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Act now for the future

In a recent conversation with an individual who is very prominent in civil engineering, I suggested that the ICE cannot forever remain in its present form and asked what organisational changes will have been achieved in, say, 50 years. Without hesitation, the reply was: 'The Civils will by then have been assimilated into the Institution of Construction, or a similar all-embracing body'.

It is important to appreciate that a long serving supporter of the present engineering establishment was sufficiently motivated to predict change on the scale described.

The profession, meanwhile, continues with slow and painful efforts to modify its image. However, signs of change are visible and the merger of the ACE and BCB provides a useful sign of the times.

It is tempting to believe your Leader's words: 'The large engineering practices will not have to shell out two subscriptions - something many would not have put up with for much longer' (NCE 26 November). The words come close to hinting that many individual engineers are weary of paying two subscriptions, to the Engineering Council and to their own institution(s), for the questionable privilege of using the two titles, 'chartered engineer' and 'chartered civil/mechanical/electrical/etc engineer'. One wonders how many will not 'put up with it for much longer'.

If mergers are to become fashionable (or, more likely, essential for survival) we should initiate change by reorganising the present institutions as branches of a reformed Engineering Council. Such action should be embarked upon now, before changes are imposed on the profession by external influences.

The reconstituted Council should lobby for the statutory protection of title and function for engineers. Regulation of many professions is, eventually, bound to emerge in the wake of public concern with events in the medical world but the engineering profession should grasp the initiative and agitate for suitable changes now, before political interests can influence the outcome.

History shows that, once set in motion, changes in human affairs tend to follow a curve asymptotic to the vertical ordinate. Now is the time for engineers to influence the pattern of their institutional development, while the curve is relatively flat and before external forces take charge of events; it will then be too late.

John G Evans (F), Lichfield, jge@jgevans.demon.co.uk

Cycle savings

It is perhaps understandable that the general public should believe the tabloids' view that huge amounts of money are being squandered on cycle facilities, but I would hope that engineers were better informed. Mr Edwards' comments (NCE 29 October) are therefore rather unfortunate.

Put into context, the price of the entire National Cycle Network is less than the current overspend on the M66. For this, instead of a few miles of motorway we will have nearly 5,000km of cycle path nationwide. It will be more accessible to, and of greater benefit for ordinary people than any other millennium project. The Chancellor has not had to dig into the taxpayer's purse to pay for it since a large proportion of the funding has come from the Lottery, and the remainder from local authorities, businesses and individuals who believe there is a better way forward. What other development provides such value for money?

Compared to the rest of Europe the goals of the National Cycle Network are very modest. If we wish to emulate the achievements of countries like Denmark, which transformed its child accident levels from the second worst in Europe to the best, then we need to emulate their approach - a cycle lane on every main road and every urban street.

I believe the fact that 10 cyclists die or are seriously injured every day is a good enough reason alone for investment. The Government's goal of encouraging people to travel by less socially and environmentally damaging means should double the incentive.

Alasdair DV Massie (G), Cyclists Touring Club, 67 Ashwell Road, Bygrave, Baldock, Herts SG7 5DZ.

Equal opportunity

I sympathise with Diane Rotherham's work vs family predicament (Letters last week). However, has she considered taking a pointer from Sir John Egan's Rethinking Construction report? Her household's performance and the satisfaction of all its members could be improved in one fell swoop if her husband learned to cook, wash and iron.

Hilary Ellis (G), 56 Hill Avenue, Victoria Park, Bristol BS3 4SU.

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