We were having dinner with friends the other night and somehow the conversation came round to IQ tests. Someone pointed out that an IQ of 100 is the average, a fact that we all know perfectly well but which somehow one forgets. But what struck me was ... IQ 100 is bloody thick, isn't it?
IQ 100 is all the plonkers who turn up on X-Factor, bleating about how much they want it and their cat's got cancer and they deserve to be a celebrity and their family is always there for them, though where else their family is likely to be is difficult to fathom.
IQ 100 is the greengrocer who sells tomato's and cucumber's. IQ 100 is the poor sap who can't see that the supermarket floor has just been washed or that there's a paving stone sticking up, so they fall over and need to sue somebody because nothing's their fault and they are so injured that they can't work again. Ever.
IQ 100 thinks that a green shell suit and trainers is posh enough to wear to a wedding. IQ 100 hates living on a council estate but doesn't have the gumption to go and live somewhere else. IQ 100 eats chips from the chippie and burgers from McDonald's because - get this - they're too poor to buy proper food. Presumably IQ 100 hasn't noticed the little tickets on the food in the supermarket that tell them they can buy a great bag of potatoes, a tub of ice-cream, a loaf of bread, a lettuce, a cabbage, some carrots, a packet of four beefburgers and some mince for the price they'd pay for a McDonald's meal deal for three. And even if IQ 100 has painstakingly spelled out the difficult words on the price tickets, it's scared to try anything new "because it might not like it". Presumably if it ate anything it didn't like it would immediately inflate to the size of Vanessa Feltz and burst, always assuming it wasn't the size of Vanessa Feltz to start with.
IQ 100 thinks that Celebrity Come Dancing and Big Brother represent real life and ache to behave, talk and look exactly like their television idols. IQ 100 really cares whether Jordan was raped or not. IQ 100 reads the Daily Mail and believes every syllable.
In a word, IQ 100 is as thick as two short planks. So how come it's the average, when there are plenty of far more intelligent people around? There must be a hell of a lot of people with really low IQs hiding somewhere, to pull the average down to 100. In America, probably.
But one place where anything over, say, IQ 80 or 90 is quite sufficient, is in cycling. Not just riding a bike, you understand - I see loads of perfectly normal (i.e. IQ considerably more than 100) people riding bikes, all over the place. Though not the Wanker who was riding down the A140 north of Dickleburgh (where else?) last night, in the dark, in heavy traffic, with no lights and wearing black clothes.
No, the place where any excess of grey matter would be an absolute handicap is in the field of campaigning about cycling. And never has this been more clearly exemplified than by this week's announcement by Cycling England, a pressure group funded by the government.
At this point I think I should make clear that Cycling England (the pressure group that aims to make us all sell our cars and ride bikes thus causing us to (a) starve because we can't reach the shops because Tesco opened up in the local town and all the local retailers had to close, and (b) starve because there is no public transport that will enable us to reach our work 40 miles away), is not the same thing as Recycling England, the group that aims to eradicate every English habit, every English virtue, every English characteristic, and every piece of English power and influence. No, Recycling England is a different bunch altogether. They're often known to the rest of us as New Labour.
One of the less well known and more sinister habits of the Labour government has been the way they not only take advice from pressure groups - some they have set up for themselves, and others independent - but often allow such pressure groups to foist legislation on parliament. In 2003 it was the gay pressure group Stonewall that caused the government to endorse the removal of "Section 28", the law that prevented schools from promoting homosexuality. Since then, of course, several government-led initiatives have made it compulsory to promote homosexuality in school.
Almost anyone can be a pressure group, but you're far more likely to get the government to listen if you're gay, foreign or female (in that order), preferably not from the Southeast, and definitely not upper middle class though a public school education is no hindrance. In fact I'd seriously consider forming a Grumpy Pressure Group but I don't think we'd be gay or foreign enough.
I don't know how Phillip Darnton, chief executive of Cycling England, measures up to those criteria, but he certainly has the other main characteristic essential to the job - stupidity. So thick he doesn't even know how to spell his own Christian name (used as a christian name it is spelled with one "l"), he also appears to lack (a) the ability to think through to the end of an idea and work out what its real consequences might be, and (b) the sense of humour that tells normal people when what they're saying is patently ridiculous.
Cycling England's new idea is to make motorists legally responsible for all accidents involving cyclists, even if they are not at fault. They propose that civil law be changed so drivers or their insurers would automatically be liable for compensation claims.
The proposal is modelled on regulations in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany, which are heavily skewed in favour of cyclists. Even in cases where a crash results from illegal or dangerous manoeuvres by the cyclist, the motorist is usually blamed. The motorist is always legally responsible for any crash involving a child or elderly cyclist, even if they are cycling in the wrong direction, ignoring traffic signals, or otherwise flouting traffic regulations.
