This is a post (actually it will probably turn out to be a series of posts) that I’ve thought about writing in the past, but haven’t, largely because 1) I feared it might be a bit controversial and 2) I couldn’t think of a way of making it particularly constructive. You’ll understand my reasoning when I tell you that it might have been entitled “Things I should be a bit more Zen about – Cyclists”. But before you hit the comment button, let me say a few things.
Firstly, I didn’t call it that because I’m not delusional. Cyclists have every right to be on the road; indeed, when I’m in my car they arguably have more right than I do, since they are more environmentally friendly and are also improving the nation’s health, not only by not pumping out noxious fumes but also by making themselves healthier. They’re not an irritant put there to annoy me, they’re fellow human beings and road users. A large number of them are, indeed, my very good friends.
Secondly, and ironically, given that we need more people to cycle, cyclists in London, and in the UK generally, have a pretty thin time of things. London’s roads are not designed for cyclists (or for pedestrians) and our current obsession with the internal combustion engine means that we treat every other type of road user as a second class citizen, to everyone’s great detriment. I am totally in favour of, and actively support, moves to make our roads more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians and less friendly to cars. When I am queen we will have massive investment in segregated cycleways and pedestrian pathways and public transport and none in making roads better for motor cars. My friend Jon Irwin is currently running a campaign to do something like this on a small scale in my local area; if you would like to support him you can do so here.
Thirdly, cyclists suffer terribly from the selfishness, stupidity and downright dangerous behaviour of other road users. Cars cut them up, drivers open doors without looking, or turn right or left into their path without warning, lorries, buses and vans crush them, pedestrians step out in front of them. Roads are potholed and sometimes icy and vans and lorries park in cycle lanes, which often disappear without warning. And that’s before you factor into the mix the appallingly aggressive attitude that some drivers have towards cyclists. All of these things have terrible and sometimes lethal consequences for the poor cyclists. Even if they aren’t embroiled in an actual accident, any urban cyclist will be able to tell you grim tales about near escapes and small incidents, almost always caused by someone else’s stupidity or selfishness.