Your letters to the Herts Advertiser...

Cycling is very popular in the St Albans district.

Cycling is very popular in the St Albans district. - Credit: Archant

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As an occasional reader of the Herts Advertiser for a number of years I have never been sure whether one Barry Cashin, who regularly features in your letters page, is a real person, or some character that the editor has dreamed up along the lines of Henry Root or The Pub Landlord in order to drum up a reaction from readers unfuriated by his small-minded and ill-informed musings. My normal response to his missives is simply to shrug and ignore them.

However, assuming that St Albans has indeed been blessed with its very own Colonel Blimp, I feel moved to respond to his most recent outpouring (November 3) in which he gives a long account of his rage at being forced to share the public highway with a group of cyclists.

Without wishing to enter into a pointless cyclist vs cars debate – everyone can cite examples of good and bad road use by both groups – I do want to address a couple of his points:

Firstly, riding two abreast does not contravene the Highway Code, Rule 66 of which states you should “never ride more than two abreast” unless the road is particularly narrow or busy. Generally, groups of cyclists will ride two abreast because it is safer since it requires motorists to overtake in a proper manner rather than in the same lane as the cyclists.

Secondly, regarding his suggested “road tax” for cyclists, vehicle tax rates in the UK are currently based on the fuel type and level of CO2 emissions, on which basis bicycles would be classed alongside cars in Band A and pay nothing. If Barry is thinking of the upkeep of the roads in raising this point, then this is funded out of income tax and council tax – to which both cyclists and motorists alike contribute.

Indeed, in a society where we are seeing a growing public health crisis due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the upsurge in recreational cycling we have seen over recent years should be seen as something that will be of great benefit to taxpayers.

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Finally Barry, I highly recommend you take up cycling yourself. Not only will you experience at first hand what’s it like to be on the receiving end of an impatient car driver but it will do wonders for your high blood pressure.


St Albans

Once again Barry ‘Mr Toad’ Cashin riles against those road users he perceives are not up to his standards, and, once again, he’s wrong.

Firstly, under Rule 66 of the Highway Code cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast in most circumstances. In fact when riding in a group it’s generally the best thing to do as it shortens the distance that overtaking drivers need to be on the other side of the road. Chris Boardman has a good video here which Barry should watch

Secondly, under Rule 163 drivers are instructed to “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”. The distance isn’t specified but the accompanying photograph clearly shows a car moving over to the other lane of the road.

Now, let’s examine Barry’s knee jerk solutions.

Bicycle registrations have been abandoned all of the few countries who used them with the exemption of Japan, where’s it used as an anti-theft measure. The costs of introducing a bike licensing scheme would be huge and what age would Barry suggest it started at?

Moving on to Barry’s final flounce, ‘Road Tax’, as any current affairs commentator like Barry should know, hasn’t existed since 1937. The current tax - Vehicle Excise Duty - is based on CO2 emissions so bicycles would pay... nothing, just like electric cars do now.

We live in a city occupied by one too many brainless Barrys who write letters to the local press to bolster their egos.

I thank you.


Pondfield Crescent, St Albans

May I clarify some of points made in Mr Barry Cashin’s letter on the subject of sharing the road and communicating with other road users? It is legal to ride two abreast, the Highway Code states that you should not cycle more than two abreast. The Highway Code is explicit on speed limits being a limit, not a target, and the need to reduce speed to suit when sharing the road: “The speed limit is the absolute maximum and does not mean it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions.” As for ‘road tax’, no-one has paid any road tax since 1937, after Winston Churchill phased it out. The tax on motor vehicles is called Vehicle Excise Duty.


Normandy Road, St Albans

It’s great that Barry Cashin has turned his laser-like analysis on the question of how motorists and cyclists can co-exist safely on our crowded roads. Cycling of course has a major role to play in providing safe, economical and sustainable transport, though until comprehensive networks of dedicated cycling facilities have been developed, everyone using the roads has to respect each others’ capabilities and needs.

The good news is that residents of St Albans and nearby have a wonderful opportunity on Saturday November 19 to explore and debate current thinking on active travel, safer streets and travel networks.

St Albans Cycle Campaign is hosting this year’s Cycling Campaigners Conference at Dagnall Street Baptist Church, as part of Sustainable St Albans Week, with a stellar line-up of speakers including transport planners, local and national Government, academics and cycle campaigners, and I’d like to extend a cordial invitation to Barry to come and join the discussions and workshops as our guest.

There’s more information on our website (


St Albans Cycle Campaign

As a motorist, I find myself in part agreement with the Herts Advertiser’s most prolific correspondent, Barry Cashin – many motorists today are a slovenly bunch that seem to think indicating unnecessary. It’s the ‘me, me, me’ world we live in – drivers that don’t indicate think only of themselves, not of other road users.

As someone who has this year taken up road cycling, however, I take issue with Mr Cashin description of cyclists as ‘human wasps’. Some cyclists are idiots – they go through red lights, they don’t indicate, and they cycle on pavements. But in my experience the people that do this are not generally the lycra-clad brigade for whom cycling is about recreation and fitness, but the helmetless folk for whom cycling is their main mode of transport (at least until they get knocked off).

And let’s be honest, motorists are a bigger danger to cyclists than vice versa – it comes with being encased in a ton of metal. Motorists’ “me, me, me” attitude is even clearer when you’re on a bike. As well as failing to indicate, they stop at traffic lights in the bike box or in the bike lane (this is particularly prevalent at the Peahen junction), and they pass too close, or get half way past and then brake sharply when they realise they can’t pass without colliding with an oncoming vehicle. I’ve even had a (male) motorist repeatedly beep his horn as I cycled along Lower Luton Road in front of him. What did he want me to do? Stop and get off?

