It's time for pedestrians to get as proud and angry as cyclists
Opinion digest: improving road safety, calling out sports elitism, and praising Gore Vidal
EVERY weekday morning from The Week online - a daily wrap-up of the best comment and opinion articles from the morning papers and the top political bloggers. If you think we've missed a good one, please let us know. Contact us via Twitter @TheWeekUK
LIKE CYCLISTS, PEDESTRIANS MUST BE SELF-RIGHTEOUS
ZOE WILLIAMS ON IMPROVING ROAD SAFETY
We have heard a lot about bicycles this week, from the triumph of Bradley Wiggins, to the tragic deaths of a number of cyclists, says Zoe Williams in The Guardian. Less well known is that far more people are killed on foot. In 2011, in Greater London, 77 pedestrians were killed compared to 16 cyclists. "Cyclists are no more sinned against than pedestrians, and yet have a greater sense of outrage and more solidarity." Cyclists organise and agitate and get questions asked in the London assembly. This is partly because cycling is a chosen activity. People don't make walking a matter of pride, because often they don't choose to do it. But "it's time they organised and got angry". Pedestrians need to dig out their own sense of entitlement and self-righteousness. Transport policy has to start with the safety of people on two feet. "We have to be able to walk before we can ride."
SPORT IN BRITAIN IS FOR THE ELITE
PETER WILBY ON INEQUALITY IN SPORT
The message of the Olympics might be "it's for everyone", but even in sport you can't get away from the British class system, writes Peter Wilby in The Guardian. On the most conservative estimates, nearly a quarter of this year's Team GB were educated at fee-charging schools, attended by only 7 per cent of the total child population. In the events where Britain is most likely to win medals – sailing and equestrianism, for example, which require a moneyed background even to participate – the proportion is much higher. The same inequality appears in non-Olympic sports such as cricket and rugby. The standard excuse is that teachers from state schools are in the thrall of egalitarian ideology and discourage talented students. This is nonsense. Fee-paying schools simply have more money for better facilities and more qualified coaches. We should be thankful that football, for all its faults, "still gives children from less affluent homes a chance of success".
HE WAS SHARPEST TONGUE IN THE WEST
ROY HATTERSLEY ON GORE VIDAL
Gore Vidal was a brilliant wit, but his opinions made him many enemies, says Roy Hattersley in the Daily Mail. Modesty was not his principal virtue. Yet he was entitled to claim, as he often did, that he was "the wittiest and most elegant writer of his time". His perfect sentences infuriated rivals. In a TV debate, fellow writer Norman Mailer once responded by head-butting him. Without blinking, Vidal observed: "As you might expect, Mailer as usual was lost for words." Vidal was a constant critic of US foreign policy and "the attempts of successive presidents to impose the standards of the West on developing countries". Yet he remained an essentially American figure "who raged about the world and mused about what he had called that ‘divine discontent'". He believed there was "no cosmic point to the life" perceived after death, which was "all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here". ·