Friday, 24 September 2010

The Strange Death of Cycling England

"Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the Human race". HG Wells, himself a keen cycle tourist, may have been a disgusting socialist, but in this at least, he was right.

The bike is one of the perfect machines - certainly in terms of distance travelled for energy expended, it's the best there is. A bike runs on fat, and saves you money, not only in terms of fuel not used in the car, but also in time wasted pouring tea and coffee into yourself to wake yourself up, when you can have some fun on the commute in, and feel great when you arrive. This is as true as my 4-mile country road cycle as it was when I dodged traffic in London or Edinburgh. Indeed, in many ways I feel safer in London than I do on country roads. Stationary traffic, you see, won't kill you.

No matter how pissed up I am the night before, how late I go to bed, and how rubbish I feel in the morning IF I unlock the bike, rather than get in the car, the rest of the day just seems better. So, whenever I have spare money, it goes on bike stuff. I've just ordered a custom messenger bag from these guys (British Racing Green, with yellow detailing as per Lotus Racing team's colours with a broad, reflective chequerboard design. Oh and a Union Jack, and this Blog's URL), and if anyone wants to buy me a present, any of the gear from here would be very much appreciated. So... I'm an enthusiastic cyclist and evangelical about the joys of getting to work under your own steam. When I read that 'cycling england' was heading for the great Quango feather bed in the sky, I should be furious, right? (Afterall, TravelGall says it's so...)

Wrong.

What is the fucking point? Car drivers will not be any more polite to you, because there's a quango spunking everyone's money putting out glossy leaflets about cutting one's carbon emissions by cycling. Nor will a piece of green or red tarmac widen the road enough to allow you and the car simultaneousuly through he gap between a traffic island and the pavement. In Fact more often, the cycle lane will make the driver THINK there's enough room, and kill you by trying to squeeze through without considering the manoevre.

I'm all for the (expensive) well-designed cycle lane, but If cycling england lobbied for the targets for miles of cycle lanes that councils accross the country have painted on the road, then they're not only useless, they're responsible for death and injury as cyclists are hit by motorists who think that the lane means they don't have to slow down. Do you think I like speed-bumps? They cause the motorist to be focussing on something other than not hitting me, AND they are bloody uncomfortable if you hit them fast. And I am ALSO a motorist. Cycling England agitates for speed humps. Cycle parking is so simple and inexpensive that it doesn't need a quango to tell councils and businesses how to install it.

What about the cycle to work scheme where tax breaks are given to cyclists to buy equipment? Unfortunately, I'm self-employed, so I have to buy my kit out of taxed income, because the Last government would rather me be a slave to a company than be an independent trader. In recent months, London has become a MUCH more cycle friendly city, but I suspect that's because of the Cycling Mayor, not because of this useless quango.

My cycling manifesto:

  1. All cycling equipment should be tax-deductable, and VAT-free to everyone, not just those with employers.
  2. left-turn on red allowed for cyclists (& probably cars too).
  3. Roads to be properly maintained. Potholes are an annoyance to a motorist, they're potentially lethal for a cyclist. Cycling on smooth tarmac is a joy.
  4. red lights advisory for cyclists. (If you have an opinion on this, but don't cycle, please feel free to keep it to yourself)
  5. No cycle lane built without input from cyclists to put an end to dangerous, badly designed lanes, which encourage motorists to not give enough room.
  6. Money which did go to pay for 'Cycle England' leaflets & Bureaucracy to be spent on a properly designed network of cycle routes.
But Cycling England agitated for none of these things, and spent a great deal of wasted time trying to get cyclists to obey the red light (again, motorists, keep your ignorant "thoughts" on this issue to yourselves, I'm really not intersted, I've heard them all before) and making helmets compulsory, despite most evidence linking them to a HIGHER rate of injury amongst cyclists, again becaue they give motoritst a reason to think it's safe to drive aggressively against a cyclists. So. From this cyclist (and motorist) good riddance to Cycle England. Maybe councils will actually listen to cyclists rather than bureaucrats if they want encourage the one single thing one can do most easily to make one's life better.

