Letters, February 3, 2011, part three

Why the spirit of Bacon provides the cure

SIR – Sir Francis Bacon was born 450 years ago, on January 22, 1561. This was a century after the petty and successful plot to murder one or two key noblemen which is called the second battle of St Albans. But both these events were far outweighed by the Service of Reconciliation that was held at the Abbey here well after the 1488 battle of the Wars of the Roses. That atonement event is commemorated by the chequered pattern of red and white roses in the ceiling of the Abbey’s great tower.

In the 1470s, William Caxton established printing with fusile type at Westminster, St Albans and Oxford as an attempt to knock illiterate noble heads together during that war. Bacon’s Gorhambury estate abutted the Abbey’s conventual land at the ancient flint trading route of the Causeway and (now) Abbey Mill Lane, and so Bacon had fresh evidence of the success of that diplomatic experiment when he defined the invention of the printing press and “the mariner’s needle” (a ship’s compass) as the most important inventions ever made. Perhaps the local press today and local politicians need to commemorate that as our more significant local heritage.

Our local societies like the “Arch & Arch”, which was founded by county folk in the 1880s, and “Phil Socs” like the Baconian Club. That club was founded 90 years ago in spite of the view of the then vicar of St Peter’s church that a few local lawyers and scholars would not find enough men of intellect in St Albans to form such a thing. The club is still going strong and has had members of both sexes since the 1980s, but nowhere near as many of them now address the club themselves on a “matter of interest” (whether “shop” or not it does not matter). But the club has a newsletter rather than proceedings, and attracts guest speakers of high caliber who give views in their talks that are not for reporting more widely. There are still no criteria for membership other than the size of St Michael’s Parish Centre where it meets on Saturdays from September to May. Do come.

Michael Jameson

Marlborough Gate, St Albans

Hitting back over the battle of the humps

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SIR – Phile Rowe (Herts Advertiser, January 27) attributes many things to me, none of which is true.

Firstly, he claims that I have presented “spurious pseudo-scientific arguments for the removal of speed humps”. My views are based on sound safety engineering principles and solid evidence, which may explain why he was unable to elaborate how or where my position was flawed.

He also accuses me of coming from an “ideology where drivers use their vehicles as they please with few if any constraints”. Again, not true. My sole motivation is to improve safety for all road users in terms of reducing collisions and casualties, which has meant cutting through many bogus claims for so-called road safety features such as speed cameras, humps and 20mph zones, as expounded in my previous letters.

Ironically, my son’s only incident on the road involved a speed hump in Sherwood Avenue a few years ago when he was at school. He was cycling when a vehicle passed him closely forcing him to go onto its sloping edge of the hump, hitting the kerb, falling off and breaking his wrist. Such incidents are inevitable when, in effect, obstacles are placed in the road (chicanes and pinch points can be even more dangerous to cyclists).

But crashes caused by latent failures initiated by vehicle damage from humps are likely to be even more common and may explain some of the incidents where motorists “lose control and end up on the pavement” as described by Mr Rowe.

Safety has to be based on facts, credible arguments, and appropriate measures of success. It is unfortunate that Mr Rowe has resorted to emotional arguments and what the public clamour for. I support all of the good things that he proposes (walking, cycling using public transport, reducing emissions, legal vehicles, obeying laws) but I will continue to expose where the net effect of interventions is detrimental to road safety, as is the case with humps and cameras.

Eric Bridgstock

Evans Grove, St Albans

Sir – Phile Rowe’s letter in last week’s Herts Advertiser (January 27) attacks a number of issues – CO2; an “ideology” of freedom; reduced taxation on fuel; and hazard free roads.

Perhaps we should all stop breathing, for each individual in the course of a year will emit about 1,000lbs of CO2. Globally, Nature emits 95 per cent of all airborn CO2, and cars one per cent, upon which plants feed (ask any commercial horticulturist). Manometers compulsorily fitted to every man, woman and child to measure CO2 output and tax accordingly. Stop driving – it kills people. The shortfall in tax revenue therefrom can be placed on bicycle ownership, licencing, and insurance. The expensive hazards that are cameras and speed humps, would no longer need to be maintained, as roads would become multi-coloured pedestrian and cycle routes – and their use taxed to walk and ride upon through government sealed pedometers and mileometers. Enjoy.

I cycle to the shops, and my children walked to school. They have been educated in road safety and vehicle awareness. That accidents will still happen when laws and speed limits are obeyed, is a fact of life. To create a set of hazards deliberately to slow traffic has side effects contradictory to safety, and building/vehicle/physiological structural integrity. Humps are expensive to place and maintain. Those who cry out for them are also the first to wish them removed (with some exceptions). The presence of a ‘speed’ camera has caused loss of life – fact. The presence of a ‘speed’ camera has never saved a single life – prove it otherwise. You cannot, it is an assumption only, and upon which has been based an entire industry and government policy. Typical of a bureaucracy which expects the nation to be powered by wind and sunlight. ‘That’ will kill us all. Commonsense is indeed uncommon.

Derek Reynolds

Woodland Drive, St Albans