Bikes in London.
Politicians are likely to hold on to their seats if they can steer a bike agenda – bike lanes, bike stands, bikes for all. And the jewel in the spoked crown – Boris bikes, nouveau tourist transport.
A word in favour of bikes lest you think I think they should be banned. I love biking. It is good for you, and good for pollution reduction. My dad was a biking fanatic, into his late seventies. To him biking was healthy, cheap, and a source of constant self-improvement. He would time trial himself, constantly intent on either improving his time or, and as he got older, maintaining his time. I spent many years riding bikes but in a much less crowded and emotionally ragged city than London. Much less.
Bikes sound like the perfect solution to London transport overcrowding, although I doubt the cabbies are all in favour. Actually, I wonder if many drivers are sympathetic, especially those who are constantly in traffic for their employment.
On a recent car trip to St Pancras I witnessed four incidents. Don’t you love that word, ‘incidents.’ In the aviation world it is used as distinct from ‘accidents.’ A runway incursion is an incident but it is an accident in the waiting. What we witnessed were accidents in the making.
The first. On a one way and three lane section of the road, whilst we were travelling 35mph, from the left lane turning into far right King Canute raised his authoritative hand. He forbade us from coming any closer. The fact that we were driving at speed in lane meant nothing to him. Our driver muttered something, quickly slowed down and avoided a heavy fine and manslaughter charge.
The second. Travelling in inner city we had a cyclist on our right, right out of his right of way. He should have been left and was almost left, left as a tangled mess on the road. His precarious position could have been his precarious end. He seemed both disinterested in our driver’s polite suggestion and his own safety, therefore the safety of others.
The third. A cabbie and a serious cyclist were engaged in a serious conversation at the conclusion of which the ‘man on bike’ spat on the ‘man in cab.’ He then quickly did a u-turn and high tailed it out of there. That one would have ended in tears.
The fourth. Yes a fourth and on the same day, and all in one hour. Less an incident and more an observation. As we were crossing the Thames going into the city an infestation of bikes took off at the scent of a green light straddled all over the road, in front if us. No vehicle wider than six inches was going anywhere in a hurry.
Drivers can be short tempered. Not all cyclists are, but too many tend towards distemper. Most bikers are intelligent, educated, and inclined to ‘green.’ But I must protest it is often a green exterior with a red inner. Not the red of socialism but a red of livid, of intolerance. Green once meant peace – no longer, apparently. They are as bad as the drivers they curse, every bit as much and maybe more so.
I’m not so sure bikes are the answer for our transport congestion woes. They seem to create a woe all of their own making. Perhaps walking is the answer. Although it would have taken considerably longer to get to my train.