Two-wheeled fascism: the trouble with London's cyclists

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Time Out columnist Michael Hodges goes on the offensive against dangerous London cyclists. Have your say on the issues and read other responses and comments

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    A very aggrieved cyclist turned up on BBC Radio 4 last week. He was upset about London cyclist deaths, in particular the number of cyclists killed by lorries that turn left at junctions and fail to see riders who are often trapped between the vehicles and safety railings against which, with woeful irony, they are crushed.

    This is an extremely dangerous situation that should be stopped but, as well as being outraged by it, the man was clearly dangerous himself. In a tremulous, public-school voice on the edge, it seemed, of tears, he openly admitted that he ignored traffic signals: ‘It doesn't matter if the light is red or not, I’m just bothered about seeing a space in the traffic ahead and slipping in to it.’

    This neatly turned what was his and other cyclists’ problem into our problem. And by ‘our’ I mean the great majority of us who attempt to walk around the city every day and don’t want to be hit by cyclists ignoring red lights. The man could make his outrageous admission so easily because, in his and other cyclists’ world view, plebs who walk don’t matter. We are mere obstacles in the way of the divine right of an athletic, clean-living few to cycle wherever they want.

    In the past, cyclists would at least be shame-faced enough about their aggression to lie: ‘Bikes are allowed on the pavement’; ‘we’re being forced on the path by the roadworks.’ Or they would blame us for being on the pavement in the first place: ‘The pavement doesn’t belong to pedestrians, it’s ours as well’ (well, yes it does, actually, and no it isn’t).

    But now the London cycling community – privileged, white, self-absorbed and arrogant – can’t be bothered to make stuff up any more and is taking to the airwaves to encourage its members to break the law (and just to be clear, it is against the law to deliberately ride through a red light).

    The arrogance of London’s rogue cyclists is as extreme as their appearance. Go to the website of the London Cycling Campaign (www.lcc.org.uk) and on the homepage you’ll find a picture of a grown man in a yellow anorak and tights riding his cycle across the pavement.

    He’s coming up behind a lumpy male pedestrian in a baseball cap who has no way of knowing the cyclist is behind him because cyclists – around the time they started to dress in leotards and Waffen SS helmets – abandoned the traditional, and useful if you’re going to drive through a group of people, bell.

    Lumpy men in baseball caps are ridiculous, laughable even, but not having thunderous thighs and a cagoule doesn’t justify physical assault. Yet. The worship of the (white) male human body, the disdain for the lower orders, the generally humourless attitude (seen any laughing cyclists recently?), we’ve been here before haven’t we? In fact we fought a war to stop it. Did London survive the attentions of the Luftwaffe only to be overrun by a new pack of two-wheeled fascists?

    The original London fascists, Mosley’s blackshirts, survived on handouts from the aristocracy but modern pedestrian-hating cycling groups are allowed to register as a charities (the LCC is Registered Charity number 1115789). Worse, the government actually gives our money to the new fascists; funding for cycling has doubled in the last two years and there is now a Cycle to Work scheme to provide VAT-free bicycles. Why should pedestrians’ taxes pay to put more cyclists on our paths and support organisations committed to making our lives harder?

    LCC has direct links with Sustrans, a group that is dedicated to turning country lanes into cycleways, forcing the ordinary hikers that traditionally use them out of the way. If successful, Sustrans’ s campaign will undo the radical work of the last century when mass trespasses won ordinary people access to the countryside. Quiet lanes and tracks where women, children and pensioners can dawdle along enjoying the flora and fauna would become noisy cycleways plagued by mountain bikes and bellowing male riders in neon body stockings.

    In town and country then, the pedestrian is under assault from cyclists. Given the ferocity of the assault, letting tyres down and bending mudguards whenever the opportunity arises doesn’t seem an adequate response any more. So what are we going to do about the new fascists?

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What you saidHave your say A very aggrieved cyclist turned up on BBC Radio 4 last week. He was upset about London cyclist deaths, in particular the number of cyclists killed by lorries that turn left at junctions and fail to see riders who are often trapped between the vehicles and safety railings against which, with woeful irony, they are crushed.This is an extremely dangerous situation that should be stopped but, as well as being outraged by it, the man was clearly dangerous himself. In a tremulous, public-school voice on the edge, it seemed, of tears, he openly admitted that he ignored traffic signals: ‘It doesn't matter if the light is red or not, I’m just bothered about seeing a space in the traffic ahead and slipping in to it.’

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