Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - October 1999
* Keep Drunks off Our Roads *
I recently read in another CAMRA publication an account of a pub-crawl by bike which involved visiting at least six pubs, and suggested that pints may have been consumed in each. Fair enough, you may think, a good way of getting some exercise and avoiding any temptation to drink and drive. But is it really a responsible thing to encourage people to do, when the Highway Code is explicit in its instruction to pedal cyclists: "You MUST NOT ride when under the influence of drink or drugs"?
If you've had a few drinks, your perception of danger will be impaired, and you will gain a false sense of self-confidence, on a bike just as much as in a car. Clearly a drunken cyclist is mostly putting himself at risk, but that personal risk is greater as he is much more exposed and vulnerable than in a car - there are no seat belts or airbags on bikes, and the only crumple zone is your skull. There is also a significant risk to others, as a cyclist unpredictably weaving and wobbling around the road is likely to cause accidents as drivers swerve to avoid him. And it should not be forgotten that, every year, several hundred pedestrians are injured, and a handful killed, in collisions with cyclists, who presumably are riding badly and not looking where they're going - exactly the kind of thing you would do if you had been drinking too much.
I am not suggesting for a minute that cyclists should be tested or judged to the same standards as motorists. But riding a bike on public roads when drunk is no laughing matter. It is dangerous both to the rider and to others, as well as undoubtedly being unlawful, and neither CAMRA nor anyone else should imply that the bike is an acceptable mode of transport for an extended pub-crawl. The message should be quite clear - if you're going to have a skinful, get someone else, whether bus driver, taxi driver, train driver or sober friend, to drive you.
It may not even be such a good idea to walk. It's a sobering thought that two-fifths of all adult pedestrians killed in road accidents are above the legal alcohol limit for driving. Between the hours of 10 pm and 4 am, the proportion rises to over 80%. That statistic of course has to be put into perspective - probably half the pedestrians about at that time have been drinking anyway, and nobody can tell me you're incapable of crossing the road if you've had a few pints. But we all know that there are pub customers who end the evening scarcely able to stand up, and obviously their prospects of safely negotiating Kingsway or the A6 must be greatly reduced. So, if you're in that state, do yourself a favour and get a cab - it just might save your life.
* Pull the Udder One *
The latest advertising campaign for Boddingtons Bitter, using the slogan "Chilled Cream", features what is clearly intended to be a male of the bovine species - only he's sporting a prominent set of udders. What on earth are they trying to tell us - that drinking Boddingtons is likely to play havoc with your hormones? I suppose someone in an ad agency imagines this is an amusing post-modern example of gender-blurring. Whitbread really must be desperate to restore the fortunes of their fast-fading brand to sign off such ludicrous nonsense. Younger drinkers will also find it hard to believe that, only fifteen years ago, Boddingtons Bitter was a distinctive, tasty beer produced by a local independent brewery. How times have changed!