The great London cycling debate

It's galvanised the capital, now the pro/con bicycle to-ing and fro-ing has driven an editorial fissure between Time Out's London cyclists. Derek Adams and Michael Hodges try and adopt the moral high ground on a bit of London pavement

  • Don't pity the cyclist, snarls Michael Hodges

    Pity the cyclist, pleads Derek Adams

    Debate_against.jpgAfter fifteen years of commuting solely by bike, I gave up the racer a couple of years ago on the grounds of, er, wishing to remain alive. I now take the Jubilee Line and use a folding bike for the very short distances at either end. True, the unpredictable weather played a small part in my decision, but mostly it was down to a severe attack of the heebiejeebies brought about by a complete lack of a cycling infrastructure. In this month’s issue of London Cyclist, Ken Livingstone tells us that TfL has, to date, installed some 40,000 extra parking spaces and completed over 550km of the London Cycle Network Plus. Really? Where? His recent announcement about an extra squillion kilometres of cycle tracks over the next ten years may sound like wonderful news, but to me it sounds like a politician up for election, fishing for votes.

    Let’s face it, cycling in London is a lottery: pick the right number, you make it home; pick wrong, go straight to A&E. Some of the roads are in appalling condition – especially the gutter areas where cyclists are often forced to ride – while others are simply too crowded. This is especially true of the war zone that is Oxford Street. In the Routemaster days, you could hear a bus coming up from behind. Today’s buses, though, have their engines at the back, so the only way you know they’re there is by the mountainous shadow they cast over you as they trundle along, in near silence, mere metres away. This worries me – a lot. If I were to hit a pothole and fall off (quite possible given the quantity of them) the driver would never stop in time: he’d be too wary of making one of his three passengers spill their Starbucks. I won’t even start on the horror that is the bendy buses, except to ask – what is the stench that comes out of them? Cat shit? Dead rats? Parmesan-flavoured puke? Cheap Venezuelan oil?

    Black cabs offer their fair share of whiffy fumes but that’s nothing compared to the shin-mashing bumpers most of them still sport. Add pedestrians who cross the road using ears alone and is it any wonder many cyclists ride around looking like they’re fantasising about mowing everyone else down? And we’re effectively mid-workout, pumped full of adrenalin like a boxer in the ring: if we’re cut up by someone, the fear-of-injury factor soars, the fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in and, I’m sorry, but sometimes it’s fight not flight. I’m not trying to justify the actions of some of the scariest cyclists out there but for heaven’s sake, all you avid anti-cyclist letter writers – surely you can see we poor pedal-pushers have a point.

    Don't pity the cyclist, snarls Michael Hodges

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