Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Out on my bike. The North-South coronavirus divide. Political posturing by POTUS!

So yesterday afternoon, as planned, I got on my bike and rode over to my eldest granddaughter’s house. My route was carefully chosen so that it was mainly along bridle paths, with minimum time possible spent on actual roads with real traffic. My bike is equipped with an excellent old fashioned bell that gives a really good ting-a-ling, far superior to more modern versions which just give a feeble ping. So most people were made aware of my presence and happily got out of the way, apart from a young teenager on a bike zigzagging all over the path while he talked to his friends. His friends politely stood aside while he maintained his zigzagging course, almost a collision course, leading to some rude language on my part!

The only other untoward incident involved another kid on a bike, a boy of about the same age as the first one. This was on a main road into which I had just made a left turn. He had clearly been riding on the pavement, as so many cyclists do these days, and when the pavement ran out he continued on the roadway, but on the wrong side of the road! He looked bemused when I told him he should be riding on the left, not heading directly towards me!

There seem to be a lot of youngsters out and about on bikes who have had no training on roads and so have no road sense. This is probably a consequence of parental encouragement to ride on the pavement, a fairly understandable thing given the amount of traffic there is nowadays. However, while people ride on the pavement (and many adults also ride on the pavement) drivers have no incentive to be more considerate towards cyclists. But when I was a kid I remember there being a clear demarcation between bikes for little kids - pavement bikes - and more grown-up bikes - road bikes - and mostly we looked forward to making the transition from the first to the second. The clue, of course, is in the name:- ROAD bikes! One last point: what happened to the Cycling Proficiency Test, which used to take place during the summer term in many primary schools?

Okay! Rant over! And, to be fair, I am seeing a good number of families out riding together with parents explaining riding etiquette. There is hope!

Anyway, I rode to my granddaughters, she showed me her collection of odd pets - giant African snails, land crabs, a bearded dragon, a small snake of some kind, and a tiny tortoise, oh and a cat! - and I persuaded her and her housemate to go for a walk with me, part of my campaign to help my granddaughter overcome her anxiety attacks. Then I rode home without incident.

I am still being cautious in my various excursions as statistics still show that the North of England is a very different place from the area around London. Cases of the virus may well be dropping in the capital but new data from the Covid Symptom Study shows that in the North we have nearly twice as many new infections as London. So maybe we need to vary levels of relaxation from one part of the country to another.

Related to this is the fact that thousands of people in and around Blackpool have signed an online petition asking for the town and its beaches to be closed to visitors. The sunshine has led to loads of people heading for the Golden Mile. Who would have thought that Blackpool would ever want to turn them away?!

Here’s another odd relaxation of lockdown fact:

“Spatial analysis by Esri UK has found that most pavements around the country are less than 3 metres wide, making it difficult for pedestrians to remain 2 metres apart and follow government guidelines for social distancing. Using measurements from Ordnance Survey, Esri UK has created a map of all pavement widths, discovering that only 30% of Great Britain’s pavements are at least 3 metres wide, 36% are between 2 and 3 metres and 34% are less than 2 metres wide.” Oops!

In the midst of all the stuff going on in the USA, POTUS was hustled away to the White House bunker. We’ve seen this happen in various films and TV series about presidents so we know that this is standard procedure if there is any possible threat to the White House. So we are ignoring any suggestions of discriminatory protection or, heaven forbid, cowardice! But firing tear gas at peaceful protesters in order to clear a way for POTUS to walk across to a nearby church and pose with a bible is a different matter altogether.

The news report tells us that Trump’s short speech in golden evening light was intended to cast him as a military strongman determined to bring a restive nation to heel as it suffered spasms of unrest after the killing of Floyd, an African American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis. “I am your president of law and order,” Trump said. “I am mobilising all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your second amendment rights.”

But the church establishment seems less that impressed by the posturing:-

 “The Right Rev Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, told the Washington Post: “I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop.”

Trump’s message is at odds with the values of love and tolerance espoused by the church, Budde said, before describing the president’s visit as an opportunity to use the church, and a Bible, as a “backdrop”.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, tweeted: “Peaceful protesters were gassed and shot with rubber bullets to clear away a space near a church to give Trump a photo-op waving a bible flanked by AG Barr and Sec Def Esper. Monstrous. Anticonstitutional.””

It’s all politics and electioneering after all!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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