Sunday, 30 May 2010

Cycle Chic? No, we want cyclistes miserables

Our calendar reminds us we haven't criticised Copenhagen Cycle Chic for a while, so it's time.

Driving to work isn't really that much fun. You are always stuck behind some other vehicle, and while you can make phone calls, the end of the month bill to latvian sex-chat lines can be pretty steep -lucky both the phone and the car is paid for by our employers.

What takes the edge off is seeing everyone not in a car looking more miserable. Pedestrians, traipsing along. If can spray them with a puddle, they look even more miserable. Bus users, standing by the bus stop, looking folorn -always heartwarming. And then the cyclists.

We know they can get across this town faster than driving, we know that it's cheaper. So how to retain the edge over them. Usually the rain does it for us. But what if it's not raining? Easy: make them dress silly, make them look different: an outgroup.

We want them to wear helmets and hi-viz clothing not just so that when someone goes under a lorry we can absolve the lorry driver of all blame "Were they wearing a helmet", as if that makes a difference when a 14T vehicle comes up behind the bike at the lights and sets off, over them. No we want them to look silly. We also want them to look silly when they get off the bike, so everyone laughs at them, so everyone knows they chose a silly form of transport as they waddle round in waterproofs and funny shoes.
This is why this photo of this couple on matching his- and her- single-speed bicycles is so depressing.

This is a sunny day in May. A couple like this, they should be aspiring to go somewhere in a T-reg vauxhaull corsa, a first car, learning to deal with the problems of car maintenance and traffic. Instead what are they doing? Enjoying themselves at the harbour. Looking happy. With each other. With their bicycles.
You see that. Cyclists. Happy. The two words should not go together

If the harbour had been turned into the four lane motorway that commuters from the M5 and portishead really need to get into the town centre, we wouldn't have had scenes like this: there would have been a proper motorway right behind them, feeding into the centre, where they are standing would have been more multistorey car parking -parking without which the tourists won't come to the city.

Yet what does the council do? Encourage them. Only Australia, with its newly increased fine for cycling without a helmet, is cracking down on tax-dodgers trying to cycle round cities in normal clothes. Let's hope this new government learns a lesson from the Aussies and comes down hard on these criminals.

After seeing this scene in the harbour we had to look at Crap Cycling in Waltham Forest for half an hour to feel better. Now there is a town that keeps cyclists and pedestrians in their place!

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