The great London cycling debate
Don't pity the cyclist, snarls Michael HodgesLondoners have one inalienable right: the simple liberty of walking along the pavement. This is where we meet people, exchange ideas, interact with other Londoners – take that right away from us and really, there isn’t much left. And yet one group of people seems determined to do just that: cyclists.Cyclists say they have no choice but to ride on the pavement because of unthinking and dangerous drivers. They take a moral delight in it, as if the conflict on London’s streets were some kind of equivalent to the land disputes in Israel/Palestine, with cyclists in the role of Europe’s dispossessed Jewry and pedestrians as the land-deprived Palestinians. In this scenario, London’s pedestrians are actually the victims of victims and the real villains are car-owners, who have driven the cyclists out. This makes drivers the equivalent of the Nazis (portraying drivers as beasts is a common cyclist tactic).Well, I don't buy it. I think cyclists go on the pavement because they are arrogant lunatics who suffer from smugness as unbearable as their attire. They believe their mode of transport signifies a caring modern egalitarianism, but its vague green self-righteousness simply fudges the fact that cyclists often hold political views that would actually increase inequality. No surprise that David Cameron and Boris Johnson ride bikes.
Cycling is alien to the culture of London and always has been. London is a place for thinking, not for working out; the worship of the body rather than the brain, which is fundamental to cycling, is essentially at odds with what being a Londoner is all about. London is also a city for nipping across the road and between cars; impossible when silent bicyclists come charging through the gaps at speed. But most of all London is a city where you can wander along the pavement and think about things. In this creative reverie you will still notice a car or lorry but you will not notice a bicycle.
But ultimately the argument for or against bicycles in London comes down to one area of contention, that battlefield where the future of this city will be decided: the pavement. Ceding control of the pavement to cyclists is bad for our health (walking is much more likely to cut obesity levels than cycling, since it’s cheaper and easier), bad for our culture and immoral. I for one, have every intention of fighting back.
Read Michael Hodges' debate-provoking piece on London's 'Two-wheeled fascism'.
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