Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

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When I sold my car and replaced it with a bike, I never thought I'd become a born-again cyclist. One terrifyingly unstable ride to hospital to visit my grandmother convinced me I'd soon be joining her unless I desisted immediately.

Cycling wasn't for me and so my bike lay languishing outside my flat, gently rusting, until someone nicked it. What a day of joy that was. At last I could stop lying to my eco coach about attending cycling proficiency courses.

But no sooner had I got used to no-bike bliss than my squeeze found a broken bike in a skip which he reconditioned to peak condition and presented with a flourish. He had this idea that we could cycle to the park, cycle round the park, then cycle home. It sounded exhausting. I mean the park is half a mile away. Who does he think I am, the iron man?

But this bike was a dream to ride. My nerve came back and I soon became that scourge of Middle England - not a wind turbine or bogus asylum-seeker, but a kamikaze cyclist.

So imagine my misery when my pride and joy was pinched yesterday. My spirits sank further when Ken Livingstone announced he wanted to tax cyclists and put number plates on bicycles. The idea being that wicked "kamikaze" cyclists like me can be tracked down and torn limb from limb if they as much as edge safely through the odd red light.

In the US it's legal to turn right at a red light, if safe to do so. Similarly if it's safer for a cyclist to get ahead instead of waiting for a light to change along with a queue of revving SUV drivers, not too bothered if they crush said cyclist in their race to overtake, why not? I wonder, is it concern for safety that enrages motorists or are they just jealous? If it's safety, perhaps they shouldn't drive at all. Worldwide, motoring is estimated to be responsible for more than 1.2 million deaths a year. Interestingly, cycling on pavements is legal in Japan - and no fatalities have ever been reported.

Surely more attention should be focused on kamikaze drivers - many of whom careen around clamped to their mobile phone, drinking and eating, putting on make-up, even reading newspapers.

But not all motorists can be tarnished with the same brush and neither can all cyclists be blamed for the sins of the few. There are bad drivers and good drivers in the same way there are careless cyclists and good cyclists. But would licensing really help? Fans argue if my bike had been licensed, I'd have more chance of finding it. Fat chance. When my car was pinched it was never found.

In 1966 George Harrison bemoaned the endless taxes dreamt up by Harold Wilson, on the seminal Beatles album, Revolver.

"If you drive a car, I'll tax the street/ If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet..." But even Harold Wilson couldn't dream up a tax on bikes.

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