Spring is here! After the barest touch of sun, London seems lifted. The trees are heavy with blossoms and the parks are filling up. If there’s one thing Londoners know what to do when the sun shows its long-forgotten face, it’s to get the hell outside as soon as absolutely possible, for we don’t know how brief her visit will be.
I, for one, had an irresistible urge to ride, to just get on a bike and ride.
Commandeering my brother’s trusty Kona, I wove through the streets towards the local park with my laptop on my back and a vague plan to have lunch and do some work at a pub by the river.
I flew through the park to the Grand Union Canal. My spirits were high. I even felt brave enough to take on a rough wooden staircase on the way down to the canal. I chickened out after two steps, slammed on the breaks and almost found myself in a pile at the bottom. Taking a few calming breaths, I lifted the bike down the remaining steps, guiltily remembering that every penny of my brother’s cash growing up had gone into purchasing the bike’s frame and, over time, its accompanying components.
I pushed hard along the canal towpath and, approaching Brentford, followed a sign with a bike on it pointing back towards the road. I must have taken a wrong turn because I ended up on the Great West Road (otherwise known as the A4). Still, there was a stretch of bike lane, which I thankfully slipped into. I was a taken aback when it suddenly ended. Bike lane and then no bike lane. On the A4! So there I was cycling on the pavement instead, like I used to when I had stabilisers on my bike.
The fun continued the rest of the way to Kew Bridge – sporadic bike lanes, terrible signage and tense moments when, with railings to my left, a bus cut narrowly past me to get to a bus stop.
I reached the Bell and Crown pub with a new appreciation for London’s cyclists and a grumbling stomach. “Sorry, the kitchen is closed” the barman told me. Mmm, coffee and mixed nuts for me then. After half an hour I decided to head home for something more substantial.
I took the single carriageway Boston Manor road on the way back. It may have been the hunger, the physical exertion or just the fact that EVERYONE ELSE SUCKS but within minutes I was angry. Next time you think London’s cyclists are all twats, try and ride a bike in London. It’s enough to drive you Absolutely. Fucking. Crazy. Here’s why:
Cycle lanes are a JOKE
Abruptly ending just as the road narrows and railings begin, dotted with obstacles or just plain ridiculous. You need a PhD in London cycle paths just to make any sense of it.
All the good cycle lanes have cars parked on them
We want to use the cycle lanes, honestly we do. But most of the time we just can’t.
Parking here is actually legal. Honestly, the mind boggles…
This is probably not legal, but that doesn’t stop anyone..
I’m hungry and tired and I have to peddle
Maybe they’ve mis-timed their lunch break, maybe they’re on their way home for dinner after a long day at work. Either way, that blood sugar is on its way down with every pump of that obnoxiously lyrca-clad leg. And it’s raining too. Fuck with them at your peril!
It’s not a sign. It’s an insult.
Would a helpful “Cycle Lane Ends in 10m” sign be too much to ask? Signage for cyclists in London is pretty limited. We’re generally at the mercy of white squiggles on the road, which usually have a car parked over them. Once in a while, though, the local authorities really outdo themselves…
Some kind of modern art? No it’s a ridiculous sign denoting a ridiculous route. Just keep turning left until you get dizzy..
Motorists Hate You…
Their impatience is palpable. Sometimes it’s articulated. Sometimes it even gets violent.
Tweets like this are common:
Not forgetting the famous Emma Way:
The hashtag #bloodycyclists has now been reclaimed by tweeting cyclists (not while on the bike please!).
The us-vs-them mentality doesn’t just come from one side but considering how vulnerable cyclists are in the face of hatred from motorists, it’s no wonder they get defensive.
.. So do pedestrians
You’re not wanted on the road but you’re sure as hell not wanted on the pavement either – in fact it’s not strictly legal to cycle on the pavement. Your only safe haven is the bike lane but pedestrians will happily walk on them and then get offended if you ring your bell at them.
The big Road Tax myth
Two words that can make any cyclist see red: Road Tax. You’ll be surprised how many cyclists have had it shouted at them, usually just after complaining to a driver for putting them at risk: “At least I pay Road Tax!”
As IPayRoadTax.com is trying to hammer in to people, there is no such thing as road tax. There is car tax but even that doesn’t necessarily go exclusively to paying for roads. Maintaining the road network, pavements and cycle lanes is paid for out of government coffers and by local authorities, which means we all pay for it and therefore all have every right to benefit from it.
The air isn’t fit for purpose
Pollution-related diseases and even deaths are on the rise thanks to all those diesel-powered bicycles. Oh wait…
Air pollution KILLS more than 4000 people every year! In fact, the air is so polluted, we’re sometimes even warned against cycling. Talk about vicious cycle.
So if you’re driving and a cyclist looks at you like you’re the scourge of society, can you really blame them?
Some cyclists really are just twats
It’s true. There’s always one.