As well as cyclists, pedestrians would also be assumed not to be at fault in civil law if hit by a car. The 'most powerful vehicle' involved in a crash would automatically be liable. Where a cyclist was hit by a car, the presumption of blame would fall on the driver. Cyclists would automatically be blamed if they hit a pedestrian.
And what's the reason behind this lunacy, pray? The idiots think it'll encourage people to get out of their cars and make more journeys by bicycle or on foot.
It's well-known that the relationship between cyclists and other road-users is very poor. This stems partly from the behaviour of cyclists themselves, sadly. That annoying habit they have, for instance, of pulling out to pass a parked car without bothering to look behind, when all other road-users have to do really difficult stuff like looking in their mirrors, signalling and then waiting until it's safe to manoeuvre. Or the way they'll treat themselves as pedestrians when it suits, nipping along the pavement if the road's busy, or crossing at traffic-lights or zebra crossings, then turning themselves back into road-users when that's more convenient.
Mind you, they are their own worst enemies. In 2006/7, the last year for which comprehensive figures are available, some 13,368 cyclists were admitted to English hospitals. A comparatively small proportion, 1,873, were injured by cars or vans, and only 129 by lorries and buses. 208 cyclists collided with ... other cyclists (ah, bless!) while 89 crashed into people or animals.
But an enormous number, 9,191, were injured in incidents that involved no other vehicles at all. In other words, they were so stupid or so inexperienced or so senile or so drunk that they just fell off. And here's the lulu - 518 of them hit stationary objects! You know, these lamp-posts that lurk with sinister intent along every roadside just jumped out and hit them ...
Still, when all's said and done, Cycling England's idea is not that bad. For me personally it has a lot to offer. True, when I eventually have my first accident in 46 years' driving and run over a cyclist it'll be entirely my fault: I really should have anticipated that he'd shoot at high speed out of a side turning just as I was passing. I probably ought to have stopped at every side turning and had a jolly good look just in case. Well, there you are. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. My bad.
On the other hand, when I fall asleep or completely fail to see the approaching motorcyclist and pull out right in front of him so that he hits me and somersaults 150 feet in the air, it'll be his fault because he'll be driving a vehicle far more powerful than my little Clio diesel (65bhp if you're interested). So that's good.
It also means I can take on lorries and buses ad libitum - well, actually, at 65bhp I will almost always be driving the least powerful vehicle, so I'm laughing. Of course, that's exactly what all the cyclists will be saying, too. They'll be leaping out of lay-bys, dodging in and out of traffic, invading the motorways, going the wrong way round the M25 - the world's their oyster, because they'll be able to do no wrong. I wouldn't put it past one or two of them to accidentally-on-purpose ride under a lorry just in order to claim the compensation.
Mind you, it'll be a different story if they hit a pedestrian. But wait a minute. Suppose it's a very strong pedestrian? A weight-lifter or something? Doesn't that make him the more powerful vehicle? And what happens when those 208 cyclists crash into each other (presumably that should read 416 cyclists, since it takes two to tango)? Will they weigh each rider to find out which is responsible for the accident?
And those lamp-posts are going to be a bit of a problem. A lamp-post is jolly heavy, and a cyclist can do no wrong so it's obviously the lamp-post's fault, but on the other hand ... a lamp-post doesn't develop all that many brake horse-power, does it? Rather less than a cyclist with nice muscly legs, probably. Have you noticed how those with the nice muscly legs tend to wave their bottoms in your face, clad in skin-tight lycra? Why do they do that? I suppose they couldn't be ... oh no, no, of course not.
And suppose the cyclist hits a tree instead of a lamp-post? I mean, trees are good, aren't they? They don't cause global warming (as lamp-posts presumably do), in fact in a way they prevent it by absorbing the dreaded poison gas carbon dioxide (or "carbon" to those of you who know feck-all about science but keep telling us what to do anyway). So really cyclists and trees are on the same side. Hmm ... don't know how they're going to legislate for killer trees ...
But no doubt Philip Darnton (I've kindly corrected the spelling for him, you'll notice) has thought all that through before plastering his idea all over the press ..... hasn't he?
However I seriously doubt whether his aim of persuading (or more accurately, threatening and coercing) motorists to get out of their cars and fling one leg over a bicycle is going to work. I mean, it's bloody obvious, isn't it? Riding a bike is far too dangerous.
About 9,191 times too dangerous for me, actually. I'm damned if I'm going to run the risk of an accident where I haven't got anyone to blame but myself.
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