When I tell people that I commute by bike in London, I usually provoke one of two reactions: either someone will tell me that they would be too scared to cycle on London roads, being so totally exposed to the prospect of imminent squelching under an articulated lorry and becoming a cyclist pancake; or they laugh at me and ask why I don’t buy a car. Of course both of these reactions are completely understandable. Cycling is dangerous. London roads are absolutely terrible, and a complete disgrace for a world class city. They are full of potholes and bits of broken glass, particularly in the winter with the freeze thawing of the tarmac and the increase in car accidents. What’s more, many London drivers have absolutely no respect for cyclists, demonstrated the majority of the time by a semi-drunk, obese white-van-man on a cell phone, smoking a cigarette and telling me to get off the road because they feel the roads belong to drivers.
Despite the substantial growth of cycling in the UK each year and the numerous physical and mental health benefits it provides, the government’s stance on cycling is somewhat of a complete joke and farce. Unfortunately Boris Johnson and David Cameron’s token cycling efforts don’t really benefit the wider collective, and they really couldn’t give two @$%*# about the cycling commuter. After all, we don’t have to buy petrol, and… you know, why don’t we just buy a car or use public transport?
I really wish the UK government would take a leaf out of the European book. In Copenhagen, a world class cycling city, most workers commute, with dedicated cycle lanes, and little fear of being run over. This also decreases the impact on the health services from diseases of inactivity. Now I know what you might be saying: “I see terrible, dangerous cycling all the time. They always jump red lights and ride on the pavement.” While that may be true, to persecute cyclists in this way is the same as me persecuting all drivers based on my experiences of white-van-men. There are a lot of good drivers in London, and there are a lot of good cyclists, who have every right to use the roads.
So why do I cycle? Well, as I already mentioned, the physical and mental health benefits: physically, it keeps me incredibly fit and has the added benefit of being low impact exercise which doesn’t damage the bones and put pressure on the muscles in the same way that running does; and mentally, the freedom, sense of accomplishment, enjoyment of my surroundings and a different way of experiencing the world that comes with a cyclist’s perspective are all reasons why, particularly when doing long distance cycles or managing to conquer a large hill in a short space of time.
So the next time you’re driving, spare a thought for the London cyclist, and their struggle against the oppression of modern day society. Ok, perhaps that’s a bit much, but still, if you are a white-van-man (which you probably aren’t having gotten to this stage of my post), try and be a little more polite and obliging, the world doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to everyone. Ok, so now I’ve delivered on the cynicism, where’s the humour and the satire? Well unfortunately this post turned into a bit of a rant and I can’t really be bothered to put any in. You’ll just have to wait and see how the next one turns out. I’m sure you’re relishing the idea.