Riding the wrong way up a one-way street

Velorution are a bit of a beardy-wierdy bike-shop here in London and I can’t say that I’ve ever darkened their doorway, but they hit the nail on the head recently.

They cited an editorial from The Times suggesting that

It is extraordinary because such common sense would have never graced the pages of the Times just a few years ago.

Of course, one person’s common sense is another’s evidence of borderline lunacy, but at least in this instance my sense is commonly common with them. Their general thrust was that "the modern cyclist is making an elegant and intelligent response to pollution and traffic congestion" and that while "British cyclists are to be admired for their courage, if not always for their manners", it is a very modern "way to reduce stress and demonstrate an environmental conscience at the same tim"

Cycling in London is not necessarily something you do to win friends and influence people. Sure it’s green (although in the last 15 years and 30-something thousand miles, I’ve doubtless consumed enough bananas and flapjacks to have got on someone’s food-mile blacklist), but that’s not why I cycle. I loathe public transport – it’s cramped, unreliable and curiously expensive. And full of people, although fortunately I’m tall enough to not have my nose stuck in someone else’s armpit, but that stuff rises, believe me.

London’s commuter trains and buses are so full I can understand why people drive, but I abhor traffic queues more. You don’t need to be Jeremy Clarkson to point out that there are some two wheelers amongst our number who need a sharp piece of re-education with a solid two-by-four LART, but on the whole the London cyclist is a cheery soul wending their merry way to work or home in probably the fastest way possible. Even if the rest of the world seems to delight in making your journey unpleasant – demon White Van Men, half-blind moped riders and pizza delivery twerps, SMIDSY near-hits and all the rest.

But finally, like a salmon reaching its spawning waters, the water seems to be flowing in a less unfriendly direction.

According to the Times, we’re now to be congratulated and forward thinking and "road proceeds should be invested in repopularising the bicycle". Well, Amen to that.

I’m not about to advocate miles of cycle paths and assorted traffic furniture. Frankly, we’ve thousands of miles of suitable cycle facilities already there. They’re called roads, you might have heard of them. What we need is more tolerance and general flexibility from everyone.

It’s a short list, but it’s mine. It’s my wishlist of things that will make the whole road experience better for everyone:

  • Democratise traffic signals: there really is no need for everyone, bikes or cars, to be sat at a red light if no-one’s there. Like the Americans’ turning right on red, there should be some form of “treat a red like a zebra crossing” ethos installed. If pedestrians can cross on my green light if it is clear, quid pro quo.
  • Indicate: really easy one this. Tell me where you’re going – but remember that cars have indicators, not instructors. Indicating your intention is no right to bully me out the way – but if you’re not indicating, I can’t assume I know what you plan to do as you side swipe me when turning unexpectedly.
  • Pedestrians open your eyes: the number of times people just walk out into the red. In the dark. In the wet. And then moan at me for suggesting that they look where they’re going. The fact that I didn’t just hit you is thanks to me seeing you, not for you looking out for me.
  • Taxes: I pay them too. There’s a word that does not describe the vehicle excise duty and petrol taxes: hypothecation. That means that all the taxes that everyone pays whether direct or indirect go directly to Gordon Brown. The fact that you’ve paid a couple of hundred quid for your car this year doesn’t mean that I haven’t paid a way larger stake of income tax. Remember that the next time you’re hanging out of your car window abusing a cycle for not paying for the road.

That’s enough bile for now. It’s time to ride to the swimming pool for some more futile lengths to nowhere.

[tags]cycling, london, taxes, tolerance [/tags]

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Riding the wrong way up a one-way street

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