Saturday, 22 December 2012

Call to arms... including legs.

The current UK cyclist is inventive, self-sufficient, independent, apparently even happier and possibly smarter than the rest too - and somehow you gotta be, trying to stay alive in the murky twilight under the small print of current road terms & conditions. It feels to me a form of 'not-so-natural' selection could otherwise reach you much faster.

Nature, nurture. Conditions make you, they shape you. The typical UK cyclist is a warrior, 'armed' to the teeth with gadgets, tooled-up, and with a determined mind. Set on survival and self-preservation, battling on in the face of adversity. And who can blame them? A driver's milli-second of inattention wipes you out. Injures, maims, and can kill.

My fellow UK cyclists appear less smart however when it comes to reaching out to society and letting others join in with the "joy of cycling" - debatable as the truth of the meaning may be.

We fall into three camps there.

Type 1 got used to the danger (or have never felt it), or they simply don't know that cycling conditions could be better.
Type 2 doesn't care about spreading the word as they are the proud lonesome ranger. Superman cyclist. They know it could be better, but they fail to group-up.
Type 3 folks, cyclists reaching out. Tends to be less kitted out and tooled up, than Type 1 or 2. Type 3a wants to solely share. Type 3b wants cycle lanes. Yet we end up mostly talking to ourselves. 

You will all have had the experience of this? Discussions with non-cycle folk rapidly go down the wobbly whirlpool spilling into the bottomless snake pit of prejudice and discrimination. One thing you can rely on. The public has no clue. Even after years of stoicism (Type 2), 'reaching out' (Type 3b) and our happy-go-lucky message of "let's share!" and "most of us are drivers too, you know!" (Type 3a), I see no intention in the larger society to actually take us up on any of this, and so remains completely clueless, with institutional backing of course.

So here's the parting message to my fellow cyclists, no matter whether you are Type 1, 2 or 3.

May well be James May IS right. We miserable down-trodden folks must cheer up! - and I'll add: make a racket.
It's time to REALLY speak out - loud and clear. Steer the conversation. When they (let's say a family member over Christmas dinner, or a colleague at the office party etc) start their well 'rehearsed' meme-tirade explain why you are doing certain things (suggested list of questions and answer provided below, feel free to print it out and hand it to them).

If you are serious that you want cycling numbers to increase, please do start to feel the insanity and unfairness of it all. Cuz every time you are nigh-doored, left-hooked, close-shaved, tail-gated, pressurised into doing avoiding manoeuvre someone else stops cycling somewhere, or never takes up cycling in the first place.

Don't waste your breath on the benefits of cycling. People already love (the idea of) cycling, but hate cyclists. With a passion.

And do ask them to saddle up for two miles on the road, and then come back to talk to you.

In Cycle Solidarity.

Kat - Type 3b

Crib sheet / background reading / suggestions

"Wear hiviz!"
Cyclists still get killed regardless, the onus is on the driver to look properly. It's pretty useless in the dark, unless reflective.

"No helmet?"
UK law is clear. It's a personal choice. There is no right and wrong, check out

"Pay road tax!"
You, mean VED? As it's emissions-based, bike owners would be zero anyways. Check out the ironically named

"Get off the f*cking road!"
Did you know, that I have the same right to this stretch of road as you? (Type 1, 2, 3a)
Or: I'd love to - but there's is no cycle path! Cue. Cross-reference "Get off the pavement!" (Type 3b)

"Get off the pavement!"
Complex! The main reason for people cycling on the pavement is because they don't feel safe on the road. Pavement cycling is the natural default entry-level for a novice cyclist. (Don't get me started on adult cycle training here.) It's a sign for a repressed demand for bike use and should be congratulated.

"You are all red-light jumpers!"
Numbers don't quite stack up on that one. And did you know: cycling countries have made certain manoeuvres legal?

"Where's your licence plate anyways?"
It should really be as easy as riding a bike. Why would you spend a vast amount of tax payers money on something that in comparison to the car doesn't cause that much harm?

"Cyclists are a menace!"
Overall cyclists are probably far closer to The Perfect Urban Solution than drivers ever will be. Space and oil sparsity is calling for new ways, and using your bike is certainly more space and energy efficient than using your car.
Furthermore, more pedestrians get killed by drivers mounting kerbs and entering into pedestrian safe space (about 40 a year), than cyclists could ever manage even when including road space.

"Get out of my way!"
Taking the lane is a manoeuvre they teach in cycle training as good practice. I am doing as I am told. Why are you so upset when held back for a few seconds anyways? Might it follow this insane logic?


  1. I would suggest that for a campaign to be successful there needs to be:
    1 A clearly defined simple objective which everyone understands and which can capture hearts and minds.
    2 A clear plan of attack which includes militant action when our demands are not met.

    At the moment no one knows what cyclists want but everyone knows they don't want to share space with them. All our polite explanations will continue to be met with contempt as things stand.

  2. Totally agree.

    Only that the "cycling fraternity" hasn't really sorted out what they want. Especially the advocates (Type 3a and 3b) can be at loggerheads with each other (ie talking to themselves).

    Personally I know what I want.

    Safe space for cycling by going road diet. I want cycleway, tracks, paths, lanes to abound. I want conditions where EVERYONE feels happy to cycle. I want what Copenhagen and Amsterdam have.