety? Why should we pay attention?