"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...)
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:
- All cycling equipment should be tax-deductable, and VAT-free to everyone, not just those with employers.
- left-turn on red allowed for cyclists (& probably cars too).
- 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.
- red lights advisory for cyclists. (If you have an opinion on this, but don't cycle, please feel free to keep it to yourself)
- 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.
- Money which did go to pay for 'Cycle England' leaflets & Bureaucracy to be spent on a properly designed network of cycle routes.
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.