This letter then is a call for all road users to ‘think bike’, but its also a call just to think about someone other than yourself.


Hart Road, St Albans

One recent Thursday my wife and I were returning from a trip to Italy. We were tired and arrived at the Luton Airport Parkway station at about 23.40 hoping to catch the next train to Harpenden, which is just five miles away.

We were told that the next train was not running because the company was short of drivers and could not find anyone to drive the train. The man in the ticket office told me that a replacement bus would be arriving in 10 minutes, then he closed his office and went off the premises. This did not prove to be true. We waited for more than two hours for a train to arrive and no replacement bus ever turned up.

The station was manned by a security man who worked on a contract with Govia. I’m amazed that this company is allowed to run a train service without providing staff for stations.

This is even more amazing when this line is Britain’s shop window, taking international travellers into London. This is appalling service and Govia are showing no concern for the care and safety of passengers. Why were they ever given the contract?


Shakespeare Road, Harpenden

I am one of the traders at the St Albans farmers’ market. Remembrance Sunday usually falls each November on a trading day. Last year, whilst all the traders were observing the two minutes silence, I watched with incredulity whilst Boots opened its doors and ushered customers in. Other stores observe this, so why cannot all the shops in the town not trading before 11am postpone doing so for two minutes? Presumably, the perceived ‘inconvenience’ is negligible compared to the fate suffered by those for whom the occasion is being commemorated.


Bullens Green Lane, Colney Heath

I gather from the article in the Herts Advertiser of November 3 quoting Graham Phillips, the owner of Manor Pharmacy in Southdown, that he will have no alternative but to close this facility early next year, due to the reduction in Government funding for local pharmacy provision.

I am sure there are ways of finding out the population in Southdown and the surrounding area who rely on the Southdown pharmacy for requesting repeat prescriptions and using the electronic prescription service provided by local GP surgeries, and using the pharmacist consultation service there. I would think it would be in the thousands.

On Saturday a major item in the news in the press and on TV and radio was telling the public not to go to the GP for minor ailments but to always visit and consult the local pharmacist first. Southdown Pharmacy is regularly used in this way and in the last two weeks both I and my husband have consulted the pharmacist there in the private room he has for that purpose, thus avoiding getting two appointments with our GP.

I am sure you are aware of the parking problems within Harpenden and when Southdown Pharmacy no longer exists, all those people who now use this facility will have to either get a bus into town to go to Topkins in Station Road which will be the nearest pharmacy, or drive into town and try to find (probably in vain) a free parking space or pay to park, in order to take repeat prescription requests, go back again there to collect their prescription, or to consult the pharmacist, rather than go to their GP.

We have an ageing population and many disabled or elderly people and people with children who will find this costly, time consuming and difficult, especially when they are sick.

It is contradictory to encourage people to consult their local pharmacists rather than the GP, whilst at the same time reducing the number of local pharmacies. What is the logic of the Government’s plans?

I understand from the article in the Herts Advertiser that Harpenden MP Peter Lilley was due to meet with the Minister, David Mowat this week to “discuss the issue of changes in financial support for pharmacies”. I trust that he will defend the need to continue support for Southdown Pharmacy for the local people of this part of Harpenden.


Hadleigh Court, Harpenden

I was totally dismayed to read in the Herts Ad that Manor pharmacy at Southdown is likely to close. I am elderly and can only drive short distances, and am unable to walk far. At Southdown one can park at the Co-op and walk through the shop to reach the pharmacy. I need to use it frequently, and when I take in a prescription they will bring the item to my house. To find a parking space within walking distance of a pharmacy in the centre of Harpenden would not be easy. I hope whoever has thought such a closure was a good idea will think again.


Long Buftlers, Harpenden

Great to see a picture of Rod Argent (playing with his band Argent) at the Civic Centre (now The Alban Arena) in the Herts Advertiser . I think this must have been around 1972 – I attended this concert and it was memorable for being so loud! My ears are still ringing! Argent were one of the loudest bands around at the time. The concert was recorded and part of it appeared on the live double album ‘Encore’ released in 1974.


Mons Close, Harpenden

Further to my letter explaining the reasons why public design review forums (charrettes) are deemed to fail (Herts Advertiser October 20) and Chris Debenham’s article referring to a “BIMBY” toolkit in your October 27 edition, whilst I confess to not being remotely familiar with the BIMBY toolkit, I remain sceptical as to how any method open to public use can possibly have any influence in building design.

To do so would require a mechanism that is able to influence all design issues including foundation, structure, services, internal layouts and finishings and to know what the individual costs of these lements would be.

I wonder how the Norwich project Mr Debenham referred to proceeded in line with the client budget and perhaps he could clarify?

Was it overseen by a workers’ cooperative body who had no perceived budget in place at the outset, and who subsequently adjusted their budget to meets costs as work progressed?

Or perhaps it was one of those once-in-30-years flukes where initial expectations met the budget?

To use the recent Civic Centre design forum as an example, which is by no means unique or extraordinary, perhaps Mr Debenham can explain how the BIMBY toolkit could be used to pre-empty a contractor’s firm offer price when the contractor has yet to appear on the scene?

Mr Debenham should also bear in mind the foundation design and therefore cost can only be established after a detailed geo-technical investigation has been carried out on site.

I stand to be corrected, but the BIMBY toolkit is probably a duplication of a client cost consultant’s detailed preliminary cost plan budget, which is based on assumptions only prior to detailed design taking place and which ultimately becomes unaffordable as I said in my October 6 letter by typically 10 to 20 per cent, requiring major design changes to be made to meet the budget and rendering the public design review forum irrelevant.


North Riding, Bricket Wood