You see the cycle is the last bastion of freedom. You can outrun the police. Something I highly recommend you do as a cyclist is provoke the police to a chase in central London - the best sport you'll ever have - you can't be caught by number-plate recognition technology, you don't need fuel, and if you get caught, are they REALLY going to prosecute you for going the wrong way up a one-way street, and accusing a motorcycle cop of being in it because his boyfriend likes the leather? But it's not just the sport of running from the police. You are genuinely free on a bike, in a way you are not on any other form of transport. Sunk cost of the equipment, which with a bit of skill and elbow-grease you could have a bike capable of beating anyone's... if you're fit, for £50, cycling's free. No-one's going to breathalyse you on the way home from the pub if you've have one or two too many. Speed-humps, one-way systems and traffic lights are advisory. The reason this is OK is that unless you're a total twat (like fixie affecionados who think it reasonable to cycle in town without brakes, and the people who ride on the pavement, for example) you're only risking your OWN life. It's democratic - The bike is truly the libertarian's mode of transport. And the final benefit is that girls are more likely to want to go to bed with men who have firm thighs...

Get on your bike. You don't need a Quango to tell you to do so.



15 comments:

Anonymous said...

"All cycling equipment should be tax-deductable, and VAT-free to everyone, not just those with employers."

I would say yes to the VAT free part for kiddie bikes (may already be so?). But I see my bike as I do a car, I don’t believe in VAT at all but don’t expect a discount on such items.

As to the cycle to work scheme, most people don’t read the small print. If they did they would notice that the bike actually belongs to the company and not you, and you are at the whim of the company if they let you keep it at the end of the payments, obviously whether this matters depends on who you work for. But the company could if they wanted take it back at the end of the payments and ask for whatever money they felt they wanted for it (the scheme offers guidance on how much they should charge you, but it’s just guidance).

"No cycle lane built without input from cyclists to put an end to dangerous, badly designed lanes, which encourage motorists to not give enough room. "

A standard set of rules would be simpler, ie the lane must be x size and the total road must be x wide to be deemed acceptable for cycle lanes. Most cycle lanes where I am are either completely ignored (peds walk on them), completely unnecessary (as below), or on main busy roads. Main roads are to my mind the only place where they are of any use I find.

As to bad examples, there is a 5 meter long cycle lane on my way to work. It’s not part of a route that carries on after a junction, it’s just a 5 meter long route along 1 piece of road.

I wonder what they where smoking when they came up with that one.

NickM said...

Agree 100%

The targets for miles of cycle lanes resulted in some ludicrous street painting. There was one I knew in Nottingham that was 10m long.

That's metres BTW. But it all adds up to hitting targets.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"... spent a great deal of wasted time trying to get cyclists to obey the red light (again, motorists, keep your ignorant "thoughts" on this issue to yourselves, I'm really not intersted, I've heard them all before)..."

Yeah, and pedestrians can keep their mouths shut an' all. How dare they think that a green man at a pedestrian crossing means that it's safe to cross, eh?

And after all, it's not as though a cyclist could actually harm anyone. Well, OK, but the number of pedestrians killed by cyclists isn't too huge.

Bloody Commie pedestrians, getting in the way of noble Libertarian cyclists...

DK

Jackart said...

My views on this are simple. "shared space" urban environmnets seem to work. Where they don't, steam gives way to sail: ie Pedestrians have right of way, followed by cyclists and Motorists last.

And I'm not waiting for an empty pedestrian crossing: hence "advisory". If it's red, approach with care & Give way to pedestrians.

Anonymous said...

OK - as a pedestrian, I burn fat by walking. This is even more eco friendly than a bike; the only energy expended to produce me was by my parents! Your bike is probably made fom a light weight alloy as well as rubber etc that required considerable energy to produce (and transport to this country from whichever Asian state it was made in).

And as for cyclists going through red lights, I've been knocked 3 times by bloody arrogant twats that think I should get out of their way when I was crossing at a Pelican. The rule of the road is is that pedestrians have the right of way at ALL times (ok - except a motorway.) The red light is there for a reason - it is NOT an advisory. Pedestrians have to obey a red light - so should cyclists.

