Melanie Phillips has her knickers in a twist. She knows me, we had some correspondence long ago, I like many of the things she writes about. This one though has me puzzled. I understand dearest Julia is also a bit up in arms about it too:
Although I am a driver, I have long all but given up driving in London and now travel instead mainly by bus or Tube. I have also discovered the delights of walking and enjoying the city’s stunning architecture and views — as well as literally rubbing shoulders with the rest of the human race, instead of sitting in solitary splendour within a motorised bubble.
Accordingly, I have welcomed the pedestrianisation of many streets, silently cursed the noisy, smelly cars — and also welcomed the arrival of the ‘Boris bikes’, the cycles for hire around the city that were an inspired idea.
Although I do not own a bicycle, I enjoy and approve of cycling. Like many others, I have for years observed and admired those Continental cities where half the population seems to be on a bike and where the traffic seems tamed as a result.
So getting more people on to bikes in London seemed to me to be a good idea — encouraging health-giving exercise, reducing traffic congestion and generally turning the city into a calmer, gentler and more civilised place.
How wrong can you be! For far from being calm, gentle or civilised, many cyclists have proved to be the exact opposite.
Let’s look at the key phrases of Melanie’s here:
# I am a driver
# I do not own a bicycle
Oh how quickly those on one side of an issue do write tirades against those on the other. Whither peace and mutual understanding?
Not sure what’s wrong down south – all this talk of lycra – whilst up here, I’ve not seen any cyclist in lycra – and if he was middle aged, he’d be laughed at. There are many cyclists and those I’ve seen keep to the side of the road and doff their hats at passing motorists who let them in or vice-versa.
The worst behaved cyclist I’ve seen up here is me – jumping onto footpaths and off, going down gaps but never have I cut anyone off, gone inbetween vehicles or got in the way of traffic turning right. In fact, I make a point of not doing those things.
I’ve heard tales of these cyclists from hell and you know what it sounds like to me? It sounds like there’s an enormous number of vehicles, including bikes and cars, all competing for a small space.
I have the solution, Melanie and Julia – coom oop north to the home of unemployment where the sun shines
out of our, the snow does not snow and where lakes and woodland abound, where the birdies chatter in the trees and wake you up in the bloody morning, where little kids’ cherub faces beam at you and grizzled bikers also beam and the best one of all – where you can breathe the air as the boats go by and your bike slips on the sodden autumn leaves on the ground and cyclists go A over T into a deep puddle.
The only varmints you have to worry about up here are the PCists in buildings and the guy in N4 down the corridor whom we’re sick to death of. Apart from that, the shopgirls are charming and helfpul with their northern accents [I'm sure Julia would adore conversing with them on the early development of the rood screen], the food is cheap and happiness abounds.
Wonder if this has anything to do with it [just trying to help like]: