A transcript of a BBC Radio 4 programme, today.
Continuity announcer: Now it’s time for Call You and Yours, with Winifred Robinson.
Robinson: Hello, and welcome to the programme. Today, we’re asking a very important question –
is it time to change the rules for people who wear shoes with little wheels?
Should they have to take a road test, and get insurance, like everyone else? Call us now please, on 0800 A-N-E-C-D-O-T-E. You can also email and text us.
We’re talking about this after those video pictures were published showing a little girl being hit on the pavement by someone wheeling along on little wheels in their shoes, prompting headlines like THE MOST CALLOUS HEELYIST IN BRITAIN, and a report on road safety yesterday revealed that the number of heelyists hurt on the roads has risen sharply in recent years.
Nick Unctuous – one of the founders of the London Heely Challenge back in the seventies – rang us earlier. He thinks the behaviour of wheeled shoeists has deteriorated over the years.
Unctuous: Most heelyists haven’t got a clue. They don’t know how to roll efficiently. They can’t even change their little heely wheels. They don’t look where they’re going. An erratic heelyist is a bad heelyist, a heelyist who is heading for trouble. You get lycra-clad lunatic heelyists whizzing down pavements because they think they’re gods, because they think they can get away with it.
Robinson: Conclusive evidence. Now let’s hear from Chris Sensible, who won Olympic Wheel Shoe gold back in 1992, and is a policy adviser for British Heelying. Chris, do you think we should make heelyists pass tests and have insurance before they venture out on heelies?
Sensible: Firstly let’s put things in context. 34 pedestrians are killed every year when motor vehicles mount the pavement. Only one person has been killed by someone wearing wheeled shoes in the last decade.
Robinson: Yes, but you can prove anything with statistics. Statistics are often at odds. I’ve got statistics here that say that it’s actually two people who have been killed in accidents involving wheeled shoes.
Sensible: People will be daft, whether they’re travelling around by car, by wheeled shoes, or on foot. Let’s look at the risk posed by each of those modes of transport. You might as well ask whether pedestrians should have to pass a test, or have insurance.
Robinson: In Switzerland heelyists have to have insurance. And wheeled shoes have to be registered.
Sensible: Most European countries don’t require any kind of insurance to use wheeled shoes. And let’s keep this in context.
Robinson: What about the rising casualty rate of heelyists? Do you think part of the problem here is that some people can just step into wheeled shoes, without knowing enough about road safety?
Sensible: It’s much more holistic than that. Countries just across the North Sea have a much better heely safety record. Heelying is prioritised, and made safe.
Robinson: But they have big heely lanes. You would have to tear London up to do that here, which is obviously impossible.
Sensible: Do we want more people heelying, or not? The big picture is, we do, and measures like insurance and testing will put people off.
Robinson: Let’s hear from our callers now. Greg Taximan is in Hampshire. Greg, do you think there should be new rules for wheeled shoe wearers?
Taximan: Yes, there should be new rules for heelyists. I hear what our esteemed heely Olympian has to say, but when drivers break rules, there’s a punitive system to punish them. If heelyists could be punished for their bad behaviour, then that would modify their behaviour.
Robinson: Greg, it sounds to me like you’re speaking from very bitter experience about heelyists! You must have had an incident with one. Please, fill our airtime with a precious anecdote about them. What do you do for a living?
Taximan: I’m a taxi driver. There was incident in a local village near me. There was traffic jam the other way. A heelyist was coming down my left, where there was no traffic jam, and I was passing him, the lane was well wide enough for me to pass him, no problem. But a heelyist came the other way, and he made contact with my taxi. And there’s no way to hold him accountable! There was no identification on him, or his heelies. There needs to be some kind of number plates on wheeled shoes, to stop the kind of bad behaviour you never, ever, see from drivers who have number plates.
And another thing – maybe only one heelyist has killed a pedestrian. But plenty of heelyists are killing themselves by getting themselves run over by motor vehicles.
Robinson: Thank you for that Greg. Here is an email, read out loud by Caroline Atkinson.
Atkinson: Yes, someone has just emailed to say ‘I was knocked over yesterday by a someone wearing wheeled shoes on the South Bank in London.’
Robinson: Thank you Caroline. Now Barry Chutney has called us from London. Barry, what do you think? Is it time for a wheeled shoe test, and insurance?
Chutney: [Emphatically] Yes. Certainly. It should be brought back as compulsory.
Robinson: The National Wheeled Shoe Proficiency Test?
Chutney: AND they should also have a roadworthiness certificate for their shoes. And they should pay insurance. And wear a reflective tabard saying I AM A WHEELED SHOEIST – WATCH OUT. Or something like that.
Robinson: What makes you say that Barry?
Chutney: Because of the amount of wheeled shoes you see out there. I see it constantly. There are some good heelyists out there, I haven’t got any hatred towards the wearers of wheeled shoes. But it’s not a minority. I see it every day, on a daily basis, especially young kids. They’re riding around on these little wheels, and basically their shoes consist of two shoes, usually with laces, or velcro straps, a sole, and wheels in the sole. No lights in the shoes, no bell, no horn, no nothing. And they can’t wheel steadily, they’re all over the place, in gangs, and just, like, jump out on you! It’s crazy!
Robinson: Barry, what about the argument that clamping down on heelyists is out of proportion to the problem?
Chutney: Rule One of health and safety is to take care of yourself. I drive a big lorry; I take care of myself. Shouldn’t wheeled shoe wearers be made to care of themselves around my big lorry? At all times? It’s common courtesy! Manners!
Robinson: Barry Chutney, thank you. Turning to Chris Sensible again, you’ve just come back from the continent, where you say it is much safer to wear wheeled shoes. But surely we just haven’t got the room here in Britain?
Sensible: There is a finite amount of roadspace. And we have to choose who we give priority to.
Robinson: Let’s return to the callers. Jessica Backintheday from Suffolk – do you think it’s time for everyone to have compulsory education before they put on shoes with little wheels in them, and also some insurance?
Backintheday: I do, yes. I took the National Wheeled Shoe Proficiency Test back in the seventies. We learnt how to keep a lookout behind us, how to signal, all sorts of things related to using wheeled shoes.
Sensible: Well actually fifty percent of schools currently run Heelability, the modern form of the Wheeled Shoes Proficiency Test.
Robinson: Jessica, what do you think about heelyists having wheeled shoe identification, and insurance? I’m trying to get some uninformed consensus on this issue.
Backintheday: I’m actually not sure about that. For poor people, wheeled shoes could be their only mode of transport. Also children could be priced out of the legal use of wheeled shoes. So… I’m not sure. Although maybe some identification on the shoes could help get them back if they were stolen…
Robinson: More emails now from Caroline Atkinson.
Atkinson: A lot of people are very very agitated about people heelying two abreast, which local people are saying causes hold ups. Tony also says that he feels very strongly that when people wearing wheeled shoes go the wrong way down a one-way street, and they have a driving licence, they should get points on their licence. Also Geoff has written that a drunk man in wheeled shoes bumped into his car, and simply wheeled away. Finally Gillian says, ‘If I were Mayor of London I would make all heelyists take a proficiency test, they would wear hi-viz vests bearing a registered number, and they would be insured!’
Robinson: That’s it for today. We’ll have another informative phone in soon. Do join us.