BTW, I also cycle and have passed a proficiency test (I also used to race years ago). I have driven numerous types of vehicles (2, 4 and more wheels) and I despair at those twerps that think it is perfectly OK to swerve in and out of traffic, on the basis that if they get hit it is automatically the driver's fault, not theirs.

I think more people should cycle - but I also think that they should have to undergo a test. As for VAT free - not a chance. When they make shoes non-vatable, then maybe (just maybe) I will think it OK for cycles to go the same way.

Anonymous said...

Bikes do cause a horrendous amount of delay and pollution though. On my way to work, nearly every day, I'll pass a string of twenty-odd cars being held at 15 mph.

How much does that cost? Putting two or three minutes delay on twenty people? Two hours' lost productivity every day for my lone cyclist?

Is it worth it?

Patrick

Anonymous said...

Cyclists are a pain in the ass. They hold up traffic and arrogantly think they have the right of way. We have specific bike trails made for them at tax payer expense but they insist on blocking traffic. They are a nuisance. After I pass one I deliberately drive close to the side of the road so they can't pass me.

Mark said...

Red lights are advisory for cyclists. White ones too (the red one goes on the back BTW).

But then, what the fuck isn't?

banned said...

I managed top survive my childhood and teenage cycling all over London, passsed the Cycling Profficiency Test all without the aid of Cycling England. Good riddance but I won't believe it until I see their P45s.

Anonymous said...

"Speed-humps, one-way systems and traffic lights are advisory."

Could not disagree more. Yea sure it'd be great if we could all just get along. But sadly it just encourages bell ends and winds up pricks like DK.

JuliaM said...

"I think more people should cycle - but I also think that they should have to undergo a test. "

You don't get motorists complaining half as much about motorbikes. Is that, I wonder, because they too are licensed and pay road tax? And are expected to obey the rules of the road?

Pesky Anonymous said...

I wonder if you have ever perused the archive of photos in the 'Facility of the month' section of this website:
http://www.warringtoncyclecampaign.co.uk/
All humourously annotated.
Well worth a look.

Pete said...

Cyclists should all have front and rear lights on their bikes, always on and be wearing hi viz tops, by law.

I am sick of seeing idiots cycling around at dusk with no lights and wearing dark clothes.

And if a cyclist gets knocked off their bike by a car, it should not be automatically assumed the car is to blame.

Anonymous said...

"And as for cyclists going through red lights, I've been knocked 3 times by bloody arrogant twats that think I should get out of their way when I was crossing at a Pelican."

The problem isnt cyclists.

The problem is twats.

"After I pass one I deliberately drive close to the side of the road so they can't pass me."

Twattery breeds twattery.


"Yeah, and pedestrians can keep their mouths shut an' all. How dare they think that a green man at a pedestrian crossing means that it's safe to cross, eh?"

Recently the crossing across the road from me was broken. The lights would go green for 10 seconds, then red for 30, in a constant cycle that lasted all day.

The traffic this caused was horrenous. No pedestrains where there (turns out someone had vandalised it).

So all these drivers where stopping at a clearly faulty light, with no pedestrians in sight, causing a big jam.

But no, lets not be able to show sensible discretion, the light is RED, RED means stop.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Well I think all sailing gear ought to be tax-deductible, so there, yah.

Have we lost sight of Nigel Lawson's admirable dictum about taxes - that they should be low, simple, and compulsory?

And while I'm in rant mode, I see no reason why cyclists shouldn't obey all road laws; the laws are there for safety after all, and a cyclist is at much greater risk of serious injury if he runs across a red light and gets hit by someone who - quite reasonably - is not expecting such a thing.

One-way streets ditto.

And drive on the left please, not on the wrong side just because you're in a cycle lane - do you think I want to see unexpected white lights coming towards me on my side of the road? What's behind that, a drunk, a steamroller, or just some stupid cyclist who thinks the rules don't apply to him? Jeez.

And show the right lights at dusk or later - fixed white at front, fixed red at rear, not some Christmas tree of flashing LED's that could mean anything or nothing but is certainly a dangerous distraction.

OK , let the abuse begin.

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