Regarding the contributions cyclists make, in general, I have a friend on Horton parish council who mentioned to me about a tourism study which showed that the average motorist visiting the Yorkshire Dales for a day spends £4, the average cyclist spends £9 in the community they visit...
Now I think the standard of driving in Great Britain is getting worse. If I visited Leeds I used to think it was full of blind monkey drivers, then whenever I went to "Larndarn" I found they drove even worse and Paris was worse still. A few years later I realised that Larndarn was now as bad as Paris and now Leeds is as bad as "Larndarn" or Paris (Surprisingly driving standards in Geneva are even worse than Paris, yes the Swiss are shit drivers, but the worst place of all was Trieste, dear God I'm surprised I'm still alive!).
Yet this national deterioration is against a background of ever more stringent licencing; when I started on a motorbike the driving theory test was just been piloted, by the time I started learning to drive a few years after there was theory and hazard perception as well. We now have 6 point disqualifications for new drivers and really tight drink driving thresholds- with a utterly changed public perception of drink driving. People used to think it was sort of ok, now we equate drink drivers to Kiddie-fiddlers. The first time I went to the Isle of Man they had just passed a law banning the use of mobile phones whilst driving, I thought it was great and wished we had it in the United Kingdom, three or four years later we did.
Being a motorcyclist as well as a car,van,lorry and cyclist, I have long felt the way to a car licence has always been too easy. Personally I feel that it should start off with a scooter. This would teach spacial awareness, consideration for others and the vunerability so few car drivers are aware of.
From scooter they should progress to a car with an engine size no bigger than 1.0 for the first 12 months to teach them roadcraft. Only after the scooter and first 12 months to a small engine should they be allowed free rain. It might also help some of them with insurance.
This route would very much sort out those who want to drive and those who are able to drive. This should apply to all ages who are considering a licence for a vehicle.
KDM's idea sounds good but it doesn't go far enough. If you go to Larndarn the streets are full of "Knowledge Boys" [And presumably girls] on motorscooters with clipboards on the handlebars learning the routes around London. So they are used to been vulnerable road users in a threatening urban environment. What happens as soon as they get behind the fetid wheel of a black taxi? They turn into blind ranting, swerving Gits, who are too busy telling their passengers about "What I'd do to people like that" and "Enoch was right" and day dreaming about hiding their income from the tax man and moving out to Hornchurch or the Isle of Sheppey to notice that they share the road with others.
The Rich Aitch solution? The route to motoring starts with compulsory cycling proficiency [For the able bodied], followed by at least six weeks horse riding, including helping to lead anxious young horses on the road, followed by motorcycle CBT, followed by two years of motorcycling, then car test, then you are restricted to a "Proper" Mini, which you purchase after your compulsory visit to the Science Museum where you get to look at the chopped-in-half Mini and see just how flimsy it is.
I'm in two minds about making cars less crash-worthy too. When a journalist asked Sir Alec Issigonis- the designer of the Mini, Morris 1100, Morris Minor and Austin Maxi- why his cars didn't have sturdier impact protection the great man took his Capstan full strength from out of his mouth, uncrossed his legs at his Clarks suede desert booted ankles, paused and said "I give my cars superb steering, road holding, braking and driver visibility. After all that if the driver is stupid enough to crash the car it's their own fault." Maybe a bit harsh for anyone who has ever arrived at the scene of a fatal traffic accident but it's something I kept thinking of each time my Mum was a passenger on a bus that got driven into by a feckless motorist who was insulated by their own "I'm alright I've got an airbag" mentality. After been an on board witness to three bus crashes in three months she now recognises the accident investigator from First Bus by his telephone voice, even before he introduces himself! Interestingly the car engineers at Ford Europe were shocked when their market research showed that British motorists weren't interested in Anti-Lock-Brakes, i.e something that could help avoid an accident, they just wanted airbags. Ford paraphrased their mentality by saying that Anti Lock wasn't a "Sexy feature", thus the Ford Mondeo became the first car to have an airbag as standard. In a sentence; pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, horses and bus users can't all have airbags and side impact protection... so should motorists have